^ Barcelona City Hall commissioned a structure which can be dismantled and reused in multiple life cycles

Net zero targets cannot be met without the help of local government, this is the message rippling out across councils throughout Ireland and the UK. As ambition grows for what a green tomorrow could look like, it is clear that local authorities will sit at the heart of helping communities reshape for a sustainable, zero carbon future. No other public bodies have the capacity, reach or resources to link local business and the development of green technology with specific local need. Only by engaging with all these elements will local authorities be able to carry communities with them on a wider journey towards net zero. 

With Ireland on a legally binding path to net zero no later than 2050, and committed to a 51% reduction in emissions by the end of this decade, local authorities have real and present deadlines to get to grips with their role in mitigating climate change. Local emissions are often heavily linked with sectors directly shaped or influenced by local authority practice, policy or partnerships, and in Ireland the sector has been called a key driver of change under the Government’s national climate action plan.


^ Value for money is achieved through the use of robust, standardized components which are easily dis-assembled and re-erected and used in multiple life cycles

Fortunately, local councils are ideally placed to make real and lasting differences, with the ability to help build sustainable communities and support green growth in the process. It is a balancing act, one which requires them to continue to spend wisely, but to invest in new technology. To set the agenda for the rest of the private sector to follow and to ensure that sustainable credentials are followed throughout the supply chain. All this must be achieved in partnership with local constituents. Key areas where local government can make greatest immediate impact include improving the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and social housing stock, reprioritising road space to more sustainable forms of transport or the greater uptake of renewable energy generation. But in general, all procurement strategies will need to be aligned with green growth principles and support the net zero agenda if true progress is to be achieved.


> Gas Networks Ireland. A system of galvanized steel supports form part of a low energy design, which combines improved microclimate, landscape and biodiversity with a highly insulated building volume

>> Cedar Brook, Dublin. A portfolio of materials underlines the cooperative model for the development. Balconies and ancillary steelwork offer zero maintenance.

The built environment will be a primary focus in mitigating climate change and planning authorities will be at the vanguard of setting the tone for what constitutes sustainable construction. Recently, sustainable construction strategy is evolving into one based upon circular economics. It prioritises the optimisation of raw materials and components by keeping them in a constant loop of continual use. Intelligent design will demand multiple life cycles with a focus on demountable design and modular buildings. Only materials that stand the test of time and can justify their sustainability credentials will be fit for purpose. Overall, local authorities will be required to build value for money, public spaces that answer the needs of their communities while adhering to this new, circular agenda.

A recent report published by the UK and European galvanizing industry details how galvanized steel offers circular solutions that align with new models of 

sustainability. Galvanized Steel and Sustainable Construction: Solutions for a Circular Economy, is a guide for all professionals in need of detailed information on the benefits of reuse, remaking and the repurposing of galvanized steel. The report gives clear examples of where the construction sector can find significant carbon reductions, by prioritising circular thinking throughout the entire construction process. 

The report draws on latest European research and highlights innovative projects at the forefront of circular, intelligent design. When Barcelona City Hall commissioned an information point to inform local residents about the regeneration of eastern parts of the city, local architects Peris + Toral designed Les Glories as a reduced carbon solution. It comprises a simple, galvanized steel external frame, covered in a translucent polycarbonate skin, with prefabricated timber internal modules. After serving its function since 2015, Peris + Toral are now repurposing the structure as a youth centre in the city’s St Martí neighbourhood. It is 

entirely possible for Les Glories to be adapted for further, numerous life cycles.

Projects like Les Glories show how galvanized steel can withstand multiple life cycles of reuse. Its durability and robustness mean it can be demounted, transported and re-erected without degradation, making it ideally suited to circular design. Plus, not only are 

galvanized steel structures easily constructed, they can also be adapted for changing needs in capacity. Aspects of this project apply to many public building requirements and show how innovative design can align with public spending. 

There is already a good foundation for sustainable practice within Ireland. As early as 2003, Dublin City Council secured a joint venture partnership to build social and affordable housing on a 4 hectare council owned site to the west of the city. The competition was won by O’Mahony Pike, in collaboration with Park Developments and John Sisk and Sons, and became known as Cedar Brook. On completion it included 376 duplex units, apartments and family houses achieving a density of 94 units per hectare. An important design criteria for the project was creating housing that would be there for the long term without incurring unnecessary maintenance costs. The galvanized steelwork is set to exceed a 50 year maintenance free performance, and when using whole-life carbon assessment criteria emerges as a perfect circular material. 

Of course, durability and zero-maintenance are only part of the equation when it comes to selecting low-carbon solutions, but they are a significant part. Galvanizing is an industry with a localized footprint and sites are often family run businesses that have existed for generations, employing locally. As councils across Ireland look to decarbonise, working with local communities and suppliers will be key, as will embracing new ways of working and choosing carefully with tried and tested industries they will continue to support. Climate change will indeed change much but some of what is reliable and proven will remain important too

A downloadable copy of Galvanized Steel and Sustainable Construction: Solutions for a circular Economy is available at | +44 121 355 8838