As we reflect on two weeks in which leaders from around the world assembled in Glasgow for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the construction and built industry look to what they can do to help reduce carbon commissions in the UK.
With the built environment contributing to 25 per cent of the total UK carbon footprint, the industry has a crucial role to play in the goal to achieve net zero by 2050, making existential changes necessary.
This year’s conference dedicated an entire day to the industry, titled ‘The Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day’. The conference marked a milestone in environmental law, seeing the Environment Act 2021 passed, creating legally binding targets for government and public authorities to account against their commitments.
There is a lot of work already underway to tackle climate change in the construction industry, but COP26 highlighted the scale of the challenge that lies ahead.
Below we look at some recommendations and strategies in the construction sector.
Actions, not words:
Retrofitting existing built assets
Feedback from the Federation of Master Builders saw members debate that there was not enough demand from homeowners for energy efficiency or energy retrofit upgrades to their property. Financial incentives are crucial to persuade people to switch to green energy to heat their homes and buildings.
The Heat and Buildings Strategy, announced in October 2021, will see homeowners receive grants of £5,000 towards heat pumps, replacing traditional gas boilers, as energy saving devices. This funding is part of a £3.9bn package over the upcoming four years, in which we hope to see a decarbonisation of public buildings and funding for heat networks.
A report by the National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) in September called for the construction industry to introduce drastic measures for building sites across the UK. This includes more holistic and efficient building designs, using energy-efficient materials where possible, and using non-fossil fuel powered machinery to reduce carbon emissions from construction sites.
The report also suggests the development of offsite construction methods that can be used across the industry, seeing the designing and manufacturing processes completed in a factory before moving onsite, thereby reducing waste, improving safety and quality standards, and reducing costs.
Retrofitting existing buildings will also require an upskilling of current on-site workers to develop ‘green’ skills, it suggests.
The Environment Act will see Local Planning Authorities (LPA) required to assimilate Local Nature Recover Strategies (LNRS) for the environment’s recovery into their local planning system. This includes mapping valuable sites and habitats for wildlife and identifying where nature can be restored.
Director at LW Developments, Dean Williamson, said: “The built industry has a huge part to play in reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. By working collaboratively, we, as a sector can work to achieve these recommendations and strategies, creating an enormous positive impact on this movement and future generations.”
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Dean Williamson MRICS