Raising the conversation around a greener world is key to us raising awareness of what we need to do. However, action is what is imperative now says RLB’s Global Board Director Ann Bentley.
At the start of 2020, I reflected on the opportunities the new decade might bring. We are now nearly two years past that point and, since then, the government has published its Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener which set out its “policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet our net zero target by 2050”.
Then came the heat and buildings strategy to look at setting a pathway for homes, commercial, industrial, and public sector buildings. And the past 18 months have seen industry initiatives including the Construction Leadership Council’s green construction board and the CLC’s CO2nstruct Zero performance framework, the combined strength of 34 professional bodies – brought together by the Construction Industry Council, the UK Green Building Council and many leading players within the industry, like ourselves at RLB UK – commit to the carbon zero pledge and become a net zero carbon business champion.
It was also promising to hear the Chancellor’s commitment in his Autumn Budget to subsidise 90,000 air source heat pumps over the next three years, although obviously with roughly 29 million homes and the need for the body of the building to be insulated fully, this investment is only the tip of the iceberg in solving the challenge of how we heat our homes effectively.
What was far more interesting was thegovernment announcement of the first wave of £160m from the £3.8bn committed over the next 10 years of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, to deliver innovative retrofit projects for social housing which also supports the clean growth strategy ambition to improve as many homes as possible to EPC C by 2050 – surely a great blueprint for both other public sector estates but private retrofits too.
All good news and great initiatives in turning the dial up in the environmental challenges we face today. Yet, as many of us are aware, the statistics show that around 40% of total UK carbon emissions come from the built environment sector. Add to this that 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings and 13% of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfill without being used and there is no doubt that we still have a long way to go to build a sustainable future.
The only way we can truly reach a more sustainable planet is to think more holistically about our impact on the environment. So, for us in construction that means thinking about air quality, biodiversity, water usage, impact of demolition and the materials we are using on site and sending to landfill – effectively the build from design to demolition – and even sometimes considering whether to build at all.
Read more about what Ann Bentley believes is the next steps on the built environment’s sustainability journey in her recent Building magazine column here.