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The Importance of Embodied Carbon, Plus How to Calculate It

What Is Embodied Carbon?

In a landscape project, embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions by the production, handling of, and disposal of landscape materials.

Why Is Calculating Embodied Carbon So Important?

Understanding the total embodied carbon of a proposed landscape project is essential for embracing sustainability in the built environment. Embodied carbon reflects the carbon linked to landscape materials, while operational carbon encompasses all ongoing activities post-project completion. Additionally, sequestered carbon highlights the capacity of plants and materials to trap and store carbon dioxide from the air.

By minimizing embodied/operational carbon and creating landscapes that can sequester significant amounts of atmospheric carbon, we can foster a more sustainable environment. Through embodied carbon calculations, landscape architects gain valuable insights to guide their design choices toward more eco-friendly material selections and product specifications.

Meet the Vectorworks Embodied Carbon Calculator

The Vectorworks Embodied Carbon Calculator (VECC) is comprised of two preformatted worksheets — one for early project stages and one for later project stages — that allow you to track embodied carbon emissions throughout the project’s lifecycle.

The physical properties of landscape and construction materials play a huge role in embodied carbon calculations. The VECC leverages manufacturer-specific material data and a 3D model of the proposed landscape to accurately determine the volume and embodied carbon of specified materials. Incorporating this data allows you to achieve precise calculations of the total embodied carbon for a project.

To get your free copy of the Vectorworks Embodied Carbon Calculator, click here.

6 Ways to Reduce Embodied Carbon in a Landscape Project

  1. Restore existing landscape features instead of building new ones.

Implementation of a landscape project is highly demanding when it comes to carbon. You can reduce a project’s embodied carbon emissions by reducing the number of operations required for installation.

  1. Use renewable landscape materials.

Use materials that have a lower amount of inherent embodied carbon, such as timber.

  1. Source locally.

Instead of having materials shipped overseas, for example, you can reduce a project’s embodied carbon levels by transporting materials locally.

  1. Recycle and reuse materials.

By recycling and reusing materials, the required carbon to manufacture and transport those materials has already been accounted for.

  1. Increase the amount of planting in the project.

Plants are great at sequestering carbon, which helps reduce the project’s carbon footprint.

  1. Stay informed about EPD of landscape products.

Working directly with manufacturers and being informed about the material range with respect to EPD (Environmental Product Declarations) will help you make better choices towards materials with lower carbon footprints.

Don’t forget to get your free copy of the Vectorworks Embodied Carbon Calculator to start tracking project emissions to make more environmentally conscious design decisions!

Published on March 13, 2024

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