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Construction - big part of the Climate Problem or Vital Solution?

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A small glass ball with miniature skyscrapers and foliage inside it, sitting in the middle of a city street with skyscrapers in the distance

Construction is a huge part of the UK economy, accounting for about 6% of GDP and about 10% of all employment. But the built environment is also responsible for circa 40% of all carbon emissions.

Introduction: Professor Saul D Humphrey MSc PhD FRICS FCIOB FICE MCIArb FRSA CEnv (Professor of Sustainable Construction Management at ARU)

Lecture: Will Arnold FIStructE (Head of Climate Action at The Institution of Structural Engineers)

Guest speaker: Sarah Frith (Head of Design at Willmott Dixon)

The construction sector is a huge part of the UK economy. It directly accounts for about 6% of GDP and about 10% of all employment.

More importantly, it delivers the critical infrastructure that society requires. From schools and roads to hospitals and houses, from renewable energy projects to flood protection, the construction industry creates the places in which we learn, work and play.

However, the built environment is responsible for circa 40% of all carbon emissions. If it continued to emit carbon through its activities at the current rate as it has historically, it would single-handedly raise temperatures by +3°C, double the Paris Accord targets.

The problem is not just operational carbon, from heating and cooling buildings, but also embodied carbon caused by the extraction and production of construction materials such as cement and steel.

Construction and the built environment must respect the planet's finite boundaries, the tipping-points that are being exceeded and the potential feedback loops that could accelerate climate change.

Many in the sector are shifting the paradigm towards more sustainable construction. Realising this attracts premium values, lower running costs, a much smaller carbon footprint and, done properly, enhanced landscaping, water savings and a biodiversity net gain.

But many more are not, instead persisting with ‘business as usual’. How do we inspire change and motivate the next generation that will build the sustainable, modern, and resilient solutions that tomorrow’s society requires?

This is the conundrum that will be explored in this session.

Aligning sustainable interventions supports the business strategy: 'Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs' (1987 Brundtland Report).

Event overview

The evening lecture is designed to introduce attendees to the challenges and opportunities posed by the Built Environment in the context of a more sustainable future. The speakers will discuss the principles of sustainable construction and the risks of delaying or diluting measures to accelerate the adoption of same.

Equally, the opportunities of progressing more sustainable construction solutions, retrofitting our older buildings, and advancing the quest towards NZC will be reviewed. The question of demolishing or refurbishing existing buildings will also be explored.

The final part of evening will include a VIP (invite only) post-presentation debate. There will be an opportunity for one-on-one discussions between participants and the briefing team.

This event will be taking place in MAB221 at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford. It will be followed by a debate and discussion for invited guests in the ARU Corporate Suite from 7.30-8.15pm.

Speakers

Graphic with Will Arnold's photograph and the Willmott Dixon logo on one side, and Chelmsford Science Festival logo on the other

Will Arnold FIStructE – Head of Climate Action at The Institution of Structural Engineers

Graphic with Saul Humphrey's photograph and the Willmott Dixon logo on one side, and Chelmsford Science Festival logo on the other

Prof Saul D Humphrey MSc PhD FRICS FCIOB FICE MCIArb FRSA CEnv

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