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The UK has plans to reach net zero by 2050, which means achieving a balance between carbon emissions and carbon removed from the environment and this will be key in the battle against climate change. This will be challenging in the construction industry, though, with the built environment contributing roughly 40% of the total carbon footprint in the UK and the construction industry using over 400 million tons of material annually. The construction industry will also play a major role in helping the country to become greener. So, what will net zero mean for the UK construction industry?

Change in Construction Itself

First, there will need to be significant changes to the construction process and it is important to find both big and small ways to reduce carbon emissions, including on the construction site. There are many effective ways that this could be done, such as reducing the use of virgin materials and using more recycled materials, reducing energy used from fossil fuels, and increasing the lifecycle of materials to avoid using new replacements. This will likely mean that the use of wood in construction will increase massively as it can help the UK to fulfill its net zero commitment. Building with wood from sustainably managed forests can help to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere in three ways: carbon capture while growing in the forest, carbon capture in the increasing carbon store of wood, and by being used as a substation for more carbon-intensive materials like concrete. It has been suggested that using wood rather than concrete will reduce carbon dioxide by 2.1 tonnes per ton of wood produced.

Focus on Insulation

It is also important to focus on insulation for new builds as a way to prevent energy loss. New regulations mean that new builds must be around 30% lower than current standards as, currently, heating and powering buildings account for as much as 40% of the UK’s total energy usage. If a building loses heat quickly, more energy is required to heat them which increases carbon emissions. While this will benefit the environment, it will also help to reduce energy bills for homeowners and make their homes more comfortable.

Around a quarter of heat is lost through the roof, so roof insulation is of high priority to reduce the amount of energy lost in the home. Even if homes are currently insulated elsewhere, simply adding a 270mm thick layer in the loft could reduce the annual carbon emission of a home by 610kg.

Replacing windows and doors with more energy-efficient double or triple glazing will also help to insulate homes and buildings and lower carbon emissions. The glazing on these helps to reduce heat loss, as well as condensation and external noise. Upgrading single-glazed windows to double-glazed can reduce carbon emissions by 420kg.

Change in Energy

The Government also has a Heat and Buildings strategy with a goal of decarbonizing the heat and buildings sector by up to 62% by 2035. This will be achieved by phasing out natural gas boilers and instead using heat pumps, both ground source and air source, as well as other eco-friendly systems, like hydrogen, that will reduce carbon emissions. Of course, the move away from gas and an increased focus on more renewable energy will also help to reduce people’s energy bills, which is something that many will be looking to do in the future due to the energy bills hike and the increased cost of living. On top of this, it is thought that the new initiatives could create up to 240,000 skilled green jobs by 2035 to boost economic recovery and level up across the country. 

Few industries will be as affected by the government’s net zero by 2050 plan as much as construction. The construction industry will play a major role in reducing carbon emissions by building greener homes for people to use, but the industry will also have to change itself as it is a major contributor to UK emissions. This is why construction businesses need to have a net zero plan in place that will enable them to support these positive changes and also reduce their own environmental impact while working on projects.