Top Tips

Top Tips for reducing your carbon footprint in bridge management

1. Quick win – office paper

Switch to 75gsm from 80gsm to save over 6% instantly. Even better, switch to Woodland Trust paper which is effectively carbon neutral for little additional cost, or even try paper made from agricultural waste.

Switch to re-usable notebooks instead of buying paper ones. We use the Rocketbook brand.

2. Measure everything

A simple spreadsheet will do. There are plenty of online databases of reliable carbon factors – all you need is the quantities, we provide an example of this when we calculate the carbon in a hard hat. Try not to allow uncertainties or waiting for others to produce complex models as an excuse to delay or do nothing.

3. Convert into trees

Can you visualise a tonne of CO2e? Try converting carbon quantities into the number of trees needed to sequester the same amount of carbon to help get a handle on how significant each action or decision is.

4. Supervision

Do things once and do them right. Redoing work wastes carbon, time and money. Investing in supervision at every stage greatly reduces the risk of inadequate outcomes and it’s well worth the effort of setting out the business case for all projects of any size.

5. Avoid diverting traffic for longer than absolutely necessary

Traffic diversions contribute a major element of carbon emissions for bridge works. Challenge working methods and find alternatives to bridge closures – such as single lane closures – which need long distance and long-timescale diversions. Lift closures when work isn’t actively on site. If there really is no other option, offset the carbon yourself.

6. Is there a better way of doing the work?

Look creatively at methods of working and be genuinely open to challenging the established way. Even if you can’t find the best answer straight away, some improvement is better than none while you work towards a more long-term solution. Commit to a “whole life carbon impact” approach. Regular maintenance will defer major component replacement or repainting. This is usually lower carbon and often lower cost.

7. Count (and minimise) carbon in workforce travel to site

Local suppliers, public transport, electric vehicles and bicycles, local accommodation, car sharing and site buses, enforceable travel plans – include them in contracts. Just like diversions, the carbon footprint of workforce travel for maintenance work can outweigh that of materials etc.

8. Ditch the diesel (and petrol)

Specify electric plant and transport in contracts. Require hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) diesel where electric plant isn’t available or affordable. This reduces carbon footprint by 90% or more and delivers a healthier working environment and public realm.

9. Cut electricity and switch to renewables

Use solar panels where possible. Buy 100% renewable energy for the rest. Turn down thermostats and water temperatures, provide warm clothing, reduce draughts and insulate buildings and site offices properly.

10. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Don’t buy new unless there really is no alternative. Ban single use plastics from site: provide reusable cups and water bottles as a starting point and consider options for re-usable signs and other equipment – which will save you money in the long run. Re-purpose everything: PPE into boot bags or donated to schools and colleges, surplus paint and stone donated to charity. Recycle the rest: there are schemes for just about everything, from construction waste to crisp packets to hard hats. Delegate each material to an individual member of staff to involve everyone and reward success.

Reducing carbon doesn’t have to cost any more money and can even save money. The Rochester Bridge Trust has reduced its carbon emissions for the management of Rochester Bridge by almost 90%, with no increase in cost. The remainder is offset with the planting of trees in a dedicated woodland known as Wardens’ Wood.