Build Back Better: A greener future for construction

It is no secret that the construction industry needs to do better in improving its environmental impact. Following the release of the Construction Leadership Council’s Roadmap to Recovery plan this week, we explore how we can build back better on World Environment Day.

Biophilia on building facade

World Environment Day has a clear message: To care for ourselves we must care for nature. It’s time to build back better for people and planet.

As the construction industry works on building itself back up, this week’s release of the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) ambitious Roadmap to Recovery Plan reminds us that a key element of building better is building green.

The wider agenda

Despite a news agenda dominated by the pandemic, it is encouraging to see that the climate crisis has not been forgotten. Boris Johnson has spoken out on the need for a “fairer, greener and more resilient global economy” post-COVID 19. Business Green reported on the prime minister’s sentiments last week and how the net zero target remains “undiminished.”

Reported in the Financial Times, a letter calling for a ‘green’ coronavirus recovery plan has been signed by almost 200 companies. Signatories include BP, Lloyds and Heathrow airport. The company leaders see the value of any future corporate bailouts being linked to clear commitments to achieving net zero.

If you heard Ed Miliband on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning, you’ll know that the Labour Party is calling for the same from the aviation industry. Meanwhile, the European Union has also unveiled what it called the biggest green stimulus in history.

And finally, market research experts, Ipsos Mori, this week released a report exploring ‘What next for climate change?’ after finding 71% of the world is still concerned despite being in the midst of a pandemic.

So, what are the plans for the UK to build back better, and greener?

Construction: Building back better

Construction is a huge contributor to the economy and will be a significant driver for national economic recovery.

The CLC’s Roadmap to Recovery Plan is a three-phase strategy – restart, reset, reinvent – that will be delivered over the next two years.

The first goal for the industry is to ensure the working environment is safe and sustainable, but other objectives in the plan include decarbonisation and “delivering better, safer buildings.” The desired outcome is to reduce “carbon emissions and improve the sustainability and resource efficiency of the construction and built environment sectors and make measurable progress towards delivering net zero carbon.”

Another desired outcome is “meeting societal needs, including more and better residential accommodation and safer buildings.”

Net zero carbon is already one of the CLC’s objectives and looks at “improving design, product selection and manufacturing and construction processes to deliver built assets that achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases as part of the pathway towards net zero.”

Though aspirational, the CLC’s plan accepts there will be challenges. Timescales will differ depending on the organisations involved as the construction sector is so varied in size, ability and access to resources.

The sectors must work together, and this requires an agile approach: no easy feat for an industry notorious for being so fragmented and slow to change

So, as the industry restarts, now is the time to embrace innovation and apply new approaches to achieve net zero carbon. It is time to recruit the benefits of digital and embrace how technology can improve sustainability through greater information sharing and access to better data (ideally sat in servers powered by renewable energy).

It is time to adopt modern methods of construction that reduce waste and embrace more carbon positive ways of building with renewable natural materials such as sustainably sourced wood.

Build back better is a slogan that was tailor made for our industry and a thriving post-Coronavirus future.

Wind turbine

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