Followership key to driving reducing carbon reduces cost message down supply chain

Green Construction Board’s third anniversary highlights successes and challenges for a low carbon future

Green Construction Board Three Years On

Boosting levels of followership across the industry supply chain is critical to leverage existing work to lead the development of low carbon and sustainable construction, delegates at a Green Construction Board seminar heard this week.

Discussion revealed that three years into the life of the Green Construction Board, while vital leadership was being shown by key clients, designers, contractors and suppliers across the industry, the critical next step was to drive the reducing carbon reduces cost message deeper into the industry mainstream.

The Green Constuction Board Three Years On report outlines the acheivements to date and plans for the future. Further details are at

“We have leadership, what about followership?” questioned contractor Costain’s Chris Scott during a discussion on the challenges for the Green Construction Board going forward.

Mott MacDonald’s Mark Enzer, co-author of the GCB’s Infrastructure Carbon Review agreed and highlighted that the breadth of the supply chain added to the challenge.

“We must cascade the knowledge down through the supply chain pyramid.” he said.

Opening the meeting Skanska UK chief executive and GCB co-chair Mike Putnam highlighted the achievements of the joint government/industry GCB initiative over the last three year in driving the Reducing Carbon Reduces Cost message across the construction supply chain. 

“Collaboration between industry and Government is key,” he said, highlighting that the GCB had to work closely with the Construction Leadership Council as the delivery arm to drive toward the targets of the Construction 2025 industrial strategy.

While successes such as the Infrastructure Carbon Review – now with 48 organisations signed up and committed to carbon reduction – he agree that there was still much to do to drive the low carbon message into the mainstream across the industy

“Leadership, innovation and procurement framework are key,” explained Putnam. He added that he felt the upturn in the economy, while clearly presenting new challenges to the industy, did provide a great opportunity to move the low carbon agenda to a new level.

In a discussion with GCB board members including architect Lynne Sullivan, Mark Oliver of materials supplier H+H, Infrastructure UK's Alan Couzens and BIS director Robin Webb, a number of key issues emerged including:

  • Cultural change is needed. It must become socially unacceptable to not be sustainable
  • Reducing carbon doesn’t just reduce cost; we must also demonstrate that it increases value
  • The dots between the carbon targets, GCB outputs and improvements in public health must be joined and exploited
  • Knowledge is power – knowledge and learning must be transferring from big projects in to smaller construction activities.
  • SMEs and their clients remain reluctant to exceed Building Regulation  - it must therefore become part of the procurement process
  • Industry must continue to collaborate but also extend its collaboration to learn from beyond construction 
  • A greater focus on operational carbon particularly from sectors such as Retail and in from retrofit was vital.

Closing the seminar chief construction adviser Peter Hansford commended the profgres made by the GCB over the last three years but highlgihted the challenges ahead.: 

"The importance of low carbon and sustainable construction goes beyond the imperative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment," he said.

He added: "More than perhaps any other issue on its own, it illuminates the culture change which we must achieve if we are to transform the industry. And we will not meet any of the ambitions in Construction 2025 unless we secure that culture change."

Future priorities for the Green Construction Board include:

  • the development of a PAS to support the measurement and management of carbon in the infrastructure sector
  • identifying what more might be done to unlock den=mad, improve affordability and increase the attractiveness of Solid Wall Insulation – this is a Commission I will be leading over the next three months
  • creating bigger better data on operational energy use in the commercial sector; and
  • ensuring policy makers have a clearer understanding of property investment, asset, management and valuation processes.

See opinion by chief construction adviser Peter Hanford: "Low carbon construction holds key to culture change needed to reform industry"

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