According to the Global Status Report, building and construction activities together account for 36% of the UK’s total carbon footprint with heating alone in existing buildings resulting in 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) estimates that around half of all UK emissions can be influenced by construction. As such, to lower the carbon emissions from the built environment, we need major improvements across the property lifecycle – from design, construction and building management.
We hosted a Roundtable in partnership with A/O PropTech and invited civil engineers, ConTech companies, property companies and PropTechs to discuss how technology can facilitate a sustainable built environment in the race to net zero.
“The topic of climate change is one that requires a total alignment of all stakeholders in the industry. We need to educate in order for us to tackle this issue which is the single most challenging issue we face as a society. It is our duty, regardless of the role we play, as stakeholders of this industry to take ownership of the problem and lead the way going forward with science, technology and investment. We are extremely supportive of the entrepreneurs who have the courage and vision to take on these challenges. If we can make real estate a better industry, we are going to have more impact on climate change than any other industry.” – Founder of A/O PropTech, Greggory Dewerpe
Barriers to modern methods of construction
Modern methods of construction can speed up a development by 30%, reduce cost by 25% and potentially reduce waste by up to 50%, however implementing new processes comes with challenges and barriers. Challenges presented during the Roundtable included tensions between the use of modern methods of construction and the shift of local employment. Housing associations and local authorities have a dichotomy where they want to provide affordable housing, however they also want to boost their local economy, therefore causing a natural tension.
In addition, modern methods of construction requires a different financing model than a traditional build and getting new financing models into the mainstream as well as the contracts associated with delivering these is a huge challenge. In order to overcome this, it was suggested that industry partners look into new contract structures that allow modern methods of construction to be implemented with development partners as opposed to the traditional method of delivery.
Implementing sustainable materials
Implementing sustainable materials can significantly contribute to reducing the world’s carbon footprint. Concrete currently accounts for approximately 8% of the world’s carbon emissions, and there are many companies who are promoting the use of alternative materials and technology to address this problem. For example, through the use of nanotechnology, companies such as Concrene, have developed a break-through solution for the concrete industry.
However, it can be difficult breaking new materials and products into the market and supply chain for many reasons. Trust and confidence in new materials is vital, particularly in the wake of disasters such as Grenfell and is leading to a demand for professionals with the relevant skills and knowledge. It also calls for greater collaboration across the supply chain and dialogue on construction sustainability between contractors and clients (property developers) to drive the agenda and implement changes. Property developers need to be powered with the data and costs to be able to make better informed decisions with the design and construction of buildings and build this into their sustainability strategies.
Adopting and supporting ConTech
Construction is slow to adopt change and although technologies have been around for some time now, there appears to be a risk adverse attitude towards implementation. We must learn from mistakes as this is what drives innovation. Systems that are lighter, greener and stronger are being rejected because they are different. We are changing how we design and why we design in the race to net zero, therefore it is essential we educate the young engineers representing the future of the construction industry and across the board from clients, planners and approvers.
If there is a gap in education and developing new skills, then it is clear we must address this at the source. It was suggested that the Government could not only support more through grants for modern methods of construction but also specific training offerings. Bringing together new apprenticeships that truly support the role of modern methods of construction and encourage new types of innovation and entrants will help the educational shift.
To summarise, it was evident that there needs to be a huge shift in educating the industry. Although there are construction companies that are looking at digitising processes and improving efficiencies across their supply chain, there is still a long way to go. We need to continue to educate, promote technologies that are disrupting the industry and the benefits they provide to the wider industry and in the race to net zero.
Another key takeaway from the discussion is that the adoption of new materials and processes need to be led and driven from both the clients and the Government. For example, implementing new contracts and funding models so that it is easier to operate in this new technological world that exists. There needs to be trust in the materials that are coming into the market, although this can come from the use of data, it boils down to educating the industry on what new sustainable materials can do and the impact they have on reducing carbon emissions.
Gregory Dewerpe – Founder & CEO of A/O PropTech
Othmane Zrikem – Chief Data Officer at A/O PropTech
Dale Sinclair – Director of Innovation at AECOM
Stephen Hole – Development Director at Amro Real Estate Partners
Dimitar Dimov – Founder & CEO at Concrene
Scott Dudley – Director, Real Estate Consultant at Deloitte
Mirren Fischer – Managing Director at Fischer Product/Design
George Smithies – Co-Founder at innDex
Tim Wilson – Strategic Projects Director at Inspired Villages
Elvin K. Box – Chair at London Constructing Excellence
Conan Lauterpacht – Managing Partner at M7 Structura
Richard Kennedy – Project Leader at Mid Group
Chris Mortensen – Co-Founder & COO at Modulous
Mike Edwards – Technical Director at Nationwide Drones
Pam Whitham – Relationship Manager at Ordnance Survey
Dean Paulley – Product Manager at Ordnance Survey
Stephen Kuczynski – Government Relationships Manager at Ordnance Survey
Hermione Crease – Co-Founder at Purrmetrix
Sam Szczurek – Project Manager for Sustainability & Innovation at Transport for London
Sammy Pahal – Managing Director at UK PropTech Association
Alex Tosetti – Chief Commercial Officer at VU.CITY
Daniel Burton – CEO of Wondrwall
Munraj Sembhi – CEO & Founder at Plastop