Are Carbon and Cost now two sides of the same coin?

In November 2021, rhi's Managing Director David Paterson attended the Project Controls Expo that was held in London across two days. Hear what David had to say about the expo and why he believes cost and carbon are now two sides of the same coin.

I recently attended my first in-person conference in nearly two years, where energy transition, carbon reduction and decarbonisation fueled the discussions. It was clear these topics were high on the agenda and companies are actively addressing the issues and reassessing how they manage their businesses in a more sustainable way.

Carbon and cost are now two sides of the same coin and sustainability and estimating departments in large companies need to be connected. Why? Because the ability to make decisions based on the carbon and cost benefit analysis is imperative.

Project controls professionals play a major role in monthly reporting of cost schedule. So why not carbon? The core skills associated with quantification of work, combined with a technical understanding of the project execution process and data management techniques, can be extended to the process for assessing and accounting carbon footprints. While the methods for determination of carbon in the project environment are still in development, and will deliver a range of results, it is a logical next step for project controls.

How do we start to better reduce carbon impacts?

I believe we should start the journey to offering "carbon estimates or Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs)" as a standard on projects above a certain materiality threshold. In the same way that cost estimates are considered a critical part of any project decision making process, carbon dioxide equivalent (Co2e) estimates and LCAs will soon be considered an essential project deliverable. The core driver to this requirement is the financial funding frameworks which are being developed by investors and government organisations.

How is rhi supporting clients’ carbon reduction ambitions?

With our own newly formed Carbon Footprint Reduction (CFR) practice, and the development of our Carbon Co2lumn process, we are addressing these issues and providing clients with practical measures to reduce their carbon impact.

Start small and one step at a time. Over the last few months, with a view to practical actions, I have initiated discussions with our new Carbon Footprint Reduction Analysis Team, led by Richard Grant. The team quickly came up with ideas of how we could include a high-level Co2e impact in studies work we do already for clients (alongside Quantification, schedule, and cost estimates). Using our industry knowledge, understanding and expertise, rhi is delivering real, workable, and cost-effective solutions. These solutions are geared towards reducing costs by pricing the cost of carbon avoided and supporting clients in meeting carbon intensity reduction targets.

Engineering is at the core of transitioning to net-zero. There are lots of innovative thinkers and engineers out there, so looking at how we solve problems and account for carbon (and carbon avoided) is at the heart of the energy transition. We need this to be creative and adapt our engineering philosophy.

Although management consultants, lawyers, and analysts all have a key part to play in decarbonisation, it is the engineers that are the ones who will design and enable a more sustainable future.

If any of this is relevant to your business or if you have project management requirements in terms of tendering major packages of work, to include a focus on carbon, we would love to hear from you.