UKCG Environmental Training Standard

The UKCG Environmental Training Standard  was published in July 2015, and recognises the leadership role that UK Contractors Group member companies play in driving best practice within the construction sector. It sets down the minimum training expected for individuals to undertake their roles on member’s sites to be able to demonstrate their competency through formal environmental training, including the CITB SEATS course.

This document sets down the standard of environmental training applicable to those who manage, supervise or undertake construction related activities as follows:

Site Managers (including those employed by supply chains):

  1. CITB SEATS+ Course (SEATS plus additional management modules); or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of TWO DAYS, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Supervisors (including those employed by supply chains)

  1.  CITB SEATS Course; or
  2. A comparable external course approved by the UKCG Environmental Training Task Group; or
  3. An internally developed course that can demonstrate training outcomes comparable to 1 and 2 above.

The training must last a minimum of ONE DAY, include a form of assessment, and a completion certificate. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals not exceeding five years.

Site Operatives (including those employed by supply chains)

A relevant competency scheme card including the CITB Health Safety & Environment Test where required, and renewed as necessary.

Note – in July 2015, the UKCG and NSCC (National Specialist Contractor’s Council) merged to form Build UK. A list of the members of the new body can be found here

Energy Targets for Buildings

Derbys Eco-Centre 600With the UK Government’s decision to scrap Zero Carbon energy targets for new buildings comes the opportunity to consider better and more practical targets to minimise energy use in the near (25 years) future.

The problem with the Zero Carbon energy target was that it addressed only one form of building energy use (Operational) whilst ignoring Embodied energy – the energy used to manufacture the materials for the buildings that would use the operational energy. If this was relatively small, this really wouldn’t be a problem, but for a modern building constructed of conventional building materials (steel, concrete, masonry, timber), this can be the equivalent to 30 years or more of operational carbon – carbon emitted before the building is even occupied. And this is only the “Initial” embodied carbon – the carbon used to first construct the building; to this must be added the “Recurring” embodied carbon – the carbon required to maintain and refurbish the building over its lifecycle and maintain its’ fitness for purpose and use.

This “recurring” carbon can be relatively minor but frequent – cleaning, for example, or more significant but less frequent – replacement of carpets & finishes or redecoration. However, at some point of the building’s life, a major refurbishment may be take place, for example replacement of the building’s roof or walls – a significant future expenditure of carbon. Or repurposing to make the building suitable for a different use.

Is there a better alternative? Yes, there is – to give all new buildings a “Carbon Budget” for the next 25 years based on total energy use: Initial Embodied (IE) + Operational (O) + Recurring Embodied (RE). For commercial buildings, this could be “functional” for example “Per square metre of internal floor area”, whilst for domestic this could be performance based “Per occupant” (based on say design bedroom occupancy). However it’s measured, the impact would be the same. It wouldn’t matter whether the design was simple (low IE) but with higher operational (O) emissions, or complex (high IE / RE) with low “O” – after 25 years, the total carbon emissions would be exactly the same.

And if you want to improve the performance of buildings year by year, simply reduce their Carbon Budget.

(I’ve written about this topic before – you can read my 2011 article on this here)

Minimising the carbon impact of concrete

We often villify “concrete” with the same high-carbon credential as “cement”, but concrete is a composite of a number of different materials, many of which are commonly used for other purposes in construction and of comparatively low embodied carbon. The way we put these materials together defines the carbon impact of the concrete we use. Useful guidance on the embodied carbon of the commoner concrete components can be found in the Mineral Products Association Factsheet 18, from which the following list is drawn:

  • Cement (OPC Cem I): 913 kgCO2e/tonne
  • Limestone fines: 75 kgCO2e/tonne
  • Ground granular blastfurnace slag (GGBS): 67 kgCO2e/tonne
  • Coarse natural aggregates: 5 kgCO2e/tonne
  • Fine natural aggregates: 5 kgCO2e/tonneConcrete carbon
  • Pulverised fuel ash (PFA) or flyash: 4 kgCO2e/tonne

Designing concrete mixes carefully to minimise the quantity of cement used by replacing part of it by other pozzalanic materials such as GGBS and PFA can have a significant effect on the overall embodied carbon of the mix, typically by 30% or more. This can be seen by reference to the MPA’s Sustainable Concrete Forum’s publication on the embodied CO2e of concretes used in building, from which the data in the table above right has been abstracted (Units: kgCO2e/m3 of concrete). Combined with careful structural design to optimise the volumes of concrete used, careful mix specification can have a dramatic effect on the overall embodied carbon whenever concrete is used.