Sustainability growth in construction is a hot button topic worldwide. Home buyers, governments and other public sector organizations are pushing for more sustainable and socially responsible projects. Other drivers of sustainability include green building, community and public expectations, climate change and legislation and regulations. The pressure is on the construction industry to produce sustainable buildings which reduce environmental impact and use of the Earth’s resources. Best practices for sustainable growth in construction are outlined below.
First, understanding what sustainability means in this context is important. According to LafargeHolcim Foundation, a non-profit organization specifically dedicated to sustainable construction, “…sustainability embraces the environment and its long-term endurance as a matter of concern for all humanity.” They further go on to suggest three areas of importance: environmental impact, economic impact and social impact.
The second step is understanding areas of opportunity within the industry. Sustainable Brands lists these areas of opportunity: Greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, materials use, water use, waste generation, job creation and economic growth. In order to make changes in sustainability, the construction industry must make changes in these areas.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Per Sustainable Brands, “The building sector is the single largest contributor to climate change with occupied buildings responsible for 3-4-% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.” This is a major factor in sustainable construction. The less greenhouse gas emissions a building has, the more sustainable it becomes, the longer it lasts. Expect ratios to change as energy efficient homes and buildings are on the rise.
Energy use – Manufacturing building materials uses 10% of the global energy supply which is why prefabrication is becoming so much more popular. It’s more efficient to produce materials in a controlled environment where cuts can be precise, reducing the amount of materials needed in a project. Prefabrication is not the only way to reduce energy use, so be sure to research other areas of opportunity.
Materials use – Sustainable Brands states, “The construction industry is the largest global consumer of resources and raw materials, with half of all resources used in the manufacturing of building products and components.” Part of this problem can be solved by using green materials, as well as prefabrication and other technologies like Building Information Modeling for more accurate estimates and measurements.
Water use – Water use is something the construction industry is indirectly responsible for. Producing building materials and the actual building process accounts for a good amount of the total water demand. When materials are constructed in an efficient manner and the construction process utilizes green building and technology, water use can be reduced.
Waste Generation – Around 10%-15% of total materials ordered for construction projects end up unused or are wasted. This number can be upwards of 45% in some cases. Using technology like BIM and construction management software, as well as other smart technologies during construction can help reduce the waste created by construction projects.
Job creation and economic growth - In the United States, just over 19% of the country’s work force are employed in the Industry sector, which includes construction. And there’s actually a shortage of laborers and skilled workers in the industry. There is plenty of room for growth in the area, but the industry needs to make changes that appeal to younger workers, like implementing various technologies.
If you can make these adjustments in your building projects, you will be at the top of many people’s lists as a contact for projects. People want sustainable, energy efficient, green buildings, built by companies which know their local municipalities laws and regulations. Going down this path will lead to better building practices and an increase in revenue generation.