15 March 2023


Front Room

A striking, carbon-focused exhibition will be arriving at Ulster University later this month, and will be open to the public to raise awareness about the embodied carbon of some of the most common building materials used in architecture today.   In partnership with Ulster University and the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios is bringing the Carbon Counts exhibition to the university’s Belfast campus, with this installation open to the public in the Birley Building between 27 March and 29 April 2023.   The exhibition draws together key metrics for 10 materials including steel, aluminium, concrete and timber, representing the embodied carbon impacts of each one. The embodied carbon of a building is the carbon emitted in the processes involved in the creation of these materials -  from the extraction, processing, manufacture and packaging of the materials; their transport to and construction on site, maintenance over their life span and what happens to them after the building is demolished.   By understanding the embodied and emitted carbon in the construction and life cycle of a building, we are able to make better informed choices to improve the impact of the buildings we create on the environment.   Welcoming news of the exhibition’s arrival at the Belfast campus – the only site it will visit in Northern Ireland, Professor Paul Clarke, Professor of Architectural Design at Ulster University, said:   “We are delighted to be working with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios to bring the Carbon Counts exhibition to our new Belfast campus. This exhibition offers a window on the nature of familiar construction materials and reveals and visualises their associated carbon footprints and ecological impact. As architects and designers this is critical in addressing responsibly and ethically the design and conservation of our shared built environment amidst our climate crisis.   “Our celebrated new campus building, which was designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, has civic, social and environmental sustainability at the centre of its design philosophy. From the biodiversity of the rooftops of the new building to the tree planting around the campus and all the renewable technologies inbuilt into the new building, our new campus is an excellent place to host Carbon Counts, so we would encourage everyone to come along and see the exhibition for themselves.”   The exhibition itself has been designed to have a low environmental impact, while ensuring strong visual presence and longevity. Tall ‘totems’ made of recycled wood house a sample of each material inside glowing acrylic tubes. The size of each material sample varies – an exact equivalent of 1kg of CO2 emitted by its manufacture.   Alongside the Carbon Counts exhibition is a website which compares in more detail the impacts of material choice, detailing the processes they go through from ‘cradle to gate’   The exhibition seeks to start a conversation. It is a springboard to encourage wider debate and discussion, so industry can work together to continue to research, test, analyse and develop. We must arm ourselves with this knowledge, because we have to act.