Jacobs Engineering: decarbonizing construction in the UK

A recent review of the carbon associated with carrying out flood risk management programs showed that concrete accounts for more than half of the construction carbon footprint on Environment Agency projects. The research study conducted by Jacobs and his supply chain partners on behalf of the Environment Agency summarized the current carbon impacts of concrete and its use in the UK, investigated alternatives and provided recommendations to reduce the associated carbon footprint.

At the start of the study, although there was an industry-wide drive to reduce carbon emissions from concrete, there was no overarching strategy for the rapid and effective decarbonization of concrete. use of concrete. Individual organizations have set different targets and emission reductions are achieved through various initiatives. Our report is a compendium of industry-wide research and new products available in the UK with a focus on opportunities to reduce carbon in the use of concrete, steel reinforcement and other materials .

Results of our research and impact on the industry

Within the limits of current UK standards for traditional concrete mix components and experience in its use, research reports the possibility of reducing the carbon footprint through the increased use of secondary cementitious materials (SCMs) replacement in existing standard mixtures. Although this helps reduce carbon emissions, there are alternative products with much lower carbon impacts than traditional blends.

These new ultra-low concretes do not currently fall within the specification of BS8500 – the British standard for the specification and production of concrete, although work is underway to demonstrate adequate performance with a view to updating the standards soon. .

To help reduce the carbon associated with concrete, Jacobs has worked with the Environment Agency to develop a risk-based approach to adopting new, non-code-compliant concrete technologies into its assets, where appropriate. The report suggested barriers to the use of new technologies. He has also developed approaches for setting goals, design guidance, decision-making processes, specific guidance on risk management, broader engagement and creating an enabling environment for innovation. and change through engagement with the supply chain.

Working together, the Environment Agency, Jacobs and Agency supply chain partners are advancing the recommendations for implementation. The Environment Agency has set up a National Low Carbon Concrete Community of Practice to implement changes to the specification, oversee project-based testing to deepen knowledge on Non-code-conforming, ultra-low-emitting concrete and reinforcement alternatives, and liaising with suppliers. , academics and other important industry customers. The community of practice will also link to low-carbon initiatives with commercial bodies such as the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P), the Concrete Society and the Major Projects Authority to deepen knowledge and understanding of these new products. , help accelerate widespread adoption. and standardize them.

It’s great to see an industry-wide approach emerging through the Green Construction Board’s recently launched low-carbon concrete roadmap. The Routemap examines how the infrastructure industry can use the latest tools, technologies and materials to continue using concrete while working towards a zero-carbon future. It provides far-reaching recommendations for clients and industry in eight succinct parts, each forming a chapter of the full report.

The study won the UK Construction Industry Award for Carbon Net Zero Initiative of the Year.

Isabel M. Bourgeois