The recent snow, disruptive weather and congested roads turned the planned Green Vision seminar into an intimate evening at Squires Sanders last Wednesday evening.  Sue Riddlestone , OBE, founder and CEO of Bioregional, along with Dr Craig Jones principal sustainability consultant at Sustain Ltd, shared their experience and learning from the Olympics Games 2012 .

Sue described the meaning concepts behind the One Planet Living ten principles, based on the need to re-address the balance of consumption behaviour on our planet. The OPL is focused on making sustainability simple – through addressing ecological footprints – leading to a more informed holistic approach based around the ten principles

Sue currently lives and works in the bedzed zero carbon development which has achieved excellent results although at an above average build cost. The One Brighton project however was built on the OPL principles  at normal build costs and sold twice as fast a BedZed. It has also created a vibrant hub where people are happy with their sustainable lifestyles, proving that it is possible to build sustainable developments  with much improved health and community benefits without additional costs.

The ‘One Planet Olympics ‘ is an excellent example that led to huge savings in material costs through recycle and reuse strategies alongside the purchasing of materials & systems ‘on lease’ and returning them after the Olympic Games. A demonstration of Circular Economy thinking!

As the London Sustainable development commissioner , Sue was given access to the consultants on the Olympics project thanks to Ken Livingstone who provided the leadership for Bioregional influence with their ambitious sustainability strategy – the Greenest Games Ever – at the bidding  stage.  Of course , no one ever really thought the UK would win the Olympics , but when we did, the ambitious strategy became a legally binding document of the ‘One Planet Olympics’

Sue stressed the importance of contracts , strict guidance over reuse of buildings and materials from dismantled buildings on the site . Whilst there were no embodied carbon targets for the games there were strict reuse targets as there was a huge drive to dematerialise buildings. Innovative novation approaches were used such as take back schemes for air conditioning systems .

Sue summarised by giving two take away key principles:

  1. leadership and commitment to a sustainable project no matter how big ,
  2. embodied carbon must also be considered alongside health and well being.

Sue described the current environment as a clunky gear change into a more resource efficient environment.

Next, Dr. Craig Jones gave a detailed account of embodied carbon, its meaning and its impact at this time of huge growth of GHG emissions explaining the difference between embodied carbon and whole life carbon.

Embodied carbon mainly comes from energy and is also known as the carbon footprint of a material. It considers energy consumed to process, transport and fabricate a product. Taking us through the ‘cradle to gate’ approach and then further to ‘cradle to site’ including powering onsite, assembly equipment and construction waste. Managing construction waste is effective but buying less materials would be the most efficient saving to be made.

Craig indicated a few culprits such as bricks and cement in concrete as materials that could be replaced by lower carbon alternatives. In particular he drilled down into the detail of the cement low carbon substitute products (Ggbs and pfa) which were used in the Olympic Park and some of the resistance to using such materials n construction projects being down to lack of understanding and the impact on schedule of a longer curing time.

The key message from Craig was that Embodied carbon, once it’s emitted, it’s gone and we can never go back and improve the embodied carbon, its irrecoverable.

GVis members posed some interesting questions around the WRAP net waste tool which has a lack of up to date data and the open access nature of the university o f Bath embodied Carbon materials database (which is currently seeking funding to sustain maintenance and upkeep)Recommended resources from the event:

Best foot forward report 

Bath Embodied  Carbon Database 

SKA rating guidance 

Better Buildings Partnerships Guidance 

Notes from Claire Bowles Green Vision and Martin Brown Fairsnape