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Sustainable future

Lifecycle assessment was the important first step in Southern Wind’s drive to reduce their carbon footprint. Now they’re making positive changes.

Sustainability is moving away from being a fashion or a passion, to being almost business as usual. If we don’t go in this direction we won’t be in business in five or 10 years.

That, in a nutshell, is why Southern Wind has put a lot of effort into a lifecycle assessment (LCA) project, as the shipyard’s planning and control manager Paul Dumbell explains.
Yacht owners’ interest in sustainability is definitely on the rise, so having accurate data on their boats’ environmental impact isn’t just the right thing for Southern Wind to do, it also makes good business sense.
It’s a move that many sailing yacht builders – and yacht racing teams – would like to achieve. Relatively few, thus far, have completed the process and had the results independently audited. That’s because if you do it properly, LCA is a long-term commitment and a lot of work.
For Southern Wind, which builds two large, sophisticated and extensively customised sailing yachts a year, LCA is inherently complex to calculate and there isn’t a template to follow.

 

 

‘We have one foot in the raceboat industry where composite structure is the dominant cause of impact and our other foot in the superyacht industry where it’s energy use,’ Dumbell explains.
Starting from scratch, without the resources and budget of a big shipyard or top racing team, the LCA took two and a half years to complete. Dumbell is keen to stress that it’s just the first step on the road to becoming a more sustainable shipyard. But it’s a credit to him that the consultants contracted to do the analysis were impressed with the quality and scope of his data.
The LCA had two main areas of focus. One was the build of SW105-05, Sørvind: logging and weighing all materials and components, including all packaging, while also calculating energy use, quantifying freight transport logistics, tracking recycling and waste, and compiling lifecycle data on every item in the supply chain.

The other focus was a survey of the existing fleet, to establish the average impact of a Southern Wind yacht in four modes of operational use: with charter guests or owners on board; on delivery; at a boatyard for maintenance; and in standby mode tied to the dock. Diesel, energy consumptions and crew flights were all factored in. The LCA assumed a typical service life of 30 years – but this is a very conservative estimate, given that every yacht the shipyard has built in its 32 years of operation is still in use, and none of them are thought to be near their end of life.
The total cradle-to-grave footprint of SW105-05 was calculated to be just under 7,000 tons of CO2e. It’s tempting to compare that headline figure with established benchmarks – it looks to be equivalent to the footprints of 180 family cars, for example – but Dumbell explains that simple comparisons are likely to be misleading.
LCAs are designed to measure an organisation’s impact and find ways to reduce it, not to compare with other organisations, so each LCA is based on a different scope and set of parameters.

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