Cian Farrell: Regeneration of our Existing Built Environment - Construction Network Ireland - Construction Network Ireland

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Published in Engineering on 26/07/2022

Cian Farrell: Regeneration of our Existing Built Environment

CNI reports

Lecturer Cian Farrell took the stand as a keynote speaker at the Institution of Structural Engineers Young Engineers Conference last week. The conference was held at the University of Salford, Media City UK, and was focused on how young construction professionals could support regenerative development in our existing built environment.  

The opening keynote discussion around regeneration of our urban cities and spaces saw an elite and vastly experienced panel come to the board with coverage on their past experiences and factors to consider in progressing a development, overcoming challenges and resistance, collaboration with other project stakeholders, future regeneration, and sustainability.

With our built environment accounting for almost 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2), construction professionals are being forced to act immediately to reduce the built environment’s whole-life carbon. If we take any new building as an example, the cradle to gate phase (raw material extraction, transport of the raw materials, and manufacturing of those raw materials) accounts for 50 – 55 % of a building’s whole-life carbon. This means that the construction phase, operational phase, end of life phase, and repurposing phase, have a much less significant impact when it comes to the carbon that our built environment is responsible for. By avoiding this initial cradle to gate phase and repurposing/ reusing the buildings we already have, the carbon savings are astronomical and will play a key role in tackling the climate emergency we find ourselves in.

Promoting such development comes with additional responsibility and expertise where construction professionals must ensure a viable solution is presented from a sustainability and cost perspective. An example of this may be where the quantity of material required to strengthen an unstable structure surpasses the carbon savings achieved by avoiding the demolition and rebuilding of the new development. This in turn demonstrates the importance of familiarity and professional education around regenerative development and on a building’s whole life carbon.

Following the conference, Cian said: “As sustainability and carbon enthusiasts, we tend to put aside the words costing, finance, or even material availability. However, recent development trends throughout Ireland and the UK have seen more developers and investors requesting sustainability and whole life carbon reports and calculations for new and existing developments. This comes with increases in residential and commercial rental prices for greener developments which in turn has refocused the mindset investment fund groups and other financial supports towards carbon-friendly and regenerative development. As an industry, we must act immediately to familiarise and educate ourselves on how we can promote and deliver more sustainable cities and urban spaces”.

Construction professionals, students, and those within alternative industries all have a responsibility to fulfil here to ensure the natural, social, and economic resources are available for generations to come.