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Road to Net Zero - Project Update and Press Release

The UK’s Streetworks and Roadworks sector has completed a Discovery Phase that kickstarts a plan to reduce the carbon emissions in all of its processes and products. This is the first part of the sector’s Road to Net Zero project – a roadmap for change that’s jointly sponsored by Transport for London (TfL) and the Highway Authority and Utilities Committee UK (HAUC(UK)).

OUR SECTOR’S EMISSIONS

In 2022, more than 4 million streetwork and road works were carried out across the UK.

Our entire quality of life depends on good levels of accessibility and movement, so our sector’s activity has a large impact on society.

Estimates show our streetworks and road works create about 38 MtCO2e of carbon emissions every year. That’s the equivalent of 76,000 flights on a B747-400 from London to New York.

This means we currently account for about 9% of the UK’s carbon emissions (this takes our whole supply chain into consideration), but we’re now creating a plan to reduce that.

The Discovery Phase of our Road to Net Zero plan has examined where we create those emissions, how we work, and what we now need to do if we want to be effective at measuring improvement.

WE WANT TO DELIVER SIGNIFICANT CHANGE

Our ‘Street Manager’ system captures details of all streetworks and road works in the UK. These activities are highly labour intensive and have had a tendency to be energy inefficient. To make sure change is effective, we’ve classified our carbon emissions in three ways:

  • Scope 1 emissions are created directly ‘on site’.
  • Scope 2 emissions are created through the production of the energy and other utility services we use.
  • Scope 3 emissions stem from our associated supply chain, and the products we use to do what we do.

Even though they only comprise 17% of our total activity, we know major street and road works account for 43% of our sector’s total emissions, and the biggest contributor is Light Good Vehicles (LGVs) taking people and equipment to site.

In the future we’ll need vehicles with zero emissions wherever possible. But in our next phase on the Road to Net Zero, we’ll be looking at how to measure the impact of all our practices as well as the emissions created by materials we use. This may mean reducing the need for machinery altogether, for example, by moving to new road designs or no dig technologies. A ‘whole-supply-chain’ approach is crucial.

MATERIALS

We’re looking at every aspect of our supply chain. Our next steps will include assessments of all the products, processes, and materials we use to determine their precise carbon footprint.

One of our aims will be closer collaboration with suppliers and manufacturers to create new, more sustainable options that have a lower carbon footprint from the outset. As part of this activity, we’ll also look at how we make decisions about designs, products, and processes, so that we can support the widest number of stakeholders connected with streetworks and roadworks.

STREET TREES

Street trees are trees that grow in urban areas, usually next to a public footway. They’re a vital factor in improving the quality of life. We believe street trees will also help us decarbonise through reductions associated with improved air quality, energy efficiency, targeted species planting, stormwater management, carbonsequestration and sustainable landscaping.

DESIGN OPTIONS

Generally, we use one of four design options for streetworks and road works in the UK: trenching, minimal dig, trenchless technologies or robotics. We’ll evaluate these carefully. If there’s not enough data then we may consider scenario based approaches instead, to help us make more informed choices. This is likely to draw from the ‘Designing Resilient Cities’ (DRC) method, developed at the University of Birmingham, which can take the needs of multiple stakeholders into account.

IMPROVING OUR PRACTICES

All local authorities and agencies work to common regulations, but there is very little standardised data on the UK’s streetworks and roadworks’ emissions. This makes it hard to evaluate strategies or set targets.

Our Discovery Phase let us highlight those knowledge gaps. In the coming months, we’ll be assessing how to better collect, share and analyse data around the works themselves, the life-cycle emissions of materials, research around green infrastructure, and information about emerging technologies (such as electric vehicles).

CHANGING OUR APPROACHES, BUSINESS MODELS, GOVERNANCE, AND TOOLS

Ultimately, our focus is on steering the streetworks and roadworks industry towards a more sustainable ethos - embracing opportunities for growth and revenue while reducing our impact on the environment.

Approach: We know that we need an effective, accessible, and integrated strategy to achieve our aims - a strategy that aligns with UK Government’s ‘data first’ philosophy. We’ll be looking for ways to feed other sectors’ insights into our plans and deliver cost savings and improved stakeholder engagement for the public good. The greatest benefits are likely to come from adopting a modified life cycle approach.

Business models: For sector-wide change, it’s likely that our stakeholders will also need to adopt multi-faceted business models. To assess their effectiveness, detailed oversight and good governance will be pivotal.

Governance: At the moment, our sector’s governance has distinct ‘discipline’ boundaries. The subsurface isn’t recognised as a national resource, so conflict can exist between the New Roads and Street Works Act and the utility industry’s regulations.

More partnerships are needed, with a strong governance framework that’s structured to nurture success. Joint enterprise between street authorities and utilities should help us optimse our carbon emissions’ outcomes.

Tools: At the moment, there aren’t any tools that capture sector-wide carbon emissions. We’ve identified several tools that could help and, with support from EA Technology and the University of Birmingham, HAUC(UK) is now exploring the development of an accurate and effective carbon calculator for our sector. We’ve also discussed an ‘all consequences framework’, as an alternative – a tool that would provide richer, more impactful conclusions.

