Is The Construction Industry Building Resilience Towards Climate Change?
The conversation of climate change is not a new one.
The recent United Nations summit pushed this subject back into the spotlight, but the concept of climate change has been on the radar for over a century. The scientific discovery started when Paleo Climatologists first noticed natural changes, and the idea of “the greenhouse effect” was first identified in the early 1900s.
Many would say we have not come very far when it comes to managing the damage being done to our environment, others would acknowledge it’s a work in progress, and there are no clear-cut solutions.
Regardless of whether you believe in global warming, the greenhouse effect and carbon emissions, changes are happening across the globe. The impact is beginning to be felt by every industry, and this includes construction.
Why is there so much focus on Net Zero Carbon, and does any of it matter?
The short answer is yes, and the focus on construction is driven by clients and cities asking for it. For a business to grow and thrive in any industry, there needs to be a strong focus and positive response to what the market demands. For construction, the market is demanding a greener, more environmentally friendly approach.
According to the World Green Building Council, buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of carbon emissions globally – 28% from energy consumption and 11% from construction materials (also known as embodied carbon).
The fact remains that climate change is and will continue to have a significant impact on almost every business and how we live in society as a whole. The consensus is that it’s time for a low carbon economy, and the public wants it now.
What are the risks that come with a changing environment and climate, and how do these relate to the construction industry specifically?
These risks can be identified and split across three areas:
Physical Risk – including damage to supply chains, assets and health and safety risks to workers:
- Physical weather damage to a project mid-way through, contractors diverted to other tasks
- Increase in influenza or other viruses due to temperature changes
- Extreme heat, rain, smoke, haze, or other adverse weather conditions to navigate on site
Transition Risk – changes to standards in zoning, supply, legislation, and market preferences:
- Reassessing land development now deemed to be risky
- Identifying and adapting to delivery of specific market demands
- Introduction of alternative materials and projects requiring staff to be retrained
Liability Risk – including management of new processes, contractual, and forward planning:
- Weather-related delays resulting in extended timelines, renegotiations, and reduced profits
- Damage to portfolios experiencing ongoing weather damage, but underinsured
- An increased number of workers injured conducting emergency repairs or damage control
Where and with whom does the ultimate responsibility lie?
Whilst the answer is leaning towards a collective responsibility, prominent barristers Hutley SC and Hartford-Davies have co-authored an opinion piece which found that:
“Directors who do not properly manage climate risk could be held liable for breaching their legal duty of due care and diligence. Company Directors who consider climate change risks actively, disclose them adequately, and respond appropriately will reduce exposure to potential liability. But as time passes, the benchmark is rising.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though – or heat and storms. Climate change brings with it great opportunities for growth and diversity. Proactive construction companies will be able to look to the future and anticipate the needs of the changing market.
This means significant opportunities for:
- Climate-resilient structures and spaces
- Innovative and sustainable development projects
- The upgrading of public infrastructure to ensure it continues to meet community needs and
- A more significant market share and community buy-in through contributions to greener projects
As we move forward and the Government continues to create and revise plans, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has also developed a framework. It is designed to assist companies and organisations map out risks and opportunities while fulfilling their reporting responsibilities.
Within the construction space and as a progressing society, we are becoming more educated and therefore more aware of the positive impact reducing carbon emissions can have.
We continue to learn and will no doubt face other obstacles and challenges. Still, we will find more improved ways to increase our efficiencies and ultimately decrease our industrial footprint on the planet with each of these.
Globe Group has always been committed to continual innovation and driving quality processes and systems to achieve better results. We pride ourselves on being an organisation that understands the changing needs of our clients and the industry. We actively look for ways to make things happen rather than waiting until they do.
We want to partner with other organisations that share our values and continue to provide the best quality resources and solutions to employers and job seekers alike.