Greenhouse gas emissions caused by the construction of new buildings and infrastructure, known as ‘embodied carbon emissions’, are a significant driver of climate change.

These emissions amount to just under 50MtCO2e per year in the UK, a shocking figure that is vastly in excess of 10% of our national emissions. 

For context; there are 149 countries in the world whose entire national carbon footprint is smaller than the footprint of the UK's construction sector.

Despite this, embodied carbon emissions are unregulated in the UK. Current policy and regulation focuses solely on operational energy use, as distinct from embodied carbon, and there are currently no national planning policy or Building Regulation requirements to assess, report or reduce embodied carbon emissions.

This must change. So ACAN is calling for the urgent introduction of legislation to regulate embodied carbon emissions in the UK. Our demands are backed up by a report, and now we need your help.




Embodied carbon emissions are those that are caused by construction processes. They are related to the materials and products that go into making our buildings and infrastructure. These include emissions caused by: extraction, processing and manufacture; transport, assembly and installation on site; replacement, refurbishment and maintenance; demolition and disposal.

These are different from the carbon emissions associated with the energy use (heat and power) of our buildings. Those are known as 'operational carbon' emissions. 

As the grid is decarbonised and our new buildings become more efficient in their energy use, embodied carbon is making up an ever greater percentage of a building's total carbon footprint. This can be up to 75% of the total carbon emissions over a typical 60-year lifespan, as illustrated in the diagram below.

Currently, and despite their significance, embodied carbon emissions of buildings are unregulated in the UK. Infrequently discussed in public until recently, they constitute the hidden carbon footprint of buildings. Its time they were regulated.

Government must introduce the following measures;

The Building Regulations

  • The Building Regulations to be expanded to include requirements to assess, report & reduce embodied carbon, within a new part;  
    “Part Z: Embodied Carbon Emissions”

  • Compliance to be achieved through a “Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessment” following the British Standard BS EN 15978

  • Limits placed on embodied carbon emissions set by building type

  • Regulation 7 to be revised to introduce carbon limits on certain materials 

Planning Policy

  • Clauses to be introduced to the National Planning Policy Framework with requirements for Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessments to be submitted at three stages for all new buildings; as part of pre-application enquiries, full planning submissions, and at practical completion

  • New London Plan Policy SI2 to be adopted by local authorities around the UK As an immediate measure

Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessment Support

  • Create a freely accessible UK Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) database, or adopt an existing freely accessible database, to ensure consistent and reliable assessments

  • Require Environmental Product Declarations to be submitted to the database from construction material suppliers above a certain size, with trade bodies assisting smaller organisations.

  • Establish a freely accessible database for anonymised Whole Life-Cycle Carbon Assessment data of new buildings, to ensure lessons are widely learnt


Diagrams: Sturgis Carbon Profiling/ RICS.




You can help force the Government to respond by signing and sharing our petition. Help us get to 10,000 signatures!


Only a handful of MPs are aware of embodied carbon emissions. You can make a huge difference by sending our Briefing Note to your MP with the help of this template email we have written for you. Find your MP using this link and then use the 'Send This Report' button to download the right document. Please forward any replies to embodiedcarbon @


We need your help in campaigning for our demands. We are an entirely voluntary organisation and we rely on the energy and time of everyone in the group. If you are keen to help out on this campaign, then please send us an email using the 'Join The Campaign Team' button, we'd love for you to join us! 


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ACAN is a network of individuals within architecture and related built environment professions taking action to address the twin crises of climate and ecological breakdown. 

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