While the world reels from the hammering of COVID-19, it is is easy to forget the other serious issues of our time. One of which is, of course, climate change and our relationship with the environment.
The construction industry has a larger level of interaction and responsibility than other sectors – for centuries we have been using the resources of the world as our materials and tools, and only recently have we shown any regard for what impact that has had on the environment.
It falls to each of us in the industry to do what we can to mitigate further damage and reverse trends.
Here are a few things to think about.
Carefully choosing sustainable materials
Depending on where you are in the sector, the level of influence you have over what materials to use in your project will differ, but if where there is control, it is important to choose wisely.
In the UK, the construction industry is the single biggest contributor to waste, much of which ends up in landfill. DEFRA statistics from 2018 show that 59% of the 202.8 million tonnes of waste was due to the construction, demolition, and excavation industries (CDE). Pleasingly, that’s a statistic which also indicated continuous improvement year-on-year, but there’s still more than can be done.
By selecting materials that can be reused or recycled, companies in the construction industry make a huge impact. It’s really important that decisions on materials are made not simply based on short-term economics, but long-term future planning and environmental considerations.
And it’s not just when constructing a new development, but also when looking to renovate and improve existing buildings. Often there are materials on site that can be stripped and reused with relative ease. This adoption of alternative new strategies for material efficiency helps reduce waste now, and in the future.
There are strong business cases for sustainable building, too. The World Green Building Council have presented strong evidence that suggests:
- When woven into every stage of a building’s lifecycle, beginning with the early preparation and brief, a green building saves on both resources and long-term costs.
- Sustainable building attracts more tenants, improves resale value, and presents a higher rental yield.
- Sustainable workspaces lead to improved employee productivity and health.
- Long-term operating costs for green buildings are usually less than their non-green counterparts.
Your construction site vehicle impact
It isn’t just the materials chosen, of course. From an environmental perspective, construction is devastating.
Recent statistics gathered suggests that the construction sector is responsible for half of all climate change, including 23% of the world’s air pollution, and 40% of all drinking water pollution.
Now, these are worldwide issues, of which the UK industry only plays a relatively small part, but there’s no doubt that we all need to play our part in mitigating some of these terrifying statistics.
Much of construction site damage is through vehicles, with tonnes of diesel being burned constantly. With the country making steady progress towards an all-electric personal car environment, eyes are now looking at doing similar for the construction industry.
At the moment, there’s little out there for a conscientious construction CEO looking to turn his fleet of heavy vehicles into environmentally-friendly electric vehicles, but with each year comes new technology – and some is quite impressive. Already, both Volvo CE and JCB have all-electric mini excavators, while Cat have developed an impressive emission-free 26-tonne excavator.
Investing in a new line of machinery is expensive though, so what can be done in the meantime, with existing equipment?
- Track and monitor your vehicles. Telematics GPS tracking software and fuel calculators can help you ensure that your equipment is used efficiently, but you don’t need to go that far—simply discuss a desire to be more fuel and emissions aware with your team and instigate policies that will reduce the amount of wasted time vehicles are running (especially when idling).
- Install technology, such as DPFs (diesel particulate filters) to minimise the emissions output of current vehicles.
- Consider vehicle finance options, such as leasing, to make changing to low- or zero-emissions more affordable.
External support and certification
Organisations such as BREEAM offer certification and programs to help you adjust your business practices to more environmentally-responsible ones. Not only does this provide you with an independent body to provide advice, but will show your clients and customers that you are taking steps as a responsible contractor, boosting your profile and image.
How Ensign plays a part
Sustainable, environmentally-responsible construction need not be a burden. If implemented from the early stages of project brief and planning, there is a strong case that it costs no more to develop in these greener ways than the traditional alternatives.
Technology is key. With Ensign software, your planning and tender stages are already made smoother—the good news is that developing with responsibly sourced materials is no more complex. Using our in-depth quantity surveying tools, options for different suppliers and materials can be easily adjusted, providing a way to calculate multiple alternatives.
On-screen take-off tools also ensure that material calculation is accurate and that waste is minimised. In-built systems calculate the optimum material configuration so that end-of-roll wastage is limited, and the most can be made of the materials once they are on site.
Plus, while it may seem simple, using our estimating software cuts down considerably on physical paperwork. With everything digitised, from building plans to estimate calculations, the sheer volume of paper and ink saved is notable. Some major projects save a large tree’s worth of paper just by using Ensign!
Other software also helps, forming a digital infrastructure for smooth workflow and project management. Conference call software and Building Information Modelling (BIM) play substantial roles in developing a thorough system that looks to sustainability first.
We are always looking to improve our software with feedback from clients to make it an integral component to your business. If you have any thoughts on how we can be doing more to make sustainable construction better for the future, we’d love to hear from you.
If you are not yet using Ensign, why not arrange a free demo, and see how it can help you become more responsible for the future.