London 2012, carbon and a tale of two roofs

27 July 2010
Today is a big day for the London Olympics programme - two years exactly to the opening ceremony. Having just finished a nerve-wracking interview for BBC Radio 5 Live it is interesting to reflect on the challenge posed by the Olympics to the construction industry. The fine efforts of the London 2012 team will reduce the carbon footprint from a predicted 3.4 million tonnes to 1.9 million tonnes. This is an achievement that we should all take lessons from. Around 67 per cent of this carbon footprint is in the manufacture of building materials (mostly from metal) and there is currently no best practice in managing this well. This is illustrated by “a tale of two roofs” on the Olympic Park, on top of the aquatic centre and velodrome respectively. Two buildings of roughly the same size and similar purpose and both will achieve BREEAM Excellent ratings, yet the aquatic centre has three times the embodied carbon footprint of the velodrome. What can we learn from this? I had the great pleasure of meeting Paul Morrell, the government’s chief construction adviser, last week to discuss this. His Low Carbon Innovation and Growth Team (IGT) is looking at the size of this challenge. I plan to meet him again in September and will update you through these pages. Construction clients and their first-tier contractors will see many changes in the near future for which most are grossly under-prepared. Help is at hand for purchasers with the publication of a comprehensive guide to sustainable procurement in construction by the Construction Industry Research Association. This is due in autumn 2010 and will help prepare purchasers for the challenges ahead. * Shaun McCarthy is director at Action Sustainability and chair of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012
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