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If We Really Care About Net Zero, We Must Consider Every Angle

There are all sorts of ways that organisations and technologies can claim to be contributing to net carbon zero goals. Isolated actions may have some impact but in the field of construction there are interconnected factors that have to be considered if you want to see the full picture.

That’s why we talk about a three-pronged approach to net zero through MMC. This incorporates embodied, operational and avoidable carbon.

These strands must converge in order to produce comprehensive solutions.

Embodied

Embodied carbon is the obvious place to start. This can have an enormous impact in construction projects and is irreversible. Emissions generated by extracting, processing and transporting construction materials are considerable. The fabric-first approach of MMC prioritises materials with the lowest levels of embodied carbon. It prefers structural timber, which removes CO2 from the atmosphere, to concrete and steel which have high levels of embodied carbon.

Operational

A building made from materials with super-low levels of embodied carbon is of limited value if it’s poorly insulated and consumes large amounts of energy for heating, ventilation or lighting. Design and manufacturing methods must work together to make the most of natural light and ventilation and to produce structures where high levels of thermal insulation are guaranteed.

Avoidable

Waste remains a major issue for the construction sector. The industry is the UK’s largest consumer of natural resources. In 2016, the UK produced over 60m tonnes of construction and demolition waste. The volume of materials that are produced, shipped to sites and then unused because they are over ordered, damaged or cut to size is too high. This is exacerbated by buildings that are uneconomic to dismantle and recycle at the end of their life.

Building projects that use panelised offsite methods take a convergent approach to embodied, operational and avoidable carbon. SIPs use structural timber, which sequesters carbon, and precise manufacturing and integral thermal insulation to control operational emissions. The minimal waste generated never leaves the factory and is readily recycled.

If you’d like to find out more about how MMC helps to deliver zero carbon and greater sustainability, Innovaré is running free online CPD sessions.

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