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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Civils contractors demand ‘radical’ procurement reforms to deliver net zero roads

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has called for a “radical” overhaul of the UK’s procurement process to deliver net zero roads.

The association demands that the government mandates a move away from awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, in the upcoming Procurement Bill.

Instead, CECA has urged the government to commit to awarding “future contracts based on the Most Advantageous Tender (MAT) rather than Most Economically Advantageous Tender and the establishment of the principle of Value For Money”.

CECA’s report Building Net Zero Roads adds that “low carbon solutions cannot be achieved at lowest cost” and therefore a “commitment to a holistic solution, taking into account whole-life costs in all areas, means that innovative solutions can be considered”.

CECA has also called for the government to define net zero; invest in innovative solutions; include net zero in standards and accreditations; and create a smoother transition to greener plant and machinery.

CECA director of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “The challenges of climate change cannot be overestimated, and how we build and maintain our roads plays a key role in futureproofing our planet.

“A key avenue for change is procurement reform, and the forthcoming Procurement Bill which will soon be published for Parliament’s approval offers the perfect opportunity to embed the principles of whole life asset cost into the procurement process, combined with innovative delivery.

“But we cannot do this alone. Our drive to net zero roads, is one small part of a combined national and global effort to reduce emissions.

“As such CECA will continue to work closely with governments and public bodies on how can sustainably build the world class infrastructure we so urgently need.”

Campaigners have repeatedly called for the government’s £24bn road investment strategy to be paused and subjected to greater environmental tests to ensure that it is aligned with the UK’s net zero carbon emission commitments.

All other planned road schemes in Wales are currently paused and are being subjected to similar climate impact assessments.

CECA’s Guiding principles for effective procurement

  • Full commitment to Most Advantageous Tender (MAT) and long-term Value For Money with clear definitions and weighting to consider and address low carbon goals based on whole life performance and reporting of residual carbon impact;

  • Commitment to the principles of theConstruction Playbook and Value Toolkit which support net zero goals;

  • Develop a consistent approach to project procurement and outcome delivery across all contracting authorities and all projects based on established best practice in reducing carbon and whole life assessment. This could include widespread adoption of PAS2080 or carbon management plans;

  • Early Supplier Involvement that facilitates the supply chain contributing innovation and low carbon processes early to the design and enables timely preparation to establish and gear up resources, especially local SMEs;

  • Regular client engagement to support journey to net zero;

  • Longer pre construction phase in contracts to recognise improvement towards net zero delivery;

  • Framework contracts that enable teams to take learning into next project;

  • Complete checking and enforcement of net zero undertakings made by contractors in tender documents

  • Procurement Policy Notices to define net zero targets and be accessible to SMEs.

  • Monitor contractor performance on carbon reduction.

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