How can the construction industry become more sustainable?

Kelly Edwards is an interior design and home improvement specialist

It is no secret that the British construction industry is a major contributor to the nation’s carbon emissions and waste.

With a steadily higher demand for legislation and regulations that compel businesses to go green, and mounting pressure on the UK to hit its net-zero target, business owners of all backgrounds must take a more proactive approach to mitigating climate change before their hands are forced.

Although the construction industry faces many challenges when it comes to going green, there are still plenty of things that are well within reach for individual businesses.

In this post, we will go over five of the best ways that the construction industry can become more sustainable.

Using the right materials

One of the most effective changes that construction firms can make to reduce their carbon footprint is to switch to more sustainable materials.

Some of the long-running staples of the construction industry, such as concrete, have a seriously high impact on the pace of climate change. In fact, studies from the late 2010s showed concrete alone could be responsible for a huge 4-8 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions.

While the cost and logistics of switching from familiar construction materials can be daunting, seeking out greener alternatives to replace your usual materials can work wonders for getting your company ahead of the sustainability curve.

Precast concrete slabs, natural sheep’s wool insulation, bamboo, reclaimed materials and many more materials can all make construction work significantly more sustainable. Try auditing your usual orders to suppliers and researching greener alternatives to the materials that get the most use on your projects.

Going cashless

While almost every other industry is leading the race towards a totally cashless society, construction remains a notably cash-oriented business, especially when it comes to smaller contractors. Although it might seem trivial on the surface, the use of cash has been shown to have a profound, negative impact on the environment.

“Everyone can help to bring down the global demand on cash that is contributing to climate change”

Last year, the American Council on Science and Health revealed that the mining and minting of pennies alone has emitted 107 million pounds of carbon dioxide since the early 1980s, and even the UK’s 2016 switch to polymer banknotes has had a negligible effect on cash’s overall carbon footprint.

Switching to sustainable materials might not be feasible for all businesses, but everyone can help to bring down the global demand on cash that is contributing to climate change.

By setting up your website to take online deposits, equipping yourself or your staff with tap-to-pay devices from UK payment solution providers, such as SumUp, you will soon be able to free your business from a dependency on cash, and do your part to build an all-around more sustainable construction industry.

Making projects more efficient

Many business owners – within the construction industry or otherwise – have a certain reluctance to “go green” as they think sustainability initiatives will mean they will have to sacrifice profitability in one way or another.

If this sounds familiar, then we’ve got some good news for you: actively making your business more sustainable can also make it more profitable.

By finding ways to make your projects and processes more efficient, you will not only be able to save on costs, but also cut back on waste and extend the lifespan of equipment, thereby reducing your company’s strain on the environment.

In many situations one of the best ways to improve efficiency at your business is to research and embrace new technology that is designed to make processes smoother and circumvent obstacles that can drag down efficiency.

One example of this is 5D BIM, an exciting technology just starting to emerge in the construction industry, which combines 3D modelling, project management timelines and cost analysis to create a real-time image of construction projects in progress, highlight potential issues as they arise and support better, more efficient decision-making from project managers.

Reviewing waste disposal

Unfortunately, a waste-free construction site will never be a possibility. In order to build anything, things need to be torn down, and resources need to be expended. However, what happens to those materials that are torn down can make a huge difference to your business’ overall carbon footprint.

Like many construction business leaders, you will probably already have a policy about recycling the obvious choices, such as glass and packaging. With everything else, it may be time to review your waste-disposal methods and look for any sustainable options you may have been missing.

Gypsum, aggregates, insulation, and some wall and floor coverings are a few of the lesser-recycled materials that often wind up as landfill waste from construction projects. Finding the right amenities to recycle certain things can be tough, but auditing your projects and implementing the right policies will not only make your business more sustainable, but could potentially save you a lot of money.

Building greener supply chains

Last, but certainly not least, reviewing your supply chain for efficiency and sustainability is another great way that construction businesses can make the industry more sustainable.

Government studies on transport and the environment have shown that transport is by far the biggest-emitting sector of CO2 in the UK, which should tell you something about the kinds of sustainability gains that could be had by making your supply chain that much greener.

“Transport is by far the biggest-emitting sector of CO2 in the UK”

If your company is fairly small, you may feel like you’re not in a position to have any major impact on your supply chain, but simple steps such as consolidating more suppliers, buying your materials from local sources and making sure your vehicles are being loaded as economically as possible can all go a long way towards reducing your business’ carbon footprint.

If you’re heading up a larger firm, you may be in a position to build a more sustainable supply chain through training and development. From in-house driver training modules to delegating audits to your logistics managers to simply sharing environmental success stories from your competitors internally, there are countless ways to mould your company culture around a priority for efficiency and sustainability in your supply chain.

Final thoughts…

Although construction as a whole is relatively taxing on the environment, there are countless accessible ways that business owners can help shape the industry’s future for the better. We hope this post has given you some fresh ideas on how to make your business that much greener and inspired you to come up with some new ones of your own.

Leave a comment