According to the organisation’s research, present methods used to calculate the carbon impacts of a building are too simplistic and do not reflect the true nature of future energy consumption.

Currently, calculations are based on operational carbon emissions staying the same throughout a building’s lifetime.

Sustain says that this is unrealistic because carbon intensity of electricity will inevitably reduce over time.

As part of its research, Sustain carried out analysis to assess greenhouse gas emissions from two buildings – a typical new home and a new build primary school – between now and 2050.

Using calculation methods currently used by the building industry, the operational carbon of the new home was over-estimated by almost 50% and the school by almost 95%.

Sustain’s senior associate and author of the research, Craig Jones, said: “Even if building owners take absolutely no action to reduce carbon, the annual emissions of any building will reduce over time because the carbon intensity of an electricity unit will inevitably decrease as we strive to meet national and global carbon reduction targets.

“With the results from this study and the rise of zero carbon homes it’s our view that there needs to be a stronger focus on measuring and reducing embodied carbon – that means tackling carbon from activities that relate to the production and construction of materials as well as whole buildings.”

Alison Brown

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