Every industry is trying to become more carbon neutral, doing their bit to help save the planet, including the construction sector. 

However, something holding it back from helping the UK achieve net-zero status by the goal of 2050 is the fact that it is difficult to use sustainable building materials

Here are just some of the factors preventing Britain from being able to use decarbonised construction supplies. 


Not enough scrap steel

In order for builders to use lower-carbon steel, there needs to be more scrap steel available. 

This is because lower-carbon steel is made by transforming scrap steel using the electric arc furnace (EAF) method. It uses less carbon than the blast furnace-basic oxygen furnace (BF-BOF) technique, which can create steel from iron ore. 

However, while it is effective, this is only the case when there is enough scrap steel available, whereas any leftover steel is currently used by developing countries. 

Construction News recognised that if Britain used this for making lower-carbon steel, there would not be enough to export to emerging economies. 

Dr Michael Sansom, sustainability manager at the British Constructional Steelwork Association (BCSA), told the publication: “Unless we help them to decarbonise primary steelmaking, we’re not going to get where we need to be.”

He added: “Developed economies almost have a moral obligation to lead on this, given we have been pumping carbon into the atmosphere since we first made steel in the UK 200 years ago.”



Another solution to mass producing more environmentally friendly steel is using low-carbon technology to extract it from iron ore. Although this does exist, it costs a lot of money. 

Therefore, another factor standing in the way of using more sustainable building materials is finances. 

The process uses large quantities of hydrogen, which is made with renewable electricity. The technology, although available, has been developed in Sweden. 

Therefore, the UK would have to pay considerable sums to employ the process. For Britain to develop it to the same degree, it would also need more renewable energy. 


Low government support

Although European politicians seem to be keen on investing in, and advancing, the technology, the UK is lagging behind. 

Michaela Lindridge, head of environmental, social and governance at Severfield, told the publication: “The government seems to have a real hesitancy in following down the same path.”

She added: “If the legislation comes, the investment will follow.”

This suggests lack of support from the government is causing the issue of funding.

Subsequently, this could see the steel industry fall to ruin, as other countries will steam ahead with decarbonisation projects, while the UK will get left behind. 

Without producing enough steel, it will not have sufficient quantities of scrap steel to pursue lower-carbon methods of steelmaking. 

Therefore, the UK needs more investment into sustainable materials. Without this, it cannot compete with other nations in producing lower-carbon supplies, which it needs to do to continue exporting goods, as well as reach its net-zero goals. 

In 2019, Britain legally committed to bringing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. 

It was the first major economy to do this, improving on its previous target of achieving a 80 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by the same deadline.