Most built environment sectors unprepared for net zero, says new report

Water, ports and airports currently least well-prepared sectors for net zero, says major new report by ACE and EIC.

Most built environment sectors are unprepared for net zero, with water, ports and airports the least ready, according to a major joint report by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and sister organisation, the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC).

Are we ready? Delivering Net Zero in the built environment polled more than 130 net zero and sustainability experts who work across different areas of the built environment. The findings show few sectors rating highly, with common challenges such as client business models being incompatible with net zero pathways, and disconnects between different regulators.

In response, the report argues that we need a new, holistic approach which marries policy changes to new ways of delivering projects.

On a project level, it argues for use of the Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit which will help consultants proactively offer clients net zero designs that make all projects, not just prestige new builds, carbon free.

Among the policy recommendations are proposals to build on the recent changes to the ‘Green Book’ and create a clear link between the newly published Sixth Carbon Budget pathways from the CCC and revised infrastructure National Policy Statements, while better integrating net zero into the NPPF, Strategic Environmental Assessments and the Environmental Impact Assessments system.  

It also reinforces the vital role our sectors will have to play in helping society understand, and make progress on, net zero, while urging consultants to lead by example, codify best practice, upskill, and support clients to “do the right thing”.

Commenting on the report’s release, Hannah Vickers, chief executive of ACE said: “Put simply, society’s ambitions hinge on our collective ability to design and deliver a carbon free future and this report provides the crucial next steps for our industry on our net zero journey.

“While our sector’s problem-solving skills mean we are uniquely placed to imagine and develop innovative approaches, we will also be required to lead by example and educate clients.

“The recommendations form the basis of a new joint policy and member development programme for ACE and EIC, which we will take forwards in 2021 in the run-up to the rescheduled COP26.”

Dr Sarah Prichard, chair of the ACE and EIC net zero taskforce, and UK managing director at Buro Happold, added: “Plenty has already been written about the problem ahead of us, the consequences of inaction, and the scale of the solution required. What has been less forthcoming are the practical and tangible steps that take us beyond theoretical discussions. This report is a vitally important next step for the industry.”

Click here to download a copy of Are we ready? Delivering Net Zero.

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