Innovate UK backs green teaching tools for construction

Latest News Fri, Jun 14, 2024 6:24 AM

Innovate UK has backed another project from a research partnership between Morgan Sindall and Nottingham Trent University which seeks to speed up growing the skills base within the UK construction to decarbonise the built environment.

It has awarded a grant to support Morgan Sindall’s bespoke Whole Life Carbon Assessment (WLCA) software tool, CarboniCa, being adapted for higher education and to support creating teaching modules for the university. The hope is that both can be made available to other universities and training institutions under licence once the project is complete.

CarboniCa was launched by Morgan Sindall Construction in 2021. It is already being used on 100+ large building projects each year and has to date saved over 30,000 tonnes of carbon.

The new CarboniCa Education programme will be organised into two modules. CarboniCa Engage has a focus on the carbon impact of different material types and knowledge of carbon hotspots for typical buildings. CarboniCa Immerse, meanwhile, contains a series of tutorials which includes completing short tasks to develop skill and competency to harness the fully capability of a whole life carbon assessment tool such as CarboniCa. Once the development work is finished the programme will be integrated into the content for built environment-related courses at NTU, providing a platform for upskilling and giving students hands on experience with a cutting edge WLCA tool.

Tim Clement, Director of Social Value and Sustainability at Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “It’s not uncommon within UK Plc to hear complaints about the apparent disconnect between industry and education but the opposite is true in this case. Morgan Sindall is working hand in hand with Nottingham Trent University to find ways to grow our industry’s skills base, which is widely acknowledged to be operating with a significant shortfall in green skills.

“As the Construction Industry Training Board has pointed out, for the UK to deliver on its net zero aims, 350,000 new roles need to be created in the construction industry. That means new ideas, transformative change and better use of technology is required now. We are a solutions-focused organisation and the whole CarboniCa programme is at the leading edge of speeding up the response to meeting the sustainability challenges our country faces.”

Professor Richard Bull, Deputy Dean of the School of Architecture, Design and the Built of Environment at NTU said: “Equipping our students with the green skills necessary for a net zero future is central to our mission as a School and wider University. It’s been an amazing opportunity for our students, lecturers, and alumni to work with Morgan Sindall to help develop CarboniCa and influence the future of education for sustainable development in the construction sector.

“Our ongoing strategic partnership with Morgan Sindall reflects our mutual commitment to sustainability.”

Innovate UK is the funding agency driving national plans to develop the knowledge economy. The grant support for CarboniCa Education, totalling £55k, is focused on feasibility studies while Morgan Sindall has financed the development of the software.

This award follows separate Innovate UK grant support of £947,000 to Morgan Sindall, Nottingham Trent University and the software company ConstructSys to develop novel algorithms that automate the process of data collection and evaluation in WLCA, which speeds up the assessment process and achieves productivity gains.

The UK construction industry is on the cusp of a new era where WLCAs have a much greater weighting. WLCAs combine carbon emissions for the day-to-day running of buildings, such as heating and lighting, with embodied emissions of the materials to make, transport, construct, maintain and replace them – including what happens to the building at the end of its life. They are on the critical path of efforts to achieve Net Zero as around 25% of UK carbon emissions are linked to the built environment and materials such as steel and cement alone account for around 15% of global carbon emissions.

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