A new report from five-year research programme UK FIRES reveals that delivering zero emissions in UK construction by 2050 will lead to a radical shift from business-as-usual material demand, transforming the industry and driving substantial business growth in years to come.
Decarbonisation represents a transformative change for the UK’s construction industry. Most of today’s construction materials cannot be made without emissions, so construction in 2050 must operate with a highly restricted set of resources.
This is likely to include recycled steel, sustainably harvested natural materials, recycled glass and aluminium, and a limited amount of zero-carbon concrete.
These will be augmented by modules and components re-used from previous structures. In the decades to 2050 and beyond, it will drive changes from high-level planning decisions right down to the way materials are produced, and everything in between.
This complete industry transformation will create wide-ranging innovation opportunities that are explained in detail in the report, along with case studies detailing projects where sustainable practices have been used.
Julian Allwood, group head of UK FIRES, and professor of engineering and the environment at the University of Cambridge, said: “This transformation is a great opportunity to massively improve the design of houses, the quality of life for all, and to enable a myriad of businesses capable of providing the know-how to meet the needs of the future.
“The construction industry will be transformed into a zero-emission society, from the choice of materials, production, the design of structures, to the organisation of towns and cities. In this report, we present some of the needs — and the opportunities which will arise from them — to show how a zero-carbon construction industry can thrive”.
In 2019, UK FIRES released its Absolute Zero report, which highlights how the UK could operate with zero emissions without relying on an unscaled energy sector or negative emissions technologies. The research programme has also recently launched a new campaign, Tick Zero, which aims to help individuals start their journey to zero emissions.