Construction leaders plan for a sustainable future at NBS summit

29 September, 21

Today, senior leadership and professionals across the construction sector took part in a virtual event with a major focus on climate change. NBS’, ‘The Construction Leaders’ Summit: Building Better’, brought together leading voices in the industry to discuss how the UK can respond to the climate emergency and offer tangible steps to achieve a lower-carbon future.

Following a string of national reports that UK construction should decarbonise more urgently, further clarification and clear set guidance are needed around how built environment professionals can work more sustainably. Speakers throughout the day addressed this concern, taking a practical approach to ways in which the sector can drive down its carbon footprint.

The RT Hon Claire O’Neill, Managing Director, Climate & Energy at WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) and former UK Minister for Energy & Clean Growth, said:

“The construction industry needs to realise that it can no longer rely on the government to force lower carbon practices – the sector must step up and take responsibility of its own accord.

“Transparent measuring and reporting for whole life carbon emissions of buildings will be the key to achieving net-zero. We need to take evidence and a fact-based approach so that we can measure progress accurately. This is why events such as the NBS Construction Leaders’ Summit: Building Better’ are so vital as it offers pragmatic approaches that focus on rapid action with the big pools of carbon, carbon removal, and adaptation.”

O’Neill concluded by saying: “By designing and constructing with a net-zero and circularity strategy in mind, using the lowest life cycle carbon emission possible and creating dynamic frameworks for clients, we can tackle the situation head on. We need to educate clients on the importance of the climate benefits of their low whole-life carbon construction and work alongside investors to bring the cost and benefit trade-offs to life.”

Many of the topics covered were particularly important in the lead-up to COP26, including that of Nigel Topping, the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion. He discussed the challenges ahead and the role of the construction industry and individual businesses in making a difference. Julie Hirigoyen, the UK Green Building Council CEO, also offered a stakeholder action plan on how construction firms can develop net-zero carbon solutions.

Hirigoyen said: “We will be putting out detailed stakeholder action plans to nearly every subsector and every professional organisation as part of our roadmap later in the year. This is crucial for such a fragmented industry – we want everyone to recognise that they play a part in the fight against carbon reduction.”

Also top of the agenda was construction safety. Hywel Davies, Technical Director of Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and Chair of the Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), provided an update on Dame Judith Hackitt’s ‘Golden Thread’ policy and the progress made by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), working with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Richard Waterhouse, spokesperson for NBS, said, “We’re all aware of the real risks attached to climate change, and construction has a long road ahead before it can achieve net-zero.

“The speakers today have not only provided a deep level of insight, but they’ve offered realistic ways for both businesses and individuals to ‘goal-set’. The industry can compare and analyse, using real, tangible results to present the best way forward through a systematic approach. At the heart of this is digital technology, which provides the framework for progress to be made, not just in terms of sustainability but also safety and compliance. With COP26 just around the corner, it will be fascinating to see how far the sector has come at our next event.”

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