Carbon calculator a first for BIM design

A new carbon calculator is being launched later this month – the first to measure the capital and operational carbon footprints of BIM designed assets, says Mott MacDonald sustainability leader Davide Stronati 

Carbon is fast catching up with cost as the construction industry’s new bottom line. The correlation between low carbon construction and reduced cost was identified in the Treasury’s Infrastructure Carbon Review in 2013. Leading clients have already claimed success in carbon management, with many others following suit.

PAS 2080 – a new industry standard on carbon management – provides guidance to those who want to cut carbon in infrastructure delivery. Quantifying carbon to establish a baseline is one of the crucial first steps.

This is where the Carbon Portal comes into play. It is being launched at the Next Generation Infrastructure conference, organised by Mott MacDonald and Buildoffsite on 26 April at the Institution of Civil Engineers. The Portal is the first carbon calculator to directly measure the capital and operational carbon footprint of BIM designed assets. It will help provide a more effective service to clients who recognise the value of carbon reduction. The Carbon Portal has been developed by Mott MacDonald, lead authors of the Infrastructure Carbon Review and PAS 2080, using the infrastructure industry’s most comprehensive carbon data.

Key aspects of the Carbon Portal include:

• Focus on assets, not materials: Quantity surveyors are already able to add up the tonnage of individual materials and calculate carbon accordingly. However, innovation comes from engineers, and by providing carbon calculations for BIM objects and entire assets the Carbon Portal provides essential information at the planning and design stages where savings can be made.

• Rapid calculations: Carbon assessment undertaken by specialist teams using an Excel spreadsheet can take hours or even days. Use of the Carbon Portal reduces this to as little as 30 seconds.

• Enables optioneering: Users are able to quickly calculate the capital and operational carbon footprint of competing designs, and to see the impact of design modifications across the entire project.

• Ease of use: Our principal sustainability and carbon specialist Kim Hampton explains how important it was to make the Carbon Portal intuitive: “We extensively tested the Carbon Portal to ensure it was user friendly. The tool is based on a ‘drag and drop’ system which is intuitive to all software users, and BIM data can be simply imported into the Carbon Portal, with users adjusting for quantity to provide immediate calculations.”  

• Cross-sectoral: The tool works for the water, transport and power assets, and will be progressively expanded to cover further sectors.

•Can be used internationally: The Carbon Portal is populated with UK data that already supports optioneering in all markets. Datasets are being continually refined and tailored to our key regions worldwide. 

Clients who have taken a lead in carbon management agree that cutting carbon has stimulated innovation. Carbon is a proxy for cost. Using carbon as a performance metric encourages creative design and construction. The Carbon Portal can play a key role in showing the value of innovation. As our principal environmental scientist Terry Ellis says: “While the Carbon Portal is unable to replace good leadership, integrated procurement or engineering talent, it will become a key enabler of carbon reduction by allowing engineers and clients to quickly and easily test alternatives. This will help us and our clients to achieve the low carbon outcomes that the PAS 2080 process supports.”

As the importance of carbon management gains ground in the industry, we expect carbon to become fully embedded alongside scheduling and cost details as the sixth dimension of BIM, with automated carbon assessments informing the design process. This will take time, but will be driven by the many benefits clients are already enjoying by cutting carbon.

If you want an early glimpse of what the future holds in store, then visit us at the ICE from 6pm on 26 April, or contact us directly and we will be happy to demonstrate how the Carbon Portal can help you and your organisation cut cost by cutting carbon.

Davide Stronati is Global Sustainability Leader at Mott MacDonald