Ahead of COP26, Glenigan, a provider of UK construction project data, market analysis, and company intelligence, has announced its inaugural Sustainable Construction Report titled: ‘Build Back Greener: Challenges & Opportunities for UK Construction’.
The report outlines the positive steps the construction industry has taken in areas like EV charging infrastructure, green buildings, and renewable energy, but indicates that there is still a long way to go to achieve net-zero by 2050.
Steps in the right direction
The number of renewable projects has shot up by 141% in 2021 over 2020, and 583% compared to the start of the decade – accounting for 30% of the UK’s generation capacity.
Construction data demonstrates that offshore wind shows the highest growth, further reflecting the government’s ambition to quadruple capacity to 400w by 2030.
The report also points to a surge in the growth of electric vehicles (EVs), with almost 300,000 currently on the UK’s roads and a 27% increase in the number of new public charging points.
Other promising signs come from the green building sector, with 8% of new construction projects in the UK receiving BREEAM accreditation since 2016.
In the same time-frame, the number of higher BREEAM-rated (‘Excellent’ or ‘Outstanding’) buildings has grown too.
By value, half of the BREEAM-rated projects granted planning consent since 2018 have secured these higher accolades, rising 7% on the preceding four years.
Still a long way to go
While the growth of renewable energies, EV infrastructure, and green buildings is a positive sign, the report highlights the need for the construction sector to redouble their efforts.
Recent electricity shortages have exposed the fragility of existing infrastructures, implying a need to accelerate construction of renewable energies to match supply with escalating demand (set to rise 50% by 2035, and double by 2050).
In addition, other renewable categories such as tidal range and solar PV require more investment in order to diversify the energy mix and improve energy security.
There are also fears that, as more EVs come online, the grid will struggle to cope and charging infrastructure capacity won’t keep pace.
Glenigan recommends a step change in the rollout of publicly accessible charge points to encourage and support EV proliferation.
Finally, although the growth of BREEAM-accredited projects shows progress, the pace is slower than many both inside and outside the industry would like.
The reports concludes that while retrofitting existing stock will present a sizeable challenge, it could potentially be a huge growth area for BREEAM-accredited projects over the next few decades.
‘Building Back Greener‘
Allan Wilen, economic director at Glenigan, said: “There’s no doubt construction will have a vital, and central, role to play as we draw nearer to Net Zero 2050, and even closer to the next milestone marker in 2030.
“No doubt construction and the built environment, as a large carbon emitter, will be a major focus of COP 26 discussions and I’m sure the industry will see some specific green policies coming their way in the aftermath.
“What’s abundantly clear is that substantial investment, both public and private, will be needed, particularly in areas such as EV charging infrastructure and driving more BREEAM accredited buildings.
“Yes it’s a big challenge, and we’re really only at the start of the journey, however, it presents a welcome opportunity for UK construction, not only to build back greener in terms of new and existing stock, but also establish a new and diverse sector of green-focused built environment professionals, equipped to meet the requirements of a carbon neutral society.”
Image credit: kittirat roekburi/shutterstock
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