Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On Conference

CIRIA’s Project Assistant, Sirio d’Aleo reports on last month’s Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On and looks ahead to CIRIA’s December event to discuss implementation of the Infrastructure Carbon Review (ICR). Hosted by the Green Construction Board and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills hosted the Infrastructure Carbon Review One-year-on Conference, presented the achievements since it was launched last year and the new commitments.

As of 28 October 2014, 30 companies signed up to the ICR, including Thames Tideway Tunnel, Lafarge Tarmac, Temple Group, Kier Infrastructure and Barhale Trant Utilities. It is anticipated that these firms could save 24M tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 and provide £1.46Bn economic benefits.

As Nick Boles MP stated, the ICR is neither an EU target nor an administrative exercise. It is a joint government and industry initiative aiming at reducing carbon in the construction industry and challenging the way we currently do things.

The ICR was developed following previous similar initiatives:

  • Infrastructure Cost Review (2010)
  • GCB’s Low Carbon Routemap  Report (2013)
  • Construction 2025 (2013)

and it was built on:

  • 100+ cross-sector senior stakeholder interviews
  • 200+ published documents included in the literature review
  • 300+ organisations contacted through surveys supported by the Institution of Civil Engineer

During the panel discussions, a wide range of stakeholders and delegates from the industry discussed the targets and challenges for the future. It emerged that the key to unlocking the value chain and pushing the carbon agenda forward is leadership, innovation and procurement.

The construction industry needs to build a culture around the “green agenda” , to create the environment and the imperatives for change. Attitude to risk might pose limits to the development of a low carbon industry; but data and experiences on carbon and related cost savings will prove the convenience of such business model and foster long-term investments.

Companies throughout the supply chain are able to push forward the low carbon agenda. They have to hold still, hold aligned and be consistent in the message they want to send in order to set an example for others to follow. It is important for firms to start working on carbon reduction and set achievable targets, which can over time become more ambitious.

Communication plays a fundamental role for leadership: common language improves understanding and is likely to increase the level of investment. Also, through sharing  best practice and being clear about wanted and unwanted behaviours, firms can promote their values within their chain and raise the bar.

It emerged that stretching the targets and dealing with measurable benchmarks helps to address the challenges and foster creativity. This is proven by many of the signatories to the ICR, who have developed alternative ways to identify where carbon is and innovative strategies to reduce it.  

Overall, the keys to carbon reduction are:

  • Holistic approach: carbon reduction, lean approach, wider sustainability and collaboration
  • Methods of construction (re. Offsite construction, BIM)
  • Building well to avoid heating and/or cooling buildings

One of the main issues with procurement is when and where to enter the supply chain as this, of course, varies the degree of innovative solutions and the relevance of the achievements. It is crucial to get all the parties involved in the early stages in order to embed the key values in the procurement process and share them with the delivery partners.

Benefits and audits can be used by clients can keep suppliers on track in terms of timelines, commitment to the agenda and contractual obligations.

Many of these issues will be discussed at the upcoming CIRIA event Applying the Infrastructure Carbon Review, 11 December 2014, which will explore the recommendations for the wider industry and highlight practical applications of the ICR. Book your place.

Other relevant CIRIA projects and publications relating to this topic include: