C-Probe System’s Response to the UK Government’s Actions Towards Embodied Carbon
The UK Government have recently announced that their upcoming building strategy will look more closely at the issue of embodied carbon within buildings. Embodied carbon is built into the fabric of the structure, as it is the CO2 emitted in producing the materials. It’s estimated from the energy used to extract and transport raw materials as well as emissions from manufacturing processes. Embodied carbon emissions are calculated from the birth of the structure, but also the end of its life when it is deconstructed and disposed of. This poses a huge issue and contributes heavily to the current climate emergency, as buildings are currently ‘responsible for 45% of total carbon emissions and 32% of all landfill waste comes from their construction and demolition, which causes mass amounts of embodied carbon to be released into the atmosphere.
Lord Deben of the government’s advisory climate change committee has reacted to the issue of embodied carbon, stating:
“We need to think differently. It’s not acceptable to pull buildings down like this. We must learn to make do and mend. We are simply not going to win the battle against climate change unless we fight on every front.”
Repairing and preserving existing building stock is key to retaining embodied carbon in buildings. The Architect’s Journal has recently calculated that that the difference between expanding the old buildings and replacing them amounts to 19,180 tonnes of CO2 – that’s the equivalent of 4,171 passenger cars driven for a year.
Even though this notion has come to light recently, back in 2007 the phrase ‘The Greenest Building is… One that is Already Built’ was coined by Carl Elefante, former president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). This statement has more impact now than ever, as it is evident that focusing on the UK’s ageing building stock needs to take priority. It is common knowledge that ageing buildings degrade over time; however, the issue of structural corrosion and its impact is not highlighted enough. The country’s economic state is also heavily impacted by this – in the 1970s and 1990s the governments of the day commissioned TP Hoar to provide reports on the cost of corrosion that, in both time moments, gave the figure of 3-4% of GDP as the cost to the economy. The lack of adoption of innovation and technology has meant that this figure has not changed in present day. Currently the 23% of the UK’s building stock pre-dates 1919, alongside 500,000 listed buildings in this country and 7,000 conservation areas so the need for change to tackle corrosion issues is significant.
For the 25 years that C-Probe Systems have been established, mitigating corrosion to retain embodied carbon and preserve buildings has been engrained into our business. The development of our low carbon AACM LoCem®, which acts as both a repair material and anode, allows us to create whole life systems that can be retrofitted into buildings to repair and prevent future structural corrosion through cathodic protection. These systems can then be monitored and managed remotely by their open network system to provide service life tracking to provide sustainable resilience, meaning it’s service life can be extended by at least another 50 years.
We were recently acknowledge by the Leeds Sustainability Institute’s RISE Awards 2021, hosted by The Sustainability Institute at Leeds Beckett’s University for our efforts and technology. C-Probe were overall winners in the following categories:
- Design, Innovation and Creativity – Achille Interactive Management Server (AiMS)
- Heritage Award for Restoration – Low carbon geopolymer bed joint anode (LoCem® & +point®)
The Heritage Award for Restoration demonstrates how effective our technology is at restoring ageing structures and retaining embodied carbon. The project took place at the former Terry’s Chocolate Factory in York, UK. The near 100-year-old building was facing severe structural corrosion due to the ingress of moisture and water and was increasingly getting worse. Using LoCem ® and +point ® anode mortar meant this building was repaired and protected through cathodic protection, meaning the internal steel could not corrode ever again. The embodied carbon of the building, that would have otherwise been demolished, was successfully retained, and resulted in high value residential apartments. To this day, the structure is controlled, and service life tracking is provided through AchillesICP open network system and AiMS online server for online asset data.
The recognition from the RISE Awards for both our innovation and sustainable practices is a great achievement, whilst also demonstrating real life application of our services and products. As previously said, retaining embodied carbon is something engrained into our business and is only now being highlighted as an important issue. Our products have the biggest economic benefit by incorporating the components in the precast factory ready to energise, monitor and protect from day 1 to achieve indefinite sustainable service life and ESG compliance. This is then combined with the sustainable benefits of LoCem® and our systems, as both can successfully repair and prevent corrosion within existing buildings which help to build a set path towards a more resilient and low carbon-built environment that is aligned to the country’s sustainability targets.
 Martin Sexton, Sustainability, The Changing Built Environment, (2011) https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/innovativeconstructionresearchcentre/B02942_Research_Review_Winter_2011_SUSTAIN.pdf