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RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment (WLCA) is an industry-standard methodology that provides a complete approach to reducing carbon emissions in the built environment. This guide aims to delve into its intricacies and demonstrate how it revolutionises our approach to sustainability.

1. Understanding RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment (WLCA)

RICS, or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, is a professional body that sets international standards in the real estate and construction sectors. One of its significant contributions is the development of the Whole Life Carbon Assessment (WLCA) methodology. This globally applicable standard provides a comprehensive framework to measure carbon emissions throughout the lifecycle of a built asset.

1.1 Why is RICS WLCA Important?

With climate change posing a severe environmental challenge, curbing carbon emissions is more critical than ever. The built environment significantly contributes to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, making it a prime focus for reduction efforts. RICS WLCA provides a systematic approach to measure, manage, and ultimately reduce these emissions, promoting a more sustainable future.

1.2 Who Should Use RICS WLCA?

RICS WLCA is primarily intended for construction and real estate professionals involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of built assets. This includes architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers, and sustainability consultants. However, its adoption by a wider audience, including clients, statutory authorities, and regulatory bodies, is highly encouraged to enhance data quality, comparability, and accuracy.

2. Key Principles of RICS WLCA

The RICS WLCA methodology is based on several key principles that guide its implementation.

2.1 Whole Life Approach

RICS WLCA mandates a ‘whole life’ approach. This means considering all stages of an asset’s lifecycle, from raw material extraction and manufacturing to eventual disposal.

2.2 Modular Structure

The methodology employs a modular structure, dividing the lifecycle into four main stages: product and construction process, use, end-of-life, and beyond life cycle benefits and loads.

2.3 Consistent Reporting

To ensure transparency and comparability, RICS WLCA requires consistent reporting. This includes providing specific reporting requirements and using standardised boundaries for assessments.

3. Implementing RICS WLCA

Implementing RICS WLCA involves several steps, from defining the scope of the assessment to reporting the results.

3.1 Defining the Scope

The first step in implementing RICS WLCA is to define the scope of the assessment. This includes identifying the types of emissions (operational, embodied, or user-related) and the stages of the lifecycle to be included in the assessment.

3.2 Conducting the Assessment

Next, the assessor conducts the assessment, gathering data on carbon emissions at each stage of the lifecycle. This process requires a deep understanding of the construction process and the built environment.

3.3 Reporting the Results

Once the assessment is complete, the results are reported in a transparent and consistent manner, following the guidelines provided in the RICS WLCA methodology.

4. RICS WLCA and the Built Environment

The application of RICS WLCA extends to various types of construction and civil engineering projects, including new construction, demolition, retrofit, and refurbishment, among others.

4.1 New Construction

For new construction projects, RICS WLCA requires assessing all lifecycle stages, including end-of-life. The methodology also mandates the inclusion of all building or infrastructure elements within the project site boundary in the WLCA.

4.2 Demolition and New Construction

When existing structures need to be demolished for new construction, the emissions associated with that process must be incorporated into the WLCA.

4.3 Retrofit and Refurbishment

For retrofit or refurbishment projects, RICS WLCA should be treated as a new project, reporting against all lifecycle stages over the defined reference study period.

5. The Future of RICS WLCA

As climate change continues to pose significant challenges, the role of RICS WLCA is expected to become increasingly important. By providing a robust and globally applicable methodology, it empowers professionals in the built environment sector to make a tangible impact on carbon reduction efforts.

5.1 Increasing Adoption

The adoption of RICS WLCA is expected to increase, especially as awareness about climate change grows. This includes not only professionals in the built environment sector but also clients, statutory authorities, and regulatory bodies.

5.2 Evolving Legislation

Legislation around carbon emissions is also evolving, with many jurisdictions requiring WLCAs for construction projects. RICS WLCA provides a reliable methodology that can help professionals meet these regulatory requirements.

5.3 Advancements in Technology

As technology continues to advance, tools that facilitate the implementation of RICS WLCA are also expected to become more prevalent. This includes software that automates data collection and analysis, making the assessment process more efficient and accurate.

6. Conclusion

The RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment represents a significant stride towards a sustainable future. By providing a comprehensive, consistent, and globally applicable methodology, it empowers professionals in the built environment sector to effectively measure, manage, and reduce carbon emissions. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of climate change, the role of RICS WLCA is expected to become even more pivotal.


  1. Whole Life Carbon Assessment for the Built Environment, RICS Professional Standard, 2nd edition
  2. RICS standards framework
  3. UN Environment Programme
  4. Bitesize Learning Guides by UKGBC