Building a Sustainable Future: Why net zero matters for the construction industry

The construction industry plays a significant role in shaping our built environment, but it also comes with a hefty environmental footprint. According to the Construction Industry Council (CIC), 38% of global carbon emissions are generated through the built environment and construction.

At its core, achieving net zero means reducing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by as much as possible, leaving only ‘residual’ emissions, which cannot be removed. For most businesses, this means a total reduction in emissions across all scopes by ~90%. Carbon removals should then be used to neutralise residual emissions. This goal is not just a lofty ideal but a crucial necessity in combating climate change.

For the construction sector, embracing net zero practices is imperative for several reasons. Firstly, buildings and infrastructure are major contributors to carbon emissions, both during their construction and throughout their operational lifespan. By transitioning to net zero construction, the industry can significantly reduce its carbon footprint, thereby mitigating its impact on the environment.

There is also an economic opportunity for this industry, net zero practices can unlock new business opportunities. As sustainability becomes a top priority for governments and consumers, businesses that demonstrate a commitment to net zero will be at an advantage in securing projects and attracting investors.

The regulatory landscape is constantly evolving across sectors. Stringent regulations around energy efficiency and carbon emissions are being implemented worldwide. By proactively transitioning towards net zero, construction companies can avoid potential risks associated with future regulations and carbon pricing mechanisms.

Measure and Assess: The first step is to measure and assess your current carbon footprint, including embodied and operational emissions. This establishes a baseline and identifies areas for improvement. Our organisational carbon footprint measurements are thorough, covering Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, utilising GHG Protocol for the most accurate reading of your footprint. Our user-friendly process means you receive expert advice and guidance when gathering data, simplifying the first step of net zero journey.

Embrace Sustainable Materials: Utilise low-carbon building materials like recycled steel, timber from sustainably managed forests, and bio-based materials. Sourcing and using sustainable materials can support the industry’s transition to a sustainable future and work as a Unique Selling Point (USP) for your business when tendering for new business.

Reduce Embodied Carbon: Minimise the carbon footprint associated with material production, transportation, and construction processes. Your Scope 3 emissions makes up up-to 90% of your carbon footprint. Reducing embodied carbon is a great way of tackling emissions in this Scope to leverage large organisational carbon reductions.

Invest in Renewable Energy: Integrate renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines into buildings to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Our sustainability consultants can advise you on reduction methods that work for your business, offering guidance on a range of solutions to help you reach your decarbonisation goals. Get carbon reduction support here.

Circular Economy Practices: Adopting circular economy principles in construction aims to minimise waste and maximise resource usage. This involves designing for deconstruction, incorporating modular components, and exploring prefabrication techniques. 

Collaboration is key to achieving net zero and requires collaboration across the entire construction ecosystem. This involves working with architects, engineers, material suppliers, and other stakeholders to develop and implement sustainable practices throughout the project lifecycle.

Engaging your stakeholders in your carbon reduction journey can be tricky, with many businesses citing a lack of sustainability understanding causing a barrier to getting key figures on board. Positive Planet has a suite of training resources, each tailored to your specific industry, business, or role to boost climate knowledge, increase stakeholder buy-in, and accelerate your organisational decarbonisation goals.

By embracing net zero, the construction industry can play a vital role in building a sustainable future for generations to come. It requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to innovation, but the potential benefits for the environment, society, and businesses themselves are undeniable. Remember, building a sustainable future starts with the first brick.

How we supported Cutwel, a leading engineering firm on its journey to net zero 

Positive Planet and Cutwel has a strong relationship dating back to 2022. Since the partnership began, Cutwel has accessed a range of services to drive its sustainability progress. The company has built on initial carbon footprint measurements by engaging in a long term net zero plan and has boosted internal engagement by taking a selection of key employees through Carbon Literacy training. 

Cutwel Construction

“I really enjoyed the Carbon Literacy training course, PK delivered it with such enthusiasm which made us take on board the message she was delivering. It was so refreshing to attend a course with the leader being so passionate about their subject!” 

Katie Ellis, Head of Operations and Procurement, Cutwell Ltd. 
Showing colleague work on laptop | Construction

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