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Experts call for carbon calculator guidelines

Carbon calculators’ potential to improve sustainability is being undermined by the absence of government guidelines on how such programs capture and measure emissions, according to speakers at an industry conference yesterday.

“The lack of basic data, software and standards is limiting the value and role of carbon counting,” said Mott MacDonald divisional director Colin Harding at yesterday’s Construction Industry Research and Information Association (Ciria) conference on Geotechnical Issues in Construction.

Loughborough University senior lecturer in geomechanics Ashraf El-Hamalawi added that existing calculators focus too much on the operational phase of a building or business and existing systems for the construction phase are not sufficient. “Some companies within civil engineering have developed their own programs but these all focus on very specific processes. It is very difficult to have generic calculations but those that do are too often ‘black boxes’ that are not transparent enough to understand how the figures are arrived at,” he said.

While Harding criticised the lack of availability of free software, he said that using one system does allow the carbon content of different design options to be compared. “Often the lowest carbon option is the cheapest to build,” he said. Nonetheless, he added that use of different calculators makes it impossible for the client to compare schemes based on carbon content.  

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