New tool to calculate and cut carbon from brownfield developments

October 18, 2022

Geo-environmental experts LEAP Environmental have partnered with the University of Surrey to create a tool which calculates the carbon emissions associated with brownfield developments, giving civil engineers and developers a clear pathway to carbon reduction.

The Carbon Reduction Design Tool for brownfield remediation (CReDiT) has been developed by LEAP Environmental, an RSK Group Company, and the University of Surrey as part of a one-year project.   This included a Natural Environment Research Council-funded embedded research fellowship for Dr Emma Hellawell, working at LEAP Environmental under the ‘Constructing a Digital Environment’ programme.

The project received a highly commended award for Best Research, Innovation or Advancement of Science in the Brownfield Sector at the Brownfield Awards last week (Thursday, 13 October, 2022).

LEAP MD Richard Brinkworth said: “This is a tool which has been developed to serve the carbon-cutting goals of the wider housing, engineering, design, and constructions sectors and, together with our foundation calculator, it is already a standard tool for LEAP projects. Everyone in the housing sector is committed to meeting the 2050 net zero carbon target but we need a radical rethink if this is to be achieved in a meaningful way. That starts with having the right tools for the job. If we don’t have them, we must create them, which is what our partnership is all about.

“LEAP and the university are also mindful of the national need for housing, the pressure to maintain the greenbelt and to optimise land use, with the preference for developments on former industrial or brownfield land. This presents challenges because this land can be contaminated, with remedial work required to prepare it for construction.”

He said CReDiT had been specifically designed and tested for use in the UK’s default method of remediating residential brownfield developments, which involves the excavation of soil and replacement with clean cover. The tool determines carbon emissions from the complex processes involved in remediation, for example the excavation of soil, earthwork movements (with machinery), use of raw materials such as topsoil, the transport of material and waste, recycling, and reuse of materials.

Richard added: “We’ve tested the application of CReDiT in a wide range of scenarios, including a former landfill site which is arguably among the most challenging of brownfield environments.  We are keen to bring a sustainable focus back to remediation.  By considering the carbon alongside the many other factors affecting remediation projects we are seeking to optimise designs to reduce carbon while maintaining suitability for use”.

CReDiT and its pilot application has been presented at the Nicole workshop in Brussels, the NERC Digital Environment conference, to local contaminated land officers and has been accepted for presentation at the Geolsoc conference.

Professor Susan Hughes, from the University of Surrey, said “CReDiT quantifies carbon emissions and material volumes from different remediation options. It demonstrates that significant carbon savings can be made through the effective reuse or recycling of carbon-rich or valuable materials onsite.  The use of CReDiT has led to a rethink of remediation design, where carbon reduction leads the entire process and where waste materials are re-evaluated as a resource rather than a landfill option. This highly collaborative research high-lights the excellent synergies between experts at LEAP and academics from the University of Surrey, who are now working together to become world leaders in transformative carbon emission-centric remediation strategies.”

LEAP Environmental said that CReDiT is now being applied as standard to all their development projects to evaluate carbon emissions for both remediation and foundation design. CReDiT is continuing to be developed through ongoing work between LEAP Environmental and the University of Surrey focusing on additional carbon evaluation modules for brownfield development and adaption of the CReDiT user interface.

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