Changes brought by the pandemic should transform how the sector thinks and acts, says Andy Stamps
The recent government announcement of a £4bn ‘green industrial revolution’ should be a rallying call for change to the whole built environment sector.
With the banning of petrol or diesel vehicles after 2030, and investment in eco fuels, we need to consider travel alternatives. Many of us have cut down on flights for business and pleasure and switched to electric or hybrid cars. But we need to reduce individual travel and its higher environmental impact compared to public transportation systems, which also promote more inclusive communities.
At RLB, we are talking to local authority clients about autonomous public transport systems, that could cut operating costs by 40%. We are helping Dudley and Coventry councils develop ‘very light rail’: cheaper, less intrusive volume transportation to link semi-rural and suburban areas with cities.
How will these transportation systems be powered? Looking beyond electric and battery operations, business secretary Alok Sharma is encouraging hydrogen production. Modular nuclear reactors are also part of the government’s plan. We will need different energy solutions for different regions, so where solar might work in certain areas and wind in others, it may be a combination of energies that power us into the future.
As individuals we have changed our home lives considerably over the last two decades, with adoption of low-impact energy such as solar panels, LED lights, ground and air source heat pumps, rain harvesting and wind turbines. However, there is still a way to go and it would help if the government’s investment made environmentally efficient homes the cheapest to buy, thinking about long-term value rather than short-term cost.
Last year taught us we can be agile in our work. Where we previously believed we needed to be in an office, the pandemic showed us for many roles this isn’t the case. The change to combining office with working remotely will cut down on transportation and energy usage, with implications for the infrastructure society needs.
Against this backdrop, it is vital the built environment industry invests government spending in the right technologies, and importantly, is open to change in the way it thinks and acts. Hopefully, this will lead to a greener and cleaner infrastructure for the future.
Andy Stamps is a partner and head of infrastructure at RLB