According to the Global Status Report, building and construction activities together account for 36% of the UK’s total carbon footprint with heating alone in existing buildings resulting in 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimates that around half of all UK emissions can be influenced by the built world.
As such, to lower the carbon emissions from the built environment, we need major improvements across the property lifecycle – from design, construction and building management.
UKPA hosted a Roundtable in partnership with A/O PropTech and invited civil engineers, ConTech companies, property companies and PropTechs to discuss how technology can facilitate a sustainable built environment in the race to net zero.
Barriers to modern methods of construction
Modern methods of construction can speed up development by 30%, reduce cost by 25% and potentially reduce waste by up to 50%, however implementing new processes comes with challenges and barriers.
Challenges presented during the Roundtable included tensions between the use of modern methods of construction and the shift of local employment.
Housing associations and local authorities have a dichotomy whereby they want to provide affordable housing, however, they also want to boost their local economy, therefore causing a natural tension.
In addition, modern methods of construction require a different financing model than a traditional build and getting new financing models into the mainstream as well as the contracts associated with delivering these is a huge challenge.
In order to overcome this, it was suggested that industry partners look into new contract structures that allow modern methods of construction to be implemented with development partners as opposed to the traditional method of delivery.
Implementing sustainable materials
Implementing sustainable materials can significantly contribute to reducing the world’s carbon footprint.
Concrete currently accounts for approximately 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, and there are many companies who are promoting the use of alternative materials and technology to address this problem. For example, through the use of nanotechnology, companies such as Concrene, have developed a break-through solution for the concrete industry.
However, it can be difficult to introduce new materials and products into the market for varying reasons.
Trust and confidence in new materials is vital, particularly in the wake of disasters such as Grenfell, and this is leading to a demand for professionals with the relevant skills and knowledge.
It also calls for greater collaboration across the supply chain and dialogue on construction sustainability between contractors and clients (property developers) to drive the agenda and implement changes.
Property developers need to be powered with the data and costs required to make better-informed decisions across the design and construction process of buildings and build this into their sustainability strategies.
Adopting and supporting ConTech
Construction is slow to adopt change and although technologies have been around for some time now, there appears to be a risk-averse attitude towards implementation.
We must learn from mistakes as this is what drives innovation. Systems that are lighter, greener and stronger are being rejected because they are different.
We are changing how we design and why we design in the race to net zero, therefore it is essential that we educate the young engineers representing the future of the construction industry and across the board from clients, planners and approvers.
If there is a gap in education and developing new skills, then it is clear we must address this at the source.
It was suggested that the Government could not only support more through grants for modern methods of construction, but also through specific training offerings.
Bringing together new apprenticeships that truly support the role of modern methods of construction and encourage new types of innovation and entrants will help the educational shift.