Here is an interesting article from McKinsey & Company on tackling the challenge of decarbonizing the steel industry.  As the article notes, the steel industry is one of the top three contributors to CO2 emissions, with 70% of greenhouse gas emissions in the industry being linked to its use of coal as both a fuel and a reductant.

Some of the themes and issues the steel industry is grappling with are playing out in the wider built environment.


The analysis of potential pathways, mapping how to achieve decarbonization by or before 2050 is a useful discussion tool for developing strategy, and the wider built environment will need to work up its own approach and strategy for decarbonization - and quickly.

The wider built-environment needs to catch up

The International Energy Agency (IEA) think tank recently announced that it believes no new gas boilers should be sold from 2025, in order to meet environmental goals by 2050.  The built environment continues to lag behind other sectors such as energy and transport in terms of its pathway to NetZero, and it is likely that significant changes will be required soon to set things on a track which stands a better chance of succeeding. 

The prevalence of a highly functional gas heating network in the UK, the complexity of the existing built environment and the difficulty in setting overall strategy and policy in this area are no doubt reasons behind the lag.  Tough, but positive decisions are likely to be needed.

As McKinsey notes for the steel industry, hydrogen is tipped to play a part in helping steel get to being carbon neutral, and it may well be of assistance to the wider built environment and how it is heated - subject to its production, availability and the necessary infrastructure being in place.

Likewise, the role of retrofitting will be important - for the steel industry it may be complex process plant technology, for the wider built environment it may be heat pumps, in conjunction with other lower carbon methods of heating and cooling, such as heat networks.  In all cases, forward planning is needed - and the vital role that designers, engineers and the supply chain will play in delivery.

Construction's role

I mentioned previously the importance of the role of the construction industry in achieving these goals, and how some of the themes in the Government's Construction Playbook will help the industry 'gear up' and realise the benefits of modern methods of construction, BIM, and research and development when it comes to heat strategy.  The more modular and flexible designs can be, the greater the likelihood that systems will be able to adapt to work in the future with emerging technologies and methods of delivering low carbon heat.  Industry will need scale and a horizon to be able to invest in and develop more efficient and effective solutions.

The Government's long awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, expected next month, will be of critical importance in setting the direction and enabling landowners, developers, the supply chain and other stakeholders (including us all at home!) to push the built environment up the NetZero leaderboard.