Tag Archives: Green Construction Board

“This Changes Everything” Paris Agreement and the Built Environment

That the Paris Agreement has come into force today, 4th November 2016, some four years early, now ratified by the requisite number of nations, is a huge milestone and speaks volumes for the global recognition and consensus to reduce carbon emissions.

cop21 article 2 draft

Back in December in Paris, the built environment was recognised as a major contributor to the carbon problem as well as having a major role to play in a low carbon sustainable future. (See How significant was the first Buildings Day at COP21?)

Now, then, is the time to review our approaches to taking carbon out of the built environment, through design, through the operation of buildings and in the manufacture and construction processes.

Through ConstructCO2 we know that up to 70% of construction carbons are travel and transport related, and much of this through diesel fuelled vehicles, further adding to our air quality problems and stretched health services. Construction transport impact must now be a primary target for sustainable construction.

In the UK, our most recent industry target is within Construction 2025 Vision – to reduce emissions by 50% by 2025. Consider however that this was written when the consensus for carbon reduction was based on a 2 degree target for temperature increase. We are now looking at 1.5 degree as the emerging consensus, and that changes everything.

construction-2025-headlines

There is a sense of urgency here, and as I explored and commented within FutuREstorative ‘we no longer have the luxury of being only less bad’ but need to be doing more good, and in doing so heal the future.

less-bad-more-good-chart

In 2015 the UK Green Construction Board noted that ‘reducing built environment carbon emissions (50% from 1990 levels by 2025) is now out of reach with current practice’, and as Namoi Klein wrote in This Changes Everything (2015) “There are no non-radical approaches left before us in addressing climate change’

But we do have approaches, tools and initiatives to ensure that the built environment can contribute to a 1.5 degree future, again as explored in FutuREstorative and illustrated here in this infographic:

carbon-image

As we celebrate the Paris Agreement coming into force, lets also take the opportunity to look forward and start working collaboratively within the built environment towards a 1.5 degree future. And in doing so,to address the other hugely important aspects of the Paris Agreement, adopt the Sustainable Development Goals.

Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_Goals

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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.