The UK has a huge healthcare estate with a large carbon footprint, so it is essential that we understand the importance of working towards reducing carbon emissions across new and existing estates.

What can be done to reduce carbon emissions and ensure healthcare facilities are greener for the long-term?

The carbon cost of saving carbon

The construction industry has been working towards achieving net zero carbon in operation and the NHS Net Zero Building Standard published in early 2023 provides guidance for the NHS estate. With continued investment, NHS buildings are becoming better insulated and more energy efficient, minimising their energy needs and operational carbon emissions. However, with any construction work, to improve energy efficiency, there is an embodied carbon ‘cost’ and there is now an increased focus on this.

Embodied carbon arises from the extraction, transport, processing, fabrication and installation of products during the construction of a building. We must be mindful of the amount of embodied carbon included improvements being made to increase energy efficiency to save on operational carbon emissions. For example, how does the embodied carbon created by completely demolishing an existing hospital and replacing it with an all new one compare with the embodied carbon if the old building had been refurbished?