Monthly Archives: October 2007

Construction carbon calculator – no more excuses…

As mentioned before the topic with the highest hits and searches here on isite is a carbon calculator for the construction process.

I have been reviewing the calculator from the Environment Agency which come close, very close, to removing any excuses for not knowing the construction process carbon footprint, in setting a stake in the ground as a measure for improvement and in benchmarking across sites, companies and clients to drive real improvement.

In my opinion the positive points are:

  • written by a major client of the built environment for the built environment
  • not linked to carbon offset programmes (a big tick !)
  • based on spreadsheet (Excel) with visibility of data used in calculation.
  • appears easy to use with guidance, references and further reading
  • ‘open source’ in that the EA encourage its use by others
  • provides a great basis for carbon footprint benchmarking (watch this space!)
  • ability to add activities and materials to the base set up
  • deals with personal transport in a sensible and straightforward manner

The only (very) minor concern is the detail required to complete fully ( but then who said carbon diets were easy! and it would be good to see this tool as part of all site processes) and the materials element could be double counted – in the construction process footprint and the building footprint.

The EA will use the calculator on all of their projects from November

Read the Edie news link here


Capable People – a new blog on the block

I have added another blog to the blogroll – down there on the right somewhere – capablepeople is a new blog on the block and while it isnt a ‘built environment’ or ‘sustainability’ blog, is an entertaining and readable blog on general business improvement themes.

The first batch of posts covers a wide range from EFQM and ISO 9000 to  Leadership via Joy Division and Formula 1.

One to add to your RSS or igoogle.

Greenwashed again

A recent survey by Chatsworth Communications of the FTSE 100 green ‘claims’ reveals that top organisations are going green to protect brand and image rather than any concern for the environment.  Over 1200 ‘opinion formers’ from across the UK were asked views on the FTSE 100 green claims as part of the Green Winners and Green Washers Survey

Of course this wouldn’t be the case for organisations within the built environment sector … would it?

From the surveys press release

The results reveal increasing cynicism as to whether UK business is leading on environmental  issues out of a genuine desire to protect the environment or if this is just greenwash aimed at creating an eco-friendly corporate image.

• The main motivation for UK companies to adopt green policies is to protect their reputation (27%) followed by consumer pressure (20%) and good business sense (18%)
• Only 1% believe genuine concern for the environment is the key driver for UK companies to adopt green policies
• Marks & Spencer (45%) and HSBC voted the top green winners – the companies making
the most genuine green effort
• BP, Tesco and British Airways considered to be most guilty of ‘greenwash’ by respondents
• BP, Tesco and Marks & Spencer have the highest profile and most effective green publicity campaigns in terms of coverage
• Majority of respondents (75%) believe it is better for big business to own up where they are not green and show willing to make any changes

Nick Murray-Leslie, Director, Chatsworth Communications comments: “The views of the people polled influence millions of consumers across the UK, who will ultimately vote with the purchasing decisions they make.

(original lead from Edie)

Built Environment and GEO 4, the last wake up call?

In 1987 (sustainable development) was about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland) but now in 2007 – the bill we hand our children may prove impossible to pay (Steiner UNEP)

The GEO4 report, Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development launched yesterday by the UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programe ) should be read and considered in the context of the contribution that the global built environment has made to our current environmental crisis. (Just under 50% of global carbon emissions, 50% of all UK waste etc, etc- the figures, although varied, have been well documented in many places)

The GEO4 report received much news coverage and hopefully will be the last wake up call we need, and seen as another key milestone in our awareness of what we are doing, along side the Brundtland commision, the Stern Report, Inconvenient Truth etc

From GEO4

“all too often [the response] has been slow and at a pace and scale that fails to respond to or recognise the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet,” said the environment programme’s executive director Achim Steiner.

“The systematic destruction of the Earth’s natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged – and where the bill we hand to our children may prove impossible to pay,”

The report said irreversible damage to the world’s climate will be likely unless greenhouse gas emissions drop to below 50% of their 1990 levels before 2050. To reach this level, the richer countries must cut emissions by 60% to 80% by 2050 and developing countries must also make significant reductions, it says.

(see Contraction and Convergence)

The 550-page report took five years to prepare. It was researched and drafted by almost 400 scientists, whose findings were peer-reviewed by 1,000 others.

One of the report’s authors, Joseph Alcamo said that race is on to determine if leaders move fast enough to save the planet. “The question for me, for us perhaps, is whether we’re going to make it to a more slowly changing world or whether we’re going to hit a brick wall in the Earth’s system first,” he said.

“Personally, I think this could be one of the most important races that humanity will ever run.”

Guardian – Environmental failures ‘put humanity at risk’


The Independent – Not an environment scare story

Green Schools

green school /grEn skül / n. a school building or facility that creates a healthy environment that is conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money

To help educate and encourage construction firms and others about the benefits of sustainable schools the US Green Building Council have recently launched a site dedicated to Green Schools  According to the site, green schools, on average, save $100,000 a year, use 33% less energy, and reduce solid waste by 74%. They also increase learning potential, reduce teacher absenteeism and turnover, and provide opportunities for hands-on learning.

The site contains a number of resources, but listening to the 9min video of students talking about environmnetal stewardship as a result of their green building is very strong.  “the new building had no new smells – which is good because those smells are only chemicals” 

With criticism of the green aspects of our Building Schools for the Future it would be good to hear of similar ‘awareness‘ resources in the UK.

Webinar – Code for Sustainable Homes

Further to the last post on carbon neutral and Code for Sustainable Homes, I am reminded from Phil’s blog over at Sustainability Blog that Building are running an on line semiar– a webinar on Code for Sustainable Homes.

Register and details here. 

(Unfortunately I am running a real life event at UCLAN, otherwise I would be there, or here, in front of wood stove fire with laptop!)

Carbon neutral or zero – defined?

Another excellent report from the Centre for Integrated Sustainability Analysis, Carbon Sense and Sensibility offers a definition of carbon neutral by looking at 11 websites that offer carbon neutrality calculators and services (offsets).

The definition is based around the idea of concept of measuring a carbon footprint and then seeking to cancel out that footprints with some kind of equal but opposite behaviour or consequence.

A must read for any organisation considering offsets to achieve neutrality or any carbon offset

.. you need to ask questions about just what carbon you are responsible for, how it is being measured and then exactly where the carbon credits have come from, how reductions have been verified and how you will know that once you have paid for those reductions they are retired so that nobody else can buy them …


This then is very different from zero carbon -where activities are not neutralised but reduced to zero through ‘improvement’ activities and just doing things differently, and certainly not through offsetting.   (and the Code for Sustainable Homes calls for Zero Carbon – not carbon neutral ?)

A zero energy building (ZEB) or net zero energy building is a general term applied to a building with a net energy consumption of zero over a typical year.In October 2007, The Uk Green Building Council warned that few zero carbon homes were actually being built as as the criteria for carbon neutral stamp relief was so stringent. However, although “It’s not a legal obligation that zero carbon homes are built now”, “building regulations are being increased in line with the Code for Sustainable Homes over the next nine years”