Climate crisis Ellis Fox Blog

How will construction respond to the climate crisis?

The British government recently announced tough new legislation is on the cards to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. This has been welcomed in principle because most people recognise that things need to change. We shouldn’t be as dependent on fossil fuels, for example, when there are opportunities to use cleaner energy sources. We shouldn’t be throwing away waste and shipping it to Malaysia when it could be recycled and used as resources to fuel UK industries. Truthfully, there isn’t going to be a single sector of the economy that will be unaffected by new emissions laws, or be exempt from rethinking their waste disposal, and this includes the construction industry. But will they be proactive about it?

Infrastructure maintenance nightmare

Keeping up with routine road and rail maintenance has always been difficult, but in recent years it’s been made even more challenging by the severe storms that have battered the UK. Heavy winter snowfalls have resulted in widespread power outages and disruption of water supply as pipelines freeze and burst. Coastal towns have been battered by rough seas and inland flooding has left widespread damage. Engineers now have their work cut out for them, designing infrastructure that is not just weather proof, but that is extreme storm proof.

Innovation plays an important role in this, as new materials and methods of construction can make structures more durable. Tarmac, for example is using innovation to not only improve the end product but also reduce waste. They are recycling old rubber tires into asphalt to be used on road surfacing. It’s a composite that is already widely used in the USA and is more durable than tar alone. Plus it utilises waste as a resource, promoting the concept of creating a circular economy.

A new perspective

This example highlights that a new perspective can often produce a solution that solves several problems at the same time, especially relating to environmental issues. And environmental issues are fast becoming economic issues as the costs of natural disasters and the damage left in their wake add up.

Leaders in construction would do well to encourage innovation with the circular economy in mind. This may mean re-looking at supply chains and the linear approach to business and some serious thinking about how to close the loop and start making the organization operate more efficiently. Be assured, it’s the proactive companies that will benefit most.

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