The UK construction sector is one of the most important parts of the economy, employing millions and generating billions in revenue. It also plays a vital role in ensuring that our country has the infrastructure it needs to thrive.
But how does this industry contribute to climate change? And what steps are being taken by construction companies and their supply chains to reduce their carbon emissions and build greener?
Cleaning up construction to help the environment
Figures from the UK Government show that the built environment industry is a significant contributor to climate change:
Around 40% of UK carbon emissions are linked to the built environment
The construction sector is responsible for around 50m tonnes of CO2 emissions each year
The industry is responsible for around 60% of waste produced in the UK
It has a huge impact on the environment and natural resources - including water, land and stone extraction
Measures to decarbonise construction
Sector emissions are predominately made up of the physical construction to develop buildings and infrastructure, the raw materials manufactured within the supply chain, and their onward transport and distribution. In recent years, the industry has been collectively turning its focus to how it can improve operations and drive down carbon emissions.
Reducing emissions from industry means using less fossil fuels like coal or oil when producing goods such as steel - which requires lots of heat for smelting metals together into one solid piece – and opting for greener alternatives. Investing in zero carbon infrastructure like renewable energy sources and low carbon heat pumps.
Energy consumption when powering buildings is also a major focus, such as installing more effective insulation materials and for natural resources to help heat buildings.
Embracing recycled materials
One step to drive down carbon emissions is to reduce waste on site by using recycled materials, helping to eliminate the carbon dioxide that would have been output when new materials were manufactured.
Researchers at RMIT University in Australia for example, have identified a way to produce concrete from recycled car tyres. And car tyres are already being used to create a sustainable road surface material.
Embracing new construction methods
The built environment is an important aspect of net zero energy. It's not just about the design and construction of buildings, but also how those buildings are maintained over time. This includes things like roofing and windows, to reduce heating costs.
It also means embracing new construction methods and materials that are better for the environment -such as recycled materials in building supplies, alternative construction materials such as solar panels on rooftops and domestic wind turbines.
Modern methods of construction, such as modular units, are also more efficient than traditional methods, saving energy use per square metre compared with traditional buildings where parts often need to be individually constructed off-site before being assembled at site later on.
Equipment emissions and green energy alternatives
Vehicle emissions is also an area of focus, not just for HGV lorries delivering construction material, but for the heavy plant machinery being used on site.
Alternatives to diesel and petrol power for machinery that are being commercially developed are electric and hydrogen equipment. Examples include:
A zero emission electric powered crawler crane developed by Liebherr which has been used successfully on the HS2 project
JCB's development of hydrogen powered backhoe loaders and telehandlers
A mobile site refueller to make the hydrogen more accessible on-site and reduce downtime during refuelling.
Investments in zero carbon infrastructure
The UK Government has made a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. To achieve this goal, they are investing in the building of zero carbon infrastructure which includes new buildings and infrastructure, as well as retrofitting existing buildings. This is a long term commitment that will require ongoing investment from both public and private sectors for many years to come, and provides a great deal of opportunity for innovation and career development.
The latest net zero roles from NRL
Take a look at some of the net zero and energy transition jobs we’re supporting our clients with, in our latest vacancies highlights:
Remote working, Permanent, Salary depending on experience
Our client is looking for a BMS Applications Engineer to help modernise building management systems across the country, making government buildings more energy efficient.
Arklow, Contract, €16-22 per hour
Our client, operating in the renewable energy field is looking for a Wind Turbine Technician to carry out repairs on an offshore wind farm.
South Shields, Permanent, Salary depending on experience
A fantastic opportunity to work with a leading in the energy transition, as part of the support team delivering Dogger Bank Wind Farm – the world’s largest offshore windfarm.
Hartlepool, Temporary, £12.84-13.74 per hour
Working with a world class provider of subsea technologies and services, to support our client’s goal to deliver the energy shift needed to achieve net-zero carbon emission targets by 2050.
Belvedere (DA17), Permanent, Salary negotiable depending on experience
Working as a Contracts Manager based on a major renewable energy project in either London or Essex.
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Your chance to work for the world’s largest renewable energy company in a exciting career move. With options for hybrid working from their Glasgow, Gateshead, Kings Langley and Truro office.
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