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New research holds potential for step change in carbon management of infrastructure projects

New research holds potential for step change in carbon management of infrastructure projects


5 November 2019

Today the Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Tool (CITT) Project releases its report on research conducted and launches the next stage of development for a tool that could help deliver a step change in carbon management on infrastructure projects.

The project is a collaboration between industry and academia, with research being carried out by the University of Edinburgh Business School and smart infrastructure solutions company, Costain and funded by the Construction Climate Challenge (CCC), hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment.

Findings from the report will be important for clients, design teams, estimators and contractors in specifying, measuring, and reporting carbon reductions. The results of the research will also help developers of carbon calculation tools identify areas for future development, and understand the wider sectoral context for maximising the effectiveness of tools.

The CITT solution that is a specific result of the research, provides a more detailed assessment of the carbon impact of a project at the resource level compared to many tools in the market, simplifying the carbon assessment and intervention processes for all parties involved. The CITT measures the embodied carbon emissions of infrastructure projects, i.e. the emissions associated with producing the materials used, by integrating emissions data with outputs from estimators, planners and Building Information Modelling (BIM) technicians.

While there are several carbon management tools available to industry, few integrate with contractors’ costing and planning processes. The consequence is that assessments are either too high level for any reliable insight or lead to increased labour costs for data input. The intention with the CITT solution is that no additional time is taken to identify the “hot-spots” of a project, delivering a step change in carbon management on infrastructure projects.

Integration of data from the schedule of activities allows for carbon impacts to be tracked and managed on a monthly basis in the same way that cost is, significantly reducing reporting time during project delivery. Linking carbon to cost allows for a quick assessment of commercial benefits linked to low carbon interventions, leading to quick and easy engagement with suppliers and decision making on the adoption of low carbon options.

The tool has been successfully trialled and tested on a number of infrastructure projects in the UK. For example, on the Thames Tideway project, a 25km tunnel or ‘super sewer’ under the River Thames, utilising the CITT provided an appreciation of the scope 1, 2 & 3 carbon sources. This project provided the initial discussions highlighting the need to develop tools which are user friendly and can measure carbon in more detail.

Dr Matthew Brander, senior lecturer in carbon accounting at University of Edinburgh Business School said: “Increasing sustainability is a vital consideration for the future of the construction sector. The CITT project points the way to an industry-wide movement that has the capacity to develop a more impactful, efficient, and cost effective way of reducing carbon output within infrastructure projects, as well as establishing a standardised carbon library for the industry.” 

Tim Embley, Group research & innovation director at Costain Group: “The comprehensive research conducted to develop the tool so far, and the subsequent recommendations, demonstrates Costain’s commitment to accelerating the UK’s journey towards net zero carbon. Next steps in bringing industry closer together will be key to realising the benefits that will enable smarter, low carbon delivery of major projects.”

At a carbon and innovation conference today, hosted by the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P), CITT will be sharing insights from the report to circa. 100 clients. Through understanding current policies and outlining industry achievements and areas for development, the project will be at the forefront of sector collaboration to deliver net carbon zero outcomes.

A copy of the executive summary report for the Carbon Infrastructure Transformation Tool (CITT) Project can be found here.


Notes to editors

The Centre for Business and Climate Change at the University of Edinburgh’s Business School provides academic expertise to understand how climate change creates risks and opportunities for business, and how businesses can play a vital role in mitigating and adapting to climate change. We do this through interlinking world-leading academic research, high-level corporate and policy engagement, and specialised teaching programmes. For more information please visit: https://cbcc.business-school.ed.ac.uk/

The Construction Climate Challenge (CCC) is an initiative hosted by Volvo Construction Equipment to promote sustainability throughout the entire construction industry value chain and provide funding for environmental research. The Construction Climate Challenge is a part of the Volvo CE commitment to WWF’s Climate Savers Program. Volvo Construction Equipment is a Corporate Advisory Board member of the World Green Building Council. For more information about the Construction Climate Challenge, please visit www.constructionclimatechallenge.com