Net Zero Relies on MMC and Offsite Construction

Despite offsite manufacturing and other modern methods of construction (MMC) beginning to gain traction in the construction industry, the relationship between them and the achievement of Net Zero is often overlooked. In his recent article, Regional Director of Faithful+Gould, Stephen Wightman, puts forward the case that MMC is vital to the Net Zero roadmap and building a sustainable industry. You can read this article in full here: https://www.fgould.com/middle-east/articles/how-mmc-contributes-achievement-net-zero/ 

What is Net Zero?

In order to counteract the effect man-made emissions were having on the planet, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established the international goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. This involves the balancing of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere with the amount being taken out of it, with many countries striving to achieve ‘absolute zero emissions’ or as close as possible.

When looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions, it’s important to distinguish between operational and embodied carbon to understand what can and can’t be done from the construction industry’s standpoint.

MMC and Operational Carbon

In the context of the built environment, operational carbon refers to the emissions caused as the result of running the buildings after completion. As Wightman points out, the amount of emissions a construction causes once complete is heavily dependent on early-stage decision-making from the design to the construction process.

Keeping the goal of Net Zero in mind at these preliminary steps means as projects work their way through RIBA stages, energy efficiency and emission awareness are kept central to any decisions being made. By establishing such early goals, projects will find realistic budgets being set where the choosing of suitable materials is taken into account.

With Net Zero designs and strategies in place, the benefits of MMC and offsite construction become apparent, contributing significantly to the reduction in emissions.

Through the use of factory production processes, offsite and MMC can rely on consistently high-quality products with stringent quality control monitoring the processes. It is only through these tightly controlled environments that construction can hope to achieve things such as the widespread implementation of low U-value walling and airtight seals necessary for meeting building performance targets.

MMC and Embodied Carbon

While the implementation of MMC and offsite techniques at the design and construction stage is well discussed, their ability to reduce the amount of embodied carbon is barely touched upon.

Embodied carbon is the sum of all greenhouse gases that have been emitted in the production of a built asset. MMC provides the opportunity for a smaller carbon footprint during the construction process itself.

The most obvious signal of this is that MMC sites typically are a lot quieter, with around 80 percent less site traffic. By having fewer people coming and going to a site, emissions from vehicles are drastically reduced. Applying this to the larger scale goes a long way to achieving Net Zero.

With offsite construction, workers also tend to live within 20 miles of the facility, with car-sharing and public transport further reducing the emissions produced during the construction process. This centralization of construction to offsite facilities also allows the implementation of further energy efficiencies, such as the use of solar power and solar batteries to power machinery.

One of the other benefits is that materials can be stored for later use. This means fewer deliveries, with each carrying more materials. This simplifies the logistics of material delivery and means factories can work on multiple projects simultaneously without changing location.

The upshot of all this is that waste is also practically eliminated from the process, with processes refined and material orders perfected. And where waste is created, unlike onsite construction, it can be easily recycled with factories establishing long-term contracts with waste management firms.

Does Net Zero Cost More?

While on the surface, implementation of MMC and offsite construction incurs some higher costs, with the global construction industry marching towards Net Zero, traditional construction merely pushes these same costs further down the line. Whereas quality control and precise production are part and parcel of offsite and MMC, the uplifting of non-MMC buildings simply incurs these costs at a later stage with additional labour and material charges on top.

Only through the implementation of offsite and MMC at the ground level are the true benefits to achieving Net Zero fully realised. For Stephen Wightman, it is only after that that other widespread offsetting measures should be considered, such as solar panels currently generating electricity for energy inefficient homes.

About Horizon Offsite

Horizon Offsite Ltd is one of Europe’s leading players in Offsite Construction and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), providing a fully accredited structural light gauge steel system to the residential, industrial, commercial, healthcare and educational sectors. Contact the Horizon Offsite team at https://horizonoffsite.ie