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Achieving Net Zero Carbon Emissions in the Construction Industry

The UK is on track to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and, in order to achieve those goals, the construction industry needs to adapt and evolve to meet the challenge of lowering their emissions. As the industry is currently one of the highest carbon emitters in the UK, the companies involved need to get together to understand how they can improve the carbon performance of existing and new developments. In our latest Resibuild event, we talk to some of the industry leaders about carbon emissions, ask what are the major challenges faced by the industry and what strategies should be applied by construction companies to reduce their carbon footprint so as to meet the sustainability goals by 2030.

Thermal Bridging and Carbon

Thermal bridging in buildings is one of the biggest causes of higher carbon emissions in the industry and is a major concern. It has received more attention over the past few years due to the increasing demand and cost of energy and changing building codes. Thermal bridging not only reduces the efficiency of the building envelope, but also leads to occupant discomfort if not dealt with early on. Less thermal bridging also results in less loss of heat in buildings, ultimately resulting in more energy efficient and sustainable buildings.

Industry and Carbon Goals

The industry is ready to pave the way forward but the clients need to be the ones driving the changes. As of now, clients are focused on bringing down the cost of construction as opposed to ensuring durability and quality. In order to meet sustainability goals, this mindset needs to change. The goal should be to create structures that are more durable and that are built using circular designs so that they can be recycled for future projects. Additionally, the fact that the building codes have altered, leading to a demand for change in the industry is also a key factor. If all stakeholders come on board, the industry should be on track to reach carbon goals by 2030.

Current Blockers in the Industry

There are various blockers hampering the industry from moving towards achieving their carbon goals. Lack of understanding and not trusting innovation nor accepting change; lack of financial resources and the uncertainty of building in new and modern ways are some of the major blockers. But on the other hand, the industry needs to have faith in the knowledge because the products are available and companies just need to learn how to use them for optimal benefit. The pandemic has taught the industry that hard choices need to be taken to ensure a better and healthier future and that should be the focus of the industry in the future.

Using innovation that will help the industry to build longer lasting buildings seems like the best way forward. Additionally, clients need to allow designers and constructors time to deliver the right product, keeping in mind the due diligence needed to perfect new innovations. This will be essential in taking the industry forward on the path to net zero emissions.

Carbon Net Zero 2030 Strategy

Based on the requirements of the industry, some steps that construction companies need to undertake to help them get on track with carbon goals are:

· Plan with a long-term perspective for circularity, bio diversity, health, a sustainable lifestyle and climate adaptation;

· Preserve and transform instead of building new;

· Economise on energy and material – good in the short term as well as in the long term;

· Challenge new construction with low carbon materials, renewable energy and design for circularity.

The focus of the industry should be to create sustainable living environments. This can be achieved by engaging stakeholders earlier on in the construction process and by looking into climate justice. The other focus should be on circular architecture. In order to achieve this, the industry needs to look at things from a long-term perspective and find a way to make profit from reusing what can be reused. The last focus point for the industry is climate-neutral design. To achieve this, the industry needs to challenge the materials and find the best and lowest footprint materials to include in a design. It is important to hold discussions with researchers and scientists to meet this end.

Tune in to the carbon event here to learn more.

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