A Guide to Sustainable Construction in 2023

A Guide to Sustainable Construction in 2023

Construction Workers Viewing ScreenInclement weather, hazardous landscapes and climate change are problematic for the construction industry, and the general UK population, meaning a solution for more sustainable infrastructure is urgently needed. Alongside the UK Government’s plans to reduce 100% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, there is increased pressure to decarbonise private and public construction projects during the design and procurement stages.

For construction businesses, adopting a sustainable approach must start from the outset. Planning, design and procurement, alongside transport, shipment delivery and manufacturing, will need to reduce emissions whilst also considering resilience criteria that ensure a building is robust enough to adapt. Using ERP software can support you in keeping track of sustainable targets while recording expenditures and resources.

What must you do to achieve sustainability within your construction organisation and projects?

What is Sustainable Construction?

Sustainable construction reduces the industry’s CO2 emissions whilst producing infrastructure resilient to climate change. Sustainable construction involves considering the following elements:

  • Utilising renewable and recyclable materials throughout the building stage
  • Ensuring renewable energy, carbon neutral or emissions-free couriers are used to deliver materials
  • Reducing or completely removing on-site waste with the potential to reuse certain materials
  • Providing a duty of care to the local environment by protecting natural habitats, leaving them undisturbedConsidering and producing buildings that are resilient to potential climate
  • change risks, such as flooding and heatwaves

Why is Sustainable Construction Important?

Construction Workers StandingWith environmental benefits from responsible sourcing and reduced emissions, sustainable construction offers futureproofing and continuity for construction businesses. Announced at COP26, the built environment is classed as a climate-critical solution that requires prioritising. With the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Minister welcoming this focus, greater emphasis will be put on construction companies to reduce and review their emissions.

As well as minimising greenhouse gases to support the UK Government in meeting Net Zero Targets, the construction industry will also provide resilient homes and infrastructure that stand the test of climate change. With climate change becoming an overarching factor, infrastructure will need to thrive in the form of resilient buildings that are adept for the future.

Why is Construction Such a Focus for Sustainability?

Construction and infrastructure are some of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases. The construction industry is responsible for approximately 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions, with construction producing around 50m tonnes of CO2. By 2030, the UK has outlined it will reduce emissions by 68%, which requires significant input from construction companies.

Sustainable construction is now vital for companies bidding on government contracts worth over £5 million. Under PPN 06/21, organisations must commit to achieving Net Zero in the UK by 2050, agree to report their current emissions and deliver pre-existing environmental management measures. To ensure business continuity, sustainable construction targets and processes must be in place.

From decarbonising your supply chain to investing in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), these steps offer operational efficiencies and sustainable benefits for infrastructure projects. ERP systems are great indication tools to help companies understand their use of sustainable materials whilst measuring if sustainable construction targets are being met.

Example of Sustainable Construction

Imagine boasting an 80% reduction in carbon emissions. Sustainable construction can be so much more than government emission targets and resilient infrastructure. To the extreme, they can be used to live smart without the need for utility bills or to work in an environment which is powered by renewable energy.

The Co-operative Group’s main headquarters is one example of sustainable construction taken to the maximum. Coined One Angel Square, the building is rated as Outstanding under BREEAM criteria, with an energy performance certificate of A+. Their methods and energy-saving features reduce carbon emissions by 80% and energy consumption by 50%, paving the way for businesses looking to future-proof.

Construction materials, such as exposed concrete, ensure that One Angel Square absorbs heat. In turn, its use means that minimal energy is required to cool the building on hot days. Even after construction, it utilises biodiesel, made from rapeseed oil, to power the building with heat and electricity. In addition, it utilises architectural design, such as its open atrium, to create natural heating and lighting too.

How to Make Construction Sustainable

Sustainable construction can start to be achieved through smaller stages within your organisation, such as automating financial processes and can develop further into more conscious choices, such as working with like-minded partners and contractors who share the same values.

