Sustainable construction is currently very much an ethos that the construction sector is being governed by. At its core, the construction industry is a big consumer of natural resources, which is why in the recent years there has been a demand for it to reduce its negative environmental impact. Taking the finite nature of natural resources into consideration sustainable construction is key to the future of the industry’s survival, as thoughtful planning and sustainable designs can have a long reaching major impact on the planet.
What is sustainable construction?
It is defined by the Brundtland Commission as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ Based on this the priority goal of sustainable construction is to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment through key factors such as focusing on sustainable development through revamping construction technologies and construction methods to facilitate green building. The use of raw material done smarter thanks to sustainable designs that use renewable and recyclable resources. Focus is placed on protecting the natural environment through creating a healthy and environmentally friendly atmosphere along with the reduction in the energy consumed and the waste generated.
Why is sustainable construction important?
Construction has a huge impact on the environment, not only through the space required which leads to fears of building over wildlife habitats, but also through waste and the CO2 emissions it generates. This is why it is important for the construction industry to become responsible and sustainable as a whole to reduce its adverse impacts, by using energy more efficiently. As the entire world strives to reduce the greenhouse effect caused by CO2 emissions, with adverse effects including harm to the environment and human health, the construction industry too is focussing on creating a built environment that is sustainable.
What are the challenges of sustainable construction?
Sustainable construction methods are not easy to adopt overnight, despite all the enthusiasm. There are practical challenges to face to make it work, the least not of which is the cost. As it is still relatively in the infant stages, sustainable construction does cost more to implement. However, there is a growing demand from conscious clients for greener building or for greener construction practices such as using recycled resources or adapting a building around the existing environment as opposed to previously changing the environment to suit the construction. Yet, despite these changes as more environmentally conscious clients come into the picture, they are in most cases willing to pay the extra costs for a building that is greener and sustainable. Also, in the long run energy-efficient structures prove to cost less to operate which is an enticing future return on investment.
What are the benefits of sustainable construction?
Sustainable construction focusses on reducing the use of non-renewable energy that contributes to climate change and where practical and possible recycled resources. There is a shift towards using renewable energy from fossil fuels, hydropower, wind power and nuclear power, which leads to a significant reduction in waste production. Adopting sustainable construction this way will reduce an organization’s impact on the environment. It also encourages the better and effective use of material and the use of such systems as those that recycle water by collecting rainwater which can be utilised to water plants and for toilets. Companies that can switch to solar power or preserving wind energy also benefit in the long term.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR projects enable a company to support or work towards good causes. While it is to an extent a Public Relationships move, it also genuinely gives companies and the construction industry the opportunity to work to a good cause, such as sustainable business practices. Reducing or removing the construction industry’s carbon footprint is not only genuinely beneficial to the environment it is also positive PR for the industry, as the consumers of today are more conscious of the human impact on the planet.
Corporate responsibility has gained great importance in today’s business world with not only customers and clients, but job-seekers as well looking into the values of an organization or industry before committing to any decisions.
Other benefits of CSR include:
Positive reputation with clients
Increased innovation and learning
Increased financial performance
Key issues in Sustainable Construction
Some of the practical key issues surrounding sustainable construction are listed below:
When deciding on the build of a new construction where possible sustainable methods can be introduced though an overall commitment may be hard to follow through at the onset. Limiting energy wastage and being mindful of the resources and materials consumed can be started on a small scale by the designers and the contractors.
Designers and contractors should be well versed in sustainable development and spot practical moments when it can be implemented and when it may be difficult. Decisions have to take the larger picture into consideration such as a client’s financial resources and planning authority regulations.
Some clients and corporations have existing environmental policies that a construction firm needs to take into consideration, along with detailed objectives and targets. Further funders and such may also impose standards and regulations for consideration.
Sustainable construction is a journey, a slow uphill journey that will take time and constant innovations to reach the desired perfection. However, even today there are high-level decision making taking place that is steadily having a positive impact towards sustainable construction. It provides an excellent opportunity for the industry to become creative finding and developing innovative methods and technology to be sustainable.
Sustainable development provides not only those involved in the construction industry and but almost everyone a chance at a better quality of life, with safer building materials and less wastage and carbon emissions. Green buildings are the way forward.