Do you know the way to net zero?

Our net zero event last week highlighted clear opportunities for the whole of Welsh construction to grasp as it makes the journey toward net zero. It is a bright road with prospects, not challenges

Welsh construction is changing – it must, we must evolve to survive. That was the essence in the Mark Farmer report, Modernise or Die. Now, the imperative to decarbonise has added a new priority. It is not just about playing a role in helping Welsh Government achieve its Net Zero ambitions. It is about becoming a part of a Welsh built environment supply chain navigating a route towards a net zero Wales.

There are targets, goals, directives, and opportunities for growth within this journey to net zero.

An immediate focus must be upon the growing emphasis on a circular economy. In 2020 a target was set for 90% for all construction and demolition material to be recycled (87% achieved), and a mandated 10% recycled material target for public sector construction. Celsa spelled out the importance of this in their presentation – it requires detailed analysis of materials, a revision of procurement, assessments of embedded carbon and a tighter control of the deconstruction process – not simply demolish and remove. Track what materials are being removed by using a Green Compass approved waste handling business.

An increasing number of public sector tenders are adding weight to social value and sustainability in their grading – favouring those embracing modern technologies, decarbonisation, and energy efficiency. There is a greater need and emphasis on carbon measurement and the retrofitting and repurposing of assets.

Up to 1.4 million homes requiring retrofit work in Wales - estimated to cost £15 billion. Today, all new social homes are required to achieve EPC A and move away from fossil fuel heating systems. MEES EPC C proposals mean that by 2025 120,000 private rental homes need to be brought to standard. And there is pressure on private developers to end use of fossil fuel heating systems.

In education all new buildings are set to be net zero in operation by 2030, with all existing buildings by 2050. By 2024, all new buildings in the NHS will be constructed and accredited to net zero standard. All large non-acute sites to have low carbon and onsite renewable energy generation by 2030.

Overall, all new build public sector occupied buildings must be ‘nearly zero-energy ready’ under building regulations.

These are just some of the signposts. But instead of them being problems, they are opportunities. A retrofit revolution will occur in Wales – centred on 1.4 million Welsh homes and thousands of non-domestic buildings. Innovative Housing Programme, and schemes like Optimised Retrofit are creating pipeline of work.

Across the whole sector and spelled out in the Welsh Development Quality Requirements 2021, Modern Methods of Construction a preferred delivery solution. There are immediate opportunities in Whole Stock Assessments, lighting upgrades, insulation, and energy system upgrades.

Yes, it might feel daunting and difficult to be part of these opportunities, but various government programmes exist for elements of upskilling for businesses. And the chance for growth is there for all parts of the supply chain, from sole traders and SMEs through to larger players. And it is right across housing, health education and in infrastructure too. Opportunities to decarbonise and build a net zero Wales are within Rail, Highways, Active travel, Water, Broadband and the Grid itself.

That is what we covered in our Net Zero event last week – but if you are interested just drop us a line. We can share the presentations, the ideas and further information. Or if you like, we can run an abridged version of the event again.