Low client demand and cost are main barriers to net zero

Only 14% of construction professionals say sustainability targets are set on every project

More than half of construction professionals haven’t worked on a single net zero project in the past year, despite government pressure to curb emissions, a new poll has found.

The Sustainable Futures Survey, carried out by construction industry specification and product information platform NBS, canvassed 608 professionals on sustainability issues.

Only 4% of those surveyed had worked exclusively on net zero projects during the past year, while 51% had not worked on a single such project over this timeframe.

The survey also found that only a third of respondents had achieved sustainability targets, while a further third said they ‘rarely achieve’ them and one in 10 said they ‘never’ did so.

A lower proportion of professionals reported achieving sustainability targets on projects compared with 2014, when NBS last carried out the Sustainable Futures Survey.

Just more than two-thirds (69%) had worked on projects where sustainability goals had been included at least some of the time, but this dropped to 25% who saw such targets ‘most of the time’. Just 14% said there were sustainability targets set on every project on which they worked.

Lack of client demand and the cost of achieving sustainability were identified as the main barriers, cited by 52% and 51% of respondents respectively. The next biggest roadblocks were sustainable products being ‘value engineered’ (38%) and lack of government policy and regulation (37%). However, nearly all (97%) of the survey respondents said sustainability is important to them, and 81% of executives or leaders ranked it as important.

Comparing these findings with the 2014 survey, NBS said views on sustainability within construction are changing and are increasingly led by personal opinion and values, and less by legislation and others’ beliefs.