EA targets embedded carbon

13th June 2016

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  • Built environment


Andrew Shaw

The Environment Agency is aiming to reduce embedded carbon from its construction projects by 40% by 2020.

The goal is part of the regulator’s new internal environmental strategy, which focuses on the wider impacts of its operations, as well as building on work to reduce its direct use of energy and water, travel and resources. It has developed a tool to help its engineers consider carbon at the design stage of a project.

Simon Dawes, head of internal environmental management at the agency, gave the example of building an earth bank covered in grass instead of a concrete wall. But engineers would also have to factor in the impact of mowing the grass, the longevity of the project, its value for money and the effect on the local community. ‘There’s a massive range of things that get taken into account so it’s really good that we have put embedded carbon into that,’ Dawes said.

Other new targets include reducing the impact of its supply chain by 20% compared with 2014/15. The agency estimates that around 70% of its total impact comes from the goods and services it purchases.

The organisation mostly overachieved against its previous targets, according to an annual environmental statement for 2014–15, published in May. It cut its CO2 emissions by 40% between 2006 and 2015, against a target of 33%. Transport mileage was cut by 37% against a target of 25%, while it reduced use of mains water by 39% compared with a 25% goal. Total office waste was cut by 50% compared with a 20% target.

The agency did not achieve its target to divert all office waste from landfill, reaching 96%. ‘The challenge was where we were just tenants and the landlord was responsible for waste,’ said Dawes. Renegotiation of tenancy agreements would provide an opportunity to push for improvements, he added.

The agency and its contractors committed two serious incidents during 2014–15, the report said. These involved a reservoir being drained and the stranding of lamprey on a river bank.


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