Notice: This blog piece was created prior to the formation of the British Precast Drainage Association.

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Pipelines – A Newsletter from the Concrete Pipeline Systems Association

New Standard launched for calculating carbon footprints

European Standard EN 15804 “Sustainability of construction works – Environmental product declarations – Product category rules” is due out February 2012. It is expected to make a significant impact on how the carbon footprints (CFPs) of construction products are calculated.

Currently, there is no single universal method to calculate CFPs for products and services in the construction industry. The most widely used database (and calculation methodology) is the Bath University Inventory of Carbon & Energy (ICE). The ICE database does not follow a single specific method. It contains a wide range of CFPs collected from studies worldwide and some industry values are amended to meet the requirements of the ICE Methodology. However many of the ICE Method requirements may be in direct conflict with the new EN 15804.

These include precision, completeness, insignificant emissions cut-off and how recyclable content is dealt with. Of these differences, it is believed that the treatment of recyclable content and end-of-life scenario will have the most dramatic effect as Bath University uses a method to allocate impacts between a virgin material’s first life and its recycled second life using a “50:50 method” formula, while EN 15804 does not apply an allocation to a product’s second life. It is believed that the CFPs of reinforced concrete pipes may end up around 6% lower when EN 15804 is used compared to ICE.

Other CFP standards include PAS 2050, the WBCSD/WRI Protocol Standard and ISO 14067 (which is yet to be released). However, it is understood that all these Standards should be overridden by EN 15804. BRE’s Environmental Profile database for construction products contains cradle-to-grave CFPs for a wide range of construction products. However it is also believed to be different to EN 15804 CFPs.

CPSA calculate that the results of the PAS 2050 embodied carbon study for precast concrete pipes and manholes will change by no more than 1-2% when assessed using EN15804.

For more information on EN 15804, visit the BSI website.

Publicly available databases can be misleading

Do you know the difference between primary data and secondary data? Are you familiar with carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) compared with carbon dioxide-only (CO2) emissions? These are just two factors that can lead to widely varying results when making design, specification and procurement decisions. Are you sure that your comparisons are based on the most reliable data available? For help, take a look at our pipe comparison report and manhole comparison report.

Warning: Your carbon calculator may be out of date

How can you keep up with the updates to carbon databases? The introduction of a new methodology, Standard or simply a new set of data doesn’t always mean that carbon calculators are updated with the latest data. For example, in February 2011 the University of Bath Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) was updated to version 2.0. However, there are many still referencing data from the earlier version 1.6a. The current ICE version 2.0 refers to the CPSA PAS 2050 embodied carbon study for precast concrete pipes and manholes (Reference 300). However, if the ICE V2.0 generic data for precast concrete is used rather than the CPSA data specific to concrete pipes and manholes, the resulting carbon footprint can be over-stated by between 20%-60%.

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