Building A Greener Construction Sector

For the construction industry as for other sectors of the economy, being greener whilst of course a necessity, can at times feel like an assault: traditionally construction companies have been widely depicted as having a negative impact on the environment. Certainly, the industry is a heavy consumer of resources and can create a lot of waste.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible for construction firms not just to do their bit for  the green economy, but become a leader in achieving more sustainable forms of activity. It is possible for construction to get ahead of the curve, rather than have it leave us behind.

But how? This is the critical question, and one for which every firm will find slightly different answers. Crucially, however, the means to achieve greener construction do exist, and options are improving all the time. Firms should not just be adopting these mechanisms – but shouting from the rooftops about them.

Construction can start with materials. Manufacturing concrete is responsible for eight per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions; yet alternatives exist. From concrete that absorbs CO2 to cements made using other substances that are actually stronger – including rubber tires and demolition waste – there are urgent shifts that need to be investigated.

The increasing use of bamboo – an eminently sustainable material – in fabrications and buildings of all kinds is one sign that construction is already beginning to make this shift. The good news? Materials account for around 93 per cent of all construction carbon emissions – fix this stage and the sector is almost there.

If materials are the key, however, other actions might offer lower-hanging fruit: investing in electric vehicles for the firm’s fleet, for example, and switching to renewable energy elsewhere in the business, too. The International Energy Association reported that solar is the cheapest form of energy ever – in other words, switching makes good business sense, too.

Even more granular changes can have an effect and are trivially easier to achieve: LED lighting on-site, for instance, or encouraging remote working and meeting wherever possible; keeping maintenance cycles in place that improve the lifespan of equipment and can measure carbon emissions more closely and effectively; improving management systems and processes so that waste is reduced and minimised. All these approaches are within easy reach of firms that can make real differences.

Of course, adhering to and advocating for stronger regulation in the environment sphere is key, too. Some firms have already signed up to the RE100, an international scheme that seeks to commit corporations and companies to ambitious energy goals; in the UK, the Environment Bill will be introduced in the next Parliamentary session, and firms should do what they can to contribute.

Crucial to adherence to all of this, of course, are software and systems that can make recording, logging and improving activity on-site and at head office easier and more effective.  

Over the past couple of years, due to the COVD-19 pandemic, there has been an acceleration in remote monitoring and maintenance technology. This has had a positive environmental impact. Innovation is key to increasing efficiency and we can do this by creating new ways of doing things.