Category Archives: transport

Counting construction carbons with ConstructCO2

This blog has reported on numerous occasions (eg here and here) on the need to measure and improve carbon emissions from construction activities separately from that of the building itself or the facility in use. And the need for an easy, simple to use tool.

As noted many of the available applications for calculating carbons were linked dubiously to carbon offsetting schemes.  Of note for use in construction were the Google Carbon tool (but not construction specific enough) and the Environment Agency tool (but is proving to be too detailed and cumbersome for most projects)

Measuring and improving carbons on site is increasingly important as more and more projects seek higher standards to BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes (and soon Non Dom Buildings).  One recent project set ‘damages’ for the contractor not achieving the ‘management points’ (for waste, CO2 and considerate constructor standard) for CSH at £40k per point. (See the CSH Technical Manual for more on this)

Recently at EcoBuild Paul Morrell, Construction Tsar commented  that focus on carbon emissions should be a number one site priority as it is measurable and addresses other areas of ‘waste’ in the industry

And yet the majority of contracts just do not know their project carbon footprint, whether its close to 1tonne or over 100tonne. We do not have a feel for the magnitude of emissions, or indeed what 1kg of CO2 actually looks like.

So it is good news to see the release of ConstructCO2, developed through Evolution-ip, by construction people for construction use.

ConstructCO2 is a simple carbon calculator based on the premise of keeping it simple and easy to use on site. It makes use of existing site approaches for data collection (induction sheets, daily log-ins, plant sheets, utility invoices etc). Carbon emissions through transport are calculated through use of google mapping API .

Construction (people) travel miles are recorded for management, operatives and visitors. (With a dispersed project management team you will be surprised at the carbon footprint of a project site meeting and probably think of alternative arrangements) Material transport miles are derived from delivery notes or goods received sheets.

Where the power of ConstructCO2 lies however is in its reporting. Construction carbons can be measured in terms of co2/£project value, co2/dwelling, c02/m2, co2/bed or other, enabling benchmarking with other projects and generically through KPI’s such as those from Construction Excellence.

But simply knowing the project footprint, the construction company’s total project footprint, and where the biggest areas for carbon emission are enables action for real improvement.

ConstructCO2 is currently being used by a number of different projects in what I guess would be called a beta stage. Current projects include a large new build hotel project, a small industrial refurb project, school extension and an architect’s office.

Currently the use of ConstructCO2 as a tool is free, with a (currently optional) fee based support and training package to help contractors understand carbon issues, carbon standards requirements, measuring, benchmarking and improving carbon footprints.  So it makes sense to take the opportunity now, measure and understand the carbon footprint of one of your projects. At the moment sign up is through request via email contacts on the ConstructCO2 front page

Future developments include the option for live energy feeds from site power meters to ConstructCO2 and live exporting from ConstructCO2 to Google and Pachube for example.

ConstructCO2 is on twitter at @constructco2 and has a ning forum in development for discussion and benchmarking of project carbon issues.

Note: As an associate with Evolution-ip, I have been involved in the ConstructCO2 concept development and testing.  Evolution-IP is a be2camp partner, presenting at and sponsoring be2camp un-conference events.

a transition view of the uk transition housing plan

A welcomed and important perspective on the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan was posted by Rob Hopkins on the Transition blog:


After many months of Ed Milliband putting himself out there are a Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change that actually gets climate change, finally his big Plan, the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan was unveiled on Wednesday, in a speech in the House of Commons that name checked Transition Towns and which is the boldest national vision for a low carbon society yet seen.  Many others have since pitched in with their thoughts, I thought it might be useful here to offer an analysis from a Transition perspective.  In his speech, Milliband said “we know from the Transition Towns movement the power of community action to motivate people..”, clearly an outcome of his attendance as a ‘Keynote Listener’ at the Transition Network conference in May. So how does the Plan measure up, and does it actually advance what Transition initiatives and the wider relocalisation movement are doing?

On Housing (of particular interest here) Rob Comments:

tpcommThe Plan restates 2016 of the date by which all new housing will be zero carbon, which is entirely laudable, although Wales has actually managed to introduce this 5 years earlier, by 2011.  It might have provided a good push to this had it been brought forward to, say, 2014. Much of this part of the report is as you would imagine, but it does contain the intriguing statement that “the Government is investing up to £6 million to construct 60 more low carbon affordable homes built with innovative, highly insulating, renewable materials”.

Does this mean that there is now £6 million for hands-on research into straw bale, hemp construction, earth plasters and so on?

Or does ‘highly insulating, renewable materials’ refer to Kingspan and other industrial oil-derived building materials?

At the moment ‘zero carbon homes’ refers only to a building’s performance once built, not the embodied energy of the materials it contains.

The role of local and natural materials in strengthening local economies is key.

My Comment: it is these points that need a wider, open and urgent debate as raised in a previous blog item here. If zero carbon is the solution what was the question? and are we defining zero carbon with enough insight?

Rob scores the Plan as follows:

Addressing Peak Oil:  1 out of 10.

Energy: 7 out of 10.

