What’s hindering construction’s net zero ambitions?

Net zero construction Ellis Fox Blog

Globally, the UK stands out as having set some of the most ambitious net zero targets and have been widely applauded for this. But the clock is ticking. One has to wonder that perhaps other countries were wise to formulate plans before they committed to net zero promises.

There’s absolutely no doubt that the transition to net zero needs to be accelerated, and with construction being a major contributor – industry wise – it needed to set ambitious targets. But achieving those targets is proving to be very challenging. Construction output may be in a better state than it has been in years, but there are still many factors hindering progress. We take a critical look at what these are and if there are any possible solutions on the horizon.

Sustainability skills crisis

Few traditional construction firms have the skills in-house to spear-head change that aligns with net zero targets. This means that the search is on to hire in the relevant expertise, but construction is not the only industry seeking sustainability experts. Across all industries they’re in huge demand, and short supply. Construction is having to work harder to recruit specialists and due to increased completion, possibly also be willing to pay more.

Energy and supply crisis and increasing costs

It’s hard to be competitive when margins are being squeezed. Construction especially is feeling the pinch of materials supply shortages. This is now being exacerbated by rising energy costs and the knock on effects of the Ukraine war. The only positive to this challenge is that it’s highlighting the need to become more energy efficient.

Competitive advantage

The companies who are making gains in terms of sustainability are leveraging this to win more new contracts. Demonstrating how greater energy efficiency and carbon reductions are achieved is very attractive to clients. Unfortunately this puts other construction companies that are further behind in achieving net zero ambitious at an even greater disadvantage. Losing out on opportunities to tender, squeezes the pipeline even further, adding to existing constraints.

Digital transformation

Technology is a great enabler to help model carbon emissions and energy efficiencies and outline strategies for improvement. There is the added advantage of being able to track progress as improvements are made. But technology requires investment. Even with leadership committed to achieving net zero goals, it’s a bold move to prioritise technology investments and this is often met with resistance by conservative thinkers.

Achieving net zero remains a high priority, but it’s going to take creative thinking and deliberate action and investment to achieve.