Whole life cost and value have languished in the slow lane for a long time. The first thoughts and ideas in this direction date back to the early post-war years. Throughout recent decades, a family of industry guides and processes have been produced, most stemming from government projects, broadly with little impact. There has been more interest in the past decade, but while there has recently been more optimism and constructive thought, there is no real momentum in the mainstream to adopt whole life values or whole life cost as a key project driver. There is a ‘new kid on the block’ – whole life carbon. The link between whole life issues and sustainability has been discussed in previous

chapters. A fundamental part of sustainability is the effect of carbon: intrinsically the two are part of the same question. Can we change the way we conduct our affairs to reduce carbon and conserve resources before it is too late? These questions are real and serious. Our intensive use of energy and, with it, the consumption of fuels releasing carbon and other pollutants is going to have a real effect on the world’s future. This is serious stuff, and as the debate is played out, the need for us to gain a tangible grip on carbon emissions is certainly near the top of the agenda, if not the most important issue to be resolved. This is seen as one of the key drivers in climate change and possibly responsible for

global warming (although there is still much controversy over the exact roots of global warming). However, it is clear that increased carbon and the other gases highlighted are implicated in the changing atmospheric conditions we see around us. These trends have stimulated interest in carbon in all its forms. Arresting the increase and then reducing the levels of carbon in the atmosphere is seen as one of the highest priorities facing the world. The relevance here is that carbon is involved in the majority of human activities. In

the modern world, there is very little we do without using energy, and for the most part that means using part of the carbon cycle. It is rare that a process or activity does not result in release, in some measure, of carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon and the effects of emission are therefore the subject of debate, research and

not a small amount of effort to establish how we can deal with this problem on a global, national and personal level. Each one of these areas carries immeasurable challenges, and potentially will involve changes to the current lifestyles of millions of people. Politically, therefore, it is a real hot potato. There is an urgent need to identify how best to minimise the effects of carbon across

nearly all aspects of daily life. Change for the sake of it will not do – we need to make

the right choices and the right changes. Just using energy in a different way will not always bring about a beneficial change. Often, when all the facts are taken into account, no net improvement is found, and suggested changes may make the situation worse. So-called low-energy devices, seen holistically, such as solar panels and wind turbines, often generate more carbon in their manufacture than they save when put into service. This only brings a short-term or superficial gain; in the round, it gets us nowhere. The overall reduction of carbon is very difficult to achieve. Carbon in the atmosphere is created by power generation, transport, manufacturing

and construction. The construction industry is responsible for a considerable proportion of carbon and may be seen as an easy way to reduce levels in the atmosphere. One person’s carbon emissions are another’s embedded carbon – the interrelationship

of who uses and benefits from what is a problem of global proportions, and it is taking the best minds to consider what can and should be done.