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Climate crisis Carbon Cube

5 November 2021

A temporary sculpture, designed by tp bennett, has been constructed in City Square, Leeds as a visual representation of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide

“Carbon Cube” explores the enormity of the climate crisis by creating a physical representation of carbon emissions. The sculpture is conceived as 8m3 cube, equivalent in volume to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide at sea level.

The average carbon footprint per person in the UK is approximately six tonnes per year. tp bennett’s installation visualises approximately two months of emissions from the activities of an average person in the UK. It also serves as a reminder that carbon usage adds up: if the UK’s 68 million people each reduced their carbon footprint by one tonne per year (totalling 68 million tonnes), this would save the equivalent carbon needed to power 12.4m homes for a year.

The built environment is responsible for 39% of all global carbon emissions, almost a third of which are attributable to materials and construction. The embodied carbon of products – the carbon dioxide emissions released during raw material extraction, manufacture, maintenance, destruction and all transport stages – is not often considered. tp bennett is putting more focus upon this by working directly with its clients and suppliers to tackle the challenges of sourcing materials more sustainably.

The installation has been created from scaffolding and black netting, supplied and installed by local company CSY, which will be reused for future projects. A central core will allow the public to step inside the sculpture to experience the enormity of the volume. Internal walls form a lightwell and display facts and information about climate change on banners, made from PVC-free material, produced by local firm One Nine Signs, which will be reused as sample materials after deconstruction.

Lucy Bagshaw, Sustainable Designer at tp bennett and co-creator of the Carbon Cube said:

“In our sector the products we specify represent our largest carbon footprint and so the responsible sourcing of these materials is a key focus of tp bennett’s wider sustainability strategy. Our aim for this installation is to help people visualise the scale of all our carbon emissions and the enormity of the challenge ahead. We want to bring the message closer to home, as a call to action to make positive changes in our work and personal lives. In particular, as architects and designers, we must consider carefully the choices we make when specifying the products and materials used to construct buildings and infrastructure.”

The installation will be at City Square for the duration of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow and up until 22nd November.

Alongside the “Carbon Cube” sculpture, tp bennett is hosting a public exhibition, “Materials Matter”, in each of its offices – London, Manchester and Leeds – focusing on the socio-environmental impact of building products and steps that can be taken to responsibly source these materials. The exhibition shares tp bennett’s journey, as a practice, its increased knowledge and understanding of products, impact-reducing collaboration with supply chains and internal drive to make more informed specification decisions.

The exhibition in Leeds will open on 8th November on the ground floor of APAM’s One City Square office building, recently refurbished by tp bennett.

Alongside this exhbition Vicki Odili (tp bennett) recently joined Simon Wilkes (Legal & General) and Mark Terndrop of Waterman to talk about tp bennett's own Net Zero roadmap on the latest Place Tech podcast hosted by Paul Unger. Listen to the podcast here.

Chris Webb recently joined by Barry Varcoe of Open Society Foundations on the latest PlaceTech podcast, talking to Paul Unger about sustainable design practices and materials, listen here.

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