New report says reusing materials and green machinery will help construction meet targets

The industry has been told to speed up its decarbonisation plans over the coming years, according to a new report out today.

The National Engineering Policy Centre, a partnership of 43 of the UK’s professional engineering organisations led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, said the sector needed to get in line with national emission reduction targets of 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035.

It said more holistic and efficient building designs, combined with measures such as reusing building materials wherever possible and using non-fossil fuel powered machinery, could help to eliminate carbon emissions from building sites.

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The report said more building materials should be reused to help meet targets

The built environment currently contributes some 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions and it is estimated that the construction sector contributes up to 11% of global carbon emissions.

The report added that government can play an important role by changing its approach to procurement, to reflect whole-life carbon performance.

> Also read: How construction can (help to) save the world (part 1) and part 2

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As well as speeding up its plans, it said whole-life carbon assessment should be applied to public procurement while design should be updated to support efficient design and reuse of materials.

Other recommendations include promoting large-scale adoption of best practices in low-carbon procurement and construction, applying it to all new build and refurbishment projects by 2025, making net zero and sustainability principles and practices a mandatory part of engineering education while the government should apply a joined-up, systems approach across the construction sector and across government departments to ensure that total emissions from construction are minimised.

Arup deputy chair and chair of the National Engineering Policy Centre Net Zero working group, Dervilla Mitchell, said: “The construction sector has already made real progress; the concrete and cement industry has delivered a 53% reduction in absolute CO2 emissions since 1990

“However, more still needs to be done if we are to get on track to meet the ultimate target of achieving net zero by 2050.

“We know how to do this. For example, the London 2012 Olympic Delivery Authority’s stated its aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% compared with standard practice and used its purchasing power and prestige status to develop ‘sustainable concrete’, using recycled aggregate, batched on site to reduce both transport emissions and supply risk.”