Reducing carbon reduces costs – The Green Construction Board Three Year On Report

The Green construction Board launched their Three Year On Report last week at Ecobuild, London with addresses and a panel Q&A with key members of the Green Construction Board and its subsidiary panels. Members included Mike Putnam, Skanska; Lynne Sullivan, SustainableByDesign; Robin Webb, BIS; Alan Couzens, Infrastructure UK; Mark Oliver, H+H; and Peter Hansford, Government Chief Construction Adviser.

Climate change, increasing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions globally remains one of the greatest issues of the 21st century.

The UK has made several commitments to tackle this including a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 (from 1990 levels as a baseline). This commitment affects businesses and individuals in the construction industry, as a collective effort is required reduce emissions by 80% across an industry.

The Green Construction Board  was established in 2011 to provide coordinated leadership between government and industry to deliver the actions set out in Low Carbon Construction Innovation & Growth Team report on low carbon construction: government response and to lead the change to a low carbon built environment and carbon emission reductions.
As well as discussing broader visions and goals for the industry, the event focused on targets for carbon reduction and the Green Construction Boards core message that ‘Reducing Carbon Reduces Costs’ across all sectors; from infrastructure to retail and domestic.

It was recognised across the panel that a cultural change is required to meet the targets set out carbon reduction ambitions and to be adopted by the entire industry. The commitments and work to date from major companies and organisations, such as Mott MacDonald, CEMEX, Skanska and others who have endorsed the Infrastructure Carbon Review, illustrates the strong leadership and drive from key players in the industry but creating the “followship” is the next step for industry.

This cultural change requires buy in at all levels, from industry leaders, through the entire supply and down to occupiers and asset operators in order to reduce whole life emissions in capital (embodied) carbon, operational carbon and end user carbon.  

Effecting wider change requires encouraging reduction through procurement frameworks, providing leadership and driving “followship” by building skills and knowledge in supply chains and occupiers, and creating processes which not only encourage innovation and technology developments, but support the implementation and uptake of innovation.

Within this there is the ongoing challenge of encouraging collaboration along supply chains and encouraging uptake of processes, technologies and low carbon design along a supply chain that tends to be more pyramidal than linear.

Involving occupiers and operators of the built environment and infrastructure assets is key to bringing about the cultural change required, as carbon management decisions should be based on whole life cycles of a building or asset. In order to engage this group a broader picture of the benefits needs to be created highlighting the environmental and social benefits alongside the cost benefits.

The ‘Three Year On Report’ outlines priorities, strategies and activities to date, such as the Low Carbon Route Map 2050, Infrastructure Carbon Review, and Value and Demand reports, which will drive the green construction agenda forward and work to meeting industry targets of carbon reduction by 2050.

With an increasing number of strategies and guidance to support this agenda, knowledge and skills are the biggest barriers to low carbon targets and it is now time for industry leaders to ‘spread the word’ and expand engagement with all stakeholders to create a low carbon construction industry.