Building on sustainable choices

Clients are more inclined to take on construction teams that aim to meet environmental standards. Gareth Moores explains why sustainability has become a significant consideration on all projects.

The construction industry has become a main focus area in the UK’s continued bid for an environmentally sustainable future, which is no surprise when, according to Constructing Excellence, the construction and maintenance of buildings is responsible for around half of all UK carbon emissions.

Both Government and industry have put targets in place to drive significant reductions in emissions from the construction industry.

Targets which are supported by businesses’ own recognition of the financial benefits of sustainable working practices. One of simplest ways to meet environmental targets is by using sustainable materials options.

A more sustainable construction industry

There are specific sustainability targets in place for the construction industry, such as the requirement for zero carbon on all commercial buildings by 2019.

And with clients now looking for project teams to meet environmental assessment ratings like BREEAM, sustainability has become a significant consideration on all projects.

The traditional priorities of cost efficiency, on time completion and meeting design specifications remain high on the agenda for construction clients and their supply chain, and sustainability does not have to come at the cost of these priorities.

Instead, it is important that environmental efficiency is approached holistically on construction projects, as a consideration of all decisions that are made.

By doing this, and from design through to completion, building sustainably can instead help towards the efficient delivery of fit-for-purpose and attractive designs.

Quick wins

Materials choice is one area that can bring significant ‘quick wins’ for project teams. Alongside products and materials that contractors and engineers may regularly use, tried and tested sustainable alternatives should be considered that will not only help satisfy environmental criteria, but also help meet cost and design requirements.

In some cases these sustainable alternatives can even have a positive impact on cost and design flexibility, through attributes such as lighter weight or improved durability.

The UK is already leading the way, with a recent report by the Mineral Products Association finding that 29% of British aggregates are supplied by recycled and secondary materials, which is over twice as high as the European average.

While this statistic makes positive reading, there is still room for improvement and many projects are not yet taking advantage of the benefits of better materials choices.

There are a number of materials which are recognised by ratings systems such as BREEAM and can be incorporated into a project with no great impact on design or cost. The benefit of careful material choice is clear.

More projects are seeing the benefits in gaining BREEAM accreditations, occupiers are seeing significant reductions in the running costs of buildings through more sustainable design, and UK construction businesses are making firm commitments to meeting sustainability targets.

Sustainability is set to remain at the top of the industry agenda in 2013, driven by legislation such as changes to Building Regulations Part L which come into force in April.

It is vital that construction teams consider it as an integral part of the project, from beginning to end. By paying careful consideration to what materials go into the construction process, there are sustainability quick wins that can have a real impact.

Gareth Moores is the managing Director of secondary lightweight aggregate specialist Lytag Ltd

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