Detailed Assessment of Embodied Carbon of HVAC Systems for a New Office Building Based on BIM


The global shift towards embodied carbon reduction in the building sector has indicated the need for a detailed analysis of environmental impacts across the whole lifecycle of buildings. The environmental impact of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems has rarely been studied in detail. Most of the published studies are based on assumptions and rule of thumb techniques. In this study, the requirements and methods to perform a detailed life cycle assessment (LCA) for HVAC systems based on building information modelling (BIM) are assessed and framed for the first time. The approach of linking external product data information to objects using visual programming language (VPL) is tested, and its benefits over the existing workflows are presented. The detailed BIM model of a newly built office building in Switzerland is used as a case study. In addition, detailed project documentation is used to ensure the plausibility of the calculated impact. The LCA results show that the embodied impact of the HVAC systems is three times higher than the targets provided by the Swiss Energy Efficiency Path (SIA 2040). Furthermore, it is shown that the embodied impact of HVAC systems lies in the range of 15–36% of the total embodied impact of office buildings. Nevertheless, further research and similar case studies are needed to provide a robust picture of the embodied environmental impact of HVAC systems. The results could contribute to setting stricter targets in line with the vision of decarbonization of the building sector.

Alexander Hollberg
Alexander Hollberg
Associate Professor

Alexander Hollberg is Assistant Professor in the Division of Building Technology, at Chalmers.