In the last decade, the U.K. has decreased their dependency on carbon energy more than any other country in the world. In 2019, for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, renewable power supplied more electricity than fossil fuels in the U.K. Government regulation plays a crucial role in defining the success of new and existing building sustainability goals. By December 2020, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) will make it mandatory for all new construction to be “nearly zero-energy.”
Non-developed land in the U.K. alone accounts for 10% of GHG emissions. New policies and regulations, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, focus on the future sustainability of the construction industry, including the use of renewable power. The construction sector is one of the main proponents of the U.K.’s broader strategy to increase energy efficiency.
Setting a New Standard
In the U.K., all new buildings must adhere to green specifications. The regulations for new structures have a goal of being “zero energy” in the future, according to standards set in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Construction companies are aware of several major aspects of the new guidelines, including a custom carbon emission rate, solar capabilities testing and research into energy-efficient operations.
For existing buildings, EPCs — or energy performance certificates — must be produced. These certificates set standard energy efficiency ratings.
Incentives for sustainable processes, especially electricity, are incredibly relevant in the world of commercial construction. A building’s utility usage accounts for 90% of the total power consumption.
Implementing sustainable designs, such as solar panels and energy-efficient HVAC systems, are now standards of U.K. building practices. In addition to government policy, there is also a global initiative to rethink building standards, with certifications such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) transforming the building industry from design to construction. This globally recognised certification takes an innovative approach that rewards environmentally focused practices.
Incentivizing Renewable Technology
The push to embrace renewables is relevant in the number of energy-efficient technologies the construction industry is utilising, along with the building processes taking place. In addition to sourcing and implementation, more businesses are paying closer attention to their lead management and how to maximise resources efficiently. Efficiency is not just a power issue but an operative one. Research demonstrates that the industry could save $1.63 trillion every year by making adjustments to site operations.
Construction companies have been met with several new policies that encourage the use and distribution of renewables. For example, the feed-in tariff provides financial compensation for consumers who use renewable electricity and allows for returning residual power to the grid. Another proponent is the Climate Change Levy, a tax that promotes investment in energy-efficient technologies.
Other notable policies include the Merton Rule, which sets the standard of renewable energy used per building site, with new structures required to generate 10% of their electricity from on-site renewable equipment.
The percentage of renewable usage in the U.K. is still relatively low, especially compared to natural gas. However, renewable energy — such as wind, solar or biomass — creates a unique opportunity for the construction industry to be a leader in the movement away from fossil fuels.
Renewables Can Power the Future
Renewable energy has the power to transform the construction industry by creating more job opportunities, enhancing technological operations and improving performance standards.
Environmentalists and government agencies will hold construction companies accountable for the materials they use, the waste they create and the ecological conservation of the land they develop. By focusing on carbon-neutral operations and maximising efficiency, construction businesses are utilising renewables like never before.