Time to get serious: Low carbon, low cost in infrastructure! My 5 top tips

I chaired a fascinating seminar on “reducing carbon in infrastructure”, it was organised by Volvo Construction Equipment as part of the Construction Climate Challenge programme. My “TOP 5” takeaways from the day were the following:

1. Zero carbon by 2050 and 1 day.

What do I mean by that? Well, the UK Climate Change Act set the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, based on 1990 emissions. The latest science presented at the recent COP22 in Marrakesh is now telling us that to limit climate change within a 2 degree Celsius rise, and meet the Paris climate commitments, we need to be at net zero asap. So realistically 100% by 2050 and a day! Decarbonising our energy supplies, transport and the built environment will be critical, so designing infrastructure today that has a design life beyond 2050 and in some cases 120 years, means we need to design for net zero today!

2. Low carbon means low cost

The Infrastructure Carbon Review by HM Treasury and subsequent case studies confirmed that there is a relationship between cutting carbon out of the construction of assets and reducing costs. So providing affordable low carbon solutions should be the priority of all parts of the construction value chain. So how best to do this? Use the guidance and tools available, and collaborate….Tips 3-5!-

3. Guidance exists, so use it: PAS2080

How best to measure and manage infrastructure carbon? A new standard PAS2080 gives guidance regardless of where you are in the construction value chain – for example, a design engineer, a product manufacturer, an installer, – it will help you identify what you can do to take carbon out of the system.

4. Tools are available to help: BIM, CEEQUAL and BREAM Infrastructure

Embrace BIM (buildings information modelling) or as I prefer to call it – digital construction. Digital platforms can be used for the analysis of carbon performance (materials and energy) in the design phase and later in the operation and maintenance stages, options can be compared and affordable low carbon solutions selected. Similarly, following the process of CEEQUAL and BREEAM Infrastructure allows designers and contractors to consider options to reduce embodied and operational carbon.

5. Infrastructure clients tell suppliers: collaborate and provide us with affordable low carbon solutions!

Infrastructure clients like HS2, Environment Agency and Anglia Water made it perfectly clear that they expect affordable low carbon solutions and expect their supply chains to collaborate and use the tools and guidance available.

To find out more about what we learnt for the day, see the video clip here, or visit my website.

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