Net Zero

10 NOV 2022


An international dataset capturing total forecast emissions – whole life carbon (WLC) – for buildings in design has been created by Arup.

WLC data from almost 1,000 building design projects across 30 nations on five continents has been collected and analysed by the global sustainable development consultancy using its new software platform, Zero.

This work has been driven by Arup’s commitment to assess its global building design project portfolio using WLC techniques, announced in 2021 at COP26. 

Arup’s focus on WLC has allowed it to estimate emissions arising from its global building design project portfolio. 

The ‘carbon handprint’ for the firm’s building design work is estimated to be 350 times greater than its organisational carbon footprint (Scopes 1, 2 and 3).

At COP27, Arup has announced its ambition to use WLC to accelerate decarbonisation of its building design work and to pursue achievement of the goals of the UN High Level Climate Champions’ 2030 Breakthrough Outcome for the Built Environment.

The Breakthrough Outcome calls for all new and refurbished buildings to be net zero in operation and to achieve at least a 40% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030.

Arup is calling on others across the global property, construction and building design sectors to work together to establish open and comparable WLC datasets. 

By joining forces to create large, comparable and open datasets, the global property sector and its value chain can begin to scale net zero buildings. 

Early analysis of Zero data indicates an urgent need for accurate carbon benchmarks to guide low carbon design, particularly for the earliest ‘brief’ stage of the building design cycle. However, Arup says such benchmarks will be established much more quickly if more WLC data is collected and shared in comparable and open formats.

Dr Alan Belfield, Arup global chair, said: “In taking this crucial first step, we have been driven by a determination to overcome the barriers to scaling net zero buildings. 

“Comparable and open whole life carbon data is the tool that will allow actors across the global property value chain to make better decisions about building decarbonisation – and to achieve significant emission reductions at scale and at pace.”

Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Champion for COP26, added: “The need to decarbonise buildings’ operational and embodied carbon is an urgent one if the global built environment sector is to contribute this decade to progress. 

“We support Arup in its call for all non-state actors in the global property value chain to use whole life carbon data to drive rapid decarbonisation of buildings. 

“The High-Level Champions are calling for all new and refurbished buildings to be net zero in operation and to achieve at least 40% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030 at the very latest.” 


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