Construction is vital to infrastructure, and understandably a lynchpin of the UK’s ever-growing economy. But construction also represents a significant cost with regard to climate, as a growing crisis begins to impact ecosystems and weather patterns on home soil.
Changes are already being introduced by the government with regard to a national decarbonisation strategy. But with specific regard to the construction industry: what is the carbon cost of construction, and how might change be managed?
The Carbon Cost of Construction
The global construction industry is a leading contributor to carbon emissions, as evidenced by recent data; according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the global construction sector accounts for 11% of global emissions. Locally, though, the situation is more dire; the ‘built sector’, referring to the carbon cost of buildings, constructions and developments-in-progress alike, is responsible for 40% of national carbon emissions.
While an important majority of this 40% figure includes the pollutive side-effects of heat inefficiency, it also speaks to a wider issue of unsustainable construction practice – from core raw material supply to the construction process itself. As an example, the global cement industry alone is on a par with leading pollutive nations for carbon emissions.
Looking solely at the above data, it is clear that something has to change in the construction industry. Further reports and studies further illustrate the necessity for decarbonisation in construction, and the government has – to some extent – listened.
Net-zero carbon strategy was already central the UK government’s response to climate change and has been re-affirmed as a core strategy following the COP26 summit in Glasgow. The government’s recent announcements regarding net zero have included a number of sweeping changes and announcements, with particular emphasis on the efficiency of finished homes.
Towards an Ecological Industry
While the construction industry can have an active hand in the government push towards greener buildings, there are still serious internal considerations to make regarding the carbon footprint of construction businesses themselves. What can a given business do to mitigate its own climate impacts?
One of the keyways in which businesses are addressing their climate responsibilities is through a concept called ESG, or Environmental, Social and Governance. ESG is essentially a strategic framework, that seeks to alter internal processes and engagements for a more sustainable and equitable outcome.
ESG lawyers are used to navigate compliance with new eco-forward regulations, and also to chart legal pathways through new sustainable agreements with staff and suppliers alike. The approach must be public as a point of necessity; transparent movements to sustainability are crucial to unified sustainability measures across the industry.
As for specific measures to reducing the carbon cost of construction, a holistic shift towards sustainable and low-carbon materials is a strong start – and one buoyed by new technological innovation. 3D printing, for example, enables the printing of bespoke pieces from recycled plastics.