New Carbon Footprint Guide to Aid Green Building

Friday, 16th March 2012
  Help in calculating the carbon footprint of your building project is at hand, with a new guide from the Construction Products Association (CPA). “A Guide to Understanding the Embodied Impacts of Construction Products” outlines a consistent and established way for measuring embodied impacts and is designed to help in the delivery of more sustainable buildings with less environmental impact.   The purpose of this new guide, written by Jane Anderson from PE INTERNATIONAL & Jane Thornback from the UK's Construction Products Association, is to improve understanding across the construction industry of the embodied impacts of construction products. The quest for a more sustainable and more recently a low carbon built environment, has meant that the demand for information on the impact of construction products has increased dramatically. Much attention is being given to new ways of designing and constructing buildings and whilst the focus has been on energy efficiency and capturing renewable energy, there is a growing awareness that the embodied impacts of construction products and especially embodied carbon will become increasingly important.   The construction industry is buzzing with new thinking on how to build low carbon homes, offices, schools, hospitals and infrastructure and how to decrease the carbon impact of our existing buildings. In the UK, almost half of total carbon emissions come from day to day use of the built environment, primarily through water and space heating and numerous efforts and initiatives are therefore in progress to improve energy efficiency, capture renewable energy and use construction products with low embodied impact.   Not surprisingly the construction products sector is being asked to step up to the challenge and questions are now being asked of manufacturers about the carbon footprint of their products or the embodied water and of builders merchants for lists of sustainable products. A litany of different terms, standards – both formal and informal, methodologies, and protocols are emerging within construction, often borrowed or adopted from other sectors.   What is surprising to many though is that within the construction products sector, the measurement of the impacts of construction products on the environment, including the embodied carbon and embodied water, has been around for several decades and much information is already available. This Guide therefore seeks to improve the knowledge and understanding of what it means to measure the environmental impact of a construction product, how it is done, what it tells us, where the data can be found, how the information can be used in the design and construction of buildings and infrastructure and what policy and regulatory initiatives will be required to use this information.   CPA industry affairs director John Tebbit added: “We hope that government and other major procurers will read and take action based on this report. We need to reward innovation in more sustainable products and solutions, and provide increasing commercial opportunities in this country and abroad for those companies that respond to this challenge. The best way to do this is for procurers to buy these more sustainable products. While we are not proposing regulation in this area, if there were to be any then this report sets out the framework within which any regulation would have to be framed.”   The guide is available electronically and can be downloaded from the CPA website. A shorter summary document is also available on the website and in hard copy format.