Measuring and reducing embodied carbon in rail infrastructure
Reducing embodied carbon is important for reducing resource use and associated costs, as well as alleviating longer term risks around resource availability according to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC). Embodied carbon within the rail sector is particularly important due to the large number of high carbon infrastructure projects. All TOCs also have franchise requirements to report their embodied carbon within new infrastructure projects over £1 million.
The RSSB Rail Carbon Tool is an online platform which can be freely used by those in the GB rail sector to measure embodied carbon. Calculating embodied carbon at the early design stages is the most effective way to reduce the overall project embodied carbon. This allows for different design options to be compared, and carbon hotspots identified before materials are purchased and construction begins.
Webinars, a user guide and other supporting materials on how to use the Rail Carbon Tool can be found on this website. Examples of how the Rail Carbon Tool has been used on real infrastructure projects can be found in our Sustainable Development case study library.
There are different ways in which embodied carbon can be measured but two of the most common methods are cradle to gate and cradle to grave. Cradle to gate considers all emissions associated with the extraction, refining, transportation and processing of a material until it is ready to leave the factory gate. According to Circular Ecology, cradle to grave considers the same as cradle to gate but also measures the transportation of the materials to the site of use and the GHG emissions associated with the use of the material and the end of life disposal (3). The Rail Carbon Tool is most often used to calculate the cradle-to-gate embodied carbon of a rail infrastructure project as it is more difficult to calculate the cradle-to-grave values.