What Does Net Zero Mean for the Construction Industry?

Net zero is the practice of balancing (or cancelling out) the production of greenhouse gases produced, by finding ways to reduce emissions and absorb those created.

It is essentially finding a balance between the number of greenhouse gases produced, and the amount removed from the atmosphere.

When what is added is no more than what is taken away, we reach net zero.

Finding this balance in the construction industry can be difficult. With the use of tools and machinery comes fumes and emissions, not to mention the production of both building and site materials.

But with new innovative products available, and the opportunity to hire equipment and increase the longevity of its life cycle, it is possible to reach net zero in construction.


Why is net zero important?

Reducing emissions is key to preventing and hopefully reversing the impact of climate change.

Both long-term targets and necessary current changes are applicable to achieve net zero and limit global pollution.

The UK became the first major economy to commit to net zero by 2050 (2045 in Scotland). This sent out a huge message to the rest of the world.

But we all have a part to play in that. Businesses can not only set a good example by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and taking environmental issues seriously, but also have to follow guidelines set by the government.

Leading construction clients and inner-city council areas undergoing transformation (such as those in London), both ask for net zero strategies to be a factor in awarding new contracts.

Research by Charles Stanley found that:

“…almost half of UK investors (48%) expect to increase their environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments over the next three years, with one in six (17%) planning to do so significantly”.

So, your business needs to adapt, be aware, and be proactive.


How can we reach net zero?

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are released when we burn oil, gas, and coal. This can be when we heat our homes, drive our cars, or when factories are manufacturing the goods we use.

Reducing greenhouse gas output is the easiest way to approach net zero. This can be done by reducing our reliance on fuels such as gas and oil and switching to eco-friendly fuels and renewable energy where applicable.

Even in sectors where it can be difficult to reach net zero emissions, such as in construction, there are plenty of ways in which the supply chain and construction companies can reduce greenhouse gas output as much as possible.

As part of the 2030 Challenge, all new buildings must operate at net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and by 2050 this applies to all buildings.


How can the construction industry reach net zero?

The built environment is a drastic source of carbon emissions. As of 2019, it was responsible for around 38% of the world’s total output.

According to the World Green Building Council, this is split across operational emissions, from the energy needed to heat, cool and power buildings, and from materials and construction.

Below are just some of the ways the construction and manufacturing industries can reduce emissions and work towards a net zero standard.


1. Reduce reliance on fossil fuels

Petrol and diesel were both once go-to’s when it came to powering cordless tools used on sites across the UK. But emissions can be harmful to both the workers and the planet, and the energy consumption is nearing outweighing production.

There was once no other choice, but now, battery-operated tools are widely available – and up to the job.

Matching the output of traditional fuel equipment, battery-operated tools (such as those in the Milwaukee MX Fuel range) are now designed for the toughest construction sites. So, you benefit from top performance as well as reduced fumes, reduced HAVS risks, and the most up-to-date technology available.

And when traditional fuel is still needed, switching to HVO fuel is more eco-friendly, as it is using something already present in the world’s resources.


2. Switch to eco-friendly power

Power is important not only for the tools above, but for lighting, accommodation, and plant equipment.

When electricity is needed, renewable energy is key to charging the batteries needed to keep your site powered up.

Solar or wind power can either be built into the equipment you hire, such as lighting towers or can be hired separately to store power for when it is needed.

Solar generators, for example, can save thousands of litres of fuel and offer off-grid power.

Eco power isn’t just good for the planet, either. No national grid reliance means lower running costs, and it also allows you to work in the most remote of destinations without wires or other cables.


3. Hire, rather than buy, specialist equipment

All sites, at different stages of a build, require specialist products. Rather than purchasing them, why not hire them from Speedy?

There are so many benefits to hiring when it comes to meeting net zero:

  • The life cycle of existing tools is increased – rather than winning a contract, investing in the kit, and then never using the kit again, the tools are hired by the next business, meaning tool manufacturing is switched to an on-demand industry
  • With no upfront costs, finances aren’t tied up until you sell equipment, meaning you can invest elsewhere (such as in ESG, increased workforce, or eco-friendly materials)
  • No depreciation costs – you won’t ‘lose’ money over time, and there are no initial costs to recover, so you can have the best tools for the job from the start
  • Hiring allows you to use the latest, environmentally friendly tools on the market, meaning you keep up with net-zero targets without having to re-invest resources. Here at Speedy, we are continuously investing in our fleet.


4. Use sustainable materials

Plastic revolutionised the way we operate in the world. However, very little of what we use is recycled, and it can take over 1,000 years to break down.

But plastic still has its benefits. Thankfully, plenty is being done in the construction materials industry to increase sustainability and reach net zero.

Oxford Plastics’ eco-friendly road plates are more durable, long-lasting, and repairable than alternative materials, such as steel. They use recyclable materials, create a circular economy, and have 79% less embodied carbon than steel alternatives.

The LowPro 23/05 has an embodied carbon footprint of 0.1056 and 0.067 tCO2e for the inner and end plates respectively. They’re easy to install and lightweight, too.

So, choosing road plates from Oxford Plastics as opposed to steel plates can help cut your carbon footprint while still being practical for your site. Other items, such as barriers and signage, are also available.


5. Invest in the workforce

As mentioned, hiring tools from the likes of Speedy means you can invest what would otherwise be an upfront investment, elsewhere in the business.

This is good because the Building Skills for Net Zero report from the CIB predicts that the construction industry needs an additional 350,000 workers by 2028. This is to create a lasting transformation.

Upskilling, reskilling, and reassessments are also key. Lifelong training is needed as the industry transforms. Ensuring workers are trained to use the latest equipment, know what is required to meet low carbon net zero and stay safe, is vital.

A green-skilled workforce is crucial, for the sake of the UK’s net-zero targets, and the future of construction businesses.


6. Pay attention to existing buildings

By 2050, all buildings will have to be carbon neutral to meet UK targets. This means current buildings need work, too.

Buildings, including homes, are the third largest carbon emission producers in the UK. It is vital that these existing buildings are changed, and that the construction industry is committed to reducing the carbon output of existing infrastructure.

So while new contracts can be lucrative, the argument for refurbishment vs new builds is strong. And, as we approach 2050, refurbishment skills and the retrofitting industry will be in demand.


How can Speedy Hire help your business achieve net zero?

From hiring the latest, innovative eco-friendly tools and equipment, to providing HVO fuel, Speedy is leading the way in ESG within the construction and hire industries.

Responsibility and sustainability have always been at the heart of everything we do, and we have a circular economy approach as well as being the first in the UK hire industry to participate in the Science Based Targets Initiative model.

To see how we can help you with your own net zero emissions reduction targets, get in touch with Speedy today.

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