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RICS WLCA 2nd Ed
Introducing the new A5.1
Back in April, I wrote about RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment and the potential introduction of a new sub-module “A5.1”. Well now it is here1, so in this piece I’ll take a look at what this actually means.
Originally introduced in 2017 for the UK, the update expands its scope globally with a more comprehensive understanding of the carbon implications of design choices in construction and infrastructure projects. Earlier this year, a public consultation collected over 1,300 responses and RICS has updated the standard to encompass all built assets and infrastructure projects worldwide.
It is relevant not only to those conducting carbon assessments but also to clients, investors, and property managers. And the hope is that its “Global” label will encourage more countries to incorporate its methodologies into their regulatory frameworks. RICS plans to promote it at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.
Sub-module A5.1 (“Pre- construction demolition”)
This new addition considers what is happening within a site boundary at the project (or “asset”) level. I think this is a step forward and it’s interesting for me to see diagrams showing sequential life cycles as this is an idea I wrote about two years ago (see here).
Historically, any deconstruction/demolition of the existing built asset was captured in the C1–C4 end-of-life modules, and thus not reported in most '“Embodied Carbon” project statistics, which generally quote A1-A5 (“upfront”) only.
A5.1 is essentially the same as the C1–C4 modules for the existing building (“asset 1”), but including it within the A5 module for the development of a new building (“asset 2”) means the carbon is reported in upfront figures. This should mean that upfront reported figures for a retrofit/refurb versus new-build are more of an apples with apples comparison.
For those of you thinking about the circular economy, any reuse of materials at the end of life are captured in “asset 1” D1. The use of reused materials from “asset 1” (or other another source) should then reduce “asset 2” A1–A3.
A sceptic could argue that this doesn’t go far enough when it comes to capturing what’s happening in terms of the reuse market and how materials are extracted from building to become feedstock for projects elsewhere.
In summary, your demolition emissions will now be increase your upfront carbon through (A5.1), but if you reuse material (from the same site or other) your A1-A3 emissions will be lower. It’s a better capture of what is happening at the end of one building’s life and start of another, but doesn’t go as far as improving a donor project’s upfront figures if it extracts material for reuse.
Effective from 1 July 2024