With the UK aiming for net zero by 2050 there is a rising demand for greener approaches across every aspect of living. When it comes to carbon emissions, the built environment is responsible for 40% of the UK’s total carbon emissions each year, with the construction sector being responsible for 11% globally. As such, we will be seeing a huge shift in the way that construction takes place to create a more sustainable world.
When it comes to materials, the construction sector will reduce the number of virgin materials being used, such as steel, and instead opt for materials such as wood. As trees grow they absorb carbon dioxide which then stays stored within the wood even when it is used for building materials meaning a reduction of carbon in the atmosphere. Wood is also a renewable material and can reduce the amount of embodied carbon that is associated with the built product, more so than concrete or steel. Through the proper management and harvesting of forests with a focus on sustainability, wood will not become a finite resource and will instead be greatly beneficial to the construction industry, as well as the reduction of carbon emissions as a whole.
New materials, such as green steel, will also be on the rise and while they are currently more expensive, they are thought to reduce embodied carbon in commercial buildings by around 70%. It is likely that with the increase of investments in sustainable technologies we will see many more materials like this being used in construction.
As we move towards net zero, there will be a huge focus on insulation within homes and buildings which will not only be of benefit to the environment but also to those who pay energy bills. Around 58% of heat is lost through the roof and walls alone due to inadequate insulation which means buildings increase their energy intake to stay warm and currently around 40% of the UK’s total energy usage is used for powering and heating buildings.
New regulations mean that new builds are required to produce 30% fewer carbon emissions than current standards. The construction industry will likely see a rise in the focus on roof insulation in particular, which currently accounts for a quarter of the heat lost in a regular building. Improperly placed vents, as well as cracks and holes in older buildings, results in much more heat being lost so a focus on proper insulation in roofs and attics will be key, particularly for current buildings.
When it comes to net zero, it is not just the building itself that needs to have reduced carbon, as do all off-site and on-site processes such as the transportation and procurement of materials. As such, within construction, there will be a significant increase in the importance of collaboration between all of those involved in the construction project from architects to contractors and other stakeholders.
Collaborators all need to be aware, and understand, the carbon targets from the start of the project to ensure that the buildings are constructed as required and this means keeping open lines of communication. While this will increase the time and money spent on the construction processes, over time it will become the norm and it will ensure that buildings are constructed per the new requirements to achieve the UK’s net zero goal.