Page 3: Sustainable construction
The construction industry is a major sector of the UK’s national economy and accounts for 7.5% of Gross Domestic Product. GDP is the sum total of a country’s output over the course of a year. In 1998 the construction industry’s output was £62 billion. As an industry, it employs in excess of 1.4 million people.
Macroeconomics describes the study of the whole economy and the interaction between constituent economic factors. A key macroeconomics objective is to make the most effective use of resources in order to encourage growth. A growing economy, however, is one that consumes more and growth comes with associated costs, such as depletion of the ozone layer, an increase in CFCs and the consumption of finite resources.
The construction industry has to meet the challenge of contributing to economic growth by continuing to provide new homes, offices and shops while improving the quality of both towns and countryside. Sustainable means lasting and enduring, therefore sustainable development is economic development that lasts. In construction, sustainability is of great importance because:
- 50% of material resources taken from nature are construction-related
- over 50% of national waste production comes from the construction sector
- 40% of energy consumption in Europe is construction-related.
The construction industry has developed a code of practice which has been adopted by all involved in the property lifecycle, demonstrating awareness of the sustainable agenda. Criteria within the code of practice states that the construction industry should not:
- cause unnecessary damage to the natural environment or consume a disproportionate amount of energy during construction, building use or disposal
- use materials from threatened species or environments
- endanger the health of occupants or any other parties.
In commissioning, constructing or operating buildings we should ensure that they:
- enhance living, working and leisure environments
- consume minimum energy over their lifecycle
- generate minimum waste over their lifecycle
- use renewable resources wherever possible.
It is now essential to reduce the environmental impact of CO2 emissions that result from constructing and running buildings. Buildings today cannot simply be constructed in isolation; thought must be given to the wider environment, the transport infrastructure and the local community.
Greater initial care and planning, more attention to the environmental impact of material and energy supplies and a more focused approach to the genuine needs of organisations and users must be the focus of quantity surveyors. Some of the available solutions, however, such as solar energy systems, are still very expensive and are therefore not widely used in buildings. What is required is a balance between environmental saving and capital cost. This is called the environmental equation.