Specwall is at the forefront a UK construction sector that is transforming and becoming fit for the 21st century. The industry is responsible for 8% of the UK’s GDP and 9% of its employment according to the Royal institution of Chartered Surveyors in their Modern Methods of Construction report (PDF), but it is also a significant contributor to the country’s carbon emissions.
Greater Manchester’s COP26 event – Power to the People: Enabling a Smart Energy Transition – highlighted this issue by noting that the construction sector is only second to transport in the UK when it comes to carbon emissions. This means that the industry has a lot of work to do, and changing attitudes will lead to Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) like Specwall becoming increasingly important in the years to come.
How will attitudes to buildings and construction change in the future?
Along with the rest of the world, the construction industry will have to consider its environmental impact much more carefully, and take action to reduce it quickly and efficiently. Indeed, the industry is already taking strong initial steps in that direction.
The built environment accounts for 40% of the UK’s total emissions according to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), and almost half of that load is from energy used in buildings which has nothing to do with their day-to-day running – including the emissions generated by construction.
While the relative carbon footprint of the built environment has reduced since 1990 due to decarbonisation of the grid and increased installation of wall insulation, there is still a lot of work to do. This applies to both new builds and retrofitting of existing buildings, and this is where MMC like Specwall come in. As developers look to do more to reduce their environmental impact, it is natural that a change to the methods and technologies used in construction will follow.
Why is it important to act sooner than later?
Put simply, the sooner we act, the more benefits we will store up for the future. Climate change is a non-negotiable issue which will affect everyone equally, and this means that the sector as a whole needs to embrace action as quickly as possible to protect itself and do its bit to alleviate the worst effects of the emergency.
It has been predicted that 80% of the buildings we will use in 2050 already exist, and many of those will need retrofitting in the future to keep bring them up to standard. When that happens, it is vital that energy saving materials and methods of construction – such as Specwall – are given priority over traditional, carbon-intensive processes and products.
However, that is not to discount the thousands of new buildings that will be needed in the coming decades. Reducing embodied carbon emissions is both a major challenge and an urgent one. According to the UKGBC, “annual embodied emissions alone are currently higher than the GCB’s target for total built environment emissions by 2050.” Making these changes, and cutting emissions, can and will play a significant role in developers and building owners meeting the environmental and social requirements set out in their annual ESG reporting.
This makes it important to act now to put products and processes in place which will cut embodied carbon emissions now and for the future. While this will be a challenge, it should also be seen as an opportunity for the industry to evolve, become more sustainable, and ultimately play its role in creating a better world for all.
How is Specwall proven to support energy savings?
Specwall is a safe, efficient and sustainable wall system which helps you save energy and reduce carbon emissions at every stage of the construction process. Being made in precision, factory conditions means that wastage during production is minimal, and the nature of Specwall means that all waste including dust can be recycled.
Specwall uses eco-friendly building materials and a modern manufacturing process to create reusable wall panels which can help organisations to achieve a high BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) rating in the following categories:
- Health and Wellbeing
- Recycled Content
BREEAM certification is applicable to new builds, major refurbishments and fit outs of major developments, making it the most widely used environmental performance assessment for non-domestic UK buildings.
Specwall panels also include inherent insulative properties, and the system can be designed by our Technical Team to achieve any u-value required. In this way, the Specwall system can help reduce ongoing emissions caused by heating as well as cutting embodied carbon emissions generated during construction. This reduces or eliminates the need for the regular amount of internal wall insulation, further reducing the carbon emissions embodied in a development through the construction process.
The simplicity of installation also helps to reduce site emissions. Time and motion studies carried out on previous projects show that by using Specwall as a blockwork replacement or alternative to a Steel Framing Systems (SFS), you can reduce labour hours needed for installation by more than 55%. Additionally, Specwall does not require as much crane time as alternatives such as blockwork, reducing site emissions from transportation significantly.
Finally, Specwall allows for future retrofitting and reimagining of buildings following construction. It is fully adaptable to new floorplates as needed, and can be reused entirely in situ via a simple re-installation method. As with the initial construction, any offcuts created when moving panels around can be reused as part of the construction process.
As the UK continues on its path to achieving a minimum of Net Zero Carbon, the built environment will have to make a lot of changes to meet this target and do its bit to cut emissions, both in the construction phase and the ongoing operation of buildings.
Modern Methods of Construction, and products such as Specwall, will be vital tools for developers looking to reduce the level of embodied carbon emissions in their buildings and support a future in which energy saving becomes increasingly important.
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