Sustainable construction in 2021

Lucy White

Sustainable construction in 2021 & beyond

Sustainability is a hot topic within the construction industry at the moment and will continue to be as we move further into 2021 and beyond.

Sustainable construction has a goal to reduce the impact of the industry on the environment. This can be achieved by:

  • Reducing waste and energy consumption

  • Moving towards renewable resources

  • Restoring rather than replacing where possible

  • Protecting natural environments

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The industry is under great pressure to reduce its impact on the environment. From CO2 emissions to materials waste, buildings and building construction are one of the largest contributors to global environmental issues.  Here are some stats to give you an idea:

  • 10% of UK CO2 emissions are from construction activities, rising to 45% when considering the whole of the built environment (1)

  • 32% of all landfill waste currently comes from the construction industry (2)

  • 13% of the products delivered to construction sites are sent to landfill without having been used (3)

  • The construction industry is the UK’s biggest consumer of natural resources, using 400 million tonnes of materials each year, resulting in 100 million tonnes of waste – over a third of the UK’s total yearly waste! (4)

  • Global production of concrete contributes to 4-8% of global CO2! (5)

  • By 2030 emissions from commercial buildings will grow by 1.8% (6)

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In addition, the industry has a significant impact on the landscape of an environment due to the clearing of vegetation.

Homeowners, main contractors, and government authorities are all beginning to favour businesses that are taking their environmental responsibility seriously.

Consumers understand the current climate emergency and are taking personal responsibility where they can. They want to ensure that their existing or new build homes are as energy efficient as possible, and that any suppliers used take responsibility for their waste.

Large contractors are pushing for green approaches especially within the procurement process, with 41% of tenders now including a sustainable stance!

Therefore it’s likely that if sustainable practices aren’t written into the strategy of a construction business,  they’ll soon find themselves pushed to the bottom of the pile.



What is the industry doing about the climate crisis?


Globally governments are pushing for more regulations within the industry to encourage sustainable behaviours. For example, the significant regulation that new UK buildings must be net zero carbon by 2030, and all existing buildings net zero carbon by 2050.

Some examples of industry practices include:

  • Research and development of sustainable materials and practices - high on the agenda is the development of sustainable materials which contain lower embodied carbon, to help reduce the high environmental cost of materials such as cement. Another major focus is the movement towards using advances in technology, data capture and Building Information Modelling (BIM) to help improve the long term sustainability of built assets.

  • More collaboration between contractors, developers, designers, engineers and clients to further reduce construction waste.

  • Raising awareness and lobbying.

  • Adoption of new sustainability metrics.



The current challenges


Until recently there has been some resistance within the construction industry to adopt sustainable approaches.  This is mainly due to high up-front costs associated with green construction, which can greatly impact on viable tender bids in a competitive environment.

The World Green Building Trends 2018 Smart Market Report (7) revealed that around 40% of UK firms reported that affordability was the greatest challenge presented by adopting sustainable construction practices, and that almost 50% of firms stated that they expected green buildings to incur higher first costs. With 34% of businesses reporting that they face client demand for greener buildings, it’s clear how many construction firms find themselves caught between demand and high costs.

However, many construction firms are slowly coming around to the long-term benefits of adopting sustainable practices, and the recognition that reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency will save costs in the long term for both the business and the end consumer.

Furthermore, it has been consistently reported (8) that green buildings deliver savings in operating costs, have shorter payback periods, and an increased asset value. A growing number of building owners are seeing as much as a 10% increase in green building asset value (9). This alone provides an incentive for developers and investors to seriously explore green buildings for their future projects.

The benefits of investing in sustainable practices within the construction industry are therefore clear, with any initial costs being offset by the long term value.



Benefits of sustainable construction for your construction firm


Apart from the obvious benefit of reducing the negative impact of your business on the environment, what are some other benefits of adopting sustainable approaches, beyond just environmental?

As described above, in the long term the cost benefit of green buildings does offset the higher upfront costs. Research suggests that the use of the latest sustainable technologies in construction processes could potentially deliver a huge €410bn a year in savings on global energy spending (10).

Other direct cost saving benefits to an organisation include the reduction of waste management fees from less overall waste production, and a decrease in cost of fuel from more efficient supply logistics and the use of energy efficient vehicles.

One often overlooked benefit is the impact on your brand reputation. Demonstrating your Corporate Social Responsibility through effective marketing and PR can ensure your business is very attractive to clients and customers. Research has found that if the price is right, 91% of consumers are likely to switch to using another business’ services or products if they are associated with a good cause (11).

Homeowners will feel like they are indirectly doing their part by using a ‘green company’, and as we’ve already discussed, more and more main contractors are prioritising subcontractors that are seen to be environmentally responsible.

So, if your firm has adopted the right practices and is doing everything it can to ensure sustainable practice, make sure you shout about it and your clients and customers hear about it!

If you'd like to find about more about sustainability within the industry, you might be interested to read our blog 'Creating Green Buildings'.

If you'd like help promoting your business' current CSR commitments, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We can help ensure your environmental commitments are clearly communicated across all your marketing channels so your customers and prospects see the benefits of working with you.


Check out this video we recently created for our client within the facade and architectural glazing industry. They wanted to ensure their commitment to sustainability was communicated clearly across their website and other digital marketing channels, so we created a video to help highlight this.

References

(1) https://www.ukgbc.org/climate-change

(2) https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Technology_Strategy_Board_TSB

(3) https://www.bresmartsite.com/sustainable-construction-methods/ (4) http://www.wrap.org.uk/sites/files/wrap/Reducing%20your%20construction%20waste%20-%20a%20pocket%20guide%20for%20SME%20contractors.pdf

(5) https://www.iea.org/topics/buildings

(6) https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth

(7)https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/World%20Green%20Building%20Trends%202018%20SMR%20FINAL%2010-11.pdf

(8) https://new.usgbc.org/press/benefits-of-green-building

(9) https://www.construction.com/toolkit/reports/world-green-building-trends-2018

(10) https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/Cost%20of%20Non-World%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf

(11) http://www.conecomm.com/research-blog/2013-cone-communications-echo-global-csr-study

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Sustainable construction in 2021

Sustainable construction in 2021