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Roadmap goes full scale towards net-zero carbon

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The United Nations Climate Change conference – better known as COP26 – was in full swing as we went to press, with over 100 world leaders and thousands of delegates gathered in Glasgow to discuss decarbonisation measures to combat climate change.

The UK has shown the world a way forward by taking a lead in adopting 2050 as a target date for net-zero carbon, so it is fitting that this crucial meeting is taking place on UK soil. It is also fitting that the main buildings housing the event – the Scottish Event Campus Centre (SECC), the Armadillo and the OVO Hydro – all make extensive use of steel.

The buildings have been showcases for steel throughout the years since they were built, with the first building – what we now call the SECC but was originally known in Glasgow as the Big Red Shed – having been easily extended a few years after opening in 1985. It also demonstrated great flexibility in being quickly converted into the NHS Louisa Jordan critical care hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. It didn’t have to be used for that so was quickly adapted again to be used for medical appointments, blood donations, staff training and vaccinations. Work to further adapt it to host COP26 got underway as recently as July.

Delegates also used the 3,000-capacity Norman Foster designed Clyde Auditorium, nicknamed the Armadillo, which opened in 1997. Norman Foster was the designer of the third main COP26 venue, the 12,500-seat concert arena called the OVO Hydro which opened in 2013, topped by a 120m-span steel roof, one of the largest free spanning roof structures in Europe. It is Scotland’s largest entertainment venue, the second busiest in the world after New York’s Madison Square Gardens in 2019, regularly attracting one million visitors a year before COVID-19 restrictions started last year.

No doubt sustainability issues were considered when the COP26 organisers assessed venues for suitability for a climate change event, and steel’s sustainability credentials were easily established. The steel sector’s track record is strong, with a Sustainability Charter for its members launched in 2007 and carbon footprint measuring tools also being available since 2007, both recently updated.

The point of COP26 though isn’t to focus on past achievements, but to discuss what to do next. The way forward to a decarbonised future for the UK steel construction sector has been detailed in the BCSA’s Roadmap which is summarised in this issue of NSC (page 16). It shows the steps that are being, and will be taken, towards a genuinely circular and sustainable steel construction sector.

There is no wishful thinking in the Roadmap. The route to be taken towards net-zero carbon by 2050 is based on adopting known technologies that are either already available or at least at the pilot stage. Others also have roles to play and much will depend on the adoption of appropriate policies by governments, but the steel construction sector has already set out on the road to net-zero carbon.

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