What is real sustainability?
It is understanding the full and lasting impact of our design choices and reducing the carbon footprint over the building’s entire lifetime. From cradle to grave.
Two phrases you will often hear are – Embodied Carbon and Operational Carbon. Embodied Carbon is the amount of carbon emitted during the creation of the building and its materials. Operational Carbon is the amount of carbon emitted during the life of the building and maintaining those materials.
The current method for measuring the CO2 impact of each material is through a Life Cycle Assessment using Environmental Product Declarations or EPDs for short. Unfortunately, EPDs assume the study period for a building’s life is only 60 years. This is just 1% of the age of the oldest fired bricks in the world made 6000 years ago and are still here today.
This is incredibly important because durable products with extensive longevity such as clay brick, will prolong the expected life of a building resulting in a lower carbon footprint for every year of use. Not to mention, brick can then go on to be re-used and recycled to live a 2nd and sometimes even a 3rd life, benefitting multiple generations.
We often hear the Brick Industry say clay products last 200+ years, this is 3x longer than EPD’s measure the carbon impact, therefore designers do not receive Life Cycle Assessments reflective of the true life span of their building.
Brick is non-toxic and requires little to no maintenance, its non-combustible and improves the thermal and acoustic building values, equating to zero operational carbon.
Other building materials need much greater levels of maintenance, often reliant upon chemical processes which lead to a considerably higher operational carbon footprint. Many of these non-clay materials will often require complete replacement several times over a building’s 200 year lifespan, multiplying both the Embodied and Operational carbon footprints several times over.
At Michelmersh, we know exactly what goes into creating our products and meticulously calculate the embodied carbon figures providing completely transparent data from extraction, to drying, firing and delivery. We are focussed on decarbonization of the brick making process, working on a variety of methods to make significant carbon reductions from cradle to gate.
In reality when measuring your building’s design over its true/real life span, clay brick is one of the least carbon intensive building materials you can use.
To be truly sustainable, we believe in designing buildings that are both adaptable and multi-generational, so that the environment and our children’s children will benefit from the choices we make today.