Construction calls for public sector procurement change to achieve net zero

Industry writes open letter to construction minister, calling for change in public sector procurement to achieve net zero.

Public sector procurement authority SCAPE, together with some of the UK’s largest contractors and consultants, have outlined how the public estate can achieve its ambitious net zero targets in an open letter to the construction minister, Lee Rowley MP.

Industry leaders including Arcadis, Ashe Group, Fairhurst, Faithful & Gould, G.F Tomlinson, Jeakins Weir, John Sisk & Son, Lindum Group, Mace, McLaughlin & Harvey, Morgan Sindall, Perfect Circle, Seddon, Sweco UK, and Willmott Dixon have called for traditional industry approaches to procurement and build to be radically overhauled to create an approach to public sector construction that is focused on zero carbon.

The letter's signatories argue that whole life carbon assessments should be made a statutory requirement for the delivery of new-build and refurbishment projects in the public sector, with decisions based on the lifecycle carbon of the building or infrastructure project, not cost.

Project teams basing decisions on cost alone are inhibiting low carbon construction, according to the group. Data gathered by SCAPE suggests that the payback period from the operational savings created by sustainable building design is as little as six years on average, with only a marginal increase in capital cost.

The letter added that carbon-led collaboration across the supply chain is pivotal to ensure the next generation of public sector buildings and infrastructure set new standards for achieving a sustainable future.

The firms involved act as delivery partners within SCAPE and SCAPE Scotland’s construction, consultancy and civil engineering frameworks, covering £18bn worth of public sector projects to be delivered in the next five years.

SCAPE is used by more than 1,200 public bodies across the UK and incorporates dedicated tools to help organisations procure projects in a way that meets their sustainability and climate ambitions.

To support the public sector in delivering the government’s net zero targets by 2050, SCAPE have developed a dedicated Net Zero website navigation tool which explains how to access the guidance required.

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said: “Tackling carbon intensity across the public estate has become mission critical. As a leading voice for the public sector and in collaboration with our construction and consultancy partners, we have a duty to forge an industry-led response to tackle the environmental challenges we currently face. The Construction Playbook represents the first building block to achieving a low-carbon future and we want to work with the minister to help further its aims and ambitions by setting new statutory obligations within UK procurement legislation.

“Achieving this doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel – a lot of the immediate answers are hiding in plain sight. We must work together as an industry to rethink our traditional approaches and ensure that net zero carbon is considered an integral part of our decision-making process. The government plays a huge role in delivering this change and by working together to share best practices, we firmly believe that we can deliver on the commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.”

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