What COP26 could mean for the construction industry?

COP26 is an important stage in our collective journey to reduce the causes and mitigate the impact of climate change. The Built Environment and Construction Sector accounts for 38% of global Carbon Emissions and so it will play a key role in achieving targets for net zero by 2050. It will also be a major solution provider to the climate crisis. In this article we look at what COP26 could mean for the future of the construction industry in the UK.

 

Wind turbine on fields sunset

Building for the Future

As the world looks to COP26 for some tangible global progress on commitments to reduce carbon emissions drastically to lower and prevent climate change, key construction industry organisations are outlining their hopes and expectations for the summit. The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) have defined nine priorities for the sector across transport, buildings and construction based on the Climate Change Committee’s sixth carbon budget with their ‘Road to COP’ campaign. These priorities give everyone in the sector a role that will require both learning and commitment.

Leading plumbing and drainage manufacturer Wavin has joined the latest cohort of the CLC’s net zero carbon programme, which is part of the council’s CO2nstruct Zero initiative. The involvement is part of Wavin being awarded the status of ‘Industry Business Champion’ and brings together industry-leading manufacturers, contractors and consultants who are committed to uniting the sector to meet the government’s ambitious targets. Wavin’s participation follows the introduction of a number of new sustainability initiatives across the business which build on its work to date in this area.

 

Commenting on the initiative, Chris Mellor-Dolman, Marketing Communications Manager with Wavin commented: ‘’By becoming part of the industry-wide programme, Wavin will work with other companies in the sector as well as share evidence of its net zero carbon initiatives, in accordance with the CO2nstruct Zero reporting process set by the CLC. Wavin has already pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and has also set a clear target to be the industry leader in sustainability by 2025.’’

 

The CLC and ConstructZero will appear on 11th November in the Cinema Auditorium ‘COP26 Green Zone’ at the Glasgow Science Centre. Tickets will be free, and anyone can watch by subscribing to the COP26 YouTube channel

Alongside the COP26 goals of securing global net zero by the mid-century, keeping 1.5 degrees within reach, protecting communities and habitats and mobilising finance, the goal of ‘working together to deliver’ emphasises the importance that is being placed on collaboration between government, businesses and civil society.

 

Carbon neutral homes

Gas boiler cartoonHeating is the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK, making up more than one-third of the total.  The government has already outlined plans to ban gas boilers in newly built homes by 2025 but there are calls by the CBI to ban all new gas boilers by 2025. It is also yet unclear on how the government will encourage or legislate for the retrofit of existing housing to ensure energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions. Following the failed Green Grants Scheme, a new heat and buildings strategy has been in preparation for some time but has yet to be published. As part of COP26, countries will be asked for concrete plans to help slash emissions and it’s possible that this could help to accelerate the launch of the new strategy. However, industry will also have a key role to play by scaling up its capability to deliver low carbon heating solutions.

Low carbon construction

NetZero carbon doesn’t only refer to a building’s operating emissions. The construction stage which includes extraction, manufacture, transportation and installation can account for half or more of all carbon emissions. In order to rise to the challenge of NetZero carbon emissions there is likely to be a drive for faster adoption of new technologies by manufacturers, and the digitalisation of design by building contractors, in order to provide greater visibility of carbon emissions and a shakeup of procurement models to prioritise low carbon emissions.

Mike Ward, Managing Director at Wavin UK, said: “It’s vital for us to think about sustainability at every turn, so it’s a natural step for us to also make sure our trusted partners are on the same page when it comes to their own carbon footprint. We are truly in this together as a sector, and by ensuring we have an environmentally-focused supply chain, we can achieve industry-wide carbon net zero in-line with the targets.”

We look forward to the outcomes of COP26 and working with our suppliers, industry bodies and customers to reduce carbon emissions and develop solutions to help mitigate the impact of climate change. - Mike Ward - Managing Director at Wavin UK

Climate resilience

Flood prevention is likely to play a key role in protecting communities as more extreme weather events occur as a result of climate change. A key challenge for urban planning and the construction industry will be ensuring that plans for surface water management are adequate and effective. Nature-based solutions and blue-green infrastructure are likely to form an important part of the solution, and may also help to protect biodiversity. Last year new design and construction guidance for the sewage sector became mandatory providing a mechanism by which water companies can secure the adoption of a wide range of SuDS components that are compliant.

A whitepaper published by Wavin and New Civil Engineer in early 2021, highlighted the lack of legislation by the government that improves the uptake of high-quality SuDs features.

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