Not knowing the construction industry carbon footprint is not acceptable.

Minimising and reducing carbon in construction has been a central plank of industry sustainability strategies for a good many years. It is therefore embarrassing for the industry, as Construction Manager reports, that we don’t still don’t have an industry handle on or indeed understand construction carbon figures.

An earlier Sustainability Strategy for Construction set a 2012 target of 15% reduction from the 2008 figure of 48T of CO2 / £million spend which should give us about 42 T / £m at 2012 with targets for further reductions by 2020 and 2050 in line with UK reduction targets.

Although … Peter Hansford “The strategy is to achieve a 50% cut in construction sector emissions from 1990 levels by 2025, and the GCB (Green Construction Board) is tasked with making it happen”

Indications are that, dispute a focus on sustainability, with just about every organisation in construction self-claiming to be sustainable,  construction emissions actually rose by 13% over the period 2008 – 2012.

As a major emitter of CO2, (when adding in transport and travel) the construction has a socially responsibility to address and reduce.

The fact that as an industry we don’t really know is down right unacceptable.

Our ConstructCO2 tool shows an average of 97.5kg / £k based on all construction types. As we gain more data (currently 300 projects) we can break this down into more meaningful targets, but since the first project on ConstructCO2 our benchmark has not fallen below 90kg/£K. (As an industry we should be below 40kg/£K)

When we founded ConstructCO2, we set out to keep it simple to record and used the strap line of Monitor, Understand and then Reduce.  Having monitored for a number of years we now understand the causes of construction carbon

Ashford School CCO2 A2 Poster

and can take steps to reduce through proactive planning.

Reducing Construction Carbon - Infographic


Why then, as industry we do not understand or monitor Construction CO2?

  • Cash in King, Carbon is Queen was a rallying call from Construction Advisor Paul Morrell – but very few rallied.
  • BREEAM hasn’t followed through – with just the requirement to record travel, transport and energy use, but not to reduce, monitor over time or collate. As an industry we have a mass of disparate spreadsheets across the country containing probably all the data we need.
  • Recording data at site level is deemed too time consuming, put into the too busy to do box by contractors, excepting of course the enlighten contractors using ConstructCO2 who see the benefits of doing so – or their clients are telling them to do so.
  • In the main, clients are not requiring projects to record and act on carbon emissions as a project key performance indicators.
  • Reducing carbon at site entails a collaborative approach from all on construction method, specification, procurement, planning, sub contractor management and so on. We simply don’t collaborate on reducing CO2.

Benefits of Monitoring CO2 (as reported by ConstructCO2 users)

  • Every kg of CO2 reduced equates to x£ not spent
  • Reducing CO2 from material and waste transport improves the local spend
  • Reducing mileage CO2 from personnel travel reduces driving time stress on operative & managers, improves productivity and time on site. Car sharing also reduces the fuel cost of operatives and managers.
  • Understanding the carbon issues enables more informed procurement, selection and logistics management

As Shaun McCarthy, Director of the Sustainability Supply Chain School said on twitter, its not Rocket Science,

Indications are that the GCB and WRAP UK will take up the mantle of managing data on construction carbons. Lets hope they talk to ConstructCO2, understand our lessons learnt and keep it simple but effective.

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