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News & opinion

19 JUL 2019

RICS Building Carbon Database

In May 2019, RICS officially launched the whole life Building Carbon Database. The database was originally commissioned by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC) to capture embodied carbon data for whole buildings.

The RICS Building Carbon Database is an evolution of the formerly known WRAP Embodied Carbon Database, with a continued relationship with UK GBC. The purpose of the database reinforces the RICS professional statement 'Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment, 1st edition', which RICS members must act in accordance with.

The aim of the database is to allow users to identify where associated carbon emission reductions can be made, during all stages of a building's life cycle. For organisations who submit their data, the database is free to use and registration is available here. To access the data, users are required to input construction project data into the database (both theoretical and completed projects), which in turn allows users to estimate/benchmark whole life carbon emissions.

The launch of the database is timely with the global movement towards a more sustainable future and RICS is keen to lead the way for a more sustainable built environment. It's not breaking news that the built environment has considerable associated carbon emissions, which in turn have a significant contribution towards anthropogenic climate change. Historically, reducing the building sector's carbon emissions has always been targeted towards operational carbon (i.e. reduction targets in the building regulations (Part L)).

However, in recent years the focus has expanded to looking into reductions and improvements in embodied carbon as well. While operational carbon is produced during the day-to-day activities of running and using a building, embodied carbon results from producing, procuring and installing materials and components that make up a structure, as well as encompassing the end of life stages of a building (i.e. demolition, removal and repurposing of materials). For the industry to make headway with understanding the overall carbon impact of the built sector, whole life carbon must be assessed. The whole life approach considers all stages of a structure's life (cradle to grave) and this is the view that the RICS Building Carbon Database provides.

The database is user-led, and the validity and durability of the database relies on users to input data into the databank. For the database to meet requirements, remain relevant and continue to be successful, new projects must be uploaded by its users. The database benefits the industry and will only be supported by RICS if the industry needs and uses it.

Since RICS adopted the WRAP database it has been enhanced: the evolution of the database included a 'facelift' of the website and tools, and data resilience and cyber security have been heightened.

There are various tools included in the RICS Building Carbon Database. The first and most important tool is 'New Project', which allows users to enter their data into the databank. This can be accomplished via a downloadable excel spreadsheet where the user inputs all the data at once, then uploads the spreadsheet as a document. The other route is via the 'Wizard', which permits the user to enter the projects data on a step-by-step basis. Both methods allow the user to select whether the project is whole life (one value representing a combination of life cycle stages) or life cycle (results separated by life cycle stages).

The database allows the user to view 'Team Projects'. This tool allows the user to instantly view and download data from other projects that have been uploaded from their organisation. Furthermore, the database has a 'Search Database' capability that allows the user to search and filter through all of the projects recorded in the database (i.e. by desired life cycle stage). All data can be exported from the website in an excel spreadsheet, and the data can also be displayed graphically and in tables.

For further information or queries contact Rosie Rich.

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