There is a strong relationship between carbon and cost in infrastructure. Carbon is a proxy for energy, the use of natural resources and quantities of materials; therefore, reducing carbon usually reduces cost.
“Reduce carbon, reduce cost” was a key message from the 2013 UK Treasury Infrastructure Carbon Review, it was a message that was intended to reassure stakeholders and drive carbon reduction. However, “Reduce carbon, reduce cost” is really only the beginning. The alignment between carbon and cost is clear, with the greatest potential for reduction existing at the earliest project stages.
Knowing that there is a relationship between carbon and cost is important, but to practically apply this knowledge requires a deeper level of understanding.
Carbon Cost Intensity (CCI) is a measure of the carbon emitted for each unit of cost spent, e.g. kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per euro (kgCO2e/€). It can be used to prioritise carbon reduction measures within a fixed budget and identify the most cost-effective carbon reduction options: the best carbon ‘bang for your buck’. CCI can be applied at three general levels: granular, mid-range and project. It is a powerful metric for prioritising project options in carbon cost terms, including alternative routes, materials or construction techniques.