Posted on 1st December 2022

The Growing Importance of Sustainable Building

The construction industry is one of the UK’s essential industries, generating a significant proportion of the nation’s GDP as well as providing vital infrastructure domestically, commercially, and industrially. The construction industry’s footprint is necessarily large, but its carbon footprint is similarly large.

As reported by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, the built environment in the UK (comprising construction businesses, active projects and finished infrastructure) is responsible for a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse emissions. This is a shocking statistic, and one that illustrates well the burden of responsibility faced by construction in particular.

In the face of a global climate crisis, it is incumbent on larger businesses alike to review and redress their own contributions to emissions and pollution, shouldering as they do a far greater portion of responsibility than individual citizens and consumers. In the construction industry, one of the leading forms of redress is that of sustainable building.

What is Sustainable Building?

Sustainable building is, essentially, an approach to infrastructural design and construction that seeks the most ecologically friendly routes to completion. With regard to the climate crisis, this means the use of materials, processes and techniques that minimise carbon emissions or eliminate them altogether. This can range from the use of sustainably sourced materials to energy-efficient building design and beyond.

Switching to Sustainable Practices

Thankfully there is a growing acknowledgment from business communities that sustainability has to be placed higher and higher on their priority list. In the construction industry, this is reflected by the utilisation of building materials made from recycled products such as mineral wool and plasterboards made from recycled paper. On construction sites, builders will increasingly look to utilise better quality power tools that can last longer as well as maintain their vehicle’s quality to avoid overspending on new tyres and tools as well as increase their carbon footprint in the process.

For a construction company to switch towards more sustainable building practices, there are a number of challenges. These challenges are best summed up through a new framework that businesses are using to alter their processes more equitably: Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy.

ESG consulting services are commonly used to help businesses navigate the less intuitive aspects of switching to sustainable models. For example, there are also new legal challenges that companies and contractors must meet, not just in the practical application of building regulations to new sustainable materials and design, but also with regard to compliance with environmental law.

Established businesses might already have long-standing relationships and partnerships with suppliers, that may need to be severed in order to make meaningful progress with carbon-neutral design and philosophy.

The Role of Technology

While relatively straightforward changes to the provenance of building materials makes a key difference, technological advancement also has a significant role to play in the eradication of carbon emissions on building sites and in finished projects.

New developments in battery design and electrical storage, for example, have allowed the development not only of carbon-neutral transport options in electric cars and lorries, but also of effective green energy solutions for finished buildings. Solar panels are more efficient than ever, and larger amounts of charge can be stored in new battery arrays.

This allows designers to ‘design out’ reliance on natural gas, as new home heating measures present ecological alternatives to the gas boiler. Air- and ground-source heat pumps run on electricity, and effectively heat homes for less carbon cost.