Net Zero: What Kind of Progress Has the Construction Industry Made?

published Oct 13, 2023
1 min read

A recent update by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) shows that the construction industry still has a long way to go before meeting the UK’s net zero goals by 2050.

The CLC’s sixth progress report on the CO2nstruct Zero Performance Framework, launched in COP26, reveals that the construction industry is meeting its net zero targets in only four of nine priority areas. This framework, designed to measure and report carbon reduction in construction, uses 31 metrics spanning nine crucial categories, offering insights into the sector’s carbon footprint across activities, transportation, and resulting infrastructure.

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On a positive note, the UK construction industry is succeeding in:

  • Transitioning the construction workforce to zero-emission vehicles and equipment.
  • Advocating for projects that promote low-carbon transport modes.
  • Boosting capabilities to integrate low-carbon heating solutions in buildings.
  • Improving energy efficiency in both new and existing constructions.

However, there are areas demanding urgent attention:

  • Adopting modern construction methods and enhanced site logistics to reduce waste and transportation.
  • Collaborating with government bodies to upgrade existing buildings for better energy efficiency.
  • Adopting precise carbon measurement tools to facilitate informed, carbon-conscious decision-making in construction.
  • Prioritising designs that minimise carbon footprint, aligning with a circular economy model.
  • Investing in the research and development of low-carbon materials and manufacturing processes.

Source: Construction Leadership Council

The CLC remains hopeful the industry will meet future benchmarks for operational and embodied carbon metrics by 2024. They also acknowledge the industry’s ongoing efforts in equipping customers with eco-friendly choices and tools to achieve net zero — ranging from green design options to retrofit advice.

As a testament to the industry’s commitment to enhancing sustainability in construction, over 220 organisations have already aligned with the CO2nstruct Zero initiative. These partners, recognized for their leadership in carbon reduction, are sharing best practices, collectively steering the sector toward a sustainable future.

A few noteworthy examples include:

  • Bradfords Building Supplies: The company offers its employees complimentary home-energy assessments and retrofit plans, aligning with CO2nstruct Zero Priority four.
  • Environment Agency: The agency aims for a 45% reduction in embodied carbon by incorporating BIM analytics in a tidal barrier project, resonating with CO2nstruct Zero Priority seven.
  • Keltbray: The firm has experienced multiple benefits, including reduced emissions and fuel costs, by transitioning from fuel generators to electric power on major construction sites in London.

Despite these achievements, industry leaders, including Matt Palmer from the Lower Thames Crossing, note that there are considerable challenges ahead for construction companies. One such challenge involves increasing the number of retrofit coordinators, a task they plan to undertake in collaboration with the National Retrofit Hub. However, the recent zero diesel route map, which envisions a 78% reduction in diesel reliance by 2035, offers hope for the sector.

Nusrat Ghani, Minister of State for Industry, commended the construction sector’s efforts, reiterating the importance of reducing carbon emissions for a sustainable future. This report underscores the collective efforts of the construction industry to align with the UK’s net zero vision by 2050.

Alex Minett
Head of Global New Markets at CHAS

Alex Minett is the Head of Global New Markets at CHAS, the UK’s leading health and safety assessment scheme and provider of risk mitigation, compliance, and supply chain management services. With a working history in the audit and management consulting industry, Alex is experienced in implementing visions and strategies. Skilled in negotiation, management and business development, he is passionate about driving CHAS in its mission to safeguard organisations from risk in the UK.

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