Blog Type, IPT Blog, Industry Sector, Ethics & Sustainability | October 2016

Construction: Building a More Sustainable Future

With nearly half of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment, it remains vital for the construction industry to create and redevelop buildings to be more sustainable and energy efficient. Continued innovation and investment within the sector has led to the development of new construction methods, such as offsite modular manufacturing, 3D printing, and recyclable aggregates.

On Wednesday 19 October 2016, the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) hosted a breakfast meeting exploring the topic of building a more sustainable future. By bringing together academics, industry specialists and parliamentarians this meeting created a platform for discussion on optimising the energy consumption of buildings throughout their lifecycle. Throughout the discussion, two notable themes emerged, industry led innovation and workforce education.

Step Changes in the Industry
By investing in the development of aggregate materials, distribution systems and onsite technology, the UK construction sector has started to create new cost effective resources. Long term sustainability strategies such as the LafargeHolcim 2030 Sustainable Development Ambition are driving a commitment to ensure that by 2030 a third of all revenue will come from a portfolio of sustainable construction solutions.

This commitment to building a more sustainable future can be seen in recent developments throughout the UK. These developments include the construction of new Cycle Superhighways across London, with 82% of the new segregated kerb created from recycled materials and with an overall 30% lower carbon impact, and the development of the A1 to include tablet-based technology which will optimise the supply of materials. Aggregate Industries, a leading construction supplier, is consistently developing new methods through their research centres in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to offer a diverse portfolio of sustainable construction product and service solutions.

However, restoring and developing existing homes is a large, and often more difficult, aspect to increasing sustainability within the construction industry. It has been suggested that increased regulation of energy efficiency standards coupled with schemes to support retrofit efficiency measures such as external or cavity wall insulation, would help to make existing housing stock more sustainable. Consumers also have a large part to play in the development of sustainable buildings; increased demand for more eco-friendly materials, such as modern asphalt (which is 100% recyclable) and demand for higher performing energy efficient buildings constructed in concrete (which has high thermal mass properties, does not emit VOCs and is resilient, long lasting and recyclable at end of life), will drive business to invest in sustainable raw materials and construction solutions. Provision of a clear, stable legislative roadmap will support the construction industry’s confidence in investing in these areas for the benefit of everyone.    

Importance of Educating the Next Generation
Following the introduction of the Construction Apprenticeship Scheme (CAS), many companies have reported an 80% increase in their productivity to the Construction Industry Training Board. This change not only helps to close an existing gap in an aging workforce, but creates an opportunity for the industry to educate emerging talent on the issues and solutions to developing a more sustainable sector.

In order for the Scheme to be effective for the apprentices, the opportunity for employment needs to be maintained. The Shared Apprenticeship Scheme within CAS has helped to increase apprenticeship employment levels as the scheme enables an apprentice to work for more than one employer whilst training for their construction qualifications.

When deliberating how Government and industry can make construction projects more innovative and sustainable as a whole, it remains vital to continue to share information and knowledge across the scientific community and to further upskill existing site managers and staff to be reliable and sustainable employees. By developing the base knowledge of construction employees, as well as attracting and training future talent, the industry will be able to think more sustainably now and into the future.

Words written by Rioco Green, IPT and Donna Hunt, Aggregate Industries 

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