Ensuring sustainability targets are met when working on site

Phil Smith is a director at Rund Partnership, a specialist surveying and construction consultancy

The adoption of sustainable construction methods is crucial to reducing an organisation’s impact on the environment. For the record, the construction sector accounts for 40 per cent of worldwide CO2 emissions and 36 per cent of energy usage, according to the International Energy Agency. So, throughout a construction project’s lifecycle, care needs to be taken to reduce waste and energy consumption. But this poses a challenge when working on large development sites with multiple contractors and subcontractors all trying to sing from the same hymn sheet.

“The clerk of works is responsible for understanding and monitoring sustainability targets from the outset”

Each of those businesses will be faced with competing pressures, as they try to control costs and maintain efficiency, focus on reducing energy use and the development’s carbon footprint, while also relying on energy-intensive equipment. All of this while trying to develop projects that are futureproofed and more technologically advanced than before. This is where clerks of works step in.

One of the key roles of a clerk of works specialist is ensuring sustainability targets are met when working on site, helping to make sure all parties involved are tackling ethical, environmental, social and economic challenges with measures that not only comply with the legal code, but also use carefully considered practices to work efficiently and effectively.

The clerk of works is responsible for understanding and monitoring sustainability targets from the outset, and is always on hand to make sure these methods are being undertaken by the contractors working on site. They continually monitor progress to ensure quality remains paramount across all aspects of the project. This includes onsite quality control and testing, but also drawing and specification reviews to identify and help resolve potential issues at an early stage.

One of the sustainability methods used is the Passivhaus standard, which adopts a whole-building approach with clear, measured targets focused on quality construction and certified through a quality-assurance process. The standard has a strong focus on airtightness, insulation, thermal bridging, windows and building performance. Clerks of works cooperate closely with the developer and contractor to ensure that everyone understands the construction details to achieve the project’s sustainability targets. If the construction sector is to help the UK reach its emissions-reduction targets, more organisations in the industry will need to adapt some of the lessons of the Passivhaus standard.

Attention to detail

Clerks of works can also advise on the correct installation of sustainable construction materials to ensure they comply with published technical standards and manufacturers’ specifications, right down to the details of high-quality insulation and window fittings. The latter – as small a part of a project as they may seem – are crucial for hitting airtightness targets, leaving no space between the window and the building.

Clerks of works can also prevent unforeseen circumstances from derailing the project by identifying potential risks well in advance and offering up solutions. With no signs of the construction industry’s material and labour shortages alleviating, this is proving a challenge.

We’re seeing more players in the industry adopt certain parts of modern methods of construction (MMC) to deliver panels and facades for projects. MMC, when executed properly, can provide excellent alternatives to traditional construction methods. Buildings that are developed using MMC are far more energy efficient compared with those using traditional construction methods.

Overall, the outlook for the UK construction sector remains fairly positive. Despite the ongoing material and labour shortages, developers and housebuilders are continuing to deliver high-quality schemes in various sectors. And the role of clerk of works is constantly adapting to meet those challenges.

Leave a comment