5 Ways of Increasing Sustainability in Construction

With global climate change a topic on everyone’s minds, it is a crucial initiative of construction firms throughout the industry to focus on increasing their sustainability. Net-zero is a phrase thrown around often within the construction industry and sustainability in construction is becoming increasingly demanded. With the UK Climate Change Act 2008 implementing a target of up to 80% reduction in emissions, it is vastly important for many construction firms to switch up their methods. More and more sustainability-orientated projects are being given the go-ahead in order to work towards reducing emissions as a nation, and as a sector.

Smart Buildings and Technology

The introduction of ‘smart buildings’ has been a game-changer for sustainability in construction industries. Smart buildings serve to make the purpose of a building so much more efficient and enjoyable. While internet connectivity is a huge part of smart buildings, as it is with modern speakers, lights and even fridges, they are so much more than that. What’s great about smart buildings, is they can monitor their own energy consumption in order to provide insight into how the building can be made more efficient. They also have the ability to have temperature and lighting changed remotely, meaning a reduce in needed electricity, and therefore helping to keep unwanted emissions at bay. Many more smart buildings are popping up and are more common than you might initially think. With even greater incentive to focus on sustainability, there will be a huge increase in smart buildings within the coming decades.

Reducing Emission-Intensive Materials

Many materials, such as steel, are very emission-intensive. Sustainability in construction will by no means be easy, but the sourcing of more eco-friendly materials is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of a build. Although not always viable, where possible, firms should prioritise local materials when searching for resources, since this will greatly reduce the amount of transportation emissions that are produced. Moreover, timber building is much more environmentally viable than its masonry counterpart, therefore opting for more timber based builds is a great way to reduce a heavy carbon footprint from stone and brickwork practices. Even opting for resources with primarily recycled materials is a great way to lower the emissions outcome straight from the get-go; while sometimes more expensive, often recycled materials are of a higher quality and will last longer throughout the lifetime of a project.

Improving Waste Management

Waste is a huge part of any project build and is a great hindrance on sustainability in construction. Finding new ways to recycle or repurpose waste materials is a good first step. This involves the implication of searching for recyclable materials in the first place. The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) suggests that building materials should be ordered responsibly and realistically to prevent excessive ordering which is wasted at the completion of a build. It is also encouraged to repurpose leftover materials into aggregate and other usable materials. This is in order to promote a more circular economy which will help to reduce emissions by eliminating the need for wasteful bi-products or over-ordered goods.

Vehicles and Equipment

It comes as no surprise that the heavy equipment and vehicles used are a great cause for emissions within the industry. Many vehicles used in construction are resource intensive and produce greenhouse gases. It is encouraged by many leading institutions, for sustainability in construction to be achieved with more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Since it is primarily petrol and diesel which are used to power these fuel-guzzling machines and vehicles, switching them off when not in use, and switching to electric power if possible are great ways to help cut down on these emissions. There have been implementations by environmental firms in London which require the use of equipment which is only less than a decade old, to ensure that the equipment is as efficient as possible.

Efficient Building Practices

In order to ensure new buildings have a lower carbon footprint than their retro counterparts, there are measures in place to make sure they are efficient from the very beginning. By implementing strict procedures such as quality and effective building insulation, many heat emissions can be reduced due to less heat-loss. Not only is this better for emissions, it will reduce the costs the client will incur due to inefficient heating. Furthermore, it’s important that quality materials are also used throughout any construction project. This will provide longer lasting results which will require less maintenance, and therefore less additional materials, in the long term.

Now, while there is no sure-fire way to decrease emissions from buildings within the construction industry, the points above set about a good overview of the ways it can be done. A combination of all of these points will be the way for firms to implement environmentally-friendly practice and educate their workers on the importance of this. Since there is a high-risk for excess emissions at all stages of a construction project lifecycle, it is important to try and tackle all stages of this process. Starting with the sourcing of materials, the efficiency of the build itself and the equipment used, finished with how all waste is managed and taken care of responsibly. It is a key time within the construction industry for firms to take environmental emissions seriously and set standards to combat carbon emissions. While this task is not to be completed overnight, it is a set of gradual changes that must be implemented in order to reduce the climatic impacts that the construction industry has.


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