Monday, July 24, 2023

Upfront carbon

In refusing permission for the redevelopment of the M&S Oxford Street store against the recommendation of his inspector,Michael Gove the Secretary of State for DLUHC relied on the unacceptable level of upfront carbon emissions. This is the sensible term applied to embodied emissions that occur in the short term before the relatively low emissions from and energy efficient replacement building kick in. I particularly like the evidence given by Susan Barfield who "... highlighted that the IPCC told us in 2018 that we have 12 years to avoid a catastrophe, and we see growing evidence all around the world that it is happening – with floods, droughts, fires and melting ice caps. Instead of acting as if there is an emergency, by proposing to throw a huge carbon bomb unnecessarily into the atmosphere, the scheme misunderstands the urgency of our situation. What the science tells us is that what we do in the next 8 years is critical. The brief here was clearly to maximise the site’s potential and the architects have fulfilled their brief well – creating a building minimising operational carbon that 5-8 years ago would have been considered fine. However, now that we understand the upfront impact of embodied carbon it really isn’t. Particularly building two extra basements! They are the worst in terms of embodied carbon.” This decision should make it hard to justify building 300,000 houses every year instead of devising ways to use the under-used space in the existing housing stock. The use of unwanted retail space in town centres as being proposed by the PM would be a step in the right direction but is very unlikely to be sufficient. Sub-dividing some of just a small proportion of the 28m existing dwellings would meet genuine housing needs, including an element of custom-splitting (see numerous previous blog posts).

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