The industry isn’t quite there yet, but with the increased interest and innovation in sustainability, coupled with tougher targets from policy makers, we’re closer than ever
2017 marked 10 years since the launch of the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC). In those years, the construction industry has come a long way, making advances towards sustainability through an increased awareness within the industry of environmental impact, as well as technological progress and innovation.
However, it’s important to remember that there is still a great deal of progress to be made. Even now, much of the UK’s waste comes from construction, demolition and excavation, and there remains a huge amount of scope for sustainable development in 2018. With further collaboration across the industry as a whole, this could well be construction’s greenest year yet.
The stage has already been set for a greener year in British construction, with the announcement of the Government’s UK Clean Growth strategy, and increased pressure from governing bodies and interest groups to build more sustainably.
Unless the industry as a whole starts to engage with the green agenda, much of its impact will be lost
Consequently, we’re likely to see a tightening of regulations throughout the industry, with the UK GBC calling for reviews of existing building standards, and a move towards tighter standards when it comes to sustainability in the long-term. Crucially, these efforts are beginning to feel as if they hold the weight needed to secure lasting change.
An important piece of this puzzle is the updated London Plan which includes calls for new developments to conform to more stringent environmental regulations. The updated plan, due to be published in its final form later this year, will see London commit to achieving construction, demolition and excavation waste recycling rates of 95% by 2020. This would be a huge reduction and is such an ambitious target that firms large and small will struggle to comply without making major changes to their sustainability practices.
It’s not the first time that moves like these have been made, but with calls for innovation coming from all directions, weight policy changes in the works, and demand for