How Alec French Architects are offsetting their carbon through local tree planting

Published on in Happy and Healthy by Alec French Architects.

As part of Alec French’s ISO 9000 and 14001 accreditation they are committed to continuous improvement in performance and efficiency to reduce detrimental environmental impacts.

Image courtesy of Alec French

The company’s carbon footprint is calculated following the GHG Protocol and regularly reviewed to improve efficiencies. “The cost of offsetting our carbon is seen as a normal cost in running the Practice responsibly, not an add on or one off” Kathryn Moras, Practice Manager.

The footprint has reduced year on year, in 2014 it was 31.1 tonnes (t) of carbon dioxide and includes:

  • Scope 1 – Gas
  • Scope 2 – Electricity, water
  • Scope 3 – Travel, purchases, recycling, waste

The offsetting through tree planting is voluntary and the company did not wish to purchase recognised ‘certified’ forestry scheme credits. This freedom allows them to select urban sites on behalf of community organisations who benefit from it directly (built up residential areas, where trees are arguably the most needed).

"Planting 400 trees is a great feeling, almost as good as the bath afterwards!"

Staff member, Alec French

There are organisations to help find sites, such as The Forest of Avon who they have worked with, or local wildlife trusts such as the Avon Wildlife Trust. They also look for opportunities on their own projects. They purchase bare root trees and spend half a day in the spring planting. Broadleaf trees are chosen for biodiversity, but this does vary to suit the site (Oak, Beech, Alder, Birch, Hornbeam, Rowen). Tree ‘whips’ of around 600 mm high are used, but also include tree protection and support canes, giving them the best possible start.

All images courtesy of Alec French

The number of trees needed for offsetting varies hugely depending on site location, soil, tree species and tree age. They have used The National Forest figures as a basis. The average National Forest tree sequesters 290 kilograms (kg) of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 80 year growth. A 20 year growth period is used for the urban sites, allowing for future thinning, restricted growth or poor ground conditions. One tree = 72.5 kg CO2 for 20 year growth (290 kg / 4) so 31.1 t CO2 emission for 2014 = 429 trees to be planted.

A number of tree hedgerows, enhancement and community woodland, in Nailsea, Tetbury and Radstock have been planted and they are now gearing up to plant their 2,015th tree by the end of 2015. The employees say the annual tree planting day has become a highlight of the Alec French social calendar.

Updates on Alec French tree planting