Today one can build infrastructure that will last for hundreds, possibly even thousands of years. But if it is to benefit future generations it is crucial that it is planned, designed and constructed in a sustainable way. Tim Chapman, Director at Arup Infrastructure, UK, emphasizes the importance of being observant to the embodied carbon.
Tim Chapman says that it is important to put the capital carbon into context – in producing a new motorway, bridge or airport the embodied carbon is significant, but very small compared to the carbon expended in using the infrastructure over decades to come.
“You almost got the concept of having a good road and a bad road. Both of them have the same capital carbon but I would argue that, in case of the bad road, the long-term effects of actually producing it are much worse. The good road, on the other hand, can have benefits and a legacy that lasts for hundreds and thousands of years,” Tim Chapman says and continues:
“If you want to reduce carbon quickly as a big infrastructure owner, you obviously understand the operation of the infrastructure and you might try to do things on that side, but if you got a capital budget and you try to make a whole lot of changes very quickly on your capital program, you need to work out where your big ticket items are. For example a lot of the carbon tends to be in concrete or steel.”
Over the last few years the industry has understood that what makes a really big effect is the things that’s been done at a infrastructure level.
“Where we get our power from and if we all use cars or not can make a big difference. Power and transport are the keys to decarbonizing the whole country – not the individual choices people make in their own houses.”