Can building designers keep up with a Formula 1 Champion?

30 Nov, 2021, 9:57 PM |  Blog

A short time ago, I left a CPD live session where I was joined by my wonderful colleagues, Steve Fox (Principal at Architectus) and Phil Oldfield, (Head of School, UNSW Built Environment) to present Designing for Our Future – Carbon Mitigation and the Built Environment. Over 500 architects, designers and manufacturers joined us!

The engagement level and thoughtful questions give me great hope that the Architecture and Design family is fast moving to not only understand the issues of Carbon Mitigation, but equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to address the challenge. Each time I do one of these, the questions are more probing and evolved and there has been a real shift in recent times from generic questions to far more that say, “what practical steps can I take to have a real impact”.

Soon after our session, I read an interesting short article based on the comments of Formula 1 former world champion, Sebastian Vettel which speculated that the sport will “disappear if it doesn’t go green.”   It was an opportunity to ponder the challenges of another industry and I’ll watch with great interest as they move forward.

An audit conducted by the FIA (the governing body for world motor sport) found that F1’s driving activities alone produce approximately 256,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is the roughly equivalent to the embodied carbon of building 850 new Australian houses same time period.

This is the sum of the logistics of transporting teams and equipment across the globe. In 2019, road, sea and air logistics for equipment transportation accounted for 45 per cent of F1’s emissions with business travel for teams contributing an additional 27.7 per cent. Rounding up the list, factories and facilities servicing the sport represent 19.3 per cent of emissions, and event operations, another 7.3 per cent.

If one were to include the emissions generated by fans, the total carbon footprint of F1 catapults to approximately 1.9 million tonnes of C02e generated by the sport annually. And just to put that into context, Qantas, with their enormous scale but a clear focus on reducing their footprint calculated their 2018/2019 impact at 13.6 million tonnes in their climate active disclosure certificate.

The process to calculate carbon impact is remarkably similar, whether we assess an organisation, building, a precinct or a sporting event. Our customers who use The Footprint Calculator™ will be aware of how our system helps and guides an assessor to input and layer all the variables until a discreet measurement is arrived at.

Our calculator can assess company, new or existing buildings but the real value to designers is being empowered to assess carbon impact, and measure against benchmarks, right from early-stage design concepts. As their design moves through the many stages, to final approval, carbon impact can be quickly assessed for all possible design variables from material choices, building complexity, utilities selections and all other impacting factors.

For Formula 1, knowing the scale of their impact is just the start. The challenge now is: what are they going to do about it? As with the built environment, mitigation choices are vast and the strategy to address the problem needs careful thought and an orchestrated plan to maximise the result. For F1, reusing existing tracks rather than developing new ones, scheduling to minimise travel, car design, sustainable fuels, logistics and so many other factors can become part of the solution.

And for those of us leading the built environment’s charge towards 2030, what are the main things we must be considering? The image below shows a range of options through the design process.

So what is your plan for Net Zero carbon action? What tools and techniques do you employ and do you, as I do, look to other industries and how they are approaching the problem to perhaps gain inspiration and insight? Is there a Sebastian Vettel in your organisation who’s leading the charge and driving change?

Feel free to comment or get in touch if you’d like to start a conversation.