Net Zero Targets Reshaping our Built Environment

19th July, 2021

When it comes to achieving net zero targets, there is a shared responsibility to collaborate better to achieve generational change. The formation of the CO2nstructZero initiative is set to challenge the construction and engineering sector to do better.

Conversations surrounding how the UK reaches its 2050 net zero emissions target inevitably struggle to come to a clear definition of what net zero is – never mind the complex ways in how to achieve it. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), a quarter of global carbon emissions came from buildings in 2017. Here in the UK the built environment accounts for around 45% of total carbon emissions, with roughly 25% from domestic buildings and 18% from commercial and other non-domestic buildings – e.g. schools, hospitals.

So as the construction industry come to terms with the impact of the built environment on climate change and work hard at improvements, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) launched a new industry change programme in March this year – CO2nstructZero. This will be a cross-industry approach to drive carbon out of all parts of the construction sector, from manufacturing and design to construction and operation of buildings.

“By providing a consolidated action plan, clear targets and a single ambitious vision for change we hope that we can bring together the excellent work being done across the industry in a co-ordinated way to drive real transformation,” says co-chair of the CLC, Andy Mitchell. “We’ll be working with the CLC member trade bodies to change expectations and ambitions amongst UK construction clients and consumers. We know that the industry cannot invest effectively in low carbon options unless the demand is consistent. We need everyone to work together – and we need people to step up as champions of the industry that will help to drive behaviour change and support others to tackle these challenges. We’ve seen the transformative impact that collective ambition has had on our industry’s standing with Government during COVID, who are now clear that the construction industry must be a key partner in the drive to reach UK net zero by 2050.”

The CO2nstructZero initiative aims to develop a single overarching programme and action plan to deliver against the nine CO2nstructZero priorities, to co-ordinate the efforts of partner organisations who are leading individual activities, increasing impact and visibility of those activities and minimising duplication of effort. It will set out measurable targets and performance criteria to demonstrate the sector is making progress against the CO2nstructZero priorities and 2050 targets. It will also act as the primary conduit for engagement with Government to advise on how best to showcase the sector at COP26 being hosted by the UK in November.


• Accelerating the shift of the construction workforce to zero emission vehicles and onsite plant
• Maximising use of modern methods of construction (MMC) and improved onsite logistics, reducing waste and transport to sites
• Championing developments and infrastructure investments that both enable connectivity with low carbon modes of transport and design to incorporate readiness for zero emission vehicles
• Work with Government to deliver retrofitting to improve energy efficiency of the existing housing stock
• Scale up industry capability to deliver low carbon heat solutions in buildings, supporting heat pump deployment, trials of hydrogen heating systems and heat networks
• Enhancing the energy performance of new and existing buildings through higher operational energy efficiency standards and better building energy performance monitoring
• Implementing carbon measurement, to support our construction projects in making quantifiable decisions to remove carbon
• Become world leaders in designing out carbon, developing the capability of our designers and construction professionals to develop designs in line with circular economy – reducing embedded and operational carbon, shifting commercial models to incentivise and reward measurable carbon reductions.
• Support development of innovative low carbon materials (prioritising concrete and steel), as well as advancing low carbon solutions for manufacturing production processes and distribution.

To help push these priorities, a new ‘Business Champions’ initiative enables companies to be role models and demonstrate a commitment towards the sector’s drive towards reducing carbon emissions in the delivery and operation of the built environment. The first 14 companies to be drawn from across the UK’s construction supply chain were selected by the CLC and includes several that have widely adopted offsite manufacture including Laing O’Rourke, Mace and Mid-Group.

As part of this industry change programme, the Business Champions will work alongside the CLC and other major industry bodies to share innovations and best practice, acting as promotors and role models to support the industry’s move to net zero carbon. Each organisation has made a commitment that they will share tangible evidence of their net zero carbon plans against the CO2nstructZero priorities, contribute to the CO2nstructZero industry reporting process and work together to support companies in the sector to develop their own plans.

Andrew Griffith MP, the UK Net Zero Business Champion and Chair of the CO2nstructZero Advisory Board, said: “This is a hugely significant moment for the UK’s construction industry. As we look towards COP26 later this year, the whole sector must work together to drive real change. From global UK companies to the smallest local businesses, our business champions represent the best of the sector and will play a key role in helping to drive transformational change in how we deliver the built environment. We cannot deliver our ambitious national net zero carbon ambitions without changing how we build – and our business champions will set a fantastic example for others to follow.”

Companies who want to be business champions are encouraged to commit to CO2nstructZero and can apply to become a Business Champion in an ongoing monthly recruitment drive. The CO2nstructZero Programme Board, chaired by Hannah Vickers, CEO of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, is responsible for oversight of the whole CO2nstructZero agenda, including the performance framework and reporting. The CO2nstructZero Advisory Board, chaired by Andrew Griffith holds the Programme Board accountable and acts as a challenge forum on the broader ambitions of the programme. Its members provide external leadership and advocacy for the programme and encourage businesses across the sector to act on net zero.


• Less waste – due to reduced on-site work and maximising efficiency within the factory environment
• Less energy – offsite manufacturing means less time spent on-site thereby reducing energy, pollution and disruption
• Less transport – there is approx. 40% reduction in vehicle movement at construction sites compared to traditional methods
• More local jobs – offsite roles are more likely to be centred around a specific manufacturing facility
• Streamlined design – regular testing and monitoring of products can be carried out with each iteration creating regular product improvements through new digital tools
• Circular use of materials – easier reduction, recycling and reuse of material within a factory facility compared to traditional methods
• Fabric First – energy efficiency approach without the use of costly micro-renewable technology.

To read full article and for more news, check out the latest Offsite Magazine

Share this content



Enter your name and your comment below. Your e-mail address will not be published on the website.