Open Water

9th December 2020

The Hot Topic – What is Sustainable Construction & Why is it Important?

When we think of the construction industry, we think of extensive material use and large contributions to carbon emissions within the built environment, but what if that could change?

During 2019, with climate change rife on everyone’s agendas, Theresa May committed the UK Government to achieve net-zero carbon by 2050 whilst Parliament passed a climate emergency declaration. This is where sustainable construction comes in, and with growing concerns over climate change throughout the world, there is increasing pressures for the construction sector to reduce the impact they have.

Forest Fence for BIFoR

What Exactly is Sustainable Construction?

Sustainable construction is the act of developing buildings such as houses, offices and other commercial properties to incorporate the use of renewable and recyclable materials, whilst implementing sustainable processes within the built environment with the final goal of reducing the impact on the environment. Sustainable construction consists of developing structures that:

  1. Increase the use of sustainable resources whilst also reducing pollution and wastage within the sector.
  2. Improve the quality of life of individuals living in the structures built.
  3. Offer flexibility in order for structures and buildings to be changed in the future to further improve sustainability.
  4. Support and encourage natural habitats without affecting them.
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Why is Sustainable Construction Important?

From energy use to carbon emissions released into the atmosphere, there is no doubt the construction industry has a huge impact on our environment. As previously mentioned in our Breaking Down the Sustainability Barrier Built by the Construction Industry’ hot topic, this sector contributes to around 50% of climate change and 23% of air pollution whilst also consuming 400million tonnes of materials a year. Many of the machines and vehicles used by the construction industry still rely on burning fossil fuels with also inefficient energy use in the built environment causing CO2 emissions.

As such high contributors of pollution and carbon emissions, the construction sector simply can’t ignore the effect they have on the environment. They must take action and make conscious decisions to change their ways of working to become greener and more sustainable.

What are the Challenges of Sustainable Construction?

When implementing sustainability into construction methods, it isn’t going to happen overnight and the greatest challenges the construction industry will face is time and cost of these changes. Many businesses are pressured to reduce costs but nowadays they’re also expected to find sustainable processes which are recognized to be more costly. According to the World Green Building Trends 2018 Market Report, almost 40% of UK firms said that affordability was their greatest challenge when adopting sustainable construction practices.

So, what can be done to reduce these short-term costs whilst still implementing sustainable methods? As mentioned by the British Assessment Bureau, the construction industries only hope for reduced sustainability costs is the perceived value green buildings achieved. Owners of green buildings feel they have more worth than traditional ones, which could be due to the reduction in cost thanks to the energy efficient structure. This perceived value can be quoted to tenders and could counteract any further costs encountered due to the application of these green practices.

We know the Challenges, but what are the Benefits to Sustainable Construction?

One benefit of sustainable construction demonstrated is the positive impact it has on the environment and the earth. This is a worldwide agenda as we progress further with our understanding of the effects we have on the planet and future generations. With pressures for sustainability, any positive influence construction can have on reducing their impact, is a step forward and major benefit. But there are other tangible benefits to sustainable construction as well.

Though sustainability looks more expensive in the short term, observed over a long period of time, there are cost saving benefits to sustainable construction. Overall, buildings built through sustainable means do come with considerably lower operating costs for example, buildings with green technologies applied, allow for major savings on global energy in the long run. Another cost saving element is by reducing constructions wastage, this will in turn reduce fees charged by external waste management companies, for taking and removing multiple skips used on a project.

So, What can be Implemented to Create Sustainable Construction?

Waste management is the biggest impactor from the construction industry, with many over ordering materials which then get thrown into a skip without having been usedReducing this wasteful mindset is a big part of creating sustainable construction. Finding ways to reduce, reuse and recycle materials and resources used on site, understanding wasteful activities and eliminating them.

How can the construction industry create sustainable construction then? When looking at an upcoming project the best way to create sustainable thinking is by working from the perimeter of the site inwards. By separating the project into sections, it creates a much more manageable task, and easier to analyse each section and understand the sustainable options out there. All of our FenceSafe Temporary Fencing, Construction Site Hoarding and Gates are manufactured from recycled materials. At least 90% of our steel is recycled from British or European steel and 100% of our FenceSafe bases are made from recycled plastic. Alongside our sustainably made Construction Site Hoarding, all of our hoarding products can be returned after use, where they are cleaned and maintained ready to be reused on another site.

However, since the UK was committed to net-zero carbon by 2050, the construction industry has been implementing small changes across the industry to combat their impact. Individual companies are employing sustainable initiatives into their project planning. In order to proactively understand and minimise their carbon footprints and climate change influences.

But, in order to follow sustainable construction, companies must realise this isn’t an overnight fix for the damage caused, and there will be challenges along the way. We ask, are mindsets changing towards sustainable construction? Innovative initiatives are coming into play with collaboration being seen throughout the industry from manufacturers to contractors and supply chains.