Decoding Embodied Carbon for Building Services Engineers

In the journey towards achieving net-zero carbon buildings, the concept of embodied carbon is gaining significant attention. Embodied carbon refers to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building materials and components. For building services engineers, understanding and mitigating embodied carbon is crucial in creating sustainable and environmentally responsible buildings. 

Understanding Embodied Carbon in MEP Systems


Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems are integral to a building’s functionality and comfort. However, they also contribute significantly to the overall embodied carbon of a construction project. Evaluating the embodied carbon in these systems requires a thorough understanding of their lifecycle impacts, from material extraction to end-of-life disposal. 

Standards and Methodologies: EPDs vs. TM65 
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): EPDs provide a standardised way of reporting the environmental impacts of products. They are internationally recognised and offer detailed information on emissions and energy use throughout a product’s lifecycle. However, obtaining an EPD can be complex, as it requires detailed data from manufacturers​​. 
  • CIBSE TM65: The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) introduced TM65 to address the lack of detailed embodied carbon data specifically for MEP products. TM65 offers a more accessible and tailored approach for calculating embodied carbon, using available data to derive emissions estimates where detailed EPDs are not available​​. 

Case Studies and Practical Applications 

Fire Safety and Embodied Carbon 

Fire safety measures can significantly impact a building’s embodied carbon. In a presentation by Grete Wilson and Emma McIntyre, the interplay between fire safety and embodied carbon was highlighted. For instance, incorporating fire suppression systems like sprinklers can reduce the need for fire-resistant materials, thereby lowering the embodied carbon of the structure​​​​. 

Lighting Systems: A Case Study on Embodied Carbon 

In a detailed study presented by Leela Shanker and colleagues at the CIBSE Technical Symposium, the lifecycle carbon impact of lighting systems was analysed. The study emphasised the importance of considering both operational and embodied carbon. For example, the embodied carbon of LED luminaires can vary significantly based on the manufacturing processes and materials used. The study found that by optimising the design and material selection for lighting systems, significant reductions in embodied carbon can be achieved​​. 

Comprehensive Building Analysis: A Holistic Approach 

Camila Colhado Gallo and Melanie Jans-Singh presented a comprehensive review comparing EPDs and TM65 methodologies for MEP products. Their analysis showed that while EPDs provide detailed lifecycle data, the TM65 methodology can offer a quicker, though less precise, alternative for estimating embodied carbon. This comparison is crucial for engineers aiming to make informed decisions when detailed EPDs are not available. By using both methodologies, engineers can achieve a more accurate assessment of the embodied carbon of building services​​.

An anecdotal depiction of tinder profiles of EPD and TM65, showing the differences in long term / short term commitments to both standards. From Camila Colhado Gallo and Melanie Jans-Singh’ presentation at CIBSE Technical Symposium 2024.
Innovative Solutions from VEXO International 

VEXO International offers cutting-edge solutions designed to reduce the embodied carbon of MEP systems. Our products not only meet but often exceed environmental standards, making them ideal for sustainable building projects. 

X-POT Side Stream Filtration 

VEXO’s X-POT side stream filtration systems are a prime example of innovation aimed at reducing embodied carbon. These systems enhance HVAC efficiency by reducing the need for different pieces of equipment and prolonging equipment lifespan, thus lowering both embodied and operational carbon emissions. 

S-BMS Building Management System 

VEXO International’s Smart Building Management System (S-BMS), integrated with LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) devices, offers a dual advantage in reducing both operational and embodied carbon. The S-BMS enhances building efficiency by optimising the performance of HVAC systems and other critical infrastructure, leading to significant reductions in energy consumption and associated operational carbon emissions. Additionally, the use of LoRaWAN devices eliminates the need for extensive wiring, which not only simplifies installation and reduces labour costs but also cuts down on the embodied carbon typically associated with the production and transportation of wiring materials. This innovative combination of wireless technology and advanced building management significantly contributes to the sustainability goals of modern buildings by addressing carbon emissions on multiple fronts.

Strategies for Building Services Engineers 

  1. Utilise Comprehensive Assessment Tools: Employ both EPDs and the TM65 methodology to gain a holistic view of embodied carbon impacts. 
  2. Collaborate with Manufacturers: Engage with product manufacturers to obtain detailed data necessary for accurate carbon calculations. 
  3. Prioritise Sustainable Products: Choose products and systems, such as those offered by VEXO, that are designed to minimise embodied carbon without compromising performance. 
  4. Integrate Early Design Decisions: Consider the embodied carbon impact of MEP systems from the initial design stages to maximise reductions. 

For building services engineers, understanding and managing embodied carbon is vital to developing sustainable buildings. By leveraging tools like EPDs and TM65, utilising innovative products from companies like VEXO International, and adopting sustainable design practices, engineers can significantly reduce the environmental impact of their projects. This holistic approach not only meets current regulatory requirements but also supports the global mission towards a greener, more sustainable future. 

For more information on reducing embodied carbon with innovative products, book a demo or get in touch with our technical team. 



Review of TM65 Methodology against Environmental Product Declarations for use in Embodied Carbon 

Calculations of MEP products. CIBSE Technical Symposium 2024. 

Streamlining Life Cycle Assessment for Complex MEP Products – Learnings from Lighting. CIBSE Technical Symposium 2024. 

Roadmap to establish how Fire Safety Engineers can promote fire safe and low embodied carbon buildings. CIBSE Technical Symposium 2024. 

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