WHAT IS REAL SUSTAINABILITY?
Understanding the long-term impact of design choices and reducing the carbon footprint throughout a building’s entire lifespan is crucial. Two commonly used phrases are Embodied Carbon and Operational Carbon. Embodied Carbon refers to the carbon emitted during the creation of the building and its materials, while Operational Carbon represents the carbon emitted during the building’s life and maintenance.
Currently, the CO2 impact of materials is measured using Life Cycle Assessments with Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). However, EPDs typically assume a study period of only 60 years, which is a mere 1% of the lifespan of the oldest fired bricks still in existence after 6000 years.
This is significant because durable products like clay brick can extend a building’s expected lifespan, resulting in a lower carbon footprint over the years of use. Moreover, bricks can be reused and recycled, providing additional benefits across multiple generations.
The Brick Industry often emphasizes that clay products can last 200+ years, which is three times longer than EPDs account for when measuring carbon impact. As a result, designers do not receive Life Cycle Assessments that accurately reflect the true lifespan of their buildings.
Michelmersh has produced the following ‘Think Longer‘ educational animation to highlight the impact of design choices on the whole-life carbon footprint of our built environment:
Brick is an advantageous building material that offers several benefits. It is non-toxic, low-maintenance, non-combustible, and enhances thermal and acoustic properties, resulting in zero operational carbon.
In contrast, many other building materials require higher levels of maintenance and rely on chemical processes, leading to significantly higher operational carbon footprints. Non-clay materials often necessitate complete replacements multiple times over a building’s 200-year lifespan, thereby multiplying both the embodied and operational carbon footprints.
Michelmersh convened a roundtable discussion with RIBA Journal ‘Think longer to build sustainably‘ including influential architects, material suppliers, structural engineers, manufacturers, policy makers, construction teams and educational professors. Please read the full article here:
DESIGN FOR 200 YEARS, NOT 20.
When considering the true lifespan of a building, clay brick emerges as one of the least carbon-intensive building materials available. In pursuit of genuine sustainability, our approach focuses on designing buildings that are adaptable and capable of serving multiple generations. By making choices that prioritize the environment and the well-being of future generations, we aim to ensure that our children’s children will reap the benefits of our decisions today.