Is the construction industry ready for the clean energy transition?
The go ahead for HS2 was the good news that many in the construction industry have been waiting for. This has further been bolstered by announcements of major investment capital being made available for extensive infrastructure development. Good news indeed and not a moment too soon. But will the industry be able to adapt with many of the provisions that come with this infrastructure development?
The UK government has set ambitious net zero emissions targets which are officially supported by legislation. New projects are going to require some major adaptation if contractors are to deliver on outcomes while keeping within emission target parameters. A new clean energy infrastructure (EV’s in particular) may ultimately facilitate reaching those emissions targets, but creating that infrastructure with current construction methods, machinery and traditional management styles, is going to be more challenging. What tools (and skills) could make the transition easier?
Utilising recycled materials
While it’s not a concept that many people factor into daily life, each product or resource carries with it a carbon footprint. And construction materials historically are associated with a relatively high carbon footprint. Given the scarcity and increasing costs of virgin raw materials, there are many innovators that are now starting to consider recycled materials and a viable alternative resource. Construction rubble can be turned into pavers, plastic bottles can be used to create more durable asphalt for laying roads, and plastic waste can be moulded into support beams and scaffolding. When recycled materials are used it lowers the carbon footprint significantly and this is an important consideration for future projects.
Alternate construction methods
Offsite manufacturing has seen exponential growth and some say that it will be a major disruptor to the construction industry. But rather than looking at it as a threat, it can be the advantage the construction industry needs if it is to deliver on infrastructure and emission targets. The time factor alone, that offsite manufacturing speeds up construction, can significantly lower emissions on a project. 3D printing is evolving rapidly and could provide many innovative solutions for industry.
Construction leaders will need to make considered decisions to ensure their operational resources are being effectively deployed. Having heavy machinery on site will impact carbon emissions, so their use will need to be optimised. Greater flexibility may be required in operational structures to ensure that the best use of machinery and the associated workforce is achieved.
Simply put it’s time for construction management to look beyond what they know and consider construction alternatives that can support low emission targets.