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Join the low carbon debate: the human race depends on it

Low carbon leaders urge infrastructure practitioners to take action on emissions as new global standard for carbon management in infrastructure PAS2080 takes shape

Infrastructure professionals must make their voices heard on the future of city infrastructure to ensure that what is built enables long term carbon reduction, Arup chairman Greg Hodkinson said this week at the third Mott MacDonald Carbon Crunch event. “The infrastructure component of cities is responsible for half of the emissions so it is a very important target for carbon reduction. It is essential to act now. We as practitioners have a role in involving ourselves directly in the debate, influencing our public policy and getting our politicians to make decisions on behalf of us all that are informed by the knowledge and practice that we as practitioners have,” he said.

“I ask all of you as practitioners to join in this debate because the future of human life on this planet and generations following ours, depends on it.”

Greg Hodkinson, chairman, Arup

The good news for the industry, said Hodkinson was that clear recommendations had been set out in the Infrastructure Carbon Review published in November 2013 and forthcoming global standard for carbon management in infrastructure sets out a pathway for adoption of practices that will enable low carbon infrastructure management. “PAS2080 being the first low carbon infrastructure standard globally does set out a hopeful course for us to adopt not only in this country but to be adopted globally,” he said. “I ask all of you as practitioners to join in this debate because the future of human life on this planet and generations following ours, depends on it.”

The publically available standard (PAS) 2080 is designed to support asset owners and managers in engaging the entire supply chain to ensure that carbon reduction is at the heart of the management strategy. Driven by the Green Construction Board with backing from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) the new standard is being produced with buisiness standards organisation BSI and written by Mott MacDonald and Arup. A second draft is currently out for review and comments are welcomed until 7th December. A third draft will be published in January.

“In April we will be launching PAS 2080 and in addition to that we will launch a guidance document to help companies deliver,” said Chris Newsome, chairman of the Green Construction Board Infrastructure Group and director of asset management at Anglian Water. Newsome outlined the key steps that Anglian Water had taken starting in 2008 that had made it the low carbon infrastructure leader that it is today. Ahead of a requirement from regulator Ofwat that from 2009 the company would know what the level of carbon was in the assets it would build, Anglian with its  began to build carbon models to create a baseline to work from. This was coupled with an overarching, and highly ambitious target to reduce embodied carbon by 50% by 2015.

“So I had a target, baseline and models about 300 of them. Then you start to learn,” said Newsome pointing to the example of a water main where only 11% of the carbon is generated from the pipe itself. Over half of the carbon emissions are generated from the backfilling and reinstatement process.

"There is real method in the madness of sticking to the rhetoric to focus minds. When you do that magic starts happening."

Chris Newsome, chair, Green Construction Board Infrastructure Group

Critical to the success of the strategy was reasserting the demands to reduce carbon and cost to the delivery partners. “You have to keep the rhetoric going or people don’t believe itm” he said explaining that in the first instance a team took just over 30 weeks to return with a solution that had gone from £24M to £17M with lower operating cost but was nowhere near the carbon reduction target. The challenge was reiterated and the team went away returning with  a final solution that increased treatment works capacity by 30,000 population, cost just £14M, had negative operational cost and reduced carbon by 60 percent. “There is real method in the madness of sticking to the rhetoric to focus minds. When you do that magic starts happening. Five years on we have taken out 54% of embodied carbon. That is the story against the carbon and cost baseline”

These principals are being harnessed into the PAS2080 which takes infrastructure managers through a framework that starts with leadership and moves through governance, target setting, integrating and enabling all partners involved in the assets, quantifying emissions and ultimately reducing carbon. “What we are providing with PAS2080 is a management standard. It deals with assessment of GHG emissions but really provides a framework of how to manage whole life carbon in infrastructure assets and systems," explained Maria Manidaki, sustainability and carbon leader at Mott MacDonald. "The PAS set specific requirements for asset managers because we see them being pivotal point in providing that initial leadership to set this framework for managing carbon and making the changes. But we have also set specific requirements for what all of the players in the value chain need to do to show their own leadership and influence carbon reduction in infrastructure delivery."

Find out more and comment on the draft here