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Embodied Carbon Workstream

The last twelve months have been significant for embodied carbon in the building industry. LETI’s own successful launch of the Embodied Carbon Primer was joined by numerous UK and profession wide commitments and guidance on life cycle carbon. It is imperative that LETI continues to take full advantage of this momentum. Last year one of the key roles of the embodied carbon primer was to demystify the language, targets, methodology and strategies used around embodied carbon so that there could be greater engagement across our industry professions in delivering low carbon buildings. It is important that this work does not remain stagnant and utilises the energy across the sector to help drive towards a low carbon future. From workstream reviews, expert panel workshops and feedback received from all corners of the industry and beyond, it is apparent that the embodied carbon workstream needs to grow its ambitions for 2020. 

We have identified five subject areas that will help to ensure that the embodied carbon workstream can continue to provide valuable case studies, developed targets and architypes, further collaboration and transparency across the industry, and even deeper engagement.  The embodied carbon workstreams for 2020 are:


→ Whole Life Carbon and Offsetting

→ Specification & Procurement

→ Circular Economy & Retrofit

→ Top Down Targets

→ Case Studies

Key LETI guidance documents:
→  Embodied Carbon Primer
→  LETI Carbon Alignment

To be read in conjunction with:

→  Climate Emergency Design Guide

To find out more about how you can sign up to these workstreams please email

Whole Life Carbon and Offsetting

The aim of this workstream is to review the LETI position on Whole Life Carbon, the component parts, the definition of true zero and the trajectory for reaching it. The Primer set out two possible positions for achieving true zero including full circularity of materials and/ or offsetting. This workstream intends to drill down into these positions in more detail. A One Pager will be developed to accompany the 2019 Zero Carbon one pagers. Offsetting methods will be investigated alongside and a hierarchy proposed.

Whole Life Carbon and Offsetting

Specification & Procurement

This workstream's goal is to help ensure that what is designed is matched by the reality of what is built. To enable this we need to understand more fully low carbon procurement and specification particularly from the contractor and manufacturer side. How do we write specifications that give contractors scope to deliver a low carbon building? Similar with procurement, what is realistic, what are the issues on the contractor side for low carbon procurement and how do we need to work with contactors and manufacturers to ensure low carbon materials are delivered? As we have looked to work very openly across profession and practice as designers, this workstream aims to do the same with manufacturers and contractors.

To understand more about how embodied carbon is currently managed within the procurement process, please view our 2020 Specification & Procurement Survey analysis.

Specification and Procurement

Top Down Targets

For operational energy usage there are clear energy use intensity metrics which are said to be “Paris-proof” as they align with a net-zero carbon trajectory. To date embodied carbon targets are based on reductions against current baselines (what is possible) rather than what can be sustained within our national carbon budgets (what is allowable). The aim of this workstream is to outline a potential methodology for obtaining a range of paris-proof embodied targets which are desperately needed by the CCC, and to set up a campaign to fund the study.

Top Down Targets
Circular Economy and Retrofit

Circular Economy & Retrofit

The aim of this workstream is to review and develop the circular economy principles and targets as set out in LETI’s Embodied Carbon Primer. LETI’s ‘reaching whole life net zero carbon: best practice targets’ define proposed circular economy targets for the next decade, including benchmarks for reuse of materials & elements, and designing for viable reuse in the future. This group will work to define further what the reuse and reusable targets include/exclude. The group will be developing best practice guidance for designing for circular economy, and will work with external groups who are developing guidance on this already. This group will also work closely with the LETI Retrofit Working Group and the Whole Life Carbon & Offsetting workstream.

Case Studies

The aim of this workstream is to gather and curate a series of Case Studies in order to support and add to the Embodied Carbon Primer and the future outputs from the 2020 Embodied Carbon Workstreams. This workstream will work closely with the LETI Pioneers Working Group and will align any future published case studies with emerging guidance on how to report embodied and whole life carbon.

To find out more about how you can sign up to these workstreams please email

Case Studies
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