Innovative Thinker | Costain’s Alex Vaughan on the need to collaborate to decarbonise - International Burch University
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Innovative Thinker | Costain’s Alex Vaughan on the need to collaborate to decarbonise

The decarbonisation drive should be a collaborative effort says Costain chief executive Alex Vaughan.

Decarbonisation is one of the industry’s biggest challenges as it strives to meet the government’s net zero 2050 target.

Costain chief executive Alex Vaughan says it is a challenge that construction firms can tackle more effectively together.

Industry-wide issue

“It’s no good Costain getting to zero carbon and no one else is there. That’s not going to save the world,” he says. “Carbon reduction isn’t something we can compete on. It needs to be like safety – one of those things we collaborate on. We share the latest best thinking so we can all be safe, and carbon needs to be the same.” 

Vaughan cites the “materials challenge” as one issue companies can explore collectively.

“Replacing conventional concrete and asphalt isn’t easy so we’ve got to help the industry come up with the solutions for us that we can put in place,” he says. “And then celebrate what we do. Share the good practice.”

When it comes to shifting the focus to decarbonisation, Vaughan identifies five key challenges: ownership and taking responsibility; strong leadership; skills training; being brave and bold; and maintaining focus. 

He adds: “I haven’t met anyone in the industry who doesn’t believe we need to do this and get on with it, so there is a widespread commitment.”

Carbon reduction isn’t something we can compete on. It needs to be like safety

In line with this commitment, Costain’s climate change action plan sets out the contractor’s aim to make its services and construction products zero carbon by 2035. 

Vaughan also feels that factoring in carbon considerations early on in projects can make a real difference. 

He explains: “There are lots of competing demands on infrastructure at the start – cost, outcome, time, and now we’ve got carbon. The government has brought in its Green Book to help the assessment of infrastructure investment that will allow us to put more emphasis on the green benefits. It’s that upfront decision making in how we design, specify and shape infrastructure that’s really important.”

Early involvement is key

Involvement in the early stage of an infrastructure project means contractors like Costain can have significant input into carbon reduction solutions. This can be seen in the company’s work on Highways England’s regional development programme.

Costain is already using this early involvement approach to improve safety. “But within that, you can develop the scheme and focus on making sure we are reducing the carbon,” he says. “Even simple things, like how do we not dispose of so much material.”

Prioritising carbon reduction has additional benefits. 

Vaughan identifies a direct correlation between cost and carbon. He explains that the benefits of using the PAS2080 process – the global standard for managing infrastructure carbon – has helped to reduce the cost and time it takes to deliver a project.

Source Innovative Thinker | Costain’s Alex Vaughan on the need to collaborate to decarbonise | New Civil Engineer

Department of Civil Engineering Department of Civil Engineering – International Burch University (ibu.edu.ba)