1. Careful Material Choice

Responsible resourcing and utilising more renewable versus recyclable materials are excellent solutions when it comes to sustainable construction. With the Building Safety Act, decision-making and procurement processes for resources will be scrutinised, meaning ultimate transparency is required. Companies will need clear documentation of information, including material choices and design schematics to ensure infrastructure is safe and resilient.

Using an ERP will assist in increasing information visibility, especially when using the tool for analysis or comparison. As organisations will also need to work towards the UK Government’s Net Zero Targets too, ERPs offer an excellent record-keeping solution for sustainable construction. Statistics such as renewable materials and energy consumption are able to be recorded.

2. Work to ISO 14001 & ISO 50001

The criteria and certification for an environmental management system are set out by ISO 14001. Additionally, businesses may also want to evidence their commitment to addressing their impact and conserving resources through ISO 50001. For the support of construction projects, it provides requirements with accompanying guidance around dealing with environmental systems and energy management that could be affected by the work undertaken.

Companies certified to ISO 14001 have taken the steps to obtain certification by setting carbon measurement and reduction targets, including planned development for further reduction and public commitments to carbon neutrality. With Government-based projects also restricted to certain construction firms, many businesses will want to achieve ISO 50001 certification to be eligible for more notorious building projects.

3. Digitise Paper Processes

Reducing the amount of paper used throughout building projects is an easy way to start making sustainable changes. With computerised reporting and companies, like RedSky, able to offer a cohesive digital network for files and records, it’s a simple transition.

These tools and methods also afford greater convenience for analysis. ERP systems can offer quick access to budget breakdowns, analysis of materials and plant types, as well as worker allocations, allowing a seamless paper-free environment.

4. Build a Sustainable Supply Chain

Simply resourcing renewable materials is not enough for sustainable construction, especially if your suppliers aren’t committed to making changes themselves. Every aspect of the supply chain must adhere to or be prepared to evaluate its processes, working towards Net Zero Targets in the same way.

A GRN register can also assist, especially during the construction accounts payable process. As well as maximising efficiency, RedSky’s software matches purchase orders against supplier invoices. Not only does this remove paper GRNs for you, but it also digitises the process for your suppliers too.

5. Switch to Renewable Alternatives Where Possible

Using carbon-neutral couriers for worksite deliveries or facilitating the use of biofuels and solar panels are ways to switch towards more renewable sources. Investing in or renting machinery that utilises biodiesels, such as hydrogenated vegetable oil, offers construction workers a more sustainable plant and tools across sites. Likewise, procuring carbon-neutral couriers can significantly reduce your carbon expenditures as an organisation.

Legislation on Sustainable Construction

Construction Workers Looking At ChecklistIncluded as a main focus for COP26, the UK Government is putting forward measures that support reduced emissions within the construction industry. With ISO 14001, ISO 50001, PPN 06/21 and PAS 2060 already recognised, it provides an incentive for organisations to measure and adjust their environmental impact, especially when bidding for, or designing, high-profile contracts.

One such example can be seen through government contracts worth over £5 million. For companies wishing to bid on central government contracts, they’ll need to commit to achieving net zero by 2050. PPN 06/21 requires an organisation to detail their current greenhouse gas emissions through a Carbon Reduction Plan. Achieving ISO 50001 certification will also assist firms in proving they are committed to measuring and addressing their environmental impact. Without these details visible, companies will miss major opportunities to earn.

To protect natural habitats, the Environment Act 2021 was established to deliver impactful targets to improve on issues such as waste reduction and resource efficiency. Construction bodies will need to thoroughly investigate their own processes, as well as suppliers, to ensure waste regulation is carried out. Procurement will also need to follow resource efficiency requirements when sourcing materials for worksites.

These will also need to coexist with the Building Safety Act. The built environment industry must deliver safer, high-quality infrastructure that is resistant to climate change and adopts sustainability processes, thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Discover RedSky’s ERP System to Help You Achieve and Track Sustainability Goals

At RedSky, we deliver construction software that supports organisations with tracking, record-keeping and data analysis. See for yourself how effective our ERP system is when it comes to tracking and maintaining your sustainability targets.

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