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Quality, Consequences and the Construction Industrial Complex (part 341).

Carbon offsets are a bit like an obese person paying a slim person to stand next to them so the obese person can be “certified slim”.

The intention to reduce carbon is good, the execution using carbon offsetting IMHO, obfuscates reality and evolves into a luxury good or tax depending on where you are in life’s economic sandwich.

Embodied and operational carbon are important considerations, particularly during building design. However, if we are to really do something about the built environments impact on resource scarcity and pollution we need to utilize an easy to measure and understand metric. For me the best metric is Energy Use Intensity (EUI).

Absolute KWh/M²/year is IMHO a superior metric because it is energy supply agnostic. It measures energy at the meter and is influenced by:

  • Design efficacy
  • Construction quality
  • Systems commissioning
  • Building operational efficiency

These are all areas where there is vast room for improvement using technology, modular construction, machine learning and real time monitoring of performance.

To add context, EUI benchmarks in the UK are currently:

  • 160 KWh/M²/year – average today
  • 110 KWh/M²/year – best in class today
  • 55   KWh/M²/year – Net Zero Carbon


Why is EUI not widely used? I do not know, maybe it is too much of a reality check? The truth can hurt.

In my fantasy job as mayor of all cities, I would pass a law requiring all buildings to report publicly, gross area and quarterly meter readings. The data would be posted online via a “heatmap” and then we will know how well buildings are really performing.

To encourage competition between building owners I would provide incentives via property tax hikes for poor performance and tax reductions for exceeding target, This would speed up the rate of change and create jobs.

I am quite sure I would be a one term mayor! However, if we believe the time for action is now, then we need a metric we can all use and monitor.

Twitter: @BLDWhisperer

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