Using Speckle in a Building Structures Carbon Analysis Workflow?

There are numerous developments going on in analyzing embodied carbon of a 3D model, especially in the building structures world. Companies are building their own tools, or using proprietary LCA tool Revit integrations to assess the eCO2 of 3D models at various stages of development.
From what I can gather from Speckle’s website, it’s super flexible, and has significant applications to this process, so this is why I’m posting:

At the heart of every different eCO2 analysis process, I believe we are determining a Mass for every element, then multiplying by an eCO2 rate. I’m building something from first principles, to maintain full control over the analysis. I’m exporting to Excel, a specific set of parameters for different types of elements, e.g. Concrete Beams, Concrete Columns, Concrete Floors, Steel Beams, Steel —, etc. the list goes on, because (as anyone dealing with Revit knows) different element types and families have different parameter complexities.

It would be a big imposition on the Revit modelling process to make sure technicians are getting this data correct when initially modelling our buildings. And things like concrete on metal deck, and reinforcement rates in concrete – these are all significant enough to warrant a degree of data refinement (e.g. kg of concrete per m2 of deck, and kg of reinforcement per m3 of concrete), but impractical to get that data into the model at the initial modelling stage. So my current plan is to to export a snapshot of the model element data at a particular point in time, manually assign the necessary data to individual elements (in custom parameters, using Excel), then BIM Link (a Revit add-in) can push it back to Revit.

This is not as smart a process as I believe it can be; it requires a good deal of manual post-processing of just a snapshot of the Revit model data at a point in time. Do any Speckle users have any thoughts on how I can insert Speckle to this workflow to improve it? I don’t want to compromise any of the data refinement – that’s potentially the most challenging part. I suspect (and I could be wrong) that the visualizations of carbon analysis I’ve seen from Speckle promotional images are based on generalized data (e.g. a simple average eCO2/m3 of concrete, etc.)

All thoughts and input welcome.


Hi Mike,

Welcome to the forum and thanks for posting about such an interesting topic!

One of the aims of Speckle, and particularly the new version we’re currently pushing out, is exactly to facilitate workflows like the one you describe. Since Speckle already does the hard job of extracting data from Revit, pushing it to a web app, displaying a 3D model in a viewer, etc, you just need to write a small web app that calls the Speckle API and computes the carbon cost.

The previous iteration of Speckle was actually used to demo an embedded carbon estimator, you can see a glimpse of it here (Arup might open source it at some point).

Anyways, building such a tool as mentioned already is a relatively simple task, @dimitrie who developed the app above can elaborate more!

If you’d like, we have a section where you can Introduce yourself 🙆

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I’ve actually managed to dredge a small video showing the revit structural sample model going through the whole flow of Arup Carbon:

The process was identical - in part - to what you (@mike.kovacs!) described. Objects coming from revit usually come with a “volume” property. Once you have a material assignment - this came from an open source materials database from a UK university, you could multiply the density with the volume, get weight and deduce the embedded carbon cost. There’s extra steps coming after this for a proper calculation, but that’s outside the scope of this exercise.

This is not as smart a process as I believe it can be;

Well, the “I” in BIM does not stand for “Intelligence”. You’ll always have data wrangling going on - there’s a precious small chance you’ll get your material info to match the one you need. So I wouldn’t worry too much about optimising just yet :slight_smile:

Do any Speckle users have any thoughts on how I can insert Speckle to this workflow to improve it?

As long as Arup Carbon is closed source, I’m afraid I can’t spill more beans than I’ve done above. Suffice to say:

  • Speckle gives you user-created snapshots of revit data
  • You can bring those up in an app and assign materials & calculate things
  • If you wanna be really smart, once the mappings are done for a snapshot, you could save them somehow and re-apply them to all subsequent snapshots (can be tricky!)

PS: Thanks for hollering here! It can be an interesting discussion, let’s see where this leads!

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Thanks both, for sharing your thoughts and insight.
I hadn’t seen these two videos before; but now that I have them, I might use it to guide our own internal development direction.
The way I see it, Speckle would tidy up my planned workflow. Although the benefit of my currently planned workflow is that it uses basic tools and just needs guidance for people to execute the right steps (Revit export → Data post-processing in Excel). I recognize the downsides of that though :smiley:
I’ll be sure to introduce myself properly (as @teocomi suggested) and keep the discussion going. I’m 99% project-based though, with just a tiny bit of free time + my own personal time for this development.

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Sorry for hitting this old thread, I just wanted to add the #carbon-tool tag so it can be found easily

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