Category Archives: Climate Change

BLOG: Environmental Impact of Construction

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Construction uses vast quantities of cement, steel, copper, plastics, and the actual process of construction itself produces significant CO2.

From 2020 – 2030 embodied carbon in buildings contributes more than normal operating emissions

Rather than build new one method to reduce impact is for an increasing adaptation of existing built infrastructure; though this is not easy as design requirements are often very specific: think of Victorian Terraces, or post-war tower blocks, or Olympic Swimming Pools, or Coal Fired Power Stations for example, Plus, adaptation can be complicated, costly and impactful. It’s not a panacea.

Slipform technique of casting concrete is quick and efficient, but emissions as a result are high. Also concrete buildings are harder to adapt and demolish.

Another green idea is to drastically reduce the use of steel and concrete and instead go back to timber (or other more sustainable materials), but there are downsides, one being increased fire risk. And timber has to be responsibly sourced. Modern day timber is poor quality kiln dried unsuited for UK and other wet climates, so the tendency is to source robust timbers like Western Red Cedar globally which can be harmful and outweigh the benefits.

The Construction industry itself talks about reducing impacts through greater efficiency, systemisation, or just-in-time delivery of materials. But we must be sceptical this is enough! Increased efficiency brings about more construction not greener buildings. It’s becoming increasingly easy to build large and large is where the biggest impacts are. For the future . . maybe there will be a contribution to green construction through the use of 3D printing and robotics? But can technology get us out of the technology fix we’re currently in ?

We should be building out of low-carbon materials at higher densities. for example here is a four-storey multi-family building, which could be built out of materials that store carbon rather than emit it – straw, wood, linoleum, cedar.

Hempcrete is a green building material attracting a lot of interest.

Construction impacts on climate are a big problem. Global growth craves bigger and faster construction. We see this everywhere. To mitigate there must be a greater emphasis in construction-related education / training about green aspects (like the Endeavour Sustainable Building School featured in the tree hugger LINK), not simply reducing operating impacts, but the upfront emissions, and also decommissioning impacts. And construction clients need to be better educated. Clients tend to be the ultimate short termers . . fixed on today’s needs not tomorrow’s.

Depending on specified materials the same building can have widely different emissions.

And fundamentally it all comes down to the way we live and use global resources. What we’re prepared to give up. It’s not pain free.

The Eco Sutton website features greener case examples. But these are more about reduced operating impacts for sure. The Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment method (or BREEAM) and other environmental assessment tools do include credits for upfront impacts but overall are skewed more towards in-use impacts.

In fact, assessment tools are likely to be compromised as they sit within the existing industry which inevitably is heavily pragmatic and profit based.

LINK about ways buildings can be carbon sinks instead of carbon sources:

CREDIT: featured diagrams are taken from the Treehugger Article with thanks.

The term Carbon Use Intensity (CUI): represents a mix of Upfront Carbon Emissions plus (energy use intensity x energy source emissions) = CUI


Implementing the Paris Agreement

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Eco Sutton is working with the new Town Council to devise a Sustainability Agenda.

And it will be talking to Andrew Mitchell MP on how local implementation of the government’s carbon reduction strategy can be initiated locally by encouraging citizens to plan reductions that fit this town.

Report of Public Meeting – Speak Up Campaign

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This was a well-attended meeting, with both new people and people who had been to our meetings before.
The intention of the meeting was to collect citizen opinions on the way to

  1.  arouse interest in the town councillors on the topic of Sutton being a town devoted to sustainability
  2.  discover the priority topics to raise with Andrew Mitchell MP at a meeting fixed with him on Nov 18th.

He had been invited to the public meeting, because it was being held in the week of action called by Christian Aid and the Climate Coalition; however he did not have a space in his diary.
The meeting split into discussion groups on such topic areas as: town planning, communication & education, an ideas powerhouse, transport & air quality, the contribution of technology and the local economy.
There was a lot of support for encouraging the use of electric cars, the provision of charging points in the town and promotion of charging-point manufacture in the West Mids. This chimed in with the wish to improve air quality in our roads; and to conduct a research project to measure local air quality; and then pass the data on to the city’s working party.

Eco Sutton

Eco Sutton – for a Greener Future

Public Meeting Thurs Oct 13th for Climate Week of Action

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Eco Sutton is teaming up with Eco Maney (the St Peter’s Environment Group) to organise a meeting during the week of action called by Christian Aid, who are a member of the Climate Coalition.

There will be two aims to the meeting. The Climate Coalition have asked us to lobby our MP: to urge the government to ratify last year’s Paris Agreement; and to publish their carbon reduction plan. So we will be collecting messages from the meeting to pass to Andrew Mitchell on November 11th [he was invited for Oct 13th, but is busy that week; and offered us a date to see him at his office]. Secondly we will be continuing to build ideas about how Sutton Coldfield can become a Sustainable Town.

We have started to talk to our new Town Council about sustainability; and now wish to propose that they work towards having a Sustainability Charter, on the lines implemented by the Welsh Government.

UK politics and our MPs seem to be giving only a little attention to climate change policies at present, because other topics have monopolised the media headlines. So it is vitally important that we, who are committed to carbon reduction and saving the planet as habitable home, come out in numbers and show that we have not forgotten the need for UK to lead by example and ratify this agreement. So far the countries ratifying have been small and seriously threatened by the effects of climate change. The major economies and large polluters have so far hung back. We can do our bit to change this. John Heywood.