Decarbonisation of estates and the circular economy: how to do more with less


3rd November 2023

With 2250 days to go until Wales’ net zero target of 2030 an informed audience engaged with our Developing Connections panel at our Cardiff office on 5 October 2023. The focus of discussion was on the decarbonisation of estates and the circular economy.

Commercial Real Estate Business Forum

Developing Connections is a Blake Morgan networking forum for the real estate industry. Our recent event brought together different approaches to the decarbonisation of estates and the construction supply chain.

The panel was chaired by Blake Morgan Construction Partner, Joanna Rees, who was joined by industry experts, Mark Richardson, Partner and Head of Sustainable Innovation at Troup Bywaters + Anders, and Patrick Davison, Director at Mayer Environmental.

How to improve an existing estate

The discussion started with an overview of decarbonisation strategies, which have been utilised in existing university campuses. The market is changing – sustainability is becoming increasingly important for both students and investors. And those universities and colleges which take action to develop decarbonisation strategies will remain attractive.

TB+A have helped support campus wide decarbonisation strategies – comparing current and previous data against industry benchmarks. This data is brought together to highlight opportunities to reduce energy usage and carbon footprints.

We had insight into a heat decarbonisation strategy that had been deployed. A programme of planned measures was provided to The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to assist with its roadmap to decarbonisation. Infrastructure and operations will be improved and modernised. The result will be a 41% reduction in heat carbon emissions per year, and a final 81% carbon emission reduction.

Turning ESG into contractual obligations

Recent years have seen increased focus on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) clauses in public sector contracting and the market standard construction contracts are about the catch up. The Chancery Lane Project has increased accessibility to template ‘climate clauses’ for green funds and leases. While public sector contracts have often contained  aspirational sustainability requirements rather than mandatory obligations, this is changing.

New NEC4 Option X29 will introduce change as Clients include Climate Change Requirements in their Scopes to facilitate and measure decarbonisation. Compliance will be mandatory, potentially subject to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and failure to comply will be a defect. When green funding terms require evidence of sustainability change will occur. And those clients and contractors who are geared up to embrace these changes will be attracting the funding and wining the work.

Moving to a circular economy

European Metal Recycling (EMR) gave an insightful description of the opportunity of moving from a linear economy to a circular economy with the recycling of steel. The linear economy results in raw materials being taken, used and disposed. This needs to change. The known supply of iron ore (used for steelmaking) is currently predicted to run out in 2070.

A circular economy means materials have a longer lifecycle – they are recovered, recycled and reused instead of disposed. Structural steel is 100% recyclable. Quality steel from existing buildings can be reclaimed and reused, reducing carbon emissions by up to 97.5%. This is not a new concept – steel is often reused in temporary works. The same principle can be applied to larger projects. Designers can utilise Building Information Modelling (BIM) and standardised sections and connections to help facilitate future deconstruction and reuse at the outset of a project.

The closing discussion highlighted the need for companies to take the lead. Integrating carbon into corporate governance and investing in actionable decarbonisation projects will protect the planet for future generations.

If you need legal advice on decarbonisation, contact Blake Morgan’s team of Infrastructure experts and to not miss out on events like this decarbonisation one, sign up to receive our Developing Connections mailings here.

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