Green my cabin: site offices key to cutting carbon emissions

Temporary cabins are identified as one of the top sources of carbon emissions and wasted energy on construction sites. They are often poorly insulated and lack the controls for heating, lighting and electricity use that are increasingly found in permanent buildings.

Cabins also represent one of the biggest opportunities for contractors to cut their costs as well as their carbon emissions. The plan estimates that £45m and 200,000 tonnes of CO2 could be saved each year by using modern “green” site offices that can cut carbon emissions and energy use by 50%, or by retrofitting existing cabins to be more energy efficient.

Over their lifetime, energy efficient cabins alone could reduce emissions by five million tonnes, the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road for a year.

Paul Toyne, Chairman of the Carbon Subgroup of the Strategic Forum for Construction, said:

“This project has seen collaboration on an unprecedented level within the industry to address the issue of carbon emissions from construction sites. The work we have done to date has set out the scale of the task and the actions that need to be taken. The challenge for us now is to deliver it.  While many individual companies are already taking significant steps to reduce their own emissions, this plan provides the blueprint for a pan-industry approach which will enable rapid progress on reducing energy consumption while maintaining business performance.”

David Vincent, Director of Projects at the Carbon Trust, said:

“It has been an enlightening process to identify the biggest opportunities for construction firms to cut their carbon emissions along with their fuel and energy costs. As much as 25% of the carbon reduction target can be achieved, and tens of millions of pounds saved, by putting an end to the wasted heat and lighting from thousands of site offices across the country.

“We look forward to working with the Strategic Forum for Construction and industry leaders to implement this plan over the next two years.”

The action plan from the Strategic Forum for Construction and the Carbon Trust also sets out several additional actions the construction industry needs to take in order to achieve its 15% reduction target with two years. These include:

More fuel efficient driving for freight, waste transport and business travel, and using more fuel efficient fleet vehicles: predicted saving of £90m and 270,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Using construction plant efficiently. This includes educating site staff on the fuel efficient use of equipment, collecting and analysing energy data from on site equipment, and  enabling all mobile plant to turn off automatically when not being used: predicted saving of £19m and 84,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Connecting construction sites to the national grid earlier to minimise the use of diesel powered generators: predicted saving of £7m and 45,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Improving energy efficiency in corporate offices: predicted saving of £4m and 28,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Paul Morrell, Chief Construction Adviser, said:

“We cannot simply say that the weight of responsibility for action on carbon reduction lies elsewhere. The scale of the contribution required from the industry creates not just the opportunity but almost the obligation to show leadership; and this initiative from the Strategic Forum for Construction is precisely the kind of act of leadership we need.  If we are to demonstrate that the construction industry is indeed fit for purpose to deliver the remodelled built environment that a low carbon future demands, then we start by putting out own house in order in this way.”

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