What is sustainable construction?
The goals of sustainable construction are to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment. Sustainable construction methods include:
- Using renewable and recyclable materials
- Reducing the embodied energy in building materials
- Reducing the energy consumption of the finished building
- Reducing on-site waste
- Protecting the natural habitats during and after the construction phase.
- 45% of total UK carbon emissions (27% from domestic buildings and 18% from non-domestic) come from built construction.
- 72% of domestic emissions arise from space heating and the provision of hot water.
- 32% of landfill waste comes from the construction and demolition of buildings.
- 13% of products delivered to construction sites are sent directly to landfill without being used
Factors Influencing Sustainable Change
Increasing government regulations
New regulations, such as the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and the European Green Deal, are demanding increased environmental measures, which place more scrutiny on how projects are designed, constructed, and maintained. The United Nations has announced several ambitious targets for sustainability in construction.
For example, the target reduction rate for energy intensity per square meter in buildings will be approximately 30% by 2030, as defined by the Paris Agreement. Increased regulations are pushing engineering and construction companies to look for more circular and sustainable solutions.
Cost-efficiency is still a key consideration for most engineering and construction companies. As the cost of raw materials continues to climb, business leaders need to plan and manage construction projects using the most cost-effective products and raw materials possible, while ensuring workers and heavy machinery are not sitting idle.
If sustainable materials or processes are too expensive, decision-makers may choose not to use them. In the survey, half of the engineering and construction respondents said lowering the cost of sustainable products would make the biggest difference in helping them meet their sustainability goals.
On the other hand, reducing the high cost of energy consumption will lower costs while also improving sustainability efforts for this energy-intensive industry.
Expanding environmental concerns
A growing number of customers and owners are pressuring engineering and construction companies to design and build more eco-friendly structures. As demand for environmental considerations builds, a growing number of investors, and even employees are questioning traditional construction methods and pushing for more sustainable business practices.
Some exciting sustainable projects to check out
Hope Rise, Bristol, England
The Hope Rise development was erected on stilts above a public car park and consists of 11 net-zero carbon homes for young people who risk becoming homeless. It has kept the existing parking spaces and added an electric-car charging upgrade.
The Hope Rises homes consist of housing modules that are 90 per cent completed in a offset factory before being installed on-site within five days. They are designed to be super-insulated and feature low-energy heating systems, as well as rooftop solar panels and other renewable energy technologies.
“This ground-breaking concept of erecting zero carbon homes on steel frame stilts on brownfield sites in city centres could change the way under-utilised urban land can overcome the UK social housing crisis,” the UKGBC said.
University of East Anglia Enterprise Centre, Norwich, England
University of East Anglia’s Enterprise Centre, which has been awarded Passivhaus standard and the BREEAM Outstanding certifications, uses local bio-based materials to create structural low-embodied carbon design.
Materials include internal stud partitions made from locally sourced pine and Norfolk thatch and reed cladding. The building also features 100 per cent recycled paper insulation, hemp fabric, re-processed glass, clay plaster and nettle boards.
Heart of School, Green School Bali, Bali, Indonesia
The Heart of School (above and top image) at the Green School Bali was built from bamboo. The local wood was used to construct dramatic vaulted spaces and is a versatile, rapidly replenishable material, the UKGBC said. Once the building reaches the end of its lifespan, its grass roofs and bamboo walls can be composted and turned back into soil.
The project helped launch Bamboo U, which teaches people how to build and design with bamboo and promotes the use of the material in architecture.