There is how to measure and there is how to organize the measured data.
Considerations for Measurement
There are different ways to measure the embodied carbon of structural systems and all offer varying degrees of information on the overall impact of the system. In general the most common are to either consider the entire life cycle of the building from initial raw material extraction to the end of life and final recycling of building components or to consider only the product impacts of stages A1-A3 which start at raw material extraction but are bound by just before the product, or structural component, leaves the fabrication facility. To consider the full life cycle impacts a life cycle assessment is performed and in today’s design phases these are usually performed using commercially available software that requires the user to input structural material quantities (SMQ) and assign material types to those quantities with full life cycle impacts embedded within the softwares program. In the product impact only case, the product impacts are typically calculated by multiplying the structural material quantities by embodied carbon factors included in available environmental product declarations (EPDs) for each material. Both methods are summarized in the diagram below and are actively being employed on today’s projects having both pros and cons associated with each.
What is and what isn’t measured and when it all takes place
A typical steel beam in conventional steel framing construction is shown below. The beam is cambered for steel framing weight and wet weight of concrete has two different end connection types. The beam composite with the slab on metal deck by way of headed shear connectors welded to the top of the top flange of the steel beam. In typical commercially available LCA software the surface prep is included but the headed shear studs or connection type is not.
In an ideal world all of this information is collected.