It highlights the need for an agreed standard
However, before any national framework or policy can be put in place, there needs to be an agreed methodology – and clearer transparency across the industry – regarding the calculating and reporting of carbon emissions.
Without this, policy makers and developers will continue to be at a loss as to whose method is verified and accurate. For example, while the RICS standard method calculates that carbon that is stored in the building during construction is re-emitted during its ‘end of life’ phase, other methods often omit different stages of the whole life cycle.
The variation in methodology means that different calculators will arrive at different results. But it is these calculations that are integral to the embodied carbon versus operational carbon debate, which played such an important role in the M&S case.
One of M&S’ main arguments for demolishing the building was that the reduction of operational carbon emissions, emitted in their new development, would eventually outweigh the embodied carbon created in its demolition – they calculated 11 years as the time it would take to achieve carbon payback. But SAVE Britain’s Heritage disputed these calculations, arguing that the demolition would release 40,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
It’s unclear how either party arrived at these calculations but it’s a valid and important argument that has to be factored into the debate. If similar cases are brought under review in the future, the industry needs to get much better at doing these sorts of calculations. Once we have an industry-agreed methodology based on quality, verified data, amounts of embodied carbon and carbon payback will be easier to calculate and prove.