Our planet demands a radical change in nearly every way that we live our lives, and 2021 has been described as a critical moment for the world to stave off the devastating effects of climate change.
Speaking ahead of COP26, which takes place this November in Scotland, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has made it clear that we have reached a "make or break" moment for tackling the issue.
In order for us to do our best to mitigate the impact of our society on the planet and boost green recovery, ambitious targets have been set by both the Scottish and UK Governments to ensure we are in a full Net Zero Carbon position by 2045 and 2050 respectively.
Our owner, Legal & General, has made a commitment to make all its new housing stock operational net zero carbon enabled by 2030, as part of its wider pledge to align with the UN Paris Agreement.
At Cala, we are actively working towards these targets too. Sustainability has been a focus area for some time, and we’ve already taken significant steps to reduce our environmental impact. This year we launched a new Sustainability Strategy to provide a structured approach to achieving our ambition to "operate the business to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs". This includes commitments to help fight the effects of climate change on our planet by building homes that are operationally net zero carbon by 2030 and achieving Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions in advance of the Government's 2050 target.
On a global scale, building construction and operations makes up 40% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the building industry accounts for one-third of all waste going to landfill.
Closer to home, the construction industry accounts for approximately 60 per cent of UK materials used and the sector generates 47 per cent of the UK's carbon emissions - with 80 per cent of that made up from buildings in use.
The figures make stark reading and it is no surprise that the construction industry is making a profound impact on the environment. However, it also means that as housebuilders we are able to make a significant positive environmental difference both now and in the years to come.
Most pressing for the industry is to remove all fossil fuels from new homes by March 2024 in Scotland and 2025 in England to ensure they are 'zero carbon ready' - with the legislation confirmed through its Future Homes Standard, published in January, by the UK government. At Cala, work is already underway to meet our target of homes being gas free on all sites starting in 2024.
Further measures are also likely to follow as the UK Government has committed to setting out both its Heat & Buildings Strategy, as well as its energy-related products policy framework during the coming year.
It's likely that these policy items will emphasise the use of low carbon, sustainable materials and increased adoption of efficient construction techniques, so the industry must be ready to implement sustainability measures quickly and efficiently.
Adopting sustainable construction methods and applying infrastructural changes to reach these targets is not an overnight process, but as an industry we must embrace new technology and innovative building practices to reduce the impact of construction and safeguard the environment.
Those within the construction industry, and especially housebuilders, are increasingly looking to timber as a much more sustainable material to use to drive down the carbon footprint. Scotland is leading the way, with up to 85 per cent of new homes being built using timber materials, almost three times as many than in England and Wales. At Cala, timber frame construction is already being used on around 40 per cent of the homes we build each year, and we are significantly increasing this as part of our strategy.
With a renewed focus on improving the efficiency of the fabric of a building and meeting government targets, this disparity between Scotland and England and Wales is likely to decrease, as more businesses within construction look to implement greener solutions.
Sustainable housing is not just about the materials used. Homes emit 20% of the UK's CO2, so housebuilders must seriously address energy efficiency within properties in the fight to reach net-zero carbon targets.
We must explore new and pioneering technologies such biomass heating systems, solar PV with battery storage and air source heat pumps in order to make an active contribution to the fight against climate change. We also need to ensure that the solutions we choose meet the needs of our customers.
As the world's eyes turn to the UK in November for COP26, we in turn must aim the microscope at our own business practices and the ever-growing importance of minimising the impact that our operations and developments have on the world around us.
There is no doubt that the climate crisis presents a challenge to all of us within the industry, but by thinking creatively, embedding sustainable practices now and taking a long view, it is possible to improve our environmental standards without compromising on quality.
As an industry, we have a huge opportunity and responsibility to play our part in the fight against climate change, by laying the groundwork now for a sustainable future for all in many years to come.
Brian Johnson, Cala Group Development Director
Visit cala.co.uk/sustainability to read more about Cala’s Sustainability Strategy.