The goal of net zero-carbon buildings is gaining momentum in the construction industry. In April, the UK Government updated its commitment to cutting emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. With building and construction accounting for 39 per cent of all carbon emissions globally, the industry has an imperative to rapidly reduce operational and embodied carbon while following best practice climate science.
Sustainability should be on an equal footing with other construction success factors, including quality, safety, time, and cost. What, then, is the role of the Project Manager in this process, and how can they advise and support clients in choosing the most effective carbon solution technology?
Increasingly, clients have new, evolving priorities focused on sustainability, and consultancies are well placed to advise on these efforts. Recognising the important role of its business in helping to decarbonise the built environment, AECOM has introduced a new approach called ScopeX™.
A first-of-its-kind initiative to reduce carbon through design that considers embodied and operational carbon across the entire project lifecycle, the ScopeX™ approach considers materials, site locations, logistics, and construction methods to reduce and eliminate the impact of projects on the natural environment.
AECOM identifies the effective sourcing and calculation of project-specific carbon data as key, enabling clients to make low emissions, resilient design choices. Project Managers have a vital role to play in this process. They must act as a facilitator when building material choices are being made. Selection will need to balance cost, architectural considerations, resiliency, and future legislative factors. Careful material choice should consider type, source, manufacture, and transportation balanced against the building type.
"With building and construction accounting for 39 per cent of all carbon emissions globally, the industry has an imperative to rapidly reduce operational and embodied carbon while following best practice climate science."
A key aspect of ScopeX™ is AECOM’s embodied carbon optioneering tool that assists its Project Managers in making these types of design decisions. The tool generates superstructure comparative carbon and cost analysis based on inputting key parameter data, including gross internal area, number of storeys, building typology, and façade type. The inclusion of postcode data allows the tool to incorporate extensive ground engineering information specific to site location.
The tool is intended for use during RIBA Stage 1 and 2, but the company is also developing an interface between its cost planning software and carbon databases to automate the production of combined carbon and cost plans during RIBA Stage 3 and 4. This will ensure carbon remains at the top of the agenda and that the design evolves in line with the carbon aspirations of the initial brief.
It is the Project Manager’s role to ensure the team interrogates the sustainability of materials with regards to the circular economy, when waste is reduced through the ongoing re-use and recycling of materials. The Project Manager should also encourage the design team to factor in reducing operational carbon in buildings, including specifying more efficient components and transitioning to renewable electricity sources such as solar and wind power.
Agreeing to the expectations and definition of success at the outset of a project enables the Project Manager to take control of the process, with close communication across a multidiscipline team helping to ensure these aims are met.