Over the past decade or two we have seen a focus on the energy performance of buildings, particularly in the form of legislation such as Part L of the Building Regulations – which was updated again in December 2021.
The overall aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of our built environment and move us further along the road to net zero.
The idea of embodied carbon has taken something of a back seat during that time, but that’s now changing.
Embodied carbon relates to carbon (and other greenhouse gases) released into the atmosphere during the manufacturing of products that go into the construction and operation of a building.
That includes every step, from mining the materials used to form them, through to energy used in the factory, into transportation and installation. The calculation would even include carbon released when a product is decommissioned and removed from a building.
Service and maintenance have a key role to play in reducing your overall carbon footprint
Shaping our future
Although embodied carbon calculations are not currently required by legislation (with some exceptions such as the London Plan), a growing number of clients are keen to ensure that their buildings demonstrate corporate environmental credentials.
As a manufacturer, Mitsubishi Electric is already working on supplying the required embodied carbon data on its products.
It’s a huge task to gather the information from a supply chain that spans the globe, but it is already helping us to shape the products of the future.
Another important aspect of embodied carbon to consider is the lifetime of products. If we calculate the embodied carbon of the products that make up air conditioning systems, for example, then every year we can keep those systems running will help to offset that environmental initial impact.
Service and maintenance therefore have a key role to play in reducing the building’s overall carbon footprint.
Horses for courses
At Mitsubishi Electric, we work closely with our clients to build the most appropriate service and maintenance programmes for their equipment.
By applying the latest technology, our engineers can remotely monitor equipment such as chillers, spotting performance changes and responding according.
Combined with regular maintenance, it’s an approach that minimises breakdowns and disruption to business.
Of course, while embodied carbon is an important factor for new building design, it is still an additional consideration to operational energy use.
Products that heat, cool or ventilate create significant operational carbon emissions over their lifetimes.
Chillers, for instance, have a lifespan of fifteen to twenty years, so ensuring that performance is optimised over that time is vital.
It is another good reason to make service and maintenance central to achieving this in the long-term.
When thinking about replacing an air conditioning system, it’s also a good idea to speak with service and maintenance experts.
At Mitsubishi Electric, we have found that in some cases, we can save clients the cost and disruption of replacing an old system simply by providing an updated maintenance schedule.
We never like to condemn a system that can be salvaged, because the cost is as much environmental as financial.
We expect to hear more about embodied carbon in 2022, and Mitsubishi Electric is ready to support specifiers with the data that they need.
But we will continue to ensure that our service and maintenance experts are focused on the long-term performance of building services.
Geoff Turton is Head of Service, Maintenance & After Sales Technical