Best Practice Awards 2020: Sustainability Manager Hafiz Elhag Discusses Our Two Sustainability Awards

21 Feb 2020

Today Dr Hafiz Elhag, Sustainability Manager at British Precast puts our two sustainability awards for 2020 in the spotlight.

We have two huge reasons in the 2020 awards to shout about sustainability and I am not even talking about the fact this year we have split sustainability into two categories, project and production. I am instead talking about the climate emergency and the fact that we were unable to award this category in 2019.

The climate emergency has come to the forefront of international public consciousness through a mixture of alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and public protests such as the school strike for climate and extinction rebellion. Human activities are estimated to have already caused approximately 1.0 ⁰C of global warming above pre-industrial levels. On current trends global warming is likely to reach 1.5 ⁰C between 2030 and 2052. The impact of this warming could be catastrophic, causing increased instances of hot weather extremes, increased flooding events, sea level rise and irreversible biodiversity loss.

In the face of calls from scientists and mounting public pressure the civil engineering sector is one of many within the built environment to ‘Declare’ its intentions to tackle the climate emergency. Civil engineering practices in the UK are being asked to commit to a range of pledges linked to low carbon sustainable construction. The pledges, set out by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), include an accelerated shift to low embodied carbon materials in all works, as well as, design principles that enable the UK to become a net-zero economy by 2050.

The concept of net zero is also very much at the forefront of thinking for the concrete and cement sectors. Since 1990 the UK cement industry has reduced absolute carbon emissions by 49% with the embodied carbon of concrete reducing by 28%. If the sector is to reach the magic net zero figure by 2050 or earlier, it is going to require the commitment and innovation of all producers including the members of British Precast. Our hope is the two sustainability categories in this year’s awards will kick start an acceleration in sustainable thinking.

Previous winners of the sustainability award include Aggregate Industries and the bug hotels on their Burton site. A total of 12 ‘Hotels’ were constructed from surplus and waste materials by employees during gaps in their normal work schedule.

The AI team are monitoring the species using the hotels which, coupled with their wildflower areas, encourage a wealth of insect life to the site, including butterfly species.

Last year despite receiving a number of very positive entries, the judges made the decision not to award in this category. The judges felt that the entries didn’t represent the full ambition of the sector. I know that Jacqui Glass, head judge for the awards, wanted members to see this as a rallying crying rather than as a negative.

In the 2020 award submissions we are hoping to see case studies showcasing how precast concrete has contributed to sustainable construction projects which have perhaps been awarded BREEAM outstanding or have pushed for carbon neutrality. Similarly, we are keen to see how members are reducing energy usage on their sites and promoting biodiversity.