18 May 2022

Building net zero into the construction process

The debate over global warming and the world’s response to took place in Glasgow when the UN’s climate change conference (COP26) met in the Scottish city. While the headline conversations focused on national responses to the earth’s changing climate, significant effort was made in highlighting how different sectors can either make or break successful climate action.

We probably do not need reminding that climate change is due largely to greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activity. These human-generated gases derive in part from aspects of the built environment such as transportation systems and infrastructure, building construction and operation, and land-use planning.

The built environment contributes around 40% of the UK’s total carbon footprint. Almost half of this is from energy used in buildings (eg plug loads and cooking) and infrastructure (eg roads and railways) that has nothing to do with their functional operation.

Transforming Construction’s vision for a sustainable built environment is one that mitigates and adapts to climate change.

UKRI’s wider COP26 programme involved working across councils to deliver an innovative exhibition showcase, virtual platforms and thematic sessions to celebrate the work of our brilliant communities to understand climate change, reduce emissions and achieve net zero.

The associated events programme brought together international speakers to examine the challenges we face and the opportunities for transformation within our buildings, cities and infrastructure.

Transforming Construction hosted an hour’s session at their Virtual Pavilion on Day 9 – Science & innovation; Innovation at the heart of a zero-carbon built environment.

Now available to watch free on-demand, the session features videos from projects CORE and Enabling Housing for Inclusive Growth, followed by an ‘in conversation with’ Mike Pitts, Transforming Construction Deputy Challenge Director and Keith Waller, Construction Innovation Hub’s Programme Director, chaired by Elspeth Finch of IAND.

Please note: To watch the free on-demand session, you may be required to register some basic details. Once this is done, simply click “join the event”.

Case Study: HIPER Pile

HIPER Pile is a collaboration between leading construction firms who are reimagining building foundations. Keltbray Piling, Converge, DB Group and Arup have turned passive, static piles that only load bear, into hollow and impression piles that offer greater value to a building throughout its lifecycle.

HIPER Pile uses a hollow and impression pile design and light-weight cement-free concrete to provide the same shaft-bearing capacity with fewer piles or narrower ones. The pile integrates with building components that generate, manage and store energy as part of an active building and incorporates smart technology to monitor performance.

With up to 80% reduction in materials and emissions possible, and greater on-site productivity, HIPER Pile will play an important role achieving carbon reduction and circular economy aims supporting the journey to net zero carbon.

Case Study: Landsec Office 1.0, The Forge

How can the construction sector emulate the productivity gains seen in the manufacturing sector over the last 20 years? By utilising Platform-Design for Manufactured Assembly (P-DfMA), ‘kit of parts’ frames and BIM technology.

Landsec, Easi-Space and Bryden Wood Technology led a collaborative project to develop and test a structural frame suitable for a commercial office that could be manufactured offsite and assembled, for real, onsite using an automated assembly process.

The efficiencies gained from using P-DfMA and ‘kit of parts’ approach on Office 1.0 has already demonstrated a reduction in embodied carbon of 19.4%. Internal utility equipment is also designed to work with the all-electric central plant, making use of LED lights, procuring 100% renewably sourced energy, and using high-efficiency heat pumps to bring down energy use by 73%.

In doing this project, partners have demonstrated that office construction could be faster, more reliable, more productive and cost less – leading the way to an increase in quality, sustainable working environments and a new creation of skills and jobs in the construction workforce.