Futurebuild 2022 took place over three days, beginning on the 1st of March. The event saw manufacturers and suppliers working within the built environment and its related industries come together in a curated exhibition focused on sustainability.
The event’s central focus was on leveraging cross-sector collaboration to propel the construction industry towards net-zero, in line with the UK government’s requirements.
While Futurebuild (formerly known as Ecobuild) has historically concentrated on sustainability in its broadest sense, Futurebuild 2022 saw organisers harness an increased urgency that arose from COP26 and tightening restrictions.
Through thoughtful curation, Futurebuild brought together over 20,500 disruptors, influencers, and decision-makers to learn, network and debate key issues affecting the built environment.
The event offered an unrivalled opportunity to consider how the industry can reflect and challenge barriers. These obstructions have seen the built environment’s move towards a low-carbon future as “extremely difficult in practice” (CREDS, Killip, 2020).
This year, embodied carbon was one of the key themes at Futurebuild (the carbon emissions from the materials and construction process).
The topic is emphasised by long-term regulatory goals, such as the UK’s sixth carbon budget (2033 – 37) and by leading industry organisations like the Green Building Council.
Discussions and talks included reducing material use through intelligent design decisions and retrofitting rather than building from scratch.
However, it was made clear that the industry also needs materials innovation to reduce embodied carbon for good.
For example, there were several exhibited solutions for reducing the embodied footprint of concrete, the most common construction material in the world.
These included low carbon cement alternatives like GGBS (Ground Granulated Blast furnace Slag) and the reduction of Portland cement emissions by trialling hydrogen-powered furnaces (discussed in a talk by Hanson, and on the MPA stand) and carbon capture technologies (Hanson).
Carbon capture and hydrogen fuel are central parts of the MPA’s (Mineral Products Association) Net Zero Roadmap for the Concrete industry.
Low Carbon Materials (LCM), formerly Sphera, were also exhibiting carbon-negative concrete aggregate OSTO™ that uses waste plastic and other waste/by-products to reduce the embodied carbon footprint of a new building significantly.
Groups such as the Architects Climate Action Network also discussed embodied carbon at Futurebuild. The network is campaigning to introduce a ‘whole life’ carbon assessment for the built environment.
With around 11% of global energy-related emissions coming from embodied carbon (30% of those attributed to the construction industry), accurate measuring and reduction are crucial for construction net-zero (UKGBC).
Companies present represented all corners of the construction industry. We joined the likes of BECK, a globally-active and established fastenings company, and Mosa, who produced the first C2C certified ceramics.
One notable exhibition was by Graphenstone Paints, who displayed their air purification paint used to decrease harmful air pollution.
Additionally, the Green Building Calculator display highlighted developments in measuring building-related carbon emissions.
Amongst the highlights was the Big Innovation Pitch, of which LCM CEO, Dr Natasha Boulding, was a judge. The panel considered over 90 submissions, with criteria including innovation and advancement, benefit to nature, and role in helping reach net-zero targets. After fierce competition and an impressive calibre of applicants, Dr Boulding and her fellow judges awarded the prize to Sunamp for their Thermino Thermal Storage Battery.
Continued innovation is essential for the construction industry. Indeed, it is among the most critical aspects of reaching net-zero. While the UK is currently on target to reach net-zero by 2050 (Sustainable Cities and Society, Broo et al., 2021), reaching this target is not given. The industry supports a commitment to lower carbon materials (Sustainable Cities and Society, Omer and Noguchi, 2020). However, this must translate into action for the built environment to meet carbon targets.
Our continuous innovation approach offers an incredible opportunity for developers and architects to utilise products to reduce carbon emissions and improve material quality. Futurebuild was an excellent opportunity to forge intra-industry collaborations.
We are committed to creating products that make net-zero construction a reality and the obvious choice, in line with the assertion that “nothing should be off the table when it comes to bringing climate change under control” (Prof Jankovic, 2022).
You can learn more about carbon construction terminology, UK carbon targets and much more in the ‘Explained’ series on our blog page.