Decarbonising Construction – Now is the Time to Act

28th October 2020

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With lockdowns remerging around the country as the result of the COVID second wave, Brexit fast approaching, and global political and economic uncertainty, it is possible that the decarbonisation of the construction industry has had to fight for a top spot in our list of priorities.

However, in June of this year, the Committee for Climate Change suggested that in fact the coronavirus pandemic could be the ideal time to accelerate decarbonisation by building a “green and resilient COVID-19 recovery”.

There can be no doubt that COVID and the resulting impact it has had on the way we live and work has shown us that transformational change can happen at pace when it we have no option but to react. If we consider the mounting evidence of wildfires, melting polar ice caps, and mass deforestation, one could argue that this is the position we find ourselves in relation to the climate crisis.

The IPCC has stated that the construction industry must decarbonise by 2050 to meet Paris agreement targets.  So how should the industry act in order to take advantage of this time of unprecedented change to meet these exacting targets?

A combination of strong leadership, government policy, and innovation across the industry will be required.  Already, progress is being made to decarbonise construction projects in leading markets such as UK, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway, and real progress being made in some areas such as the use of electric vehicles in construction, as demonstrated by Skanska and its emissions free quarry.

The CCC specifically focussed on the importance of futureproof low-carbon buildings, and low-carbon building retrofits, the strengthening of energy networks, and the importance of moving increasingly towards a circular economy.  It also highlighted the importance of skills and training, stating that “the net-zero economy will require a net-zero workforce” with all the skills required to implement new technologies and ways of working.

Contractors can start to make the move towards decarbonisation by making better use of existing buildings and materials, recycling materials and components where possible, or switching to lower-emission materials, and using low-emission construction machinery.

The industry must come together and act with focus and determination to meet the challenging targets we have been set, ensuring that construction plays its part in achieving climate stability for future generations to come.