Circular Lighting Report

EU set to make carbon assessment of buildings mandatory

Cranes over a building. Whole life carbon assessments are on their way.

The European Union is moving closer the making the mandatory carbon assessments of buildings compulsory.

A reworking of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) has received the support of the European Parliament, setting the scene for the adoption of whole life carbon assessments (WLCAs) for buildings.

Some cities and countries – including London – already have regulations on WLCAs but a EU directive would seem them rolled out across the continent.

Stephen Barrett, whole-life carbon specialist at the Irish Green Building Council, points outs that a danger of focusing on operational emissions from buildings alone is that we shift the emissions from the operational stage of the building’s lifecycle to the production stage by requiring more materials to be manufactured.

‘This is arguably worse as it increases emissions in production plants to reduce them in buildings later,’ says Barrett.

Whole life carbon assessments look at emissions from the beginning of a building’s lifetime right through to the end and beyond. It quantifies the emissions from the mining, processing and transporting of material used in a building – embodied carbon; emissions from energy used over the building’s lifetime – operational carbon; and the usefulness the materials may have in the future when the building is decommissioned – its ‘circularity’.

‘Currently, in Ireland, there are no building regulations aimed at reducing embodied carbon, and, where WLCA is being carried out, it is not being done in a consistent way. This means results from any two assessments are not comparable since they may be based on differing parameters and assumptions on things like the electricity grid’s carbon intensity in the future or the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in producing certain materials.

‘We need a standard WLCA methodology so all our building designs, both new-build and renovation, are comparable from a carbon perspective. This will allow us to make better design decisions, draw conclusions fairly and decide what does and does not get built.’

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Ray Molony

Recolight Report is an independent guide to the latest developments in sustainable and circular lighting. Learn about the people, products, projects and processes that are shaping our industry’s low carbon future. Plus: explainers on the latest innovations, opinion from thought leaders and video interviews with leading disruptors. Edited by lighting expert, editor and industry figure Ray Molony.