COP26 Next Gen debate panellist Natasha Boulding talks about reducing the carbon footprint of construction.
The founder of a County Durham-based materials company, which is developing carbon negative and carbon zero aggregate concrete blocks, has told Insider about the importance of tackling embodied carbon in the construction industry and what she hopes to see from other businesses in the field.
Natasha Boulding co-founded Sphera in 2019 with Phil Buckley and Scott Bush, who she met while completing her PhD at Durham University, in a bid to "really create impact."
The main aim of the specialist materials company is to reduce the embodied carbon associated with the construction industry. To do this, the company is developing its light weight aggregate block.
Boulding told Insider: "There's a lot of talk about operational carbon, which comes from things like energy usage such as heating, whereas now there has been a turn in the construction industry focusing on embodied carbon, which is the carbon footprint of the actual materials that make up things."
By incorporating the aggregate into the concrete blockwork, users can reduce the embodied carbon of the materials, which in turn reduces the carbon footprint of the entire construction process and helps the industry reach Net Zero.
The blocks can be used in walls, columns, partitions and suspended floors.
Boulding recently appeared on a next generation panel at the COP26 summit, organised by The Society of Chemical Industry, with other young scientists working on climate change.
She added: "My main ask of the construction industry, and what came up a lot on the panel, is to measure everything. You can't understand your impact, whether it's personal or professional, without measuring your carbon footprint and where it is coming from.
"What I would like is for everything to have a carbon badge on it. Food has nutrition and calories, and if you could go into a shop and see the carbon value of different products, I guarantee people wouldn't make the same decisions all of the time."
Boulding believes that the Government should put more pressure on businesses to understand where their carbon footprint is coming from.
"At the minute there is little incentive to actually understand what the carbon footprint of your business is and what areas you could improve," she said. "In the majority of cases it is completely free to pump greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and I think there is scope to limit that or make it no longer free."
Sphera, which is based at Fishburn Industrial Estate in Stockton, gets all of its energy from renewable sources, and Boulding believes that, as a first step, businesses should make this "good and easy" change.
Moving forward, Sphera's goal is to actually see the products on the market, and Boulding said it has some "potentially exciting partnerships coming up with the construction supply chain and actually incorporating the aggregate into concrete".
Sphera also hopes to base itself as an innovation company.
Boulding said: "We have a very long innovation pipeline and in five years we have hopefully ticked a few more products off."
Originally published in Insider Media Limited, on 22 November 2021. Author: Alice Bird, Digital Staff Writer