Case Study: Devon County Council / ADEPT

Carbon calculator developing the UK’s first carbon negative highway in collaboration with Devon County Council and ADEPT

5 Jun 2023 Business Positive
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Carbon calculator developing the UK’s first carbon negative highway in collaboration with Devon County Council and ADEPT

The ground-breaking A382 link road development is on track to become the UK’s first “carbon negative” highway, after receiving £3.7m support from the Department for Transport.


The ambitious A382 scheme – which saw University of Exeter’s Dr Dan Lash working with Devon County Council and the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport – aimed to show that moving towards carbon negative highways is possible without the need for offsetting and providing a “live laboratory” opportunity to promote change in the design, construction and maintenance of roads.

The pilot has been chosen to accelerate decarbonisation across highway infrastructure and transform the approach of local authorities in delivering net zero local roads right across the UK. It also gives a further boost to Devon County Council’s target of becoming a net zero authority by 2030.

The project team is already leading steps to drive down carbon emissions in the maintenance of the county’s roads, with the University of Exeter and maintenance contractor Milestone Infrastructure developing a “carbon calculator” to identify and measure the carbon produced in every aspect of road repairs and construction.

Potential carbon saving measures proposed for the project include using local recycled materials, ensuring construction plant and equipment is sustainably powered, installing streetlighting that can generate power, and establishing low maintenance verges and hedgerows.

Devon County Councillor Andrea Davis, Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Environment and Transport, said: “Reducing carbon emissions across our services is a key element of Devon County Council’s Strategic Plan and we are on track to become carbon neutral by 2030. This project perfectly complements our ambitions for a cleaner, greener Devon with a thriving economy and brings innovation to the heart of local infrastructure development.”

She added: “Moving past net zero represents an industry first and this project will give the designers, contractors and manufacturers the opportunity to try new solutions tailored to this new set of priorities. The findings from this project can change the face of highway construction and maintenance, locally and nationally.

Dr Dan Lash, from the University of Exeter, said: “We have been working with Devon County Council for some time on assessing the climate change impact of its road projects. This has involved producing innovative tools, and standards that are in the process of being incorporated into national guidance for the sector.

Mark Kemp, President of ADEPT, said: “Tackling the carbon impact of our highways infrastructure is critical to our path to net zero but hard to address, so I am pleased that bidding was so competitive. Live Labs 2 has a huge ambition – to fundamentally change how we embed decarbonisation into our decision-making and to share our learning with the wider sector to enable behaviour change.

Dr Dan Lash works at The University of Exeter’s Centre for Energy and Environment. The Centre has been working with public sector organisations and businesses for over 45 years, providing bespoke carbon foot printing and forecasting services that can help reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption.

Their expertise covers all aspects of the built environment including sustainable building design, efficiency in existing buildings, carbon reduction strategies, adaptation to climate change, renewable and community scale energy, thermal and daylight modelling, acoustic design, transport, waste and all related policy areas.

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