Construction Site E-Mission Critical?

A recent report has shown that the Construction Industry’s on site carbon dioxide emissions increased from 2008-2012, contradicting the trajectory planned by government and indicating a ‘shocking’ industry failure. The 2008-2012 Interim Report provided an update to the industry on the drive towards an 80% reduction in UK carbon emissions by 2050.

The Green Construction Board report updated the industry on performance and reviewed progress against the strategic industry action plan to reduce construction emissions. The target for site construction emissions from the baseline 1.9 million tonnes of CO2 recorded in 2008 was a 15% reduction by 2012. Unfortunately the report indicated that emissions from the construction of buildings was 2.2 million tonnes of CO2 in 2012.  Therefore, instead of a 15% reduction there was almost a 15% increase for emissions from onsite activities.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news with some improvements in business travel emissions, freight transportation, waste removal and off-site assembly, showing the construction industry can deliver emissions reductions. In our view the industry needs to address the following three questions to deliver the new 2025 vision for construction:

1)    Where were targeted emissions reductions not realised in site practices?

2)    Did the shift to refurbishment projects benefit/damage emissions performance?

3)    What corrective action does the industry need to take to meet future goals?

In 2010, two years after the target was set (things move quickly in construction!) an action plan was created for contractors to enable them to deliver reduced site emissions. The action plan targeted the following savings from site based activities:

2008-2012 carbon saving measure

Annual carbon savings targeted by 2012 (tonnes/annum)
Energy efficient site accommodation 200,000
Efficient use of construction plant

84,000

Earlier site grid connection 45,000

Despite the lack of information on individual energy uses on site, the table above gives an indication of site practices that failed to improve  from 2008-2012. Namely, the take up of energy efficient accommodation lagged, efficient plant was not procured and site grid connections were not prioritised.

Of course the shift from 2008-2012 from new build projects to refurbishments has been identified as being a key contributory factor for targets not being met. In the 2012 dataset, relative emissions from refurbishment/maintenance projects doubled compared to 2008. While grid connections exist for these types of project, underlying economic conditions probably meant the additional cost for the lease of efficient plant/accommodation were avoided to deliver financially competitive bids. For refurbishment projects this is a particular issue as Contractors may not pay the energy bill for the work undertaken for the project.

To address the underperformance we suggest there are three tasks the industry should focus on to get back on track for 2025:

1)    Measurement – there is a lack of data on how projects and the industry performs. KPI reports and benchmarks are only as good as the underlying data – a simple industry-wide standard using technology to reduce cost/hassle must be a priority;

2)    Collaboration – contractors and property managers must collaborate on refurbishment projects to ensure that there is transparency in the way that energy is used. The value for property managers is a reduced energy bill and the value for contractors is to demonstrate leadership to clients;

3)    Procurement – energy efficiency must be a key requirement for all projects. Clients should be writing this into Invitation to Tender and Pre-Qualification Questionnaire documents. Contractors should be speaking to their suppliers and challenging them to provide energy efficient equipment.