Carbon Emissions and the Construction Industry

Carbon Emissions and the Construction Industry

23rd March 2015

The Climate Change Act 2008 heralded the world’s first legally binding climate change target in an effort to reverse global warming and act in a much more responsible way from an environmental point of view.  We’ve all heard of global warming – it’s being blamed for all manner of developments from warmer summers, colder winters, and even some of the severe and dramatic storms we’ve witnessed in recent years.  However you look at it, acting in a more responsible way and lowering carbon emissions can only be a good thing for the future of mankind.  Today we’re taking a look at some of the facts and figures about carbon emissions and the construction industry.

  • The energy from fossil fuels used in the construction and operation of buildings accounts for almost a half of the UK’s total emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s a massive amount and we need to all work together in order to reduce carbon emissions as much as is practicable.
  • The public sector accounted for 34% of new non-domestic use construction in 2004 and 37% of non-domestic refurbishments. This means that reducing carbon emissions is of particular interested in the public sector.
  • Construction and maintenance of buildings and other structures accounts for half of Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions. Housing alone produces 27% of UK emissions, with 73% of those emissions being generated by heating methods – heating both water and living spaces.
  • The London Borough of Merton was the first local authority to include the government’s renewable energy targets in its Unitary Development Plan, with a promise to provide at least 10% of energy used for major new developments from renewable sources. This became known as the “Merton Rule” and was rapidly accepted as good practice and a great way of encouraging innovation in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • However, the Merton Rule has also been criticised as a “bolt on” approach to energy efficiency with claims that it represents a financial burden for developers.
  • Other local authorities have since jumped on board the bandwagon, with Kirklees Council proposing that 30% of energy consumption in all new buildings should come from renewables.
  • 10% of carbon emissions in the UK are generated by the manufacture and transport of construction materials and the construction process itself.
  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there’s been a 30% increase in the levels of carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • The UK Code for Sustainable Homes was launched in December 2006 and has nine categories of sustainable design. Credits can be earned under each category if specified performance targets are achieved. Ratings are awarded based on the number of credits achieved ranging from Level one (one star) to Level 6 (six star).
  • There is a requirement for zero net carbon production at Level 6 which means that any carbon generated from energy use must be balanced by carbon savings elsewhere. This means that over the course of a year, energy taken from the grid during periods of high demand must be balanced by returning energy to the grid when the demand is lowered.