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2050 zero carbon target won’t happen without radical change to construction

The leading trade body representing builders has today called on the construction sector and any future government, to act now if they are to meet the 2050 zero carbon target. With construction directly influencing 47% of UK carbon emissions and 61% of UK waste, the sector is a critical part of the radical change needed.

The National Federation of Builders’ (NFB) major contractors group (MCG) launched its Transforming Construction for a Low Carbon Future report today, warning that the construction industry must be transformed within a generation, otherwise it will have failed the country and the government will fail in its zero carbon ambitions.

Speaking at the launch, NFB’s chairman, Nick Sangwin, said, “This report is not a document to sit on shelves gathering dust, it is designed to galvanise the sector into action, to see the opportunities and to lead the way towards zero carbon by 2050. It is critical that those within the construction sector are stepping forward and implementing a real step-change in the way they do business.”

Mark Wakeford, Chair of the NFB’s MCG, commented: “The year 2050 might seem a long time away but it’s really not much time to radically change our industry. We must start now and the government, in whatever guise they return, must lead the way and make this a firm priority post-election. Anyone still operating the same way as they are today in 20 years time will be lucky to still be in business. There are no excuses – government, contractors, the supply chain, manufacturers, designers and the trades must all embrace the challenge now, as highlighted in our recommendations.

“To make this happen, domestic housing requires a government spend of £15bn a year, industrial and commercial property and infrastructure requires up to £10bn a year, flood defences £1bn a year, and the power sector £20bn a year. But it’s about more than just money, the transformation required in the construction industry is multi-faceted and it is critical that industry and government take a joined-up approach to bring together developments in skills, procurement, design, products and materials, transport and more.

“The report we are launching today is a call to arms. We’re telling the government and the industry alike to wake up to the reality of zero carbon and act now.”

Gren Tipper, operations director at the Construction Clients Leadership Group, commented: “The industrial strategy for construction majors on value, and one large section of value can be and should be the fight towards net zero emissions. The industry has had decades of lowest price tendering and without much thought to value. The biggest added value aspect today is getting carbon reduction right.”

Chris Clarke, head of transformation at public procurement specialists SCAPE Group, said: “We know that 80% of the building stock that is going to be on site in 2050 is already there, so we must think harder when we extend and we improve, renovate and refurbish. That is for all of us to influence but it is particularly important for public sector clients to think about their investment decisions, make more rounded decisions and think about what they are doing for strategic outcomes.”

While the report warns against the risks of not acting now, it also spells out the huge opportunities that exist across the sector, including domestic, industrial, flood defence, the power sector and transport. It looks at funding streams, the transformation of skills, procurement and design, and innovative approaches to reducing carbon emissions and waste. The report has contributions from a wide range of organisations with an interest in the sector, including the CBI, the CITB, Constructing Excellence, the Institution of Civil Engineers, Laing O’Rourke and Nottingham City Council.

Click here to download the report, Transforming Construction for a Low Carbon Future.

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