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Proposed New ASHRAE Standard Addresses the Embodied Carbon of MEP

Dec 7, 2023 | Blog, Decarbonization News

Standard 240P, being Developed Jointly by ASHRAE and the ICC, will Accelerate Decarbonization with a Whole-life Carbon Approach.

Heating pipes. Credit: Pieter de KnijffPexels

A new standard currently being developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the International Code Council (ICC) will address the embodied carbon impact of not only the shell and structure of a building, but also its mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems.

Here are 7 things to know about the new ASHRAE standard, expected in 2025.


ASHRAE Standards Are Kind of a Big Deal

ASHRAE, or the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, is a global leader in developing and promoting building codes and standards.

ASHRAE has more than 50,000 members across nearly 130 countries. Its standards are widely adopted by governments and municipalities and serve as the foundation for building performance regulations.

Most notably, ASHRAE 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings has become widely adopted across the United States and is used as a benchmark by green building industry schemes, such as LEED.

However, until recently, ASHRAE standards did not address the embodied carbon associated with building materials and construction.

The new standard aims to address this gap.


AHRAE 240P Covers Embodied Carbon…

Standard 240P — Evaluating Greenhouse Gas (GHG) and Carbon Emissions in Building Design, Construction and Operation will  provide a whole-life carbon approach and cover operational and embodied carbon emissions of buildings and building systems. The scope of the new standard includes:
  • All buildings including existing and new, residential and commercial, and groups of buildings, or portions of buildings.
  • Determination, including the calculation methodology and expression of building zero net GHG and zero net carbon status in building operations.
  • Calculation of GHG and carbon emissions associated with on-site and off-site material, energy and carbon flows.
  • Embodied GHG and carbon emissions of building materials and systems.

…Including for MEP Systems

ASHRAE 240P is breaking new ground by addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ of the built environment’s GHG emissions: mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems. The new standard includes specific guidelines for calculating and reporting the embodied carbon of MEP components, such as pumps, valves, and ductwork.

MEP systems add to a building’s embodied carbon because owners often replace boilers, air conditioning systems, and carpeting several times over a building’s life. A recent study by Integral Group revealed that over a 30-year period, MEP systems can account for a remarkable 15% to 49% of the total embodied carbon in a commercial building, including photovoltaic systems and refrigerant leakage. This percentage can even reach as high as 76% in the case of a building retrofit.

MEP systems can account for a remarkable 15% to 49% of the total embodied carbon in a commercial building

Credit: CIBSE Journal


It Calls For A Standardized Approach to GHG Accounting

The new standard advocates for standardized emissions calculations and reporting for the global building industry.

Standard 240P will also offer procedures and minimum requirements for the quantification of embodied and operational GHG emissions including reporting and documenting.


It’s Likely To Drive Demand for EPDs 

Standard 240P will not only promote the adoption of low-carbon building materials and construction practices but also incentivize incentivize manufacturers to disclose the embodied carbon footprint of their product through Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). This increased transparency will drive innovation and market differentiation, leading to a more sustainable supply chain.

Standard 240P: The P Stands For ‘Proposed’

The standard is currently  being developed by ASHRAE and the International Code Council (ICC). They aim to publish the new standard by 2025. It is been developed via a collaborative process involving experts from ASHRAE and the ICC and public consultation with industry.

Here’s a timeline of its development

  • December 2022: Standards committee approved. A joint committee with expertise from ASHRAE and the ICC was tasked with developing the proposed new standard.
  • April 2023: Draft of Standard 240P published. The draft standard was developed in a record time of just four months and a month-long public consultation was opened.
  • 2025: ASHRAE 240 expected to be published. The new standard is expected to be approved during 2024 and will be published by 2025. 

One Click LCA Can Help You Calculate MEP Whole-Life Carbon

One Click LCA’s MEP Carbon Tool offers a simple way to calculate MEP whole-life carbon. Users can access ready-to-go, high-level MEP assemblies, like electrification per m2 for office buildings. It enables designers and architects to compare and choose MEP datasets from a wide range of sustainable options from the world’s largest construction LCA database and offers a comprehensive global set of manufacturer-specific EPDs for MEP products. It also includes generic global datasets for for refrigerants, operating energy and water use, and end-of-life impacts.

Find out more about how the MEP Carbon Tool can help you. 

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