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Net zero is the buzzword in construction today, as the sector looks to recalibrate to tailor systems and outcomes to making green targets happen. Given that the construction industry is responsible for almost half the UK’s carbon emissions there is clearly a huge burden on the sector to do as much as possible to ensure that change happens. And it is happening. From a new focus on home energy efficiency due to predicted energy prices rises, to the innovative modern construction making all the difference, there is already plenty of momentum in place.

Home Energy Efficiency Projects Are On The Rise

Home energy efficiency projects are getting a big boost thanks to the rise in energy prices that has been experienced almost across the board. With more price rises forecast for the coming years, many UK homeowners have been looking for opportunities to cut costs. This is already starting to have a direct impact on demand for energy efficiency construction projects focused on UK homes.

One recent survey of 1,500 tradespeople (such as plumbers, joiners, electricians etc) found that 70% had already seen rising demand from householders for these types of projects. That could be anything, from installing cavity wall insulation to other types of insulation (for walls and ceilings) or investing in a heat pump for a property. There is a clear and well-established link between how efficient a property is and the amount of energy that needs to be consumed (and paid for) to run it. That’s why so many people today are keen to invest in projects that are going to bring more savings to life.

This approach is also going to have a positive impact on the progress that the UK is making towards net zero targets. Because the UK has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe it always seemed tricky to mobilise modernisation to help upgrade these properties. However, now that householders are motivated to help make their properties more efficient, this could make it much easier to ensure that the future is a much more carbon neutral one.

Net Zero Construction Requires Net Zero Thinking

The construction sector bears a lot of responsibility when it comes to net zero achievements in the UK. This is mainly because it is responsible for 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Any changes made in the construction industry towards greener practices are likely to have a significant knock-on impact on the way the country is able to respond to climate goals. Aside from integrating more technology, innovative materials and working with more brownfield sites, what else can the construction sector do? One positive contribution is the potential that rethinking project management has for helping the UK to achieve climate goals. In practice this looks like:

  • Prioritising net zero skills. The UK currently does not have sufficient net zero skills – and neither does the construction sector. So, it’s vital that these are at the heart of project management going forward and that training for these skills is embedded by project managers taking a sustainability-first approach.
  • Agility in construction businesses. Currently the number of construction businesses using an agile approach in the UK is half that of Europe – and yet this has been identified as one of the ways that construction enterprises can better respond to net zero goals. Agility is something that project management strategy can embed from the very start.
  • A green skills approach from the top down. This will ensure that every project – and every person on that project – always has in mind vital climate goals.

We are in the middle of a housing crisis, which demands that construction go into overdrive to cope. However, this doesn’t have to be at the expense of net zero goals. Since 1990, there has been a 53% reduction in absolute carbon dioxide emissions so the sector is capable of transformational change. Rethinking project management approaches is one way to achieve this.

Modern Construction And Its Role In Climate Goals

The World Green Council has called for those involved in new construction, renovation and infrastructure to work to reduce embodied carbon by 40% by 2030. However, there is a lot that needs to happen in the next few years in order to make that happen. At governmental level, there are incentives being implemented like requiring companies that are bidding on public contracts worth more than £5 million to submit a carbon reduction plan that covers not just carbon in the works but also how the business will be net carbon neutral by 2050. And at the level of industry there is plenty of innovation already taking place to help bring green goals to life.

3 Examples of Modern Construction Playing a Positive Role In Climate Goals

  1. Modular construction. This is where components are built off site and transported to project locations when ready. It’s a much more agile approach that provides for emissions savings, reduced costs and timelines and better quality control, among many other things.
  2. SMART building technology. This can be used to evolve construction throughout the lifecycle of a project to make it greener. In one recent MoD project, for example, it enabled a drop of 33% in embodied carbon between the initial prototype and the subsequent buildings.
  3. Green measures that focus on the lifecycle of a building. There are many of these, including rainwater harvesting that pumps water back into the building for re-use and can significantly reduce water wastage.

There are many more examples of modern construction that are designed to play a positive role in climate goals, from the materials used to the processes that are being improved and streamlined. In combination with new approaches to project management, a shift to more of a net zero mindset and the way in which consumers are now focused on more energy efficient homes too, there is a lot of positive change taking place.

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