The deal, which was announced on Thursday (July 5) after a six-month delay, supports Theresa May’s recently announced energy efficiency goals and additionally sets an ongoing target of halving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the industry.

It will see £170m of Government funding invested in innovations which seek to enhance resource efficiency, improve energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions across the industry while shortening construction times, with ministers expecting this investment to be matched with £250m of private sector funding.

Such innovations to drive smart construction include offsite modular manufacturing techniques, AI-assisted digital design tools, new manufacturing technologies and smart building management systems.

Announcing the deal at the Northern Powerhouse Summit in Newcastle, Business Secretary Greg Clark argued that investment in smart construction would deliver a string of environmental and economic benefits while halving the time it takes to deliver new-build projects by 2030.

“The construction industry is fundamental to growing our economy as we build to invest in our future,” Clark said. “Major infrastructure projects like HS2 and the commitment to deliver 1.5 million homes by 2022 mean that we need a construction sector that can drive innovation, delivering homes and infrastructure quicker.

“As buildings account for around 30% of total emissions, we also want to ensure that we are at the global forefront in designing and building smart, energy efficient and affordable homes and buildings through the Clean Growth Grand Challenge, saving families money on their bills.”

In addition to energy efficiency and emissions, the deal also targets the 120 million tonnes of waste produced in the building sector each year, which accounts for 60% of the UKs current annual waste output.

The deal notes that investment in technology to reduce waste from construction, demolition and excavation can drive a more circular sector, complementing the Clean Growth Grand Challenge identified in the Industrial Strategy.

Sector-wide sustainability

The deal arrives at a time of continued progress for sustainability ambitions in the construction sector.

In November, the Government struck an agreement with the construction industry to halve emissions in the built environment over the next eight years, while edie’s own Sector Insight report found that almost two-thirds of businesses operating in the construction industry are now more committed to taking action on sustainability than they were 12 months ago.

However, numerous green business and campaign groups are currently calling on the Government to set more ambitious energy efficiency policies after the Committee on Climate Change’s annual report last week found that the built environment sector was hindering the UK’s ability to meet its 2030 carbon targets. Similarly, think tank IPPR this week published research concluding that the UK will not meet its 2030 goals to boost energy efficiency in its housing stock until the end of the century.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) echoed these concerns, welcoming the sustainability commitments of the new deal, but urging ministers to integrate them into the wider policy framework as soon as possible.

“We welcome the long-awaited Construction Sector Deal as an opportunity to transform the capabilities of the industry and deliver more sustainable places,” UKGBC’s chief executive, Julie Hirigoyen, said.

“It is encouraging that the target to halve emissions from the built environment sits at the heart of the sector deal; but targets and aspirations will only get us so far and it is vital that these low-carbon objectives are swiftly integrated into the wider policy framework for building regulations and energy efficiency.”

Sarah George

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