We’re plotting our route to zero


At Whitby Wood, we are working out our route to zero carbon, interrogating what we need to do, and what the construction industry needs to do, to get there. As engineers we can influence the reduction of carbon emissions by changing the way we operate our businesses and, most importantly, by changing the way we design and specify building structures and urban infrastructure, and the materials used to form them.

The first step is to understand our impact, so we began our journey by documenting the carbon counts for all our UK activities and projects, setting benchmarks from which we can reduce and eliminate.

The UK government is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 78% (compared with 1990 figures) by 2035 and to zero by 2050... see https://www.gov.uk/. So, what happens if Whitby Wood tries to reach the zero target by 2035?

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The graphs that follow explain our approach and show a potential path to zero. There are many significant variables and milestones to be reached, some beyond our immediate control. Play with the variables yourself on the interactive graph and help us plot a route to zero!

Our carbon footprints

We are engineers and we work on the the design of building frames, building refurbishments and adaptation, and urban infrastructure. So, our carbon footprint has two parts: the footprint associated with business operations and the footprint associated with the projects we are appointed to design and/or construct.

We are asking ourselves what needs to happen in order for us to reach zero carbon by 2035 for both these footprints. The graph indicates the key areas of change needed.

You can find out more about each area by scrolling down or using the orange button. The numbers on each bar relate to the numbers in the relevant pop-up. Click on the pop-up links to see more information.

Business operations footprint

As a business, we emit carbon in the day-to-day running of our various office hubs.

Almost all office activities result in carbon emissions — using energy to run computers, lighting and facilities such as kitchens; using office supplies; travelling to and from work or meetings and project sites.

The top part of the graph indicates our ideas for reducing carbon emissions associated with office operations. Reaching zero emissions is also dependent on external factors, such as access renewable energy sources and to zero-carbon travel options.

Keep scrolling to see information about each line of the graph.

Projects footprint

Building frames and urban infrastructure are often intensive in embodied carbon, as carbon is released into the atmosphere during manufacture and transportation. You can read more about embodied carbon and how it is measured on the embodied carbon page of our website.

Construction processes and site operations during construction are also a source of carbon emissions. It is vital that we find ways to reduce embodied carbon and carbon emissions, and that we do it quickly. We are pinpointing three main drivers: changing our project mix, embracing technological innovations and transforming our design process.

The bottom part of the graph expands on the three drivers of change — all three are necessary if we are to reach zero.

Keep scrolling to see information about each line of the graph.


In this graph, the potential path to zero carbon for our project work is plotted over the period 2020 to 2035. To reflect the many variables that will impact on reaching the target, the graph is interactive.

A change in project mix, plus industry technological innovations and a transformation in our design process, will be needed to accomplish net zero carbon. The green line on the graph indicates our carbon emissions if we were to keep our current project mix and wait for the innovations to become available.

Use the controls below the graph to turn factors on and off and change the years in which they happen, and see how this affects the progress line.

Scroll down further to see a bar chart that illustrates the change in project mix required.

Changing our project mix

The animated bar chart illustrates the change of project mix between now and 2035. Note that the categories shown are project types, not materials. In other words, ideally, we would be moving from predominantly concrete frame projects to predominantly refurbishment (reuse, adaptation, hybrid structures, etc.) project types.

The annual carbon emissions are calculated based on the percentage of project types shown, which change each year until we reach 80% refurbishment. This helps us reduce emissions before technological innovations become available. The green line on the previous graph (above) indicates our carbon emissions if we were to keep our current project mix (75% new-build reinforced concrete) and wait for the innovations to become available.

Missed the animation? Click reload below to rerun it.