Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Knowle: old bricks vs new build: embodied carbon: letter

This was sent today to the District Council Leader, all District Councillors, the CEO and Deputy CEO:

Dear Leader,
Dear Members,
Dear Chief Executive Officer,
Dear Deputy CEO,

16th July 2013

It struck many that the pictogram published to illustrate the EDDC’s “Office Accommodation Knowle Energy Use and Maintenance Cost Analysis Report” from Davis Langton did not reflect the environmental impact of constructing a new building.

Much is made in this report of the energy efficiencies gained from moving into a leaner set of offices, which would ‘fit the purpose’ of a modern council.

But what is missing is an understanding that to build a completely new headquarters for EDDC would be counter-productive:
“Large-scale and accelerated demolition would neither help with meeting energy and climate change targets, nor would it address social needs. Refurbishment offers clear advantages in time, cost, community impact, prevention of building sprawl, reuse of existing infrastructure and protection of existing communities.”

Moreover, it is clear that any new-build on this scale will produce thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions:
“Until now, focus has been almost entirely on the carbon emissions resulting from using homes, but clearly the balance between those operational carbon emissions and emissions from producing and installing the materials – the embodied carbon – needs to be considered.”

I have attempted to make a very rough calculation of how much CO2 would be produced should EDDC commission a new-build based on 3,352m2. However, as EDDC will not reveal detailed information on the grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’, I have simply taken an average from the on-line software available at: http://eco2.phlorum.com/calculator/save

The attached pictogram attempts to show this in diagram form.

However, the ‘number-crunching’ is not so much the point. Rather, it is the principle that new-build creates between 3 and 10 times more carbon emissions than renovation. Innumerable studies not only prove this but support the common-sense notion that throwing literally tonnes of new resources at a building project will produce much more CO2 than intelligent retrofitting.

EDDC will be making a formal decision on its relocation project at Cabinet and in full Council.

I would urge you, therefore, to consider the cheaper option of simply selling off the former Victorian hotel for housing (valued by local estate agents at between £3m and £4m) and making use of the funds for much-needed upgrading of facilities in the 1970s block – thereby bringing the EDDC HQ up to scratch.

It is now clear that this option would be cheaper in terms both of overall carbon emissions and of actual funds spent.

I would urge you, again to consider these alternatives in your deliberations these coming days.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

Jeremy Woodward,
Sidmouth resident


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