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Construction More Focused on Net-Zero Than Building Safety Says BESA

Construction More Focused on Net-Zero Than Building Safety Says BESA
12 October 2023

A study carried out on behalf of the Building Engineering Services Association shows that construction clients are failing to get their buildings registered under the Building Safety Act, as the need to achieve net-zero is front of mind.

Using ONS data, the Consumer Price Index and TPI inflation indices, consultancy Currie & Brown presented their findings to a roundtable session of Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) members. Here’s a roundup of the main findings:




Operation and construction of the UK built environment results in emissions of around 126 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year. The UK will not achieve its legally binding target of net-zero by 2050 unless this figure is dramatically reduced.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published research revealing that carbon emissions from buildings are falling by less than 1 per cent per annum, which is putting the 2050 goals in doubt. The BESA forum called for a “major and urgent” programme of building refurbishments to tackle this issue.  However, Richard Hill, Director at Currie & Brown said the current low rate of building retrofits was often due to the disruption they caused to clients’ business activities”

“Fewer than 1 per cent of buildings measure whole life carbon impact, so we must do better there,” he said. “Local authorities also want us to properly stress test the opportunities to repurpose existing buildings rather than building new.


Skills Shortages


The sector’s serious skills shortages also made delivery of net-zero “more challenging”, Richard added. “We need another 250,000 construction workers by 2027. Where are they going to come from?”


Competence and the Building Safety Act


The BESA members pointed out that many clients were failing to get their buildings registered under the Building Safety Act “which is their first duty”. To do that they must be working with competent organisations and there is confusion around the role of the principal contractor as they are often not appointed until after the building is registered.

“Practitioners have a heightened level of responsibility around building safety which will have an impact on the level of engagement generally and the timescale of projects,” said Richard. “This might eventually lead to new disciplines being created to meet the needs of the act but initially the focus will be on additional responsibilities for existing practitioners.”

The new planning process detailed under the act puts much more emphasis on having proper design certainty at Gateway 2 before work can start on site and this was reported to be putting pressure on the skillsets of consultants to get these projects across the line.

“Competence is a major thread in the act,” explained Richard. “It will hit the industry hard and fast, but this might stall clients from starting projects because the timescales are very short, and they are going to have to appoint the right people before being able to get started – so there could be a major market shift to defer new build projects.”

You can read Currie & Brown’s latest UK construction market outlook report here.

Picture: a photograph of some cranes against a night sky. Image Credit: Unsplash

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 12 October 2023


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