Taking us beyond theoretical discussions on net zero

A new report provides the construction industry with some practical and tangible steps to help deliver net zero, says Dr Sarah Prichard

When I was asked to chair a new joint Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) and Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) net zero taskforce, I had no hesitation. It is an issue so fundamental to how we live, work and how Buro Happold does business, that it was an easy role to accept.

I did have a few initial concerns as to whether I was the right person for the position – I had no specific environmental background; I had not personally worked on many green projects and I am a long way from what I might describe as being a sustainability expert. However, I quickly realised that all of that does not matter – the fact is that all business leaders, in and outside our industry, will have to face up to the net zero question in the years ahead.

Our taskforce is made up of experts from across the built environment and green technologies and services sectors. With the input of both ACE and EIC’s membership bases, as well as key external stakeholders such as the University of Lancaster, we have created what I believe is an important milestone on our collective net zero journey.

Plenty has been written about the problem ahead of us, the consequences of inaction and the scale of the solution required. What has been less forthcoming are the practical and tangible steps that take us beyond theoretical discussions.

Like many of you reading this, I am an engineer by profession and a natural born problem solver. While by no means providing a complete solution, Are we ready? Delivering Net Zero in the built environment is the first step for our industry in articulating what will be required, and the changes that need to happen at both a project and policy level.

The report also showcases some great examples of net zero principles already in action in projects across the country. In many ways it is encouraging to see that our members already have some of the answers.

It has also reinforced in my mind that – more than most other sectors – our industry’s role will be critical if we are to win this battle. However, this will only happen if we all get involved – from large companies to SMEs via individuals – and make a pledge to lead by example and ‘be the change’.

The work of the taskforce has only just begun, but I’m delighted to share with you our first report and a vitally important next step for the industry.

Click here to download the ACE/EIC report, Are we ready? Delivering Net Zero in the built environment.

Dr Sarah Prichard is chair of the ACE and EIC Net Zero taskforce and UK managing director at Buro Happold.