Simon Corbey

An interview with Simon Corbey: 'The government needs to get to grips with the urgency of the climate crisis'

In an interview with Development Finance Today, Simon Corbey, associate director at the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP) (pictured above), gives his views on improving housing sustainability and implementing zero carbon measures.


What is embodied carbon? Do you think enough people in the industry understand this term?

This is the upfront carbon that is already emitted from the materials that go to make up a building. It also then includes the replacement cycle for the building elements — for example, windows, facades — and what happens at the end of the building’s life. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has published professional guidance on embodied carbon, so that we all measure it in the same way. ASBP is holding a meeting on 29th April for designers to come and learn a bit more about the process, the methodology, the tools, the RICS database and how to get started.

How will ASBP encourage the residential property sector to become more carbon efficient?

ASBP is working with Jane Anderson, owner of ConstructionLCA, and Woodknowledge Wales [which champions the development of wood-based industries] to provide guidance on embodied carbon for the residential sector in a project that commenced in January. We have started preparing the guidance and will be holding a stakeholder meeting in May to receive feedback and then launch the guidance in September in Cardiff. We need the RICS to breathe life into its whole building carbon database so we have a useful benchmarking tool, something that is lacking at the moment.

Do you believe a specific sector can be held more accountable for the carbon problem facing the industry currently?

No. It seems clear that every sector must get to grips with embodied carbon and make a start on measuring it. The London Plan is due to be published and contains Policy SI2 which requires computation on large schemes and it is expected that a number of schemes each year will come into this category, so the industry needs to be ready for this.

What actions do you believe the government could take to improve the overall sustainability of the construction and property industry?

I’m not sure we should be waiting for the government to take a lead. Indeed, it is the property owners, asset managers and architects that are taking the lead, with fantastic organisations such as the Better Building Partnership, Architects Declare and LETI. They seem to be grappling with the concept of net zero carbon and creating road maps, something which is especially important in the lead up to COP26 [the UN Climate Change Conference]. The government needs to get to grips with the urgency of the climate crisis and show real leadership. In an ideal world, we need [Green MP] Caroline Lucas as prime minister.

How did you get into the industry?

I volunteered at London-based green builders merchant Construction Resources in 1998 and started working in its warehouse and then gradually worked my way up to operations manager.

If you weren’t in construction, what would you be doing? 

I play in a garage punk band, which is loud and energetic and a good counterpoint to earnest environmentalist.

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