Our industry needs a strong signal that gives confidence to invest in decarbonisation, says Julie Godefroy

Julie Godfrey

The support received by the Part Z initiative shows that industry is ready for regulating embodied carbon. This goes beyond professional institutions and climate action networks; support comes from a broad range of organisations, including developers and contractors.

Measures have been in place for years which have a small impact on reducing embodied carbon, including BREEAM, landfill regulation and gradual industrial decarbonisation of material production. However, these do not define best practice at project level, and they miss important opportunities for re-use and design efficiency. As well as using lower-carbon materials, we must use less in the first place.

Many organisations are tackling the issue voluntarily, for example carrying out embodied carbon assessments on all projects, creating in-house benchmarks and requiring consultants to explore alternatives to high-carbon forms of construction. But this is an “extra” on projects and does not allow the sharing of lessons and data across industry which would develop better, cheaper solutions and spread them faster.

The industry’s capacity is vastly different from a few years ago: we have a calculation methodology from the RICS and architects, engineers and builders upskilling in using it.

The Greater London Authority now asks for embodied and whole-life carbon assessments, which will further build capacity ahead of regulation. And industry continues to develop resources, for example the LETI benchmarks, the CIBSE TM65 methodology for building services impacts, and the IStructE structural carbon tool.

There are details to finesse, and material/product data sources must keep growing in robustness and consistency. But regulation is precisely the strong signal that gives confidence to invest in these next steps.

There is a plethora of resources and industry enthusiasm. To bring all this together into consistent standards, to reach the whole industry fast, and to avoid penalising market leaders, regulation is needed.

Julie Godefroy is a sustainability consultant and head of sustainability at the CIBSE


Ideas for positive change


This is part of our Countdown to COP26 coverage in the lead up to the world climate conference in Glasgow in November. We will be publishing more big ideas about ways to tackle the climate emergency over the coming weeks and you can find more here.

Do please send us your own thoughts about how to make construction greener! Email us, using the subject line “COP26 ideas”, at newsdesk@assemblemediagroup.co.uk