With the UK being the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law, it has become more important than ever for sectors to be aware of their carbon footprint. Indeed, the nation is aiming for a net zero emission score by 2050, leaving sectors with just 30 years to adapt, change, and clean up their emissions. In terms of business, three decades is a blink of an eye — plus, with the rapid onset of global warming, it is crucial for greenhouse gasses to be brought under control as soon as possible.
This is particularly important for the construction industry. According to Construction Climate Challenge, the construction and building industries contribute around 38 per cent of global energy-related emissions. The report focussed on Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, and her recommendations for what needs to be done. She outlined three key areas of focus in order to lower carbon emissions in the sector: leadership, procurement, and innovation.
In this article, we’ll explore the ways in which the construction sector is currently handling its carbon emissions, as well as a possible spotlight to future paths for reducing carbon emissions further.
Businesses within the construction sector need to do more than merely be compliant with eco-laws. They need to lead their respective areas, showcasing that they are not only following laws, but actively looking at ways of improving and showcasing new ways for businesses like themselves to go above and beyond.
For example, structural steelwork experts Cleveland Bridge acknowledge that their main raw material source, steel, is an “endlessly recyclable material”, putting them in what could be a relatively easy spot in terms of reducing waste. But the company has not contented itself with merely embracing steel’s highly-recyclable nature — the firm has achieved a Gold Award from the Sustainability in Steel Construction scheme for minimising its waste beyond raw material selection. For example, Cleveland Bridge designs are made with minimal waste in mind, as well as having strict policies in place regarding energy and fuel usage. Plus, with “lean manufacturing” processes taught to its employees to ensure maximum efficiency in all of its waste and energy reduction policies, the company stands as an example of leadership within the sector.
Procurement requires the construction industry to look internally at its supply chains and ask whether or not they could be made greener. This goes hand-in-hand with the rapidly-growing embracement of the circular economy — seeing materials reused in order to reduce the amount of waste a business produces.
Schroders reported on how new innovations within the circular economy model are already starting to take hold. For example, “data passports” attached to materials used for constructing buildings will be able to document the material for future reuse. The hope is that these “data passports” will encourage suppliers to create what Schroders refers to as “circular materials”. These materials would be designed not just for their primary purpose of construction, but with their second, third, and further lifetime use in mind.
With the target set at 2050, there’s plenty of time for brand new innovations to spring out from our rapidly improving scientific and technological advances. We’re already seeing some fascinating new methods of eco-processing emerging for the construction sector, but perhaps one of the most curious is the use of the sector’s carbon emissions as a raw material in and of itself.
PBC Today reported on exciting new methods that are set to innovate the sector with this very idea in mind. “Carbon capture” is currently an expensive technology to use, but its potential for innovation is staggering. Not only could it reuse the carbon emission of the construction sector to go back into the industry to fuel its energy needs, but it could capture carbon emissions from many other industries too for the same purpose. This innovation fits perfectly with the idea of a circular economy, and would see many businesses reduce their waste output by recycling not only their materials into new building supplies, but their gas emissions into future fuel for their next project.