2050 may seem a long way off, after all there are still 30 years before the net zero emissions targets need to be met. However, in the built environment its common knowledge that office buildings, shopping complexes and highways are not just built to meet today’s needs, they need to fit tomorrow’s purpose too.
Building and construction accounts for 39% of global emissions, the largest single sector. Of that 11% is tied to construction operations and the remaining 28% to building operations – heating, cooling, lighting etc. The new emissions laws are not only going to have a major impact on the type of construction methods and materials used, but also in the design of structures to ensure that they are more energy efficient and make use of clean energy sources as opposed to fossil fuels.
Project managers are going to have to become far more familiar with the carbon footprint of construction materials and methodologies. Even transportation of materials becomes a factor. Heavy duty construction vehicles are typically diesel powered. But inner city ultra-low emissions regulations may see these types of vehicles banned from the roads.
Ultimately there are going to many incentives to bring things closer to home, sourcing from local supply chains, and looking at alternative materials that can help reduce emissions. There are a number of technology tools that can help with the transition. BIM is probably one of the most important as it helps to facilitate collaboration and coordination with multiple parties.
It’s going to require a new way of operating and a new way of thinking as well as a new approach to resourcing. Skill requirements are likely to change as new expertise is needed. A big challenge for main contractors will be defining what this looks like. Do they have the necessary expertise or the ability to train people up within their organisation?
Familiarity with emissions laws and waste management is going to become more important on all levels of an organisation. While this may seem like a major challenge, it could also be a blessing in disguise. It could be the incentive needed to reform construction operations and get in new teams with fresh ideas and a more innovative approach. While the ultimate goal may be to reduce emissions to ensure compliance, it’s quite possible that it will also to result in greater productivity and more efficient operations.