The emergence of sustainable construction 

Published: 13 September 2022

Sustainability is the buzz word for everything these days. There are a finite number of resources in the world. The construction industry is a huge consumer of these resources. It is estimated that the industry generates 39% of the world’s carbon emissions. Sustainability and this kind of consumer don’t naturally go hand in hand. 

Pressure from the public on government and industry means both are working to cut carbon footprint and reduce environmental impact. Many clients have sustainability at the top of the list before they award contracts. This pressure has led to world governments building new global and national targets designed to help curb the environmental crisis. This has led to building regulations changing in regard to the environmental impact the industry is having.  

What is sustainable construction? 

Sustainability in construction is about using renewable and recyclable materials. The surrounding natural habitats must be protected before and after construction, including reducing waste during. The design of the finished building must also be energy efficient. Companies are turning to green materials to help them meet their sustainability targets 

What materials are being used? 

  • Bamboo, commonly used in Asia, has become more popular worldwide. It’s long lasting and has a greater strength than concrete and brick meaning it’s commonly used in flooring and carpentry.  
  • Precast concrete slabs are also now commonly used. These take less energy to produce and construct. They also last longer as they are produced in a controlled environment, allowing them time to cure, resulting in less cracks and structural faults.  
  • Obviously, the big one is the use of recycled materials, wood, metal, plastic. Reused plastic can be used in cables, roofs, floors and even carpets. Reclaimed wood has been used in interior design for quite some time, but it can also be used in framing and cabinetry. Steel is 100% recyclable and reusing rather than mining hugely reduces the ecological impact of construction. Using steel can also reduce the use of wood. A house that takes 50 trees to build only takes the steel from six scrapped cars to build.
     

Aside from all the above, companies also need to find alternate ways of working. This means making informed decisions at every stage of the process. For example, mining raw materials can pollute water, so they need to ensure the materials they use come from a safe place. Fabrication and shipping can result in huge carbon emissions. The manufacture of cement currently results in 28bn tonnes of CO2 a year, potentially raising to 4bn.  

What sustainability regulations need to be met? 

Regulations in each country are different but let’s start internationally: 

  • The Paris Agreement came into force in 2016 with the intention of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. It was signed by 196 countries each of whom have submitted their own plans known as nationally determined contributions
  • Although no longer directly affecting the UK there is also the European Green deal. The aim of this legislation is to turn Europe into a resource efficient economy. By 2050 there should be no net emissions of greenhouse gas and economic growth will be decoupled from resource use. EU member states have pledged to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
     
  • In the UK there have been several initiatives over the years in a bid to protect the environment. In 1990 there was the Environmental Protection Act, the Climate Change Act in 2008 and then the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) with many more pieces of legislation in between. The ESOS required 14,000 UK companies to complete an audit of energy use. It was looking at how energy is used in buildings transport and industrial operations.

All the above (and the many other pieces of legislation) will affect how a company can conduct their day to day and holistic operations.
 

What can IT do to help? 

One of the IT solutions that will be invaluable in helping the Construction industry become more sustainable is ERP. 

Transparency 

Because so much of the data and processes related to sustainability is held in ERP systems you can provide a back up to any claims you’ve made regarding sustainability. It also allows you to see the business value. 

Reducing waste 

ERP can also help to reduce waste. At the very lowest level it allows you to reduce paper usage, especially if you’re using a synchronised tool like CRM with it. Read our blog on integrating ERP and CRM systems. It can also help with inventory, helping to reduce waste by allowing you to order only what you need. ERP can also automate inventory reports showing the materials that aren’t being used.   

Logistics and deliveries 

Accurate planning can help you see how customer demands will affect manufacturing demand. This is turns means transport can be reduced for deliveries as you’re not over ordering. Speaking of deliveries, ERP can help you schedule these and plan the best routes for speed and efficiency. This helps you cut down on carbon emissions but reducing fuel use and having fewer vehicles on the road for less time.  

Product life cycle and quality 

Defective products lead to waste and delays, making production less efficient. Some ERP systems can monitor product life cycle and trigger quality control inspections. In manufacturing you should be able to identify the equipment and plant and have control over its schedules. With that comes supply chain optimisation. ERP systems can streamline your supply chain, improving collaboration with suppliers and reducing inventory lifetime to reduce carbon footprint. 

Summary 

Sustainability is now at the forefront of any new construction taking place. Pressure from the public means Government is taking interest and making legislation to ensure that the construction industry (and all industries) plan for a sustainable future. The easiest way to do this is with the help of technology. For construction, ERP could be central to that. It can help streamline processes and plan logistics, cutting down on potential wastage or long journeys that could be avoided. ERP also means that information is maintained in one central database, accessible from anywhere (if it’s on the Cloud). Sustainability isn’t going away, adopting sustainable practises means that construction businesses can be allies to the environment and increase profits and competitive advantage. 

Want to learn more?

Read More

Material Shortages continue in Construction

19 October 2022

Find out more about the materials shortages in construction, what materials are affected and how ERP can help

What is Data Warehousing and why do you need it? 

7 September 2022

With Data Warehousing you can enhance your data, save time and make better business decisions. Find out how, read the full blog.

Flexible working in Construction 

3 August 2022

Flexible working is the new buzzword in employment. But is it something that can work in the Construction industry? Read our blog to find out

Calculating Return on Investment of a Project

27 July 2022

Read more...