Analysis

Infrastructure Carbon Review – a rallying cry for business efficiency and profitability

Tim Chapman, Arup

Shifting low carbon from the preserve of geeks into the mainstream is critical and the Green Construction Board Infrastructure Carbon Review hold the key, says Arup director Tim Chapman.

In November 2013, Michael Fallon, then Construction Minister and co-chair of the Green Construction Board (GCB), launched the Infrastructure Carbon Review as a new tool to help the construction industry move towards a low carbon, higher profit future.

The message was simple: that a low carbon approach is a critical business driver.

"The fundamental nature of low carbon design is that it is very easy to grasp and very fundamental in its effect, and so the sooner it is removed from being preserve of geeks and is brought into the mainstream, the better for all concerned." Tim Chapman, Arup.

The ICR highlighted three key actions to incentivise and release the value offered by carbon reduction – strong leadership to drive cultural engagement with the low carbon agenda; innovation to identify and implement new thinking; and procurement that incentivises the whole value chain to collaborate and outperform client targets.

The tool was developed by industry professionals on the GCB’s Infrastructure Working Group and is designed to help to share best practice from across the supply and help the whole value chain to learn from others, boost performance and drive innovation. 

Arup director Tim Chapman was a key member of the team that produced the ICR and is now working to drive its implementation throughout the construction supply chain. 

Ahead of the GCB’s Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference in October, he explains to Infrastructure Intelligence why it is such an important tool for the industry’s future. 

Why is the Infrastructure Carbon Review a critical tool for your business?  

Arup amongst a small number of other organisations had been striving to do the right thing to reduce carbon in infrastructure, however it was clear that much more concerted action was going to be needed to have a meaningful effect for such a big issue affecting the whole national economy.  The ICR provided an industry-wide rallying cry and a basis for a unified way forward where the entire supply chain could move together, which is the only way for the huge changes to take place that are needed.  

Interview with Tim Chapman, Arup director and member of the GCB Infrastructure Working Group

Have you been able to make the link between lower carbon and lower cost?  

The link between lower carbon and lower cost is clear in most cases, as carbon usage is a strong proxy for resource usage – be it materials of fuel use.  However the push for lower carbon assets is also a push for overall business efficiency, and we have had a few situations where the long-term whole-life lower cost solution needs a higher carbon investment in capital works to provide the best smart answer for our client.

What steps have you taken to promote the ICR across your business  

Mainly by presentations to our infrastructure designers right across the business. The fundamental nature of low carbon design is that it is very easy to grasp and very fundamental in its effect, and so the sooner it is removed from being preserve of geeks and is brought into the mainstream, the better for all concerned.  It should be central in infrastructure design, as it collects a series of vital concepts such as buildability, efficiency and long-terms strategic solutions.  It is not just about carbon accountancy, an activity which is usually carried out too late to have any meaningful effect on the outcome, as currently practiced.

The Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference 

Date: 27 October

Venue: BIS conference centre, Victoria Street, London

 

To register your interest in attending this free event email nicola.walters@bis.gsi.gov.uk

How have you benefitted from embracing the ICR?  

Not directly yet, in terms of commercial success.  But we have an increasing number of infrastructure asset owning and operating clients who want advice as to how they can make the right changes in how they function. These studies are allowing us to hone our methods and become more aware of the implications of designing lower carbon infrastructure, for our own and our clients long term benefit.

How have you engaged your supply chain in the ICR?  

Yes, mainly with clients, educating them in the steps that should be taken to allow low carbon solutions to be designed and specified. 

What do you think are the critical challenges facing the industry as it reaches towards a low carbon future? 

Generally lower carbon solutions will need a leap in the pace of innovation, which will be often trialled by one supplier, and may or may not work as hoped.  But when it does work, it will generally be easy to replicate and to apply to many similar circumstances.  I am thinking of the Anglian Water curved excavator bucket for pipe laying, or the king post sheet pile wall used on the M25 – great ideas which have palpably obvious benefits, and which we all wish we had thought of, in hindsight.  The main issues will be for enough clients who permit innovation to take place on their projects and there should be more of them, as most infrastructure clients are serial investors in new infrastructure and hence have much to gain from incremental improvements that can be applied to later projects in their overall programme; plus better dissemination of great ideas, which can be done by a wide range of methods such as professional presentations, academic papers or industry awards ceremonies.

In what ways do you think the financial upturn will make these challenges easier to meet?  

The financial upturn coupled with the cross-party political consensus for improving the UK’s infrastructure will mean that infrastructure asset owners will be encouraged to invest to upgrade their facilities and the awareness of how that can be done in a way that encourages long term reductions in carbon coupled with greater economic efficiency will appeal to all.

What are the biggest opportunities for a low carbon construction industry?  

It is difficult to pinpoint any single easy wins, as the range of lower carbon solutions are so multifarious.  We will all need to learn from each other – and so I am hoping that it will provide a strong stimulus for increased innovation and dissemination of great ideas.  Those that wait to learn from their own experiences only will suffer.  But those firms who are most adaptable and with the quickest propensity to learn will thrive – all very Darwinian!

Why do you think other firms in the construction industry supply chain should embrace the ICR?  

It is about thriving in the future.  Clients will rapidly embrace it, because it brings increased scrutiny on their long term operating costs and so all suppliers who want to succeed have little option but to follow.

What recommendation would you make to other considering following your lead?  

Just get on with it.  The principles are simple.  The way forward is clear.  There are always occasions to procrastinate, but this shouldn’t be one of them!

 

 

The Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference is designed specifically to explain to business and commercial benefits across the industry of embracing the principles of the GCB Infrastructure Carbon Review which was launched at the end of 2013.

The morning conference aims to share business experiences and successes where companies have embedded these values; and convince others of the value of the initiative. 

The Infrastructure Carbon Review One-Year-On conference principal objectives:

  • Encourage the value chain to take action in reducing carbon and reducing cost in infrastructure
  • Re-enforce the key messages of the Infrastructure Carbon Review: that a low carbon approach is a critical business driver
  • Maintain the momentum of this message since the launch of the review in November 2013 and update on actions ‘one year on’
  • Encourage new participants to pledge commitment to meeting the objectives of the Infrastructure Carbon Review
  • Share best practice from across the supply and help the whole value chain to learn from others, boost performance and drive innovation.

To register your interest in attending this free event email nicola.walters@bis.gsi.gov.uk.

For detail of the Infrastructure Carbon Review visit: http://www.greenconstructionboard.org/index.php/resources/infrastructure...