Free To Access Carbon Database For UK Built Sector Launched

The Building Cost Information Service- BCIS has recently introduced a benchmark tool for infrastructure carbon evaluation that happens to be free in the UK construction industry.

The Built Environment Carbon Database serves as the primary data source when it comes to carbon estimation and benchmarking in the UK construction sector. Its purpose is to help with the decarbonisation of buildings and infrastructure.

Approximately 38% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are attributed to the built environment. If not addressed, it is anticipated that they will double by 2050.

The origin of BECD can be traced back to the need for better availability and consistency of data used in construction for carbon assessments.

In 2020, BCIS collaborated with Arup and the University of Cambridge to conduct an industry workshop. The objective of the workshop was to explore potential enhancements for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors- RICS Embodied Carbon Database. The workshop results clearly highlighted the requirement for a more advanced platform and the importance of promoting its utilisation among all professions in the built environment.

James Fiske, the chief executive of BCIS, emphasised the importance of construction professionals taking responsibility for reducing carbon emissions in the absence of government mandates for carbon assessments in the built environment. He urged professionals in the industry to do their part, regardless of their specific role.

How is the database structured?

According to Fiske, there are over 60 carbon calculators in the industry, each operating in their own unique way. While taking a positive step towards making the right decisions is admirable, it is important to acknowledge that it also brings about certain challenges.

Fiske added that comparing outputs and learning from each other becomes challenging because they work in various manners and some may not adhere to the regulations. So as to effectively utilise those tools and adhere to the rules, it is essential to have individuals who have been trained and competent to carry out the required tasks.

The BECD platform happens to offer centralised online data storage that is freely accessible. It is important to note that it is not a calculator or any kind of software. The platform is designed to serve as a means for the industry to contribute data and mutually benefit from collective knowledge. The BECD system consists of 2 databases: one for asset data and the other one for product-level emissions.

The asset section of BECD includes the following information: 

– The outcomes of carbon assessments conducted at the project level, which measure the embodied and/or operational carbon.

– Important non-carbon data is used for benchmarking purposes.

– Monitoring the carbon emissions as the project advances.

The database’s product section contains the results of carbon assessments conducted at the product level. The BECD database currently contains over 34,000 datapoints, mainly sourced from EPDs, which have been categorised according to the BCIS classification system.

Next stages

As the BECD continues to evolve, users will be actively encouraged to contribute additional data, expanding beyond EPDs. After submission, the data will require approval prior to publication. BCIS is developing a data quality framework to determine the suitability of user-submitted data. This framework will evaluate data based on key criteria such as adhering to norms, the level of external assessment, the age of the data, and the accessibility of supporting information.

A database of approximately 1,000 materials, with linked information on cost and carbon values, is set to be launched in November this year. Additionally, it will include other crucial details necessary for the buying process. The database will be used to support a high-level lifecycle cost and carbon calculator, which is scheduled to be launched in January 2024.

Data on highways

Mott MacDonald happened to be the first organisation to provide BECD with client-approved detailed carbon data for completed construction projects. The report contained a significant amount of carbon data concerning infrastructure, which was gathered from highway projects completed by the company in the past seven years.

According to Kim Yates, the climate change lead for the UK and Europe at Mott MacDonald, the datasets will provide the opportunity to analyse the carbon emissions associated with specific highway assets, like roundabouts or flyovers, in a more comprehensive manner. Instead of relying on a single figure for an entire project, these datasets will allow for a more detailed understanding of the carbon costs by putting together the information. Having a clear understanding of the current carbon cost allows to accurately monitor the effectiveness of carbon reduction measures implemented during the design phase and make comparisons with industry standards. Utilising this data will facilitate informed design decisions that will enhance their carbon reduction efforts, allowing them to make greater and quicker progress.

Fiske also emphasised the importance of having BECD endorsed and, whenever feasible, mandated all through the industry.