The Early Phase Integrated Carbon (EPIC) assessment is a free whole life carbon tool built by EHDD to support climate-positive design decisions in early project phases when data is scarce but the potential for emissions reduction is high. To overcome the scarcity of data, EPIC uses a model that combines regionally-specific background data, forward-looking projections, peer-reviewed findings, and common sense assumptions to assess the relative impact of a variety of carbon reduction measures on a project’s embodied, operational, and landscape carbon footprints.
Aggressive time-based targets have been set for the built environment as part of a society-wide strategy to combat the climate crisis. To meet these targets, quantification of the project’s whole life carbon footprint cannot wait until later project stages, at which point many impactful decisions have already been made. EPIC is designed as the first step in an iterative low-carbon design process, setting out strategies and project-level targets that can be refined throughout the project lifecycle.
EPIC is useful to project teams:
in setting a whole life carbon budget for a project.
to evaluate the most impactful strategies for reducing whole life carbon emissions at the very beginning of a project, when data is scarce but the potential for reducing emissions is high.
to roughly approximate whole life carbon emissions from a project when completing an energy model and a wbLCA is not practical.
EPIC is designed to allow a user to enter a strict minimum of project parameters and to test a wide range of the most meaningful carbon reduction strategies. These parameters are insufficient, of course, to describe the complexity of any real project. In rough terms, EPIC is designed as a conceptual parallel to ‘shoebox’ energy or daylight models—the results do not correspond directly to a specific building but can help us to understand which strategies could perform well, are unlikely to succeed, or are worthy of more attention.
The most impactful decisions happen at the beginning of a project, before granular data is available.
What is EPIC not?
EPIC is not a high-resolution wbLCA tool.
EPIC is designed to accurately represent the overall effects of decarbonization strategies, not precisely model individual design parameters or perform ISO-compliant LCA. EPIC can help your team compare a net zero energy retrofit with mass timber new construction, for instance, but is not designed to capture differences in, say, efficiency gains from changing structural bay sizes or specifying one brand of heat pump versus another.
EPIC is not a reporting tool.
EPIC is meant to support decisions about the future, not report on past efforts. The open access application is designed to highlight the most impactful decisions. EPIC is complementary to but distinct from GHG reporting and wbLCA. For instance, EPIC uses a 30 year time horizon to support planning toward time-based climate targets, but wbLCA often requires a 60- or 80-year time horizon.
EPIC is not a fortune teller.
If we could predict the future with 100% accuracy, we'd be in another line of work. EPIC contains estimates of future emissions, but the future is inherently uncertain. In 2021, for instance, the last version of our data models did not predict the passage of the IRA or the continued operation of California's Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant—two events which have since come to pass and have significantly affected our estimates of electricity-related emissions from buildings. As a corollary, we are not in the business of predicting which low-carbon concrete technology will achieve the greatest market share, which timber supply chain will be most disrupted by climate change, and so on. To the extent that trusted data sources make these predictions, we follow their lead. Documentation of these data sources in included in this guide.