By its very nature, the construction industry is a significant consumer of the environment’s natural resources. It consumes energy, contributes to carbon emissions, generates a significant amount of waste materials, consumes large amounts of water and can even cause damage to natural habitats and biodiversity.
Thankfully, the construction landscape is changing for the better and organisations within the industry are trying where possible to reduce their impact on the environment. Many construction businesses are turning to a circular economy approach, which centres around three key pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social.
In this article, we highlight five key practices used by sustainable construction companies within the UK construction industry.
The construction industry is always going to generate waste. However, with effective waste management, construction companies can minimise waste whilst salvaging and recycling materials to be used again.
With the use of waste management facilities and cleaning processes, materials such as concrete, rubble and general demolition spoils can be transformed into quality crushed concrete and used again. Recycled materials are also more cost-efficient, making them economically friendly as well as environmentally friendly.
Aside from reusing existing materials, construction companies can also opt for sustainably sourced materials. From choosing FSC-certified wood to using responsibly quarried natural stone, there are various ways construction companies can source sustainable materials.
Ready-mixed concrete is also considered to be a popular sustainable material within the construction industry as it has little waste and is often part-made using recycled aggregates. Where possible, construction businesses and contractors should choose quality-approved ready-mixed concrete from a sustainable provider.
Building Green For The Future
“Green buildings” are buildings designed for the future. From planning and design to construction, green buildings are considered to be both environmentally responsible and resource-efficient.
They are built using responsibly sourced and often recycled materials. When designing green buildings, construction companies usually prioritise an efficient use of energy, water, and other resources, including low-carbon technologies that meet the energy needs of the building without having a detrimental impact on the environment.
Solar-powered electricity, natural lighting, natural ventilation and harvested rainwater are commonplace within green buildings.
There is growing demand from consumers, investors and tenants for more green buildings, meaning putting sustainable practices into place can be economically beneficial for construction professionals.
Protecting And Conserving Natural Habitats
Land developments and construction practices (both building and demolition), can damage natural habitats and ecosystems. Habitat loss and damage is an unfortunate consequence of human activities.
With sustainable practices, construction professionals consider the impact on local ecosystems and natural habitats during the planning process. They then implement a series of measures to protect natural habitats and minimise disruption to ecosystems where possible.
Most green building projects also include outdoor spaces designed to promote the development of ecosystems, such as landscapes that encourage flora and fauna.
Depending on the size and complexity of the development, many construction projects take years to complete. In that time, construction companies consume a lot of on-site energy.
The manufacturing processes used within construction usually require high temperatures and therefore a lot of energy. Similarly, the plant machinery and equipment regularly used on construction sites rely heavily on significant amounts of energy in order to operate.
Reducing on-site energy is an important sustainable practice that should be considered by every construction professional. There are various ways to do this. For example, a construction company may audit its machinery and identify which machines are the least energy-efficient. This machinery should then be replaced with new, energy-efficient models. This will result in substantial energy and cost savings.
For larger construction projects, the use of solar panels, wind turbines and hydroelectric generators should also be considered to utilise renewable energy where possible.
By adopting the above sustainable practices, construction companies can minimise their impact on the environment, reduce their carbon footprint and promote social responsibility. They can also enhance their reputation and capitalise on the growing demand for sustainably built buildings.