This month’s news has been all about COP26, as nations come together to accelerate action against climate change. Much hope is invested in this event to secure the world-wide solidarity needed to keep global warming below 1.5°C. However, climate action won’t just take countries, it’ll take industries too – which is why Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (CSIC) has launched the Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment.
This code offers organisations practical support to reduce carbon. The built environment has an important role to play in achieving net zero, as the sector reportedly consumes 36% of energy; produces 38% of energy-related emissions; and is responsible for half of all global resource consumption. These numbers are staggering, and without action, are set to rise: experts project it could double by 2060.
The mechanism of action
There’s no doubt that as a sector, we need to do better. The Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment will provide a toolkit for individual businesses to collaborate and share best practice, as well as monitor and publish their annual progress to create accountability. There is also an explicit commitment to align capital and operational investment plans with the net zero carbon obligation, so business and carbon neutrality can exist side by side.
There are three levels of compliance with the code: Pledger, Signatory and Champion. All participants must meet the minimum level of compliance to gain Pledger status, which means making a core commitment to meet net zero by 2045, including annual targets. Signatory level requires signing up to additional commitments relevant to the business, be it by client or supply chain. Champion level requires commitments to more ambitious collaborative progress.
The Code has been drawn up because net zero is a more realistic goal when all organisations within a value chain are committed to reducing their footprint. Collaboration is the key to success, and with alignment across all parties, progress towards a tangibly greener construction industry is possible.
More about the authors
The Code was developed by the Achieving Net Zero Cross-Industry Working Group which was convened by CSIC in 2020. This cross-functional group brings together over 40 representatives including consultants, contractors, industry groups, sustainability experts and local and central government.
The recommendations of this panel were put to early trials by the National Association of Construction Frameworks (NACF), the Environment Agency, and Skanska Costain STRABAG and the HS2 Joint Venture. Since it has been further fine-tuned to facilitate collaborative action towards net zero.
A greener future in construction
These guidelines will encourage collaborative action towards reducing carbon emissions related to the design, construction, maintenance and operation of the built environment and, importantly, create accountability and transparency. Creating a community also facilitates support and guidance between organisations, ensuring leaders can guide the rest of the sector.
This is particularly crucial for businesses that are at an earlier stage of their green transformation, including smaller companies that might lack the resources available to larger firms. This community will be integral to reaching net zero and the more organisations that sign up, the greater the difference we can make.