Climate change and construction: How businesses can play their part

The building and construction sectors have come under fire for their contributions to climate change, with the industry churning out 39% of the world’s carbon emissions – with operational emissions accounting for 28% and the remaining 11% from embodied or upfront carbon (from materials and construction processes), writes Sam Tracey, Regional SHEQ Advisor at Actavo Direct.

As modern attitudes shift towards prioritising eco-conscious behaviours, Sam explores how businesses can change tack and go green.

Choose your materials

Always look for sustainable options. Common building materials like concrete and steel are unsustainable as their production requires mining limited resources and they’re generally difficult – if not impossible – to salvage and reuse.

Consider sustainable alternatives. For example, materials like bamboo, cork and ‘hempcrete’, which are increasingly being used for their abundance, rapid re-growth, sustainable sourcing and high strength-to-weight ratios.

Green insulation methods should also be considered. Sheep’s wool is a sustainable resource which reduces reliance on artificial heat devices. And ‘hempcrete’ is becoming more popular thanks to its moisture-regulating and thermo-insulating properties.

Making a splash

Reducing water waste and boosting efficiency is key to sustainability. The way we perform construction tasks is being re-evaluated after a UK industry commitment to reduce water use by 20% was announced.

Leaking pipes, dust suppression systems and toilet flushing systems are among the worst offenders. Check your equipment regularly – if you notice wear and tear or leaks, it’s your responsibility to get it replaced or patched up to avoid water waste.

Dust suppression systems are notoriously inefficient. Consider switching to hydraulic spinning systems that are 90% more efficient than conventional systems, saving you on cost and waste in the long-term.

Toilets and urinals also contribute to waste due to their inefficient use of water. Installing modern low-flush or dual-flush toilets and motion-sensor urinals can cut water waste by 50%.

Keep it in-house

Prefabrication construction techniques have hit a year-on-year growth rate of 6%, with rising demand for more efficient construction.

Manufacturing parts in controlled factory conditions and transporting them to the site saves on energy and material waste and reduces noise pollution on busy sites.

They’re also easy to disassemble and move to a new site and can reduce energy demand by up to 82%, according to some studies.

Being able to reuse panels means you save on materials on new builds too, reducing plastering, timber formwork and concrete waste by as much as 100%.

Reducing paper waste

The construction industry is notoriously under-digitised. However, with investment in tech expected to rise in the next few years, physical construction and admin tasks are expected to become more efficient.

Switching to data management systems and incorporating AI and BIM into your projects alleviates reliance on paper, reduces time spent on tedious admin tasks and increases productivity, with better results and a higher degree of accuracy – meaning less material waste.

BIM systems include 3D planning features that allow the user to create model structures with greater accuracy, meaning fewer mistakes when it comes to building.

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