Purpose of this paper
This study explores the reasons for the low uptake of innovated environmentally sustainable concrete by the UK construction industry. Despite the significant impact the manufacturing and use of concrete has on the natural environment on the one hand, and on the other, the commitment of the UK construction industry to the UK Government’s carbon emissions target, it is of great concerns that innovated environmentally concrete is disregarded by the industry. Concrete is the second most used building material in the world; it is comprised of cement, sand, aggregates and water; all of which are critical to the ecosystem and the environmental media. The cement within concrete accounts for 8% of total global CO2 emissions whose atmospheric concentration induces unpredictable changes in global
weather patterns euphemistically referred to as climate change, and with devastating consequences. Against this background, governments around the world have voluntarily established carbon reduction targets, and in the case of the United Kingdom, this target has been set at 80% to be achieved by 2050. To this end, various policy instruments have been introduced by the UK government to encourage households and businesses, which are deemed as critical partners in the delivery of set reduction target. This is why it is important to ascertain why innovated sustainable concrete is not widely used in UK construction despites the efforts of the government and the commitment of the
construction industry to sustainable operations.
Apart from the critical literature review undertaken to appreciate and understand previous research efforts relating to product innovation generally, and in particular, innovation within the construction industry, a qualitative research methodology was adopted, given the desire for greater understanding of product innovation trends and challenges in the construction sector, albeit with particular focus on the low uptake of sustainable concrete. A semi-structured interview was conducted on construction
professionals who have particular interests and expertise working in the UK concrete industry supply chain. The results were thematically coded using open-coding and analysed into factors that influence the uptake of new sustainable concrete.
The main factors established that explain the low uptake of innovated environmentally sustainable concrete in the UK construction industry include; cost, quality, practicality, testing and durability issues, risk avoidance, poor marketing and promotion, government policy, construction culture as well as lack of cohesion and collaboration in the concrete supply chain. Conclusions and recommendations were established based on these findings to encourage the uptake of innovated sustainable concrete in UK construction activities, and enable the UK government fulfill its reduction target for carbon emissions.
Research limitations/implications (if applicable)
The study is limited to concrete and the United Kingdom. The implication being other innovative environmentally sustainable building materials may also be encountering similar market penetration challenges as sustainable concretes. Similarly, this situation may not be unique to the United Kingdom in which case, meeting carbon emissions reduction targets set by many countries may prove more difficult than would have been previously envisaged without critical attention being paid to the sustainability attributes to construction input supply chains.
This study provides insights to acute challenges facing environmentally sustainable construction materials in the market place and allows targeted interventions that will ensure innovations in construction materials are not stifled in the UK.
What is original/value of paper.
Findings and conclusions drawn from this study will not concentrate minds on how to better support construction product innovations, a necessary move that will assist global efforts in meeting carbon emissions targets.