Laing O’Rourke develops ‘carbon calculator’ to decarbonises project designs

Laing O’Rourke has developed a “carbon calculator” to make its project designs as green as possible.

According to Laing, its new calculator can quickly analyze levels of embodied carbon using a digital model, enabling its technical team to reduce the carbon content of projects.

The digital tool has been developed in line with latest industry guidance and focuses on the embodied carbon content of the sub- and super-structure elements, which can account for more than half of the upfront embodied carbon in a typical building project.

Laing is also looking to expand the tool’s use in order to be applied to designs of facades as well as structural works.

Since May 2021, Laing O’Rourke’s in-house technical leaders have used the new calculator on 14 bid submissions, identifying changes that quickly reduced the embodied carbon in the original designs by up to 19%.

Laing O’Rourke technical director of structures Rossella Nicolin said: “Our new carbon calculator cleverly merges data from different systems, analysing carbon content across a project and optimizing our DfMA-led delivery. These learnings are now better understood and will help our Technology and Innovation team continue to make progress.”

Phase one of the carbon calculator uses an internal Laing O’Rourke app, which automates the analysis of the digital model. It extracts and indexes key information relating to a project design, such as component quantities and classification information.

Laing O’Rourke Europe technical director Joanna Vezey explained: “The app creates an auditable trail of all model revisions through the design phase.

“This brings benefits not only to carbon measurement, but also change, data validation and cost control.

“It does this by processing thousands of models each day across both of our operating hubs, constantly checking for new models and changes to existing ones. It currently holds several billion data points.”

In phase two of the process, the app connects to a second database which houses all of Laing O’Rourke’s carbon material data.

The company’s material database has been developed using information provided from the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) database and continues to grow as the business adds Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) data from its supply chain partners.

“The final data is automatically recorded within the database and fed into a user-friendly dashboard, which we can use to assess the embodied carbon in the baseline design,” Vezey added.

“It displays the data in real time and presents a carbon heat map of a project – which clearly identifies the embodied carbon of each component and where the greatest reductions can be achieved. This has allowed our teams to present alternative options to clients to reduce embodied carbon.”

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