Andrew Mitchell is sustainability operations director at Mace
Within the built environment we’ve become so accustomed to discussions about carbon reduction that it has almost become synonymous with sustainable building. While reducing carbon remains pivotal, contractors and businesses must also consider energy consumption as a cornerstone of their overall strategy. Reducing energy demand automatically saves carbon.
“Carbon emissions and energy consumption are not mutually exclusive – they are deeply intertwined”
Mace has a moral imperative to save energy. As UK plc moves away from direct fossil-fuel consumption to a fully electric economy, we have an obligation to lower demand. We need to improve our energy productivity, to lower the burden on the wider UK energy infrastructure.
Improvements in energy productivity will also deliver a commercial reward.
The energy demand of a construction project is a huge part of the overall energy lifecycle, with buildings accounting for almost a third of the world’s energy usage. Businesses cannot be complacent in reducing that kind of consumption.
The right fuel is an invaluable tool
A driver of onsite energy consumption is the machinery we use to complete work. Everything from excavators and cranes to vans and flatbeds are pieces of the energy and emissions puzzle. With most vehicles still reliant on liquid fuels and internal combustion, they are a major contributor to overall output of energy and greenhouse-gas emissions. The clear long-term answer to this, as we are seeing with consumer vehicles, is a move to electrification.
It is encouraging to see smaller projects that have successfully electrified onsite equipment and vehicles, such as a near-zero-emissions development in Oslo. However, we are still some way from deploying electric vehicles (EV) at scale on sites and it is important to make strides now, to support energy-reduction targets.
At Mace, we have completely removed diesel from our sites and made a shift towards hydrotreated vegetable oil – a low-carbon fuel derived from reclaimed cooking oil. With solutions like these low-carbon fuels available now, the industry has a reliable stopgap, yet still with an eye to an EV future.
Offsetting with offsite
A now widely established practice for building is offsite manufacturing, for which there is a growing appreciation, with many components and fabrications prepared in a controlled factory environment and delivered to the site itself. Well-founded benefits of this practice include efficiency of manufacture, worker safety and build quality – and we can add sustainability to that list.
By building offsite, there is a proven reduction of waste materials, and the efficiency of manufacturing means less energy is used to deliver the finished product. A great example of this is low-carbon cassettes – a modular concrete structure capable of reducing embodied carbon in an office structure by up to 75 per cent. By leaning in on offsite manufacturing, we can make sites safer, more efficient and more energy-efficient.
Monitoring and optimising through digital solutions
Beyond the practical innovations that may improve energy usage, there is also a need to continue measuring and analysing our performance against current energy targets, to help inform future ones. Digital measurement and more sophisticated data will be the key to unlocking insights for contractors and their clients. Using big data – a full analytical process using the data your organisation collects – to give more granular information on energy levels will be instrumental in spotting problem areas and supporting companies to create tailored energy-reduction strategies. With environmental, social and governance reporting now integrated with overall financial reporting and commercial performance, the adoption of sophisticated analytics is fast becoming a must-have.
Carbon emissions and energy consumption are not mutually exclusive – they are deeply intertwined and should both be huge priorities for the built environment. The fact that energy is slightly overlooked is already being remedied by new commitments across industries.
Mace recently became the first major contractor to join the Climate Group’s EP100 Double Energy Productivity pledge, which will see us use many of the innovations above to deliver the same level of work for 50 per cent of the total energy demand between now and 2048.
As we all continue the charge to build more sustainably, let’s not forget the impact of reducing onsite energy usage.
Source : ConstructionNews