Construction carbon calculator could reduce developers’ footprint

The Environment Agency will be encouraging construction companies to make use of an online tool which has been developed on its behalf to help gauge, and reduce, the carbon footprint of building projects.

From next month the EA will use the tool on all of its own major building projects but it will also be made available to construction companies, consultants and government bodies interested in reducing the emissions of developments they are involved in.

The spreadsheet-based tool has been developed by the EA and Jacobs Consultants.

Andrew Powell, technical advisor at the Environment Agency, said: “At the Environment Agency we are always looking to ways of reducing the environmental impact from our own construction projects.

“We spend around £200 million a year on construction projects, which accounts for about 3% of the construction civil engineering sector.

“With this in mind over the past year, together with Jacobs Consultants, we developed a new tool for calculating the carbon footprint from construction projects.

“We have been trialling the tool as part of environmental audits on the building of new flood defences schemes.”

The tool helps estimate the CO2 in the raw materials used, direct emissions from personal travel by employees and transportation of raw materials, emissions from site activities such as earthworks and excavation and allows comparison of waste management options.

The also suggests potential ways to find significant carbon savings during the planning and design process and can be also used to audit the carbon footprint of a completed project.

During the trial of the tool, the Environment Agency’s auditing of one of the flood defence schemes found that one tonne of ordinary Portland cement emits 970kg of CO2 when made in a wet kiln, whilst ash cement gives off 585kg and slag cement emits 280kg.

With 1.5 million tonnes of cement used in flood defence work in 2005/6, this highlights how the choice of materials can help achieve a significant reduction in carbon output.

Andrew Powell added: “As an environmental regulator, our role is to lead by example and demonstrate what sustainable construction means in practice. Promoting resource efficiency and reducing carbon emissions from our construction projects is an important part of that.”

The development of the calculator was shortlisted for an edie Award for Environmental Excellence this autumn – a full case study of the project can be found on the awards microsite.

Sam Bond

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