Decarbonization News

Working together to bring down MEP construction’s carbon emissions

Working together to bring down MEP construction’s carbon emissions

The MEP 2040 Challenge is calling on MEP construction engineers to hit net zero embodied and operational carbon by 2040.

Kayleigh Houde is an engineer, technologist, and educator. She has dedicated her career to solving problems, but it’s “the intractable problems around sustainability, climate change, material health and toxicity, [and] labor exploitation” that are her primary focus. Her desire to solve these big picture problems led her to co-found the MEP 2040 Commitment, which she currently co-chairs. 

“MEP really does embody whole life carbon – it’s embodied emissions, operational emissions, fugitive emissions. MEP has an enormous responsibility for 75% of the whole life carbon of buildings.”

Kayleigh Houde, Associate Principal at Buro Happold, MEP 2040 Commitment founding member and Co-Chair

Introducing the MEP 2040 Challenge 

MEP 2040 is a movement to radically reduce total carbon emissions associated with building systems through collective action. The MEP 2040 Challenge is achieving this mission by encouraging MEP systems engineers to focus on:

Reducing refrigerant-based emissions

  • Refrigerant leakage plays a significant but often hidden role in MEP’s whole-life carbon, as well as being a significant public health concern. It can be improved dramatically by ensuring systems are installed by experts, and — more importantly — by using low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants to mitigate risks to both humans and the planet.

Reducing materials or choosing materials with lower embodied carbon

  • Vertical shafts mean fewer horizontal shafts; copper piping has lower embodied carbon than steel. A lighter material may not always be better because it could mean the equipment lasts for less time.

Choosing Equipment

  • Thinking about all aspects of equipment, including embodied carbon, operational carbon, and replacement schedules.

Choosing other building systems wisely

  • MEP construction’s whole life carbon cannot be tackled in a silo – all the systems need to coordinate to lower the building’s overall carbon footprint. It is a dance with the other systems in the building.


How One Click LCA is supporting the MEP 2040 Challenge

“One Click LCA is one of the very few tools that offer MEP LCA and I think that that is astounding overall, in the industry.”

Kayleigh Houde

Through a strategic partnership with MEP 2040, One Click LCA is providing 6-12 months shared software licensing for all MEP 2040 signatories. One Click LCA and MEP 2040 are also developing A1 to A3 emissions ground rules and key environmental product declarations (EPDs). 


MEP construction often isn’t Included in whole-life carbon assessments

As all North American certification-led whole life carbon assessments currently exclude MEP, there is a disincentive to measure MEP emissions, but MEP emissions are actually incredibly high. They need to be measured, and consistent standards need to be in place, to ensure we’re comparing apples with apples. 

Building designers may be worried that if they measure emissions from MEP systems, the total emission number of their project will be higher, which could negatively affect the perception of their sustainability program. But if more building designers start measuring MEP emissions, we will capture more of the reason why the planet is warming — and then have more opportunity to decarbonize. 


Tackling the lack of verified EPD Data

Lack of verified EPD data for MEP systems is one of the major hurdles  when it comes to measuring MEP construction’s embodied carbon. The MEP 2040 Challenge is encouraging more MEP specialists to address the issue. Its Data Analysis and Reporting group is also working to fill the data gaps.


We can’t solve MEP construction's carbon problem in a silo 

Everything in a building is interrelated, and it is critical for domain experts to work together to reduce a building’s whole-life carbon. 

As an example, the thickness of insulation on a building can have an effect on MEP systems. If the insulation is too thin, while it will improve the embodied carbon emissions of that insulation, the MEP system will have to work harder and result in higher emissions overall. Rather than looking at part of a building’s design in a silo, it must be looked at as a whole.


What is One Click LCA doing to help?

One Click LCA works with manufacturers across all construction-related industries to create fast, easy, scalable EPDs that meet local and global compliance standards. 

One Click LCA also offers a dedicated MEP Carbon Tool — one of the few tools of its kind designed especially for measuring and reducing carbon in MEP construction. 


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