UK developers and funders pledge to invest hundreds of millions in sustainable development.

This week has seen the first World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health. While closer to home, October saw GB & NI’s first ever ‘Green GB&NI’ Week, with an aim of “bringing society together to tackle climate change”. 

The signs indicate a bubbling shift in the underbelly of the construction sector and firms are slowly but surely being pushed from all angles to go green. 

What’s the problem?

In 2016 the Royal College of Physicians produced a report stating that around 40,000 deaths each year in the UK are attributable to air pollution. Further to this the WHO has stated that air pollution is the biggest single environmental health risk, responsible for around 1 in 9 global deaths annually.

The NHS was hindered by an estimated bill of £1.7 million in 2017 purely due to Nitrogen Dioxide (commonly emitted by vehicles) and this figure rises sharply when particulate matter is considered (such as from dust pollution). Such stark statistics can no longer economically be ignored and it seems businesses and the government are standing up to invest in sustainable development.

From the government’s £3.5 billion plan to reduce air pollution in 2017, we’ve since seen the launch of the ‘Clean Air Strategy’ and subsequent bold moves such as the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zones in London in April 2019 and the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZ's) across 5 UK cities.

 "If we are to meet the 2050 targets of the Climate Change Act, then all housing in the UK must have zero carbon emissions" said a report from the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Big changes and opportunities for construction

The first day of Green GB&NI Week saw over 30 influential UK companies, including financial services, developers and major brand retailers, pledged substantial long-term investment to emission-cutting initiatives: 

  • Kingfisher, which owns B&Q and Screwfix, will help their customers cut water and energy use in their homes by 50% by 2025.
  • John Lewis Partnership is to replace their 500 fleet of delivery trucks with bio-methane clean machines by 2028, a move that will emissions by over 80% - an equivalent carbon-footprint of 6,000 UK households.
  • EDF Energy has committed to electrifying its own fleet of around 1,500 vehicles by 2030.
  • Barratt Developments will reduce construction waste intensity by 20% per annum by 2025 and will procure renewable energy for 100% of non-landlord supplied offices by the end of October 2018.
  • HSBC UK Pensions Scheme confirmed an investment of £250 million into the UK’s thriving renewable energy infrastructure, particularly solar parks and wind farms around the UK.
  • Amazon also announced a deal to power its UK buildings with 100% renewable energy as well as planning to deploy up to 20MW of large-scale rooftop solar systems on 10 of its fulfilment centres in the UK over the coming 18 months.

This is addition to the government's previous pledge to invest £400 million in electric (EV) infrastructure in the summer, leading the way for the construction of electric charging points in major cities, with a view to extend this nationally.  

In summary this is great news for construction

These investments present exciting opportunities for the construction industry to play a huge role in enabling this change for today, and for future developments.

Furthermore, it looks like not only change for big businesses; smaller firms will also be supported during this new era, as the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced in the same week up to £7 million in funding to be invested in Spring 2019 to encourage smaller businesses to take up energy efficiency projects.