Detailed studies have been performed with the aim of determining optimum low-carbon solutions for buildings, and investigating the complex issues involved in their delivery. The evidence presented below suggests that building envelope specification has reached the point where the embodied carbon of any additional insulation balances, and may even outweigh, the corresponding savings in operational carbon. However, the extra material in the envelope has an inherent strength and stiffness that could be utilized to reduce the embodied carbon in the structure if appropriately designed. An extensive series of analyses was undertaken to (a) quantify the aggregated operational and embodied carbon related to modern envelope systems, and (b) evaluate the opportunities for embodied carbon reduction of the frame through the exploitation of the envelope’s structural capability. Particular attention was given to the use of long-span composite panels to reduce the number of supporting structural members. It was found that a considerable saving in embodied carbon is possible compared to traditional construction solutions. The study also suggested the absolute significance of combining operational and embodied carbon analyses, in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of carbon reduction strategies and requirements to shift away from “operational carbon only” methods. The focus of the initial phase of the work has been single-story industrial buildings, but the conclusions are applicable more broadly.
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