Achieving Net-Zero – 5 Key considerations for Construction Leaders

Construction net zero Ellis Fox Blog

Highways England recently announced their roadmap for achieving net zero by 2040. As one of the largest infrastructure construction firms in the UK, it is encouraging to see their commitment to reducing environmental impacts and taking the lead in the industry to do so. Accelerating efforts to become net-zero are highly complex. What are the key considerations construction leaders should be talking about to jumpstart the process?


Project costs, materials and construction timelines are all determined by design. While usually this is dictated by client requirements, there’s a huge opportunity to make positive changes with design that will have a knock on effect of reducing carbon emissions. For example: design can reduce the heating and cooling requirements for large buildings. Considering the operational costs of building make a significant contribution to carbon emissions, reducing these requirements will have an exponential saving effect over time.


A broad range of expertise is required to achieve net zero and this is only possible through collaboration.  When engineers and procurement managers work together early on, it’s possible to source renewable or repurposed construction materials without impacting the safety aspects of the project. Engineers can design with these considerations in mind which can not only help to reduce the carbon footprint of a project, but also save costs.


Recycling and repurposing building materials is a growing industry and is being supported by investment and innovation. Given the current supply chain crisis, it should be primary consideration for construction managers. Many of these materials are proving to have additional benefits such as noise reduction on highways when using recycled rubber tires as surfacing aggregate.


While the carbon footprint of initial construction is high, the operational costs are even higher. Heating and cooling in buildings is one element, but planning for infrastructure maintenance is equally important. Selecting materials that last longer, or that can be more easily maintained can significantly reduce the carbon impact over time.


For too long waste has been viewed as a necessary cost, but now there is the opportunity to leverage it as a resource. While reducing waste is the first choice, realistically this will be hard to achieve. The next best option is to have structures in place to recycle and repurpose as much waste material as possible.

Achieving net zero is set to be a priority for construction leaders for the next two decades. Having right knowledge and skills is critical. With the industry working together, it may just be possible to achieve.