Carbon reduction is a key requirement for infrastructure projects. It has been clearly demonstrated that a focus on reducing carbon will reduce cost for a project through saving energy, reducing waste, re-using and recycling materials, using more efficient materials and methods of construction and thinking more radically about what we build and how we build it. The Infrastructure Carbon Review (Infrastructure Carbon Review. HM Treasury, November 2013) makes this very clear and is worth reading or re-reading.
CEEQUAL and BREEAM have a part to play in challenging the infrastructure sector to greater levels of energy efficiency and carbon reduction. They provide robust frameworks for managing these and other project impacts at the most appropriate project stages and inform relevant target setting. They also provide third party certification of achievements with independently verified evaluation and scoring. This gives an impartial review of the sustainability gains that the project and team have achieved, as well as providing an indication of the potential performance of the asset over its life time. These certification schemes allow project teams to make continuous improvements and bring together a plethora of best practice research to manage carbon and deliver improvements. Project teams are rewarded for use of tools such as PAS 2080 and BIM so that design and construction efficiencies can be realised.
Important as carbon is, there are other aspects of sustainability that we ignore at our peril and which are also addressed by BREEAM and CEEQUAL as part of a balanced scorecard approach.
Risks have always been assessed and mitigated in infrastructure development, however long term resilience is an increasingly high priority. Resilience covers a broad spectrum and traditionally this includes durability and designing for operational continuity during extreme weather impacts. However, a full response to resilience should also include future proofing the asset in the face of climate change, intentional threats, changing age profiles, demographics and technologies, and providing for evolving customer demands.
There are many stakeholders and interested parties that are concerned about the impacts infrastructure projects may have on their wellbeing. A process of comprehensive, structured, and ongoing engagement with all relevant parties is vital to understand their needs and incorporate their knowledge and requirements into the project. Mitigating negative impacts, from construction or in-use transport and pollution and making a positive impact on local economic and social priorities is also key to improving community local wellbeing and perception of a project.
The natural and man-made environment should also be considered in infrastructure projects and opportunities to use land efficiently, prioritise low value land and increase land value, for example through sustainable remediation, realised. Protection and enhancement of existing biodiversity and soil resources as well as enhancing existing landscape and heritage are important for ensuring a positive lasting impact from a project.
This holistic view of sustainability is rewarded in BREEAM and CEEQUAL and the independent certification demonstrates the achievements of a project team. The application of a robust, science based, sustainability rating system can result in better project outcomes than would otherwise be the case. Reduction in a project’s carbon impact is at the heart of sustainability but additional benefits from optimised whole life cost, reduced resource use, improved stakeholder engagement, better health and wellbeing, and resilient assets must also be realised for delivery of world class projects.
Chris Broadbent will be speaking at Ecobuild 2017 on 8 March.