The Why, What, and How of Lifecycle Carbon Analysis

October 19, 2022

Embodied Carbon is the emissions footprint that comes from extracting, transporting and manufacturing building materials.  Each and every stage of getting building materials to a construction site and into the actual development, causes greenhouse emissions (greenhouse gasses or GHG). [...] Understanding the embodied carbon associated with each material in a project, and thus the embodied carbon footprint associated with the project as a whole is the only way we will ultimately be able to start the process of reducing a project’s impact. [...] Embodied carbon accounts for 25%of building sector emissions and up to 11% of all “human-caused” emissions globally.  It is material and a significant contributor to the greenhouse gas problem.(From The Footprint Company).

Despite the importance of Lifecycle Assessment (LCA), there are a few significant blockers to detailed carbon planning.

1. The hardest, most challenging part is standardized definitions of what the industry means by different terms and agreeing on baselines.
2. The second challenge is historical data. There’s no historical data to make assessments against. If you have no definitions, you can’t measure consistently.
3. The buildings industry has committed to reduce current practices by 2030, by 65%. But no definitions mean no baselines; no historical data means no assessments. The entire industry has committed to something it doesn't know how to measure & can’t agree on what it means.

So what is significant about The Footprint Company?

Their data is the cleanest, most accurate, and most defined in the industry. It comes with:

  • Standardized Definitions
  • 25 years of building history against those definitions
  • Multi-National Database of Designs & Assemblies, which blends manufacturer environmental product disclosures (EPD) with actual carbon assessments.

What is significant about Giraffe's partnership with The Footprint Company?

Most carbon assessments revolve around defining the exact component so they can amalgamate on the supplier's EPD. This means assessments only happen when there is a detailed design, or when the GC submits a bid with the actual building components.

This is bad because

  • Not every product has an EPD.
  • All the design decisions that make an actual impact (structure, façade, orientation, heating and cooling, and more) that have already been made make up 90% of the carbon lifecycle.

With Giraffe's integration with The Footprint Company's deep dataset, you can bring the best data into the workflow early - where the design decisions are being made that impact the feasibility of the building.

Use live, in-app feedback to optimize your design to minimize carbon emissions, setting the foundation for a carbon-neutral project from the very beginning. See if the project might be sustainable before investing significant time, money, and effort. Use conceptual or detailed assumptions, catered to either industry benchmarks or known materials. The outcome is a massing model backed by data that acts as the foundation for a successful project.

And the best part? It's right in Giraffe - along with all of your geospatial context, Urban metrics, solar analysis, and proforma calculations. No need to manually unify outputs from multiple tools to understand all parts of your feasibility analysis - it's all together, right where you're designing.

It's actionable and accurate, and it fits in the workflow.

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Wilkinson, Michael. 2021. “What Actually Is Embodied Carbon in Buildings? | the Footprint Company.” The Footprint Company. June 21, 2021. https://footprintcompany.com/what-actually-is-embodied-carbon/.