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Construction should lead low carbon transition, says government report

Construction will have to lead the transition to a low carbon economy, says a government report published this week.

“Position of leadership”

The Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) report for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said the industry’s “pivotal role in any carbon reduction programme creates the opportunity, almost the obligation, for it to take up a position of leadership”.

Primary leadership must come from government, said the report, but the industry must also take a lead due to its capacity for “practical response” to climate change, and its influence on the supply chain.

The report advocated the creation of a Major Projects Review Group (MPRG) to provide a “stamp of approval” sustainability accreditation for major projects, and to disseminate knowledge and experience gained on projects.

A joint industry/government group should also be set up to resolve “a basis for the long-term funding of the development and maintenance of carbon compliance tools”, says the report.

But the report says infrastructure is rarely designed to maximise whole life carbon performance.

“Whilst infrastructure is seen as critical to supporting a more energy efficient society, carbon reduction itself does not seem to be a priority in the design and construction of those facilities,” it says. It recommends that a standard method of measuring embodied carbon be established for use as a design tool.


The IGT warned that few companies accurately understand “the sheer scale of the undertaking ahead”. The government should therefore create five-yearly milestones towards carbon reduction targets, it said, “to provide the industry with some visibility of the possible nature and volume of work”.

The ICE is preparing a “Low Carbon Routemap to 2050” to support the IGT’s agenda.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) backed the findings.

“In particular, we welcome the recommendation that a group bringing together industry and government should be formed to resolve issues relating to long-term funding of the development and maintenance of carbon compliance tools,” said CECA technical officer John Wilson.

Readers' comments (2)

  • I am all for having the industry take up a position of leadership with respect to carbon reduction, as long as it goes the right way. Approaches to date have been far too simplistic and we run the risk of doing more harm than good. If we undertake a thorough PAS2050 type study for a product used in construction, the conclusion reached is often quite the opposite from the guidance provided by a more simplistic tool. We need to improve everybody's understanding of the subject - must avoid trying to run before we can walk.

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  • Despite the need for accuracy as Philip states above, it is vital that implementation of a measurement system is simple and easy enough to be consistently used. I haven't yet used them myself, but the concept of the CESMM3 Carbon and Price Book and Capit-online seems to offer a simple and universally applicable solution for construction works, as carbon assessment is integrated within the costing process. Does anyone who has used them have feedback on this?

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