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Free AHMM carbon calculator covers full project lifecycle

Words:
Stephen Cousins

AHMM-developed toolkit supports end-to-end carbon reporting in every project discipline, helping mitigate environmental impacts during design, delivery, operation and demolition

The Net Zero Toolkit was developed to track whole life carbon on projects from inception through to operation.
The Net Zero Toolkit was developed to track whole life carbon on projects from inception through to operation. Credit: AHMM

A toolkit responding to researchers' lack of software to help co-ordinate and visualise carbon data across all stages and disciplines of a building project has been developed by architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) and UCL’s Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering.

The open-source Excel-based Delivering Net Zero in Use Toolkit, and its connected guidance document ‘Delivering Net Zero In-Use: A Guide For Architects’, are the result of a two year academic Knowledge Transfer Partnership between AHMM and UCL, co-funded by the architect and Innovate UK and AHMM.

The toolkit can be applied to different building typologies and enables multiple consultants to input data on predicted carbon. A simplified version allows the input of high level targets, project aspirations or basic data. More detailed information covering whole life carbon can then be added as the design progresses.

Dr Craig Roberston, head of sustainability at AHMM, said: ‘At an early stage we might have good information on the sub- and super-structure from the structural engineers, and on operational carbon from M&E engineers. Our internal team might have detailed embodied carbon data on our facades but not on internal finishes, M&E kit, stairs, and other parts of the building. The toolkit allows a whole life carbon number to be compiled from all available data sources and for industry standard assumptions to be used to complete a potential scenario.’

The spreadsheet aligns with the framework for sustainability reviews, typically the RIBA Plan of Work, and provides a visualisation of carbon impacts at each stage.
The spreadsheet aligns with the framework for sustainability reviews, typically the RIBA Plan of Work, and provides a visualisation of carbon impacts at each stage. Credit: AHMM

The spreadsheet is configured to align with the framework for sustainability reviews on a project, typically the RIBA Plan of Work, and projected carbon emissions at these different stages are tracked against official net zero carbon benchmarks.

The tool generates two graphic outputs: an interactive ‘waterfall’ diagram showing carbon emissions and a ‘carbon square’ ranking carbon alongside time, cost, and quality drivers.

These visualisations and data are intended to help the client and consultant team collectively assess and understand the environmental impacts and develop realistic targets. The toolkit can also identify where missing data is required and set targets for those omissions based on best practice.

According to Dr Roberston, the tool is ‘data agnostic’ and can incorporate benchmarks and elemental breakdown assumptions from places like LETI,  databases such the ICE or the RICS’ Embodied Carbon Database, from in-house models or those of the wider project team. In addition, it is designed to provide ‘iterative decision support’, used throughout the life of a project ‘as information becomes more accurate and decisions become more refined’, he said.

AHMM initially designed the toolkit for use on its complex mixed-use developments, which often involve multiple variables, such as changing stakeholders and tenant changes, to measure the collective impacts on embodied and operational carbon.

A ‘carbon square’ ranks carbon alongside time, cost, and quality drivers.
A ‘carbon square’ ranks carbon alongside time, cost, and quality drivers. Credit: AHMM

It was applied on an early-stage project in West London to assess the carbon implications of varying degrees of retention, demolition and newbuild, ultimately demonstrating the significant carbon benefits of retaining much of an existing building. According to Dr Roberston, tests of different structural and facade options for a low-rise newbuild student resi project in Bristol using the tool ‘helped identify the lowest carbon version of the project’. Although this version was not ultimately taken forward due to ‘fire and cost’ implications, the toolkit helped ‘define the offsets required to compensate for this decision’.

‘Using the toolkit is driving conversations with our clients and the wider teams at the early stages of projects, allowing us to make more accurate predictions about whole life carbon, and therefore make better decisions throughout the design and delivery stages,’ he said.

AHMM is planning to keep the toolkit up to date, especially ‘aspects that involve coefficients from elsewhere,’ such as on grid decarbonisation as it progresses. There are no plans to integrate it with BIM or other design software, although data can be imported into the programme from the building life cycle assessment software LCA One Click.

 

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