Transport 4 out of 10

Housing: 6 out of 10

Community involvement: 2 out of 10

Food and Farming: 1 out of 10

and Overall : 6 out of 10

CBI low-carbon economy roadmap to 2020

For the first time the UK’s leading business group has set out its vision for a low-carbon economy in a series of climate change roadmaps.  The roadmaps, called ‘Going the Distance’, set out a timetable of action to ensure carbon emissions targets are met, and the measures that will be needed to put the UK in pole position in the development of low-carbon technologies.

Comment: the roadmap could appear to be protecting industry (only a 6% reduction) and focuses heavily on nuclear and carbon capture (but not until 2013), sees the Severn Barrage as the way forward and wants a government led, rather than industry led  initiative.  (what happened to market led economies?)

CBI are proposing the following contributions per sector from 2006 

Industry 6%

Buildings 43%

Transport 29%

Energy 39%

(not sure how much the roadmap avoids double counting, particularly with energy reductions) 


In the buildings roadmap the CBI wants to see:
• Smart meters fitted in homes and businesses so users can see how much power they are using.
• Incentives to encourage consumers to buy more efficient washing machines, fridges and freezers.
• Loft insulation installed in three million homes.
• Agreement on a realistic definition of ‘zero-carbon’ for new homes and business premises.

  Download: Going the distance: the low-carbon buildings roadmap 

Forty percent of the UK’s carbon emissions come from energy consumed in buildings.1 To meet the UK’s 2020 CO₂ target, the CBI believes carbon savings of 43MtCO₂ should come from buildings, equivalent to a 20%reduction from 2006 levels.

Nearly two thirds of these savings can come from energy efficiency measures that will save money as well as carbon, while remaining savings will need to come from renewable and low carbon heat and micro-generation and zero-carbon new buildings. Progress made in decarbonising the UK’s electricity supply will also drive emissions reduction


Route to Zero

sustainability concerns on Preston Tithebarn

Picked up from Prestonblog, CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), a letter of concern to the developers of the Tithebarn scheme for Preston city centre on the PrestonLancs forum, . In the letter they raise concerns that the new development does not seem to have had enough thought put into sustainabilty and other key aspects.

(comments of interest underlined)

Sustainability strategies

A scheme of this size and the mix of uses proposed suggest that it should set high standards in terms of energy efficiency and environmental design. We are therefore disappointed by the minimal targets set in this planning application. On page three of the statement under the ‘Energy’ heading, reference is made to the use of renewable energy sources to provide a proportion of the energy requirements of the private dwellings. However, the only targets relating to carbon reduction are the statutory minimum allowed by the building regulations. We are concerned that this might lead to the relaxing of energy standards of the dwellings and use of an unspecified level of on-site renewable energy to improve this up to the minimum allowed by the regulations. Therefore, we would question whether the proposals satisfy the council’s Interim Planning Statement No.3 (IPS3) which requires a 10% saving in carbon over and above total energy use.

We are also concerned that the central energy centre serving a community energy system has been excluded from the current planning application and that this might result in control over the energy systems adopted in most of the buildings being handed over to future developers. In our view, the commitment to a central energy centre should be established in this planning application and conditioned appropriately. Comprehensive redevelopment of the site creates an opportunity to put in place such infrastructure, which is far more difficult to retrofit. The document also suggests that not all buildings would connect a common energy system to achieve the benefits and synergies between different uses of CHP to reduce carbon, which would be a missed opportunity.

The sustainability statement does not seem to acknowledge the existence of the PPS1 Supplement on Climate Change and the need to consider systems at the community scale. Furthermore, given the likely extended build-out phasing (likely to extend beyond 2016) there appears to be no strategy for dealing with zero carbon homes or the scale of carbon reductions likely to be needed of the non-domestic stock given that Government intend to achieve zero carbon by 2019.

The reference to being on target to meeting the UK’s pledge to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 does not acknowledge the recent revised target of 80% and is, in our view, misleading because it does not consider all the energy use of the buildings or acknowledge that the proposals are adding to the UK buildings stock and hence energy demand.

(this is an important issue – the difference between 60 and 80% would have a  very significant impact on design and energy considerations)

We would ask the design team to address the concerns raised above at this point to give the local authority the assurance that Preston Tithebarn will be meeting the standards on sustainability expected of a development of this significance.

On a related sustainability theme, that of transport, CABE also has concerns

While we acknowledge the masterplan brief required that Preston’s existing bus station be replaced, we are disappointed that an alternative way to bring buses into Preston could not have been found. Examples in other cities have shown that a simple on-street drop-off point can be more successful and effective than an expensive bus station building. Furthermore, the large footprint of a conventional bus station with many parked buses and attendant noise and exhaust fumes can have a negative impact on adjacent areas; we would expect that the necessary measures have been undertaken to minimise these nuisances. The overall strategy for the bus routes also needs careful consideration in terms of bus movements and congestion to prevent detrimental effects on the streets used by buses.

Ouch. Back to the sustainable drawing board

It will be interesting to see how Preston now deal with the planning application and whether CABE’s comments are taken on board, or a development tagged as unsustainable is allowed to proceed.

I have searched for but cannot find the application online – if I do I will review and comment – and links would be useful.

facilities carbon management

Indication that carbon management is becoming a key element of the facilities management role is evident through the Guardian article Cut and Run which focuses on UCLAN’s excellence performance in obtaining the Carbon Trust Standard.

The Carbon Trust says that universities and higher education institutes spend more than £200m each year on energy, and emit 3.2m tonnes of carbon dioxide over the same period – the equivalent of heating more than a million average households.

This puts the facilities management of carbon into perspective – not only as an environmental obligation but also as a social and moral one.  And yet “there is currently a capacity gap in the skills required to manage carbon reductions across large institutions”  FM organisations and institutes take note!

Interestingly UCLAN see the big challenge in carbon reduction as being travel:

Though the university lobbies the council for improvements, problems with the interchange between rail and bus timetables, for example, discourage students and staff from using them. This means transport is a factor in the university’s carbon performance that is proving particularly difficult to improve upon.

Now wash your hands and reduce your carbons … 

I have a slight concern over the quote from Richard Rugg, head of the public sector department at the Carbon Trust. “carbon management is essential. It needs to be viewed in the same way as health and safety”  

In terms of resources, focus and appropriate funds a big yes, but carbon management (as indeed is H and S) is a people, hearts and mind topic, not one of policing, instruction and order as Health and Safety is in danger of becoming / has become.  Facilities Management tend to be fast and easy with littering (even spamming?) walls with notices and instructions to visitors building users… no more please !!

on going local – part one

Mel Starrs over at Elemental has a great and useful article on local resources as seen from the LEED and BREEAM perspectives. Local materials, for local people (or a review of LEED credit MR5.1)  Essential reading for those using these standards and grapling with the concept of local resources.

And yet there is another local resource debate emerging that may well eclipse these standards:

The transition movement approach based on the concepts of peak oil and local resilience necessitates the use of local labour and resources. Rob Hopkins within the Transition Handbook includes building materials as one of the key products, along with food, that can be produced locally.  Re-localisation calls for the production of the means to produce locally – something lost in the cheap transport, cheap oil economies.

A recent presentation from Tom Woolley advocating the use of hempcrete and other cropped based construction products as the  material of the future, paints the picture of the hemp being grown fields local to the new housing project.

Within the UK regeneration projects there is often KPI requirements on the use of local resources and labour, as high as 70%  in an attempt to keep spend local to regenerate the regional and local construction markets.  It remains a key selection criteria on most if not all public procurement PQQ’s.  Corporate organisations often have grand CSR statements on positive approaches to using local labour and organisations. 

And yet a simple plotting of supplier / subcontractor locations on a google map can reveal to clients the visual distribution of spend away from the local area. 

Re-localisation is a debate that will continue, driven by the drive for low or zero carbon, the economy, politics and concepts such as transition and peak oil.  How the standards, LEED /BRREAM and the CSB / CSH influence or reflect this will be of great interest.

… off now to view the Hanham Hall sublitted application plans for their intentions for use of local labour and resources … part 2 to follow.

an eco car for your eco home?

Dont you just love this.? The eco car to go with your eco home, if your allowed one that is.

Futurist, and Shaping Tomorrow colleague, CindyFW over in Kansas brought this to my attention through a recent twitter.

I muse: what if in 10 years or so this is the common persons car, the one we all drive, powered by human, solar and hybrid fuels, then does it really make sense to conceive, plan and create new developments, eco towns and villages that restrict even prevent car access or ownership.

Can we / do we want to restrict the use of such shiny eco friendly cars used on a community sharing basis?

I guess the question is are eco towns attempting reduce / restricting cars on an environmental, pollution, carbon issue, or on a traffic congestion issue, or both, or on an approach that hasn’t been quite thought through using possible future scenarios as yet?

google’s bicycle giveaways

From Ecowordly:

The Internet search engine company Google, now a reputable green icon with its solar powered Mountainview headquarters, last year gave away bicycles to its staff in Europe, Asia and Africa as part of its efforts to reduce the impact of transportation on the environment.

Nearly 2,000 members of Google permanent staff benefited from this scheme that also provided free helmets emblazoned with the famous brand name.

Ah, but does the Google office on Buck Palace Rd in London have cycle storage facilities?

on tranisition towns – community based fm in action

I read the recent Ecologist article on Transition Totnes with great interest and delved deeper into understanding the transition movement, an initiative that responds to the twin challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change.

Best described from the Transition Wiki as:

A Transition Initiative is a community that is unleashing its own latent collective genius to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and to discover and implement ways to address this BIG question:

“for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

As the Ecologist article illustrates, and the initiative wiki demonstrates this movement could have a significant effect on the built assets and facilities within a community and how they are used, and ‘greened’ .

Yet more importantly Transition Towns can be seen as a great example of Community Based Facilities Management (CbFM) and community collaborative working  in action.

Incidentally the transition towns site lists some 25 towns or communities within the initiative to date – is yours there?