Big projects must lead carbon reduction

27 November 2017

Mark fenton

Mark Fenton, HS2

It is the bigger projects that have to lead and influence the rest of the industry when it comes to reducing carbon impact, a conference in London has heard.

An audience of contractors, clients, academics and sustainability professionals were told that 40% of global greenhouse gases were from the construction and building sectors, so the focus needed to be on decarbonising jobsites by 2050.

Delegates at the London Construction Climate Challenge conference, hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment, heard that only big targets would trigger the innovation needed to make a meaningful difference in cutting carbon in infrastructure and construction projects.

The event, held at the UK government’s 1VS Conference Centre in London’s Westminster, was a one-day summit to promote the UK’s new PAS (Publicly Available Specification) 2080 standard – the world’s first framework for reducing whole-life carbon in infrastructure.

Commissioned by the government’s Construction Leadership Council and the Green Construction Board, it was designed to offer guidance and consistency on how to employ material, energy and labour efficiencies to reduce both capital and operational carbon and costs.

The conference was told that setting brave targets and involving the entire supply chain was necessary to deliver the innovative processes, tools and behavioural changes needed to reduce embedded and operational carbon in infrastructure projects substantially.

Keynote speaker Chris Newsome, director of asset management at Anglian Water and chairman of the Green Construction Board Infrastructure Working Group, was one of the first to lead his company through the implementation of PAS2080.

He said, “We started with a demand on ourselves and our suppliers to reduce carbon. We had a belief that 80% of our schemes, or more, would be low carbon and low cost.

“We made a commitment as a collective and there is no U-turn on this one.”

One of Anglian Water’s actions was to use recyclable plastic as an alternative to reinforced concrete, a material that used to contribute 80% of their embodied carbon.

On one project, it worked on reversing the water flow in existing pipelines, instead of building new pipelines, which cut out 16,000 tonnes of carbon and saved £32 million (€35.81 million).

It is hoped that the cost-saving impetus behind PAS2080 will act as a blueprint for implementing the standard on a more global level.

Important standards

Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, said, “Standards like these are so important right now, as they set a definition and trajectory for us to work towards.

“Spurring leaders to adopt PAS2080 will filter down through the rest of the industry and the supply chain, and force a positive collaboration.”

She said that 40% of global greenhouse gases were from the construction and building sectors, so the focus needed to be on decarbonising jobsites by 2050.

Wills added that in places like China, where the equivalent of Rome was built every three weeks, it was more important than ever that cities, developers and suppliers all worked together with a common goal.

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The one-day summit was hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment

The UK scheme is said to have inspired high-profile infrastructure projects to unlock innovation and drive forward a real culture shift in a bid to reduce carbon.

The experts behind the building of HS2, Europe’s largest high-speed rail infrastructure project, which will link Britain’s major cities, said they had an obligation to reduce their carbon impact and were insisting that all their Tier 1 contractors were PAS2080 accredited within 12 months of contract award.

Mark Fenton, climate change specialist for the project, said, “A lot of carbon is stuck in small projects like house extensions, but it is the bigger projects that have to lead and influence the rest of the industry.”

The Volvo Group said it was also paving the way for a lower carbon future. Fully electric buses, with zero tailpipe emissions, are now operating in a number of European cities including Hamburg, Luxembourg and Gothenburg, and the group claims the world’s first all-electric compact excavator prototype.

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