Think Piece: What does local authorities declaring a climate change emergency mean to contractors on the NWCH Frameworks?

On 19 July 2019, Manchester City Council formally passed a motion declaring a climate change emergency. This acknowledged the risk presented by climate change to Manchester’s future, committing to ensure that all decisions are taken with the city’s target of becoming zero-carbon by 2038 in mind.

Breaking this down slightly, committing to being zero-carbon by 2038 requires a 50% reduction every five years. 

This declaration is important to contractors on the NWCH Frameworks as the majority of North West authorities have made similar declarations. Currently 36 of the 39 authorities have declared a climate change emergency with a further authority committing to lowering its Carbon emissions. On top of this, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority have also declared a climate change emergency. This means the majority of the clients through the hub are currently devising their own response and action plan to achieve these targets. Considerations include the impact of their existing estate (both housing and operational), new build programme, energy management and fleet management as well as educating staff and residents to take green choices. 

Our supply chain is vital in supporting this key agenda. What materials are we using? Where do they come from? What alternatives have been considered? What impact do these have on the overall efficient operation of the building? How is Carbon measured in the construction and operation of our buildings? What is the energy performance of our buildings at handover? How are we benchmarking and tracking this performance on an ongoing basis? How can Carbon be ‘costed’? Almost every authority in the country is currently considering its answer to these questions. 

This is where the NWCH can draw on its experience of collaboration and working with clients to ensure maximum value is achieved. The standard approach to building design and costing almost needs to be completely redeveloped. Rather than the purpose of the building being the starting point, how the building can be as efficient as possible needs to drive the design and decision making process. Breaking down the various elements and benchmarking their performance against the impact of standard approaches to construction and energy management will help demonstrate the value and payback of efficient choices. This new approach will also inevitably need to include support in showing the payback period for green technologies and efficient material use. Yes this may initially increase build cost but if considered as part of the whole lifecycle of the asset, what impact does this have on revenue budgets? Helping local authorities frame these arguments with data and exemplar project examples will support the justification of energy efficient decisions.

Passive design can make a massive impact on reducing Carbon. However, if operation by users or Facilities Management teams starts to negate these benefits, energy usage will not reduce as anticipated. How soft landings and potentially ongoing efficiency support services are managed by contractors will need to be reconsidered to support users to operate their buildings in the most efficient manner, while highlighting the cost benefit of doing so. This all forms part of better managing the gap between the expected and actual performance of existing, retrofit and new build assets.

A Sustainability SIG (Special Interest Group) has been established and is already looking at how our Frameworks must adapt to ensure we are best placed to drive this agenda forward. The year 2038 is not far away and if our Clients are serious about achieving their ambitious targets, they need to know the NWCH is best placed to enable them to do so.

If you would like to speak to the Hub about what the climate change declaration means for your organisation, please do not hesitate to contact us.


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