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Decarbonising communities in the West Midlands

Dave Kelly

Author: Dave Kelly, Framework Manager, Morgan Sindall Construction

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges that  society has ever faced.  In our latest blog, David Kelly from CWM contractor Morgan Sindall talks about the innovative tools and strategies they are developing to help decarbonise the communities in which we live and work.

Climate change is one of the greatest environmental challenges that society has ever faced. It is beyond time for everyone to get involved, own the challenges required, raise our voices and build back a better planet for everyone and everything that lives here now, and for the generations to come.

Now more than ever, we are confronted by the fragility of life, and during COP26, it has been highlighted even further that we must take even more action.

Thousands of species are already extinct, temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting, and carbon emissions are increasing.

I’m sure everyone in our industry is aware of the UK Green Building Council’s report that states 25% of the UK’s total carbon footprint is from the built environment.

Whilst this figure is stark, it does mean our industry has a real opportunity to make significant change in the fight against the climate emergency.

We must go further

At Morgan Sindall Construction, we have been tracking our performance and since 2016, through our Science Based Targets we have been reducing our Scope 3 emissions. In 2020 we were awarded an A rating from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and are one of the few companies to achieve this globally.

But, we must go further.

In March 2021, we committed to achieving Net Zero for our own operation by 2030 at the latest, and we’re working rapidly towards a climate positive position. In order to translate our strong Group position to enhance the communities in which we all live, learn, work, play, care and protect, we have created ‘Decarbonising Communities.

Decarbonising Communities is fundamentally about leaving a climate positive impact on the environment. IT is our strategy that is focused on reducing asset-related embodies and operation carbon, and crucially empowering the people involved in every aspect of our operations, in order to leave a positive impact on the world around us.

The intelligent carbon calculator

One of the most exciting and tangible parts of the strategy is CarboniCa – an innovative carbon calculation tool that allows project teams to work with customers to estimate, manage and reduce whole life carbon emissions through the design, construction and entire lifecycle of an asset.

The easy-to-use tool has been externally validated by Arup to the RICS assessment methodology and is aligned to the UK Green Building Council framework for net zero buildings, and the aims of the Construction Playbook.

“It is amongst the most sophisticated and complete tools that I have seen, which nicely balances complexity and simplicity for most use cases” Terry Ellis, Senior Consultant, Arup

CarboniCa is now deployed on around half of Morgan Sindall Construction projects across the UK, but it started life being pioneered on a Constructing West Midlands Framework scheme.

The concept version of the tool was trialled on our Rockwood Academy project – a CWM scheme that saw the creation of an inspiring new learning environment at a school in the heart of Birmingham.

This helped capture real-life data relating to the Rockwood Scheme, using the process to identify areas for improvement ready for fine tuning and formal adoption of the tool across the UK.

“Trialling CarboniCa was a critical part of the development process, and we needed to pioneer it on significant projects, with experienced teams, so we could not only monitor its performance, but really drive out areas for improvement and opportunity. The Rockwood Academy job certainly helped us do that to great effect and it was a vital steppingstone towards its full adoption today.” Tim Clement, Head of Carbon, Morgan Sindall Construction

Helping customers achieve low carbon

CarboniCa enables our customers to achieve their low carbon aspirations.

Firstly, it provides reliable data about the carbon footprint of the project, supported by the most recent industry standards. This allows our customers to make informed decisions based on meaningful, transparent data, even as early as Concept Design stage.

Secondly, by automatically providing targeted project-specific design and procurement recommendations, CarboniCa challenges business as usual to deliver better carbon outcomes.

Thirdly, CarboniCa was not developed in isolation. It represents an integrated approach with our Social Value and Whole Life Cost methodologies, and is currently being transformed into a web app with future BIM interoperability built in.

And finally, the data is geared towards project-specific information provided by our supply chain, ensuring stakeholders throughout the value chain are engaged, and that any carbon reduction claims will be robust.

An infinite journey

The principles of Decarbonising Communities will genuinely make a real difference, but this journey has only just begun, and it is definitely an infinite one – a cause close to our hearts, because now, more than ever, we are being entrusted to pass on a healthy, happy and sustainable planet for generations to come.

The future is in our hands, and together we have the power to change it for the better.

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