Last week, the UK Green Building Council recommended the establishment of a whole-life carbon target for the infrastructure industry. Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark™, welcomes the move.
From the outset, The Planet Mark™ has advocated whole-life carbon modelling and the use of lifecycle assessments to better inform the design, specifications, construction and operation of low carbon, sustainable buildings and infrastructure.
Working with leading developers, we know that a significant percentage of a building’s lifetime carbon emissions are emitted in the first few months of its life (i.e. during construction), which can be up to 70% for a large industrial development. So, last week’s call by the UK-GBC for whole-life carbon target setting in infrastructure is welcome.
53% of the UK’s total carbon emissions are directly or indirectly influenced by the infrastructure industry, according to the 2013 Infrastructure Carbon Review. And this is set to grow to 90% by 2050, due to decarbonisation in other sectors.
In its report, ‘Delivering Low Carbon Infrastructure’, the UK-GBC concludes the industry’s progress towards a low-carbon future is being hampered by a lack of an industry-wide target. At The Planet Mark™ we advocate target setting because it works, and we know, through the work we do, that tackling whole life carbon emissions leads to substantial carbon reductions.
We have seen developers who have shown leadership in whole life carbon measurement and reduction create supply chains that can deliver low carbon projects as a standard specification. What was once leading edge is becoming more common place.
This way stakeholders from designers, specifiers, developers, planners and contractors in the supply chain create low carbon, sustainable developments and infrastructure projects. Consistent measurement of carbon saving initiatives on one project and comparing their performance to others will inevitably lead to large-scale carbon reduction across many projects.
The supply chain is responding enthusiastically and with simple practical improvements and innovation. Main contractors are using sustainability as a differentiator because they understand the mantra “where there’s carbon there’s cost”.
But there is still a long way to go across all sectors of the built environment. Creating an industry-wide whole-life carbon target on embodied-carbon-hungry infrastructure projects would be a good start.