As with any new year, 2022 begins with new laws and regulations. Fortunately for building with wood, Sweden and France have pioneering new regulations that mandate consideration of embodied carbon, referring to the carbon emissions stemming from manufacture, installation, up-keep and deconstruction/demolition of building materials. Source: Timberbiz
Other countries will soon take similar steps, and the European Commission is focusing on embodied carbon too. After all, the manufacture of building materials – especially steel and cement – was responsible for 10% of global energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020, according to the United Nations Environment Program.
This growing embodied carbon focus is helping drive demand for low-carbon building materials, especially wood.
Sweden’s climate declaration
In Sweden, from the beginning of this year developers must calculate the embodied carbon emissions for new buildings and file those with the government to receive final building permit approval.
Under the Act on Climate Declarations for New Buildings, these calculations are to cover the so-called upfront embodied emissions, encompassing the initial material production and construction stages of the life cycle of a building.
With this regulation, Sweden aims to increase the building sector’s knowledge of the climate impact of building construction, and ultimately contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. In a next step, maximum values on building embodied carbon emissions are likely to be implemented, perhaps as soon as 2027.
The Netherlands is thought to be the first country to mandate the assessment of embodied emissions from non-governmental buildings, doing so in 2013.
France’s pioneering LCA approach
France has gone even further than Sweden (and the Netherlands).
France’s new RE2020 regulation mandates analysis of embodied emissions over the entire life cycle of a building, from the facility’s creation to its deconstruction/demolition. This applies as of 1 January 2022 for residential buildings and into 2023 it expands to cover other building types.
What is notable about RE2020 is that it requires dynamic life cycle analysis (LCA), which weighs future emissions less than current emissions (the former of which are expected to cause less climate harm, given the decarbonization targets of countries worldwide.) Thus, RE2020 favours materials – such as wood – that have low emissions during their manufacture and/or that store carbon. France is believed to be the first country to apply a dynamic LCA approach to the building sector.
RE2020 includes embodied carbon limit values that over subsequent years will progressively lower to reduce emissions. The roll-out of limit values also took effect at the beginning of 2022. These limit values will be tightened in 2025, 2028 and 2031, with every step further pressurizing the building sector to decarbonise.
Also starting this year in France, all new public buildings must be made from at least 50% wood or other sustainable materials to help achieve sustainable urban development.