What does Earth Day mean for construction?

Earth day commentary Ellis Fox Blog

A recent article in Construction Management by David Stockdale, highlighted some concerning statistics. 25% of UK adults still claim that climate change is a myth and effectively the rest say that it leaves them feeling anxious, powerless and negatively affected by it. He then goes on to raise the question of whether this is having a direct impact on how decision makers are responding to climate change, specifically in the built environment.

Perhaps this explains why, when the situation is obvious and growing more critical by the day, that commerce has been so slow to respond. Plans are announced, investment is promised, but there doesn’t seem to be an urgency attached. Plans get caught up in red tape and public debates that slow things down and delay implementation.

It seems that despite knowing the situation and how scary the alternative of doing nothing is, until there is a direct and personal impact, we as humans don’t seem inclined to take action. Case in point. For years the UK has been talking about reducing its reliance on gas as an energy source. Yet it took the Ukraine war to highlight how far the UK was from that goal and how much still needed to be done to achieve that. As awful as the war has been, a silver lining is that it’s accelerated the switch to renewables as a primary energy source in the UK.

In the built environment, many main contractors are putting policies in place to create net zero building sites, implementing only be using low carbon concrete on projects, as an example. And all of this is a step in the right direction, but the question remains: will it be enough?

There isn’t a single sector in construction that isn’t impacted by climate change. More concerning is the amount of work that needs to be undertaken to upgrade infrastructure. It’s great for the industry in terms of the project opportunities, but it’s not easy to implement when sites are damaged and disrupted by ongoing extreme weather events.

There isn’t a singular solution, except maybe this: collaboration. Those innovating in the sector are passionate about what they do. It’s worth tapping into that expertise to find solutions that can accelerate the response to climate change. The more the industry works together, is willing to experiment with new technologies and methodologies and share the outcomes, the better for all.