Construction industry must man up to green agenda, finds construction adviser

Transforming the existing built environment to a low-carbon one could provide small builders with a 40-year supply of work if they can adapt to deliver the low-carbon agenda.

According to the final report by chief construction adviser Paul Morrell for the government’s low-carbon construction innovation team, the green agenda means the construction industry faces the largest change management programme since Victorian times.

The Innovation and Growth Team report was launched this morning by Morrell, alongside construction minister Mark Prisk, communities minister Andrew Stunell and climate change minister Greg Barker.

Its four key findings are:

  • Meeting the UK’s commitment to reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions will affect every aspect of the built environment, with a focus needed now on the existing  built stock.
  • Transforming the built environment to low carbon could provide construction SMEs with a 40-year programme of work and act as a springboard to growth for more than 200,000 small businesses in the sector.
  • Creating a low-carbon construction industry would develop skills and expertise that would be of great value to other sectors, giving wider economic benefits in the move to a green economy for the  UK.
  • Government and industry need to work closely together to identify the best ways to stimulate the demand for low-carbon and energy-efficiency measures.

Morrell said meeting the low-carbon agenda was both a challenge and an opportunity for the construction industry. “It will require radical change to the way we do business as well as government action to meet the scale of the challenge. There are no easy answers,” he said.

The Climate Change Act calls for net UK carbon emissions in 2050 to be at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline, which the report says will require a “quantum change” in the industry.

Construction minister Mark Prisk said the report was a valuable contribution to how the construction industry can play its part in the UK meeting its low-carbon responsibilities.

He said: “As a former chartered surveyor I am very much aware of the importance of the construction industry and the opportunity for growth the low-carbon agenda represents. Now we need to make the most of that opportunity.”

The government will respond in full to the recommendations next year.

The report has been welcomed by the industry. Construction Products Association chief executive Michael Ankers said it provided a springboard for action for delivering a low-carbon built environment.

He said: “This report provides an enormous opportunity and there is a 40-year programme of work out there for those capable of seizing the opportunities this presents. There has never been a better time for the construction industry to take the lead and to drive this agenda forward.”

Ankers particularly welcomed the recommendation that an existing homes hub is established similar to the Zero Carbon Hub that is working to develop the programme for delivering all new homes to a zero-carbon standard by 2016.

Peter Hansford, president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said: “Government must also take a lead role in making sure these goals become reality. The long awaited National Infrastructure Plan and today’s IGT report are extremely welcome, but they are just a start. Continued action and commitment will be required to ensure that in the future, the only infrastructure being built is low-carbon infrastructure that leads to low-carbon living.”

More soon…