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Ask the Panel: How can the construction and property industry cut down on carbon emissions?

Ask the Panel: How can the construction and property industry cut down on carbon emissions?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned of the threats of global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. In response, the UK Green Building Council’s chief executive, Julie Hirigoyen said the UK’s buildings account for around 30% of carbon emissions, adding: “It is also the industry with the most cost-effective means of reducing carbon emissions so it will be a vital catalyst for change in the wider economy.” With this in mind, Move Commercial asks North West experts:

Q: How can the construction and property industry act quickly and effectively to cut down on carbon emissions?

Kevin Horton | director, K2 Architects

I think it’s fair to say that since austerity was introduced there hasn’t been much enthusiasm in either the public or private sector market for reducing carbon emissions.

Many of the established certifications positioned themselves in the market as being all things to everyone. The outcome of this is costly, bloated and disconnected processes that many clients struggle to relate to or see value in during tough times.

Granted the European funding mechanisms expect commitment to the sustainability agenda, but current national government policy is, at best, ambiguous on the subject and it is hard to see where this will lead us as we leave the EU next year.

As we start to think about what the UK looks like over the next few years and how it will differentiate itself as a market leader for trade, perhaps the time is ripe for a fresh look at our approach to the sustainability agenda.

James Blake | director of sustainability, Turley

Various national standards such as Building Regulations Part L and the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) seek to ensure that both new and existing buildings achieve ongoing improvements in their energy and carbon emission performance. An increasing number of developers, property businesses and other organisations are seeking to go beyond current national standards, however.

They are taking the initiative to implement change, such as procuring renewable and zero carbon electricity supplies for their assets or signing up to the UK Green Business Council’s major new programme ‘Advancing Net Zero’. This programme seeks to drive the transition to a net zero carbon built environment in the UK.

Following the IPCC’s recent report and the request from UK government for the Committee on Climate Change to provide advice on whether further action is needed to achieve the Paris Agreement’s ambitious goal of limiting climate change to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, such mandatory and voluntary measures can only increase.

Furthermore, there is a growing risk to assets from ‘no action’ and an increasing premium / market demand for more sustainable, energy efficient buildings.

Steve Merridew | environmental design director, BDP

Our challenge is not that we don’t know what to do, but how to do it. Fantastic examples – such as the Enterprise Centre at the University of East Anglia – have an incredibly small carbon footprint in both construction and operation, all achieved using current, scalable technologies. As an industry we need to galvanise the political, financial and collective will to accelerate the roll-out of more carbon-conscious construction projects.

Devolution provides one platform for city regions to bring businesses, institutions and communities together on this. The partnership approach championed by the Manchester Climate Agency is a powerful example, with the construction and property industry bringing agencies together to tackle existing building stock.

The sector needs to embrace Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things to drastically reduce emissions by investing in education and training. By leveraging research and development such as Manchester Science Partnerships at the Bright Building, we can fully understand how working together can reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, transport and industry.

Neal Maxwell | managing director, Aztec Interiors

Our industry can only make a difference, and act quickly, by working together.

I believe the best way to achieve this is by getting everyone to sign up to a common process for change, with a deadline on results. This will then effectively implement a real difference and give guidance to the construction and property industry in not only cutting down on carbon emissions but to eradicate the use of plastics too.

It’s ambitious, yes, but achievable.

We at Aztec are fully committed to tackling the eco-footprint of the construction and property industry. As such, we are currently putting together a process which will contain a series of steps to take to effect real change in our collective eco-footprint, a process that we will be asking businesses to sign up to.

The time to take action is now, and by working together even this most ambitious goal is achievable.