If cement were a country…

Posted by Derek Mason

7th June 2022

Picture credit: Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

The construction industry now has a universal standard for reporting carbon in buildings and infrastructure.

It is widely accepted that to avert a climate crisis, we must reduce CO2 emissions in the construction sector. But how do we measure emissions in a consistent way? It’s difficult to measure progress without the proper data. And reporting methods have been conflicting, to the point that – according to the RICS Global Construction Monitor – 40% of the industry didn’t feel accurate carbon measurement was understood.

That’s beginning to change now that an international coalition of construction specialists has come up with an international standard for reporting CO2 emissions.

This universal standard sets out a methodology for professionals in the construction sector to calculate the amount of embodied and operational carbon their projects will create – whether they’re working on buildings, bridges, roads, railways or offshore structures.

The International Cost Management Standard, or ICMS 3, is a positive step forward and demonstrates the sector’s commitment to reducing emissions. It’s widely known that our sector accounts for approximately 40% of global carbon emissions each year in the construction of new buildings and infrastructure, so reducing our collective industry footprint is vital.

Forty-nine professional bodies, including the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), worked together to develop ICMS 3. As well as being a simple, easy-to-use method to report emissions created, it will also allow developers to alter their proposals – by selecting more sustainable materials or construction practices – so they can reduce their impact on the planet before construction begins.

The standard also aligns with the drive to reuse and retrofit old buildings rather than demolishing them, as it provides developers with data to inform their decision-making process.

As well as their role in developing ICMS 3, RICS has also worked in coalition with leading industry bodies in the UK (BBP, BRE, The Carbon Trust, CIBSE, IStructE, LETI, RIBA, and UKGBC), to develop the UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard. This provides a standard model to measure a building’s carbon footprint and verify it as net zero.

This is important work. As Alan Muse, Head of Construction Standards at RICS and ICMS lead, puts it: “If cement were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon in the world and so action to de-carbonise construction is required now.”

We’re already seeing changes at Super Structures Associates, as we work on more conversions involving converting office buildings to flats, and adding another one or two levels on top. Adapting the original building rather than resorting to demolition is something we’ll be seeing more and more, especially as planners are likely to be much stricter on the need to reuse.

Are you seeing changes in the work you’re doing too? Do reply and let me know. It would be good to hear from you.

And, as always, if you need assistance with the structural elements of an upcoming project, please get in touch.

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