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Carbon Expert of the Month, July 2021

Justyna Chmielewska

Justyna is head of sustainability and a senior sustainability advisor at leading global property and construction consultancy company Gleeds Polska. The Gleeds Polska Sustainability team is involved in many types of projects in the construction industry. Their aim is to analyse buildings in terms of their entire life cycle, determining the values of emissions resulting from their construction, use and end of life, and taking steps to minimise them.
Funshop Park, Rosiorii de Vede

What led you to become a construction carbon expert?

The activities related to green certification and the implementation of sustainable solutions in buildings have made the topic of the carbon footprint another natural next step on the way to climate neutrality. There are a number of issues related to the topic of climate neutrality, and one of the key ones are the methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In pursuit of our goal of caring for our planet we analyse buildings in terms of their entire life cycle, determining the values of emissions resulting from their construction, use and end of life, and taking steps to minimise them.

What kind of projects do you typically work on, and in what role?

The Gleeds Polska Sustainability Team is involved in many types of projects in the construction industry. As a team leader, I can participate in many different projects from different sectors of the construction market. My team and I mainly provide services for green certifications, such as BREEAM eller LEED, but also in the field of green consulting and Environmental Due Diligence audits. We evaluate, advise and analyse office buildings, hotels and industrial buildings such as warehouses and retail parks. We are trying to develop services related to carbon emissions and analyses of building life cycle which is the confirmation of our social responsibility.
“Warehouses are large-scale facilities, consuming huge amounts of energy and responsible for high emission values. So even minor changes, when you take into account the scale of these buildings, result in real environmental savings.”

Which projects and achievements are you most proud of?

Together with my team, we are taking steps to minimise the environmental impact of the warehouse sector in construction industry. Despite the fact that the way to obtaining satisfactory results is long and the effects are not yet spectacular, I am proud of our contribution to the development of green buildings in this sector. Warehouses are large-scale facilities, consuming huge amounts of energy and responsible for high emission values. So even minor changes, when you take into account the scale of these buildings, result in real environmental savings.
P3 Mszczonów

How do you see carbon performance evolving in the market?

In the last few years, market interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions has increased significantly. Investors, designers as well as material producers are more aware of the ongoing climate change and note that reducing emissions is a must. Awareness is growing year by year, and this is followed by actions that we must take to achieve the ‘emission zero’. In addition to the growing awareness of climate change, the increased interest in the topic of reducing CO2 emissions also results from the introduced regulations and goals set, among others, under the Paris Agreement signed by most countries around the world or EU regulations such as the Green Deal. As a result of the introduction of global climate goals, there is a need to provide services in this area, which will quickly develop in the near future and will become the need of every market participant.
“A company that respects the environment and cares about reducing emissions, is positively received by potential service users. Creating a green company profile is needed to ‘stay in the game’ in today’s construction market.”

What are the key value drivers you use to make the business case for materials carbon?

To make the business case for materials carbon we are guided by three key value drivers according to the 3P rule – People, Planet, Profits. To clients, investors and the people with whom we work, we present the key value drivers in the form of the 3P rule as our common goal, which is to achieve climate neutrality. Drivers ‘Planet’ and ’People’ are connected with the topic of responsible business conduct with a focus on climate change and the contribution that customers can give to prevent a climate catastrophe. Growing awareness goes hand in hand with growing responsibility, thanks to which more and more companies raise the issue of emissions and introduce procedures to minimize them. The ‘Profits’ driver is related to the company’s marketing. A company that respects the environment and cares about reducing emissions, is positively received by potential service users. Creating a green company profile is needed to ‘stay in the game’ in today’s construction market. Striving to connect these three drivers is an important step towards achieving the goal of climate neutrality.
P3 Mszczonów

How does your engagement on materials sustainability vary over project phases?

During the initial stages of the project, we propose to our clients the implementation of a Sustainable Procurement Plan, which defines the principles of selecting sustainable materials. This makes it possible to provide appropriate materials in the building, taking into account their life cycle impacts. We suggest the use of regional materials, materials with recycled content, those that are durable and ones that require the least amount of maintenance and replacement. At the construction stage, we make sure that the installed materials do not emit harmful substances like VOCs (Voltaile Organic Compounds) or formaldehyde, their impact on the environment is as low as possible, which is guaranteed by the EPD (Environmental Product Declaration), but we also look at the materials in terms of their final life stage, ensuring that the amount of generated waste is as low as possible.

How does One Click LCA help you achieve your goals?

Thanks to the One Click LCA software, from the beginning of the investment, we are able to monitor the final carbon footprint of the building. This gives us the ability to react and advise clients on design changes to minimise the building’s environmental impact. Thanks to One Click LCA and the available carbon benchmarks, we are able to compare the assessed building with other buildings from the same sector. The software allows us to efficiently perform LCA and LCC analyses related to the life cycle of a building and achieve points in the BREEAM and LEED certification

What do you find most useful in One Click LCA?

The most useful aspect of One Click LCA is the clear and fast integration between the module of  LCA analysis and the LCC analysis. When we prepare both analyses, regularly updating information about the type or amount of material, the fact that we do not need to enter the same information twice saves us a lot of time. Also, we value the extensive database, which helps us to choose the right material, as close as possible to the intended one, and often even exactly the same. Another very useful function of the software is the ability to create several options for the same project, particularly important when analysing alternative options of the same component, and the ability to compare the results in terms of several greenhouse gases, not only CO2.

Which best practises or lessons have helped you the most in this work?

The ability to identify the actions necessary to take at the initial stage of the investment is critical. Solutions to minimise the building’s environmental impact in terms of embodied carbon should be done as early as possible. The need to introduce substitutes for materials with lower emissions should be signaled as soon as possible in order to ensure a successful change process in cooperation with the investor and designers, right from the concept stage. What is my lessons learned? Starting measures aimed at minimising emissions too late has not only environmental but also financial consequences. When creating a building with low emissions, it is also helpful to get acquainted at an early stage with the standard documents for the Investor regarding building materials. Early verification and analysis provide space for discussions on alternative solutions, and sometimes even the possibility to change the material standard offered by the Investor, benefiting not only the analysed building, but also for future investments.

About ‘Carbon Expert of the Month’

Carbon Expert of the Month is One Click LCA’s way to showcase the expertise, inspiration and best practices of One Click LCA users. Each month, we feature experts who are passionate about reducing carbon in general and from materials in particular, who seek to push projects beyond the boundaries of common practice, and who wish to share from their personal experience.

Interested in being featured?

Contact annie.nguyen@oneclicklca.com for more information.

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Geoffrey Turnbull – KPMB Architects

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Kelly Alvarez Doran – University of Toronto

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Maria Voukia – Ramboll, UK

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Dr. Stephen Finnegan – The University of Liverpool

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