Embodied Carbon Conference 2015 – Event Review

On Thursday last week, Greengage attended the UK Green Building Council Embodied Carbon Conference, an event that is built on the outputs of the 2014 Embodied Carbon Week. At a time when we are seeing a reduced likelihood of legislation driving embodied carbon measurement and reduction, the industry came together to share and encourage best practice.

In the absence of central political leadership, local authorities explained how they are looking for developers to help them by demonstrating innovation in their plans. Several major developers and asset owners/operators including British Land, HS2 and Anglian Water gave accounts of how they are addressing the topic due to its scale of impact (far greater than operational emissions) and increased scrutiny from stakeholders to demonstrate how they are addressing emissions in their supply chain. Examples include the application of a 15% reduction target for all major developments by British Land, and Anglian Water’s adoption of new asset replacement practices that question the need for building new infrastructure before any briefs are written.

There are now well defined standards for the measurement and reporting of embodied carbon, making consistent comparisons of options or projects a reality. The value chain, most notably materials manufacturers, have also made significant advances in the development of innovative products and generation of accurate data about their embodied carbon. There were positive signs that the paused WRAP embodied carbon database will be resurrected through industry collaboration meaning central cuts to funding wont halt knowledge sharing.

We are encouraged to see this type of event take place, and particularly look forward to using the growing database of shared knowledge to better inform design decisions on our projects. The UKGBC will continue to play an important role in driving the agenda and bringing together built environment professionals to ensure more projects address embodied carbon. The biggest opportunity now, is to take the subject outside of this forum, populated with ‘the usual suspects’ and encourage much wider consideration of the issue.