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.

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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.



smart sustainable homes?

Reading the BRE Smart Home Systems and the Code for Sustainable Homes published from ibexellence and available from their site   (thanks for the info on this from Derek over at Keeping Ahead of the Oil Curve

The objective of this report is to identify the role smart home solutions could play in supporting delivery of the performance levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes. The report provides an evidence base, including case studies, demonstrating how smart home solutions can be used to enhance the environmental, economic and social sustainability of homes.

So far so good.  I headed straight to the chapter on using smart technology in existing homes and refurbishment of existing stock, as this is the real challenge we face and one organisations such as BRE must be addressing, only to be disappointed with a short note to say that

In progressing digital connectivity in the UK’s domestic sector, it is essential to consider the housing refurbishment sector, particularly with regard to improving the energy efficiency performance of this stock.

It is a pity that this seems so far away from the open source,unconference ideas and developments of be2camp and in particular homecamp