The construction industry – with its interface with the energy, infrastructure and built environment sectors – will be at the forefront of climate change.
If I had written this prediction six months ago, I would have been regarded as visionary. As it is, I’m not sure if this is a prediction at all or just a statement of fact. As bush fires rage across New South Wales whilst Yorkshire sinks beneath flood water, even climate change sceptics can spot the signs of changes that scientists have been describing for years.
The UK was the first G20 country to legislate for a 2050 target for net zero emissions. Debate now rages on how this target can possibly be achieved. It is generally accepted that it cannot be achieved without dramatic changes to our economy and our lifestyle: the things that we buy, the ways that we travel and how we generate and use energy. It will also require significant technological developments.
The construction industry – with its interface with the energy, infrastructure and built environment sectors – will be at the forefront. The industry will have to transform the way it operates.
The industry should gear itself up for progress on a number of fronts over the next twelve months. We could see commercial and residential buildings facing higher environmental standards and requirements to switch to lower carbon heating. The industry will grow to favour methods of construction such as off-site manufacture that tend to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with waste, on-site labour and transportation of materials. Highways infrastructure will also have to change to accommodate more low emission vehicles.
In the energy space, as lenders like the European Investment Bank signal their intention to end new financing for traditional fossil fuel projects, oil and gas infrastructure will be re-purposed for carbon capture and storage purposes; and the oil and gas supply chain will diversify its expertise into other sectors such as offshore wind and solar. Similarly, innovative technologies such as floating offshore wind will increasingly gain traction as new technologies become available and become cost competitive.
Overall, greater attention will be given to ways of using engineering, technology and design to seek to minimise emissions and maximise sustainability.