Thought Leadership – Greg Cooper
It is widely recognised that climate change presents an ever growing threat to development, poverty eradication efforts and the welfare of citizens from the UK and across the world. The impacts of climate change are already being felt on every continent. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to increase and on the present path, global temperature rise will far exceed the limit of 2°C that countries have agreed to target in order to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. With December fast approaching, the will be a significant focus on Paris and the United Nations Climate Conference (COP21).
France will be hosting the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as “Paris 2015”. The conference is planned to have significant impact of the environmental consciousness of the world, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. France will therefore be playing a leading international role to ensure points of view converge and to facilitate the search for consensus by the United Nations, as well as within the European Union, which has a major role in climate negotiations. The conference will focus on the aim to reduce carbon emissions to ultimately create a zero carbon future. Among the goals of Paris 2015 will be the idea of creating zero carbon impact buildings in as many countries as possible, as soon as possible.
Although the target of zero carbon buildings may appear to be something in the distant future, it is vital that every business within the construction industry should have a corporate responsibility mapped out that is underpinned by principles of sustainability. This covers a broad spectrum of factors that play into the ideals of carrying out activities without exhausting resources or implementing harmful impacts to society and the environment. Particularly within construction, it is fundamental that we meet the needs of today without compromising the world of tomorrow.
We must first understand the complexity of this subject and acknowledge that sustainability values should be considered, not only throughout the construction process but in every aspect of a company. The built environment accounts for 45% of total UK carbon emissions and we must tackle this initially from the selection and sourcing of materials to the long term effects of the final build. Timber is the number one renewable mainstream construction material, allowing the production of greener buildings with low carbon footprints. An assured system for sustainable source verification of timber products is fundamental to any business looking to source materials, this can be achieved by identifying Chain of Custody Certification for both PEFC and FSC®. By carrying this out, it not only promotes legal compliance but also ensures that forest cultivation of sourced timber is well managed, the local ecology is protected and that forest workers are treated fairly.
Figures show that 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings, this is something that can be avoided through the use of offsite construction. While conventional building practices have been proven to be extremely wasteful when it comes to materials, offsite methods of construction produce far lower amounts of waste. Design for manufacture ensures that the process of ordering and cutting the materials to size in a factory are much more controlled, therefore reducing the waste involved with the manufacturing process. Waste collection, sorting and re-cycling is significantly easier to organise within a factory environment than onsite.
Now that eco-credentials are of the highest importance in the construction and modern trading world, it is vital to continue to innovate and find new ways to monitor and reduce environmental damage in building. The X-LAM Alliance have developed a Carbon Calculator which is an innovative digital resource which delivers carbon estimates to help assess the most viable lowest carbon solution. Relevant information influencing the calculation is entered into the system – such as material volumes and transport factors. The Carbon Calculator produces carbon estimates to act as guidelines for different project scenarios – enabling professionals to gain early information about the environmental impact of their proposed development.
It is absolutely vital for companies like the X-LAM Alliance to consistently strive to adopt and apply Best Practice sustainability principles through all aspects of their processes, this is something that we follow through from raw material procurement to manufacture, offsite processes and onsite assembly. When world leaders, CEOs, senior executives, national, regional and city leaders, investors and industry experts gather in Paris they will set the framework for a transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. At the X-LAM Alliance, we are already starting to take actions off this critical to do list.