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Press Release - 10 January 2006

New project to cut greenhouse gases

An innovative project to cut the amount of greenhouse gas used in building and running homes, shops and offices is underway in Bath.

The project is part of a scheme to cut the amount of carbon dioxide emissions associated with the UK building stock by 60 per cent by 2030. Britain uses more carbon than other Western European countries in putting up and heating buildings.

The £3.1 million Carbon Vision Buildings project is jointly funded by the Carbon Trust and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, who hope that it will set the standard for cutting carbon emissions in UK buildings. A dozen UK universities are involved.

As part of this, the universities of Bath and Oxford are evaluating the amount of carbon used in producing various building materials, like aluminium and bricks, on a ‘whole life’ basis. They intend to encourage construction firms to cut back on such ‘embodied’ carbon emissions.

Bath and Oxford’s project – called ‘Building Market Transformation’ – started at the end of last year. Craig Jones, the Research Assistant working on the project at Bath, has recently produced a database (or inventory) of building materials which lists the amount of carbon used in making each product.

This database (known as ICE Version 1.3: Inventory of Carbon & Energy) is detailed enough to list the different types of cement produced by different companies in the UK. It has now been launched in what is termed a ‘beta test’ version.

The University of Bath will receive £160,000 over three years for the research carried out by its Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Economics and International Development, which are mainly doing the technical analysis, while Oxford carries out social policy research.

“Britain is lagging behind the rest of Western Europe in keeping down the amount of carbon used in building and running shops, offices, factories and homes,” said Professor Geoff Hammond, who is managing Bath’s work.

“So far this has not been a high priority politically, but we are hoping that the project will change this.

“The project will bring industry and government together and let them and the public see how much carbon is being produced and how we can cut this,” said Professor Hammond, who is head of the University’s International Centre for the Environment.

Professor Hammond said that measures to cut carbon emissions could include better insulation in homes and factories, the installation in people’s garages of domestic-scale ‘combined heat and power’ generators that can generate electricity and simultaneously provide heating, and the wider use of embedded photovoltaic solar cell arrays on roofs.

He is working with Dr Adrian Winnett, senior lecturer in economics and Deputy Director of International Centre for the Environment, who will look at how likely it is that people and companies will take up these new measures given different economic incentives.

The national academies of science and technology from all the countries that attended the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in July 2005 believe that man’s activities are the main cause of global warming. Their energy systems give rise to a large increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which, in turn, prevents heat from escaping from the Earth.

This raises temperatures across the globe at a rate that will probably be unprecedented in the last 10,000 years. The consequences of human-induced global warming are huge, with more extreme weather events expected, including heat waves, floods, droughts and severe storms.

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Notes

The International Centre for the Environment (ICE) at the University of Bath is an across disciplinary Centre. It functions as a network within the University and with other centres of excellence in the UK and worldwide. The goal of the Centre is to promote leadership in environmental research and education at the University of Bath.


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