A Low Carb Diet for Construction?

This blog, through regular thought pieces from myself (Martin Brown) along with guest bloggers + thought leaders is aimed at generating discussions on moving towards a low carbon construction and built environment sector.

Setting the Scene

There is a buzz, and indeed confusion over carbon management in the built environment at the moment. We have the Zero Carbon Hub (as a quango) given a stay of execution to redefine ‘zero carbon’ albeit in the housing sector but will have implications for non domestic projects too.

We have Paul Morrell pushing the importance of carbon management, referring to cash as king but carbon must be the queen. (Introduction to the Construction and Innovation Growth Team final report.) (Note this report proposes a Low Carbon Construction Business Plan)

There is, according to  Sustain recent paper  embodied carbon, a look forward insight report much uncertainty over design predictions of carbon emissions from facilities and building in use.

The focus for carbon management has until recently been only concerned with the design and use of buildings, rather than the construction process of building or refurbishment.

But it is here that it makes sense to focus on carbon reduction, for if we do so we focus on waste in lean construction sense, but particularly wasted energy. Every kilogram of carbon saved on site has a corresponding saving, either to the contractor or to the project. No wonder then in a recent copy of APM Magazine article mentions carbon as one of the future key performance indicators for construction project management.

Understanding Construction Carbon

There is little evidence to date, or indeed little understanding of the level of carbon emissions from a construction project. Possibly leading the field is constructco2 which with over some 50 projects is showing a level of 96kg per £1000 project value. To put this into perspective one party balloon, I am told, would hold about 10 grammes of CO2. ( I tried to understand this in more detail on my own blog here)

Thats a lot of party balloons.

The Strategy for Sustainable Construction has set a target to reduce emissions by 15% based on 2008 levels. This is some tough call, meaning 15% reduction in material and waste transportation and in personel travel, along with a reduction, or improved performance of plant and energy use, and an holistic resource review.

In the words of Egan, we need a rethink on the way we build and refurb: a lean thinking approach. We cannot address a real reduction in carbon with the same thinking that created the current high energy situation we find ourselves in.

Over to you

What are you doing to measure or improve your construction based carbon emissions?

What innovations are you aware of to improve carbon performance though alternative energy or working methods.