This year, we’ve already written several blogs examining the growing take-up of low-carbon construction and green construction methods, reflecting an increased focus on reducing carbon emissions across the built environment. It’s a focus that’s only getting stronger as the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, which is this year to be held in Glasgow, approaches.
Two months ago, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) announced a new industry-wide initiative called C02nstruct Zero, which will aim to help the government meet its ambitious net-zero targets by 2050. And, just last week, the scheme’s first 14 ‘Business Champions’ stepped forward to declare their commitment to C02nstruct Zero.
Companies can apply to be Business Champions on a monthly basis, and must demonstrate a commitment to reducing carbon emissions in the delivery and operation of the built environment. From regional businesses to global firms, the first 14 Business Champions span the entire industry and have committed to sharing evidence and data relating to their net-zero carbon plans with the government and wider public.
The firms include household names Arcadis, Laing O’Rourke, Mace and Travis Perkins, as well as smaller regional firms such as Bradfords Building Supplies.
Mace previously announced it had cut carbon emissions by 50% last year, and offset its residual emissions to become a net zero carbon business in December 2020. Now, it says, it is working to encourage staff to use low-carbon forms of transport and has piloted hybrid and electric machinery and other technologies in its bid to become fossil-fuel free by 2030.
The nine priorities
The initiative’s aims are split over three main areas – transport, buildings and construction activity – with three main priorities for each area. Business Champions must show evidence of plans demonstrating their commitment to these priorities:
- Encouraging a shift towards zero-emission machinery and vehicles
- Maximising the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and improving logistics to reduce waste
- Championing developments and infrastructure investments that enable connectivity with low carbon modes of transport and are designed to incorporate readiness for zero emission vehicles
- Work with the government to retrofit existing housing stock to improve energy efficiency
- Scaling up the industry’s capability to deliver low-carbon heat solutions in buildings
- Enhancing the energy performance of new/existing buildings through higher operational energy efficiency standards and better performance monitoring
- Implementing carbon measurement to help with decisions to remove carbon
- Becoming world leaders in ‘designing out’ carbon at the design stage
- Supporting the development of low-carbon materials (with a priority on concrete and steel), as well as advancing low-carbon methods of manufacturing and distribution
Barriers to effective implementation
On paper, the C02nstruct Zero project sounds like the perfect initiative to promote change across the industry: businesses are coming together to effect positive change, and improving accountability and transparency by sharing data with the government and wider public. However, as with any initiative to improve the industry’s uptake of new low-carbon technologies and methods, certain challenges still present barriers to its success.
As you likely know, the imminent retirement of many of the UK’s most skilled construction workers, combined with a lack of new talent entering the industry, has long seen the industry heading towards a significant skills shortage. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) estimates that up to 750,000 workers will retire or be on the verge of retirement in the next 15 years. Meanwhile, our previous blog explored new research showing that a massive 350,000 new construction jobs will need to be created to meet net-zero targets by 2028.
A silver lining
It’s not all doom and gloom, however; recent Spring Budgets, as well as the Chancellor’s 2020 Autumn Statement, have demonstrated a significant government commitment to funding traineeships and apprenticeships, as well as to green construction and infrastructure projects. With eyes fixed firmly on the nation’s 2050 target, the future of construction is looking greener than ever before.