Sustainable development in the construction industry
A Gardiner & Theobald case study

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Page 4: Sustainable construction

The construction industry needs to meet the challenge of contributing to economic growth by continuing to provide new homes, offices and shops whilst improving the quality of both the towns and the 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 the energy consumption in Europe is construction related.

Quantity Surveyors can encourage the construction industry to use more recycled materials from buildings which are being demolished, such as steel beams and crushing old brick and concrete for use in new concrete. In many cases this can save money as well as reducing environmental costs.

The response of the construction industry

As a result of becoming more aware of the sustainable agenda the construction industry has developed a code of practice, which has been adopted by all those involved in the property life-cycle. Criteria within the code of practice state that the construction industry should not:

  • cause unnecessary damage to the natural environment or consume a disproportionate amount of energy during construction, use or disposal
  • use materials from threatened species or environments
  • endanger the health of occupants or any other parties.

However, the construction industry, in commissioning, constructing or operating should:

  • enhance living, working and leisure environments
  • consume minimum energy over their life-cycle
  • generate minimum waste over their life-cycle
  • use renewable resources wherever possible.

Gardiner Theobald 7 Image 4Rather than increasing the complexity of the built environment to achieve the above criteria, greater initial care and planning, more attention to the environmental impact of material and energy supplies and a more focussed approach to the genuine needs of organisations and users are what Quantity Surveyors must focus upon. Buildings today cannot simply be constructed in isolation, but thought must be given to the wider environment and work in collaboration with the transport infrastructure and the local community. It is not simply desirable, but essential to reduce the environmental impact of emissions that result from either constructing or occupying buildings. However, some of the available solutions, such as solar energy systems are still very expensive and as yet, are not widely used in buildings. What is needed is to find a balance between environmental saving and capital cost. This is called the environmental equation. The challenge to the property industry, owners and users is to produce buildings that are usable and flexible, require less energy to construct and consume less energy in their daily use.

Gardiner & Theobald | Sustainable development in the construction industry