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The amount of carbon in our atmosphere, produced when carbon dioxide enters the air after a human activity, is negatively impacting our planet. Greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon are increasing the earth’s core temperature and causing global warming, resulting in problems such as mass devastation to crops, extreme weather events and disruption to animals.
In recent years, humans have started to gain more of an understanding of the impact carbon emissions have and the issue of sustainability is currently more important than ever within society.
It’s no secret that the environmental impact of the building sector is huge. In the past, few clients have been interested in constructing more sustainable buildings because of the huge cost involved. However, in recent years this has become more common, driven by increased media attention, government legislation and targets, companies’ moral obligation to become more ‘green’ and technological advances.
We spoke to Carlo Carenzo, Project Manager of Oakmont’s first ever net zero carbon target site at Verda Park in Wallingford, Oxfordshire. He discussed the importance of trying to reverse the damage that the construction sector has had on the planet by producing net zero carbon projects and schemes.
The construction sector now has a responsibility to calculate the carbon emissions produced when constructing a new building to indicate how much carbon needs to be offset back into the earth to achieve net zero carbon targets.
Carlo explained the 3 key stages where carbon has been monitored and impacted during the construction and design process of Verda Park.
Phase 1- Design
The selection of materials used has been significantly reduced as well as the quantity of concrete used in the site’s foundations. Materials such as concrete have a high embodied carbon content which is emitted during the extraction, mining, transportation, fabrication, and installation process of a material and are one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions. Instead, the site has used specialised ground solutions to give a stronger baring pressure that produces much shallower foundations.
The buildings design to be south facing and the positioning of windows has also been considered to allow as much light and heat in as possible to reduce the need for mechanical heating and lighting.
Phase 2: Construction
The reduction of fuel and the transportation process itself is one of the most important factors when looking at how we can reduce our carbon emissions. At Verda Park, all members of staff are encouraged to car share where possible. When arriving on site, staff and deliveries are required to sign in and record their mileage to help calculate how many emissions are produced when travelling to the site.
All materials are sourced locally from within Wallingford or Oxfordshire and materials that must come from abroad such as steel are sourced from mainland European countries.
On site, two generators are used to power Verda Park. These two generators operate using a hybrid system and their size means they use significantly less fuel. The site also has eco friendly cabins fitted with PAR light censors and taps with push buttons rather than handles to save unnecessary use of electricity and water.
Materials are stored safely on site to reduce risk of them being damaged or stolen which could result in items having to be re-ordered and transported all over again.
Finally, the rise in renewable technologies has made reaching net zero carbon targets a lot easier. Verda Park have installed photovoltaic panels on every roof which work to convert the sun’s energy into electricity and use air source heat pumps to absorb the heat from the outside air to heat the building and produce hot water.
Phase 3: Operational use
The final stage looks at a buildings operational use once it has been handed over to the client. Generally, a buildings fuel and power consumption and the U value of the building’s materials, which is reduced as much as possible during the design and construction process is observed.
So, what is the future for net zero carbon sustainability?
Hopefully, with further legislation, education and development, net zero carbon constructions will become the norm. Recently, energy assessments when gaining planning permission have been introduced to ensure buildings that are being constructed are as sustainable as possible. These assessments look at a buildings design and observe for any unnecessary use of power and fuel.
It’s the introduction of simple regulations such as these that are helping to make a difference to the way that the construction sector operates and will ultimately contribute towards reducing carbon and saving our planet.Back to all blog posts