Lack of clarity on sustainability impacting construction industry’s ability to deliver net zero

Lack of clarity on sustainability impacting construction industry’s ability to deliver net zero
  • 25% of UK emissions are directly attributable to the built environment, meaning a major step-change is required in how building projects are approached and managed
  • There are currently over a dozen national definitions of zero carbon for buildings, and corresponding standards for how to achieve it, together with many more variations at a regional and local level
  • Taking measures to deliver sustainable construction can reduce carbon emissions by up to 80%

The UK construction industry’s capability to achieve net zero targets is potentially being hindered by a lack of clarity around sustainability policy and standards, according to a new report published today by leading consultant, Currie & Brown.

The firm’s latest UK construction market outlook reportindicates that achieving the UK Government’s net zero goals will demand a major step-change in how we develop and manage our built environment, which currently accounts for 25% of all UK carbon emissions. However, it finds that the construction industry is being challenged on two fronts.

Policy shifts, such as the delays to climate policies announced by the Government in September, risk reducing industry confidence in the Government’s roadmap to net zero and investment momentum in green solutions.

Adam Mactavish, Global Director, Sustainability comments: “Extending targets can help relieve pressure on the construction industry and property sector. However, a question mark hangs over the necessity of these delays, in particular reducing obligations on landlords to improve energy efficiency will mean that occupiers and the nation remain more exposed to future energy price shocks. Surely it is right to reduce demand now, rather than subsidise avoidable consumption into the future.”

Adding to this policy uncertainty, the industry is challenged by multiple standards for, and definitions of, net zero, which are causing confusion and inefficiencies. Indeed, Currie & Brown has identified at least a dozen different standards for zero carbon buildings developed by different national bodies. There are also many more regional and local standards, and other related standards for energy and wider sustainability.

The report proposes that to move forward and effectively drive progress towards decarbonisation targets, the construction industry must work collaboratively to develop a common approach. For its part, the industry has already begun investing significant time and resources into creating solutions that align with policy goals – with progress evident in the UK net zero carbon buildings standard.

Nick Gray, Chief Operating Officer, UK and Europe, concludes:“The lack of clarity on sustainability policy and standards is a significant challenge for the UK construction industry. However, it also presents an opportunity for organisations to take a leading role in developing solutions and driving progress towards decarbonisation targets.

“Collaboration and coalescing around a common approach will be key to success. This in turn should give the Government confidence in its ambitions and roadmap – and ultimately, enable both the industry, and the UK as a whole, to achieve its net zero targets.”

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