See: https://www.roadtonetzero.org.uk/

Press release: https://static.hauc-uk.org.uk/downloads/ROAD-TO-NET-ZERO-UPDATE-MAY-2023_2pg.pdf 

NOTES

Useful links

HAUC(UK)

What is the Project About?  

The UK was the first country in the world to set a Net Zero 2050 target into law in 2019. The infrastructure sector, which collectively contributes one-sixth of the UK’s total carbon emissions, needs to dramatically reduce its emissions for the UK to be able to meet its decarbonisation targets.

Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee UK (HAUC) along with Transport for London (TfL) require project partners to deliver a comprehensive study on the Street and Road works sector, assessing the impact the sector has on the environment, and to research opportunities to minimise the sector’s emissions and contribution towards Climate Change.

Who Are HAUC(UK)?

The Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC(UK)) is the representative body that works with the UK and devolved governments to help make improvements to the management of works and the street and road network.

Set up in 1986, HAUC(UK) brings highway authorities, utilities and government departments together with the aim of working safely and smartly. HAUC(UK)'s primary objective is to make sure processes, systems and legislation don’t hamper the public who still needs to travel while essential works are going on. As a result of our work, we hope to reduce the impact of street and road works throughout the UK. HAUC(UK) is made up of representatives from across the United Kingdom, representing members Local Authorities, the four main utility sectors and their contractors. The group work jointly and equitably across the sector to ensure collaboration and provide transparency in some of the industry’s most complex areas.

HAUC(UK) is committed to embracing regional differences within the wider UK context to create a collaborative network and community that is admired across the world. Working groups focus on the key initiatives in the industry and are chaired, and contributed to, by our members from both the Utilities and Local Authorities.

See https://www.hauc-uk.org.uk/

Why are we interested in this project?

Our sector’s role in delivering net zero will be crucial. From delivering new infrastructure that aids customers, to embracing electric vehicles and reducing emissions ourselves, street works will be at the heart of future change. Without a positive plan defining the role we intend to play; we risk being side-lined by other sectors taking steps to reduce emissions. In five years’ time, the street works sector must have a clearer understanding of how it can uniformly reduce emissions to help build this message further. We must also be open to the challenges of innovation, our workforce and digitisation that we will need to work with our partners to overcome if we are to achieve it. Together, this will help propel us forward and present as the sector as looking to the future and its role in achieving net zero.

What are we doing?

HAUC(UK) is sponsoring and leading the project alongside TfL. We are working with research partners to delve into the heart of the sector to determine how to maximise its contribution towards tackling climate change and the global target to net zero.

Transport for London (TfL)

What is the project about?

Working with HAUC(UK), research partners and representatives from the sector, the collective will take forward this progressive initiative, funded by TfL's Lane Rental Scheme, aimed at slowing down the impact roadworks have on the environment. The outputs of the academic research will provide vital information on how the sector can reduce the carbon footprint caused by roadworks operations.  This progressive industry-wide initiative is the first step on a journey that ultimately aims to collectively hold the sector accountable to a tangible reduction in carbon emissions.

Who are TfL?

Transport for London (TfL) is the integrated transport authority responsible for meeting Mayor Sadiq Khan's strategy and commitments on transport in London. We run the day-to-day operation of the Capital's public transport network and manage London's main roads.

Why are we interested in this project?

While many isolated environmentally friendly improvements have been made in recent years by street and road works organisations, there are fortunately very many more opportunities that exist to revolutionise the way we improve and maintain our essential road network infrastructure, including the critical services that lay beneath. Finding alternative solutions to replace crude-oil, diesel run machinery and unsustainable or environmentally damaging materials. 

At the forefront of this phase will be the development of an action plan providing recommendations on the direction of travel in the short, medium and long-term. To achieve this the research will pose fundamental questions on sustainability, the use of resources, innovations, actions vs consequences and requirements for delivery on the following research areas:

  • Climate Change, Net Zero and Beyond
  • Materials & Process Innovation
  • Measuring Environmental Performance

This will enable a single source of truth to be identified, track progress for the sector as it races to zero by directing future requirements. Findings will be documented in a report and presented upon project completion in spring 2023, including the first draft of a sector wide carbon calculator. 

An innovation challenge is expected to follow to tackle some of the outputs, addressing any identified gaps. The aim is to unite the sector in this research.

What are we doing?

TfL alongside HAUC(UK) is sponsoring and leading the project working with research partners to delve into the heart of the sector to determine how to maximise its contribution towards tackling climate change and the global target to net zero. Working with the delivery partners, EA Technology and University of Birmingham, alongside a diverse working group (Thames Water, UK Power Networks, Cadent Gas, Southern Gas Networks, Gigaclear the London Borough of Southwark and the Greater London Authority) and supported in the delivery by GeoPlace, believe this is an exciting opportunity to make a real difference.

 

Channel website: https://www.geoplace.co.uk

Original article link: https://www.roadtonetzero.org.uk/

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