An Architect’s Guide to Upfront Carbon

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Henning Larsen

The construction industry may have an outsized impact on the environment, but it also has enormous potential to be at the forefront of change. Material selection can make a big difference, but often decision-making is solely based on the carbon the building emits throughout its entire lifetime. But, what about the footprint the materials come with before ending up at the construction site? In this Q&A, Head of Materials at Henning Larsen, Martha Lewis gets you up to speed in understanding the impact of construction materials.


What is “upfront carbon”?

“Upfront carbon is the carbon emitted in the production phase of products and materials, from mining and processing of natural resources, transport to processing sites, and the manufacturing phases. So, this is a carbon ‘cost’ that occurs before any architecture even happens.

Essentially this relates to the building blocks for realizing our designs, so if we are serious about reducing the carbon footprint of our projects and of our industry, architects need to be knowledgeable about upfront carbon. These are the emissions associated with the here and now, and as such, they are absolutely crucial in driving our choices of materials and products.”

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