Addressing the urgency to decarbonise construction in the UK

by BIM Academy | July 21, 2023 |  2 min read

Addressing the urgency to decarbonise construction in the UK
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The UK construction industry is in a transitional phase, addressing the need to reduce carbon emissions and to hit net zero carbon targets by 2050.  However, there is an urgency to see immediate change, rather than wait until the target deadline! Therefore, the key question is what needs to be done right now to accelerate this rate of transition to see immediate results?

In our latest Digital Climate podcast, host Paul Thorpe and Multiplex’s Head of Sustainability, Maria Fernandez Cachafeiro discuss recommendations to transform and decarbonise construction, including Multiplex’s One Decade to Act: a pathway to net zero carbon – a pathway that was launched in 2021 setting out the actions Multiplex will undertake between now and 2030 to help achieve net zero carbon by 2050, including its supply chain emissions.

In June 2019, the UK government legislated a net zero emissions target by 2050. In 2021, the government then set two additional interim targets to run a net zero power system and reduce emissions by 78% by 2035. 

These targets formed part of the discussion, which first looked at how construction accounts for around 30% of total annual carbon emissions in the UK and how do we reduce this percentage, and quickly.

As highlighted by the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) in its recent assessment of government policy, increased government intervention in these areas presents a number of opportunities to help the construction industry to grow and develop in a way that is consistent with the government’s net zero targets.

Maria talks about how “materials passports” can be one such way of working towards net zero targets. Materials passports are digital interoperable data sets that collect characteristics of materials and their assemblies, enabling specifiers, designers and users to give them the highest possible value and understand their suitability to use on a project when working to cardon reducing targets.

The availability and relevance of this data, becomes particularly significant for reuse and recycling purposes when looking at the embodied cardon of a build and the materials used on the project.

Paul goes on to ask Maria her recommendations on overcoming immediate carbon emissions challenges, and which products in particular should we be focusing on. Maria explains steel and concrete are two materials we should be focusing our attention towards, not simply looking for replacement materials but how we can work to reduce the negative impact these two products are having on our climate through the substantial reliance on their use in construction globally, not just in the UK.  

According to the European Commission, the steel industry alone is responsible for almost 5% of CO2 emissions in the EU and 7% globally. It needs to develop and commercialise new low-CO2 technologies within the next 5-10 years in order to be in line with the EU’s climate targets.

Where as between 4-8% of total global CO2 emissions come from concrete.

Materials are not the only way to reduce carbon emissions through the construction process, but they are a huge factor that must be addressed.

Listen to the full podcast to hear Paul and Maria discuss further steps, and actions to take in the decarbonisation of the UK construction industry with an emphasis on materials, their alternatives and the part manufacturers need to play in reaching UK net zero targets.

Listen now