May 11, 2022

Driving down the embodied carbon of parking spaces

Last year the Department for Transport published its Decarbonising Transport strategy[1] for addressing the greenhouse gas emissions from transport (responsible for 27% of the UK’s emissions in 2019). The Strategic Priorities include accelerating the modal shift to public and active transport so that they become the “natural first choice” for daily activities and alongside widely available net zero public transport means that cars will be used differently and less often.

Two interesting new reports examine the issues, opportunities and improvements required for new housing developments to contribute: by reducing car dependency and addressing embodied carbon in the roads and other infrastructure.

In “Building Car Dependency”[2], Transport for New Homes describe their visits to 20 new housing developments. They report on active and public transport experiences travelling to and around a development, speaking to residents and looking at whether destinations are car-based and if town centres are being used.

They found that many large greenfield sites had designs and layouts that meant residents would need a car for nearly every journey. Plots were small and with 2-3 allocated parking spaces per home, gardens were very small. Promised local amenities to encourage people to get out and walk or cycle had not materialised. Developments were often disconnected from the urban area, leaving those who do not drive or cannot afford a car “essentially stuck”.

Their recommendations include remodeling developments around sustainable travel and walkability: a more people-friendly street network with fewer parking spaces per home, allowing more greenery and less tarmac. New homes need to be built in places which can be served by a modern public transport network and where residents can walk or cycle into the adjacent urban area.

The UK Green Building Council’s ‘Building the Case for Net Zero’[3] reports that while the focus on embodied carbon has been on homes, the embodied carbon from the required roads, utilities and energy infrastructure has been left out of scope. Alongside their projection that over half of the UK’s total built environment emissions will be attributable to embodied carbon by 2035, they underline the importance of properly assessing and mitigating all these embodied carbon emissions.

With roads and parking infrastructure making up the majority of this embodied carbon, UKGBC concludes that the same shift – away from car ownership to active travel – is required and that the benefits include more space for amenity and increased biodiversity. Their study includes the modelling of costs between those of a real-life proposed development and two low carbon scenarios. The most ambitious of these resulted in just a 0.6% increase in projected costs, alongside a 20% reduction in embodied carbon.

If you’d like to know more about the carbon footprint of your organisation, please get in touch.

[1] Decarbonising Transport – A Better, Greener Britain (

[2] Building-Car-Dependency-2022.pdf (

[3] 08737-Masterplan-v12.pdf (


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