Earth Day 2021

In alignment with Earth Day 2021, we’ve decided to look at how we can improve – as a business and industry – our carbon footprint and help worldwide goals in becoming Net Zero Carbon.

Carbon Neutral & Net Zero Carbon

In recent times there have been several buzzwords that are being used to set goals for reducing carbon footprint. Carbon Neutral and Net Zero Carbon are two important targets, but they hold key differences from one another.  

The term ‘Carbon Neutral’ can be defined as:

“Where an entity is not generating Carbon emissions from its energy and fuel consumption. For example, if the business offices are serviced using renewable energy, or that the Carbon emissions generated as a business are equal to emissions offset through carbon-absorbing projects such as sustainable reforestation.”

For a definition of Net Zero Carbon, we can look at the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi, 2019) who provide a great definition of Net Zero Carbon for corporates: 

“Achieving a state in which the activities within the value chain of a company result in no net impact on the climate from greenhouse gas emissions. ​This is achieved by reducing these greenhouse gas emissions, in line with 1.5°C pathways, and by balancing the impact of any remaining greenhouse gas emissions with an appropriate amount of carbon removals.”

This essentially means that for us to be Net Zero Carbon requires a collaborative effort with all of our supply chain, not just ourselves.

The reality of our industry

The issue with these aims is that they are incredibly hard to achieve. When working out exactly how much carbon emissions we contribute as a company, you have to consider the Embodied Carbon of materials used as well as the Operational Carbon. This can become particularly complicated when looking at the Mechanical and Electrical Package (MEP), as plant and services are made up of hundreds of components and involve many different suppliers and individual building designs.

The positive news is that there’s plenty of demand from the industry to be sustainable. Our next step as a business is to understand our own Carbon footprint, and simultaneously direct our resources to begin to gather Embodied Carbon data working closely with our supply chain. You can’t manage what you don’t measure and so at this point, we will be able to make educated decisions on fact, not on a wish.

Making progress

To develop realistic goals that are based on the facts, this year we are concentrating on building up an analysis of the Groups Carbon output. Using data from our Energy and Carbon monitoring records via the Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) – reporting since 2014/15 – and the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) – reporting since 2019/2020 – we can measure and analyse our energy consumption. We can use this as a basis to identify how much energy we use and can set realistic objectives for how we can achieve Carbon Neutral.

The bigger task, becoming Net Zero Carbon, requires a lot more background work. We are actively taking the next step to investigate the Embodied Carbon of the materials we use on projects, beginning with our ‘one element’ materials, such as our ductwork steel, our plastic, cast iron and copper pipework, our timber and our insulation range.

EN 15978 and eTool LCA Normal System Boundary

To achieve such an ambitious target, we are sending out Embodied Carbon Questionnaires. These request the scale of specific environmental impacts related to different stages of a product’s life cycle that can feed into a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), which is incorporated into an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). EPDs are incredibly useful when comparing the Embodied Carbon of several products or materials, however, this information is not readily available to the MEP sector, so our in-house Environmental Team will be calculating this information and building a database from the ground up.

The team will endeavour to work with the same software as our clients to ensure our data can translate, using One Click LCA software. This data will provide new criteria to help decide which materials are specified to use, which of our suppliers to procure from to help reduce the Carbon Emissions of our scope of works and enable interested parties to analyse how MEP works contribute to Carbon emissions. More importantly, this data will identify how together we can begin to make positive changes to this sector the industry. 

Want to get involved in Earth Day 2021? Click here to access the website where you can tune into Earth Day Live to learn more about what we can do to address earth’s urgent issues.