The introduction of a systems integrator role to take the lead on decarbonisation at a systems level in the built environment, has been called for by industry leaders in a new report published by Mott MacDonald.

The need was identified alongside nine actions for the sector, set out in the PAS 2080 – Putting carbon management into action report. The findings of the report are based on round table discussions, convened by Mott MacDonald and co-hosted by Anglian Water and the Department for Transport, to explore progress made in adopting PAS 2080 and share challenges and opportunities.

The report’s publication comes almost a year since the updated PAS 2080 carbon management specification, which was co-authored by Mott MacDonald and Arup, was launched.

Kim Yates, UK and Europe climate change lead for Mott MacDonald, said: “The PAS 2080 specification update introduced the concept of ‘system of systems’ interdependencies and the need for collaboration throughout the value chain. It challenged asset owners and everyone in the value chain to think, plan and deliver projects and operate infrastructure assets differently but it is not a change that is simple to implement.

“The challenge of managing infrastructure assets and buildings at a systems level when it comes to decarbonisation was raised during the round table event as a major challenge with no one organisation having overall responsibility or oversight. The view is that metro mayors may have the closest role to a systems integrator for cities, but their remit doesn’t cover electrical systems so the oversight is not complete.

“Having a systems integrator at city or infrastructure level was seen as necessary for effective decarbonisation in the long term to ensure systems thinking is applied consistently. However, developing such a role or organisation will take time. The nine immediate actions outlined in this report can accelerate and strengthen industry progress against the principles of PAS 2080.”

This new report draws together the discussions that were split into systems thinking, procurement and decision making. As well as sharing an overview of the conversations, it presents three actions developed by each group that the sector needs to work on in the next 12 months to move forward on adopting and using PAS 2080.

“The nine points are actions that everyone in the built environment sector can take and put into use in their day-to-day work so that in a years’ time we can point to real progress,” said Kim. “Putting the actions into practice means that by 2025 we will have built the foundations and we can start to work on some of the more challenging issues presented in the report.”

Nine calls to action

Systems thinking 

  • Create a common language – Simplify systems thinking to make it more accessible by establishing a common language and developing guidance to support engagement, conversations and collaboration.  
  • Use digital tools to identify opportunities – Use tools, such as CReDo, and develop digital twins to help identify opportunities, multiple benefits, risks and trade-offs.   
  • Initiate systems thinking earlier – Integrate systems thinking into decision-making from the start of projects by building capacity within existing cross-system organisations, such as the London Infrastructure Group, to act as a systems integrator at a city/regional level. 

Procurement 

  • Earlier market engagement – Use collaborative contracting models, such as Project 13 enterprise approach, to drive early market engagement to enable essential understanding of the possibilities and constraints while also driving collaboration.  
  • Empower flexibility – Forms of procurement must have enough flexibility to allow for design changes and innovation that will drive decarbonisation to be implemented after contract award. 
  • Strengthen procurement resources – Focus is needed to train and upskill procurement teams to give them the capability needed to assess bids on carbon in the same way they do for cost and quality. 

Decision making 

  • Setting carbon budgets – Clients should take responsibility to set carbon budgets for their projects or assets and set incentives for the supply chain to deliver below the set budget. 
  • Using benchmarks and consistent data – Use cost estimates for all six capitals of financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and relationship and natural to put carbon at the heart of decision-making process. 
  • Improve contract structures – Forms of contract used must be fit for purpose to drive carbon reduction and empower decision-making that continues that drive.