The race to Net Zero in the construction industry

Construction industry
The race to Net Zero in the construction industry

The latest UN Climate Change Conference, COP27, once again drew the world’s attention to the looming climate crisis, and the ‘Net Zero strategy’ was highlighted as being a key factor to averting the crisis and the irreversible impact on the environment.

Net Zero refers to the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, predominantly through balancing the amount of greenhouse gases being produced with the amount removed from the atmosphere.

In order to achieve this goal, research has shown that the world must reach a state of ‘Net Zero’ emissions by 2050 and all governments and businesses need to collectively work towards this. 

In 2018, we covered the topic of sustainability in the construction industry and since then there have been great strides, but also some setbacks, to achieving ‘Net Zero’. Let’s take a look.

Challenges and opportunities facing the construction industry

Being sustainable in the construction industry means creating projects which have positive outcomes for society, particularly the natural environment, with the ultimate goal of sourcing renewable and recyclable materials, and reusing materials where possible to avoid waste. 

The construction industry, by its very nature, is one of the largest users of the world’s natural resources. Alarmingly, the latest statistics show the construction industry still accounts for around 36% of worldwide energy consumption and 40% of CO2 emissions. 

With ever-growing concerns over climate change, this inevitably creates an increased pressure on the construction industry to further its efforts and reduce its environmental impact.

Unfortunately, the pandemic and the recovery period which followed, stalled some of the greener practices that many companies had adopted and worked hard to implement, and we saw an increase in many non-sustainable practices in order for businesses to reduce their costs and outlay.   

However, there have also been many positive changes in the industry. For instance, in Oslo, Norway, workers made history by creating the world’s first zero-emission construction site and consequently avoided producing nearly 100,000kg of CO2 emissions during the expansion of a pedestrian zone. 

Furthermore, all construction sites within the city will be required to operate zero-emission vehicles by 2025 and other cities are expected to follow in their footsteps. This has resulted in construction EV prototypes being piloted across Europe - a huge leap forward for the industry.

Meanwhile, Volvo has already stopped making new diesel compact wheel loaders and excavators and instead has pledged to invest in developing new models with electric powertrains.

Advances in technology

COP27 identified the use of technology as being a key opportunity to curb emissions and help battle against needless waste and unnecessary resources, and there have been many advancements in this area to benefit the construction industry. 

The UK alone is home to over 3,000 climate tech start-ups focused on the built environment and the construction industry is seeing an increasing trend in various IT and technological advancements. 

For instance, many companies are becoming paperless, using automation and BIM, cloud-based software, or carrying out surveys using drones, switching to zero-emission vehicles, and more. 

Countfire itself plays a small but impactful part in helping estimators to become more sustainable. By centralising takeoffs and estimates in one place, and storing drawings all from one cloud-based tool, this in turn reduces waste by allowing businesses to save on resources from office running costs, printing costs, as well as cutting down on travel to onsite locations. 

Final thoughts

As the world continues to take steps to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, it's clear that more still needs to be done across all industries to combat climate change and reduce waste, and the construction industry in particular has its own vital part to play. 

However, with growing advances in technology, the industry is making positive strides in creating a more sustainable future. More solutions are being embraced and new developments are emerging on a continual basis. This is helping the construction industry and other sectors to continue on its path to delivering the Net Zero strategy in combating the climate crisis. 

We hope 2023 will bring further innovative solutions for the construction industry across the board to reduce their environmental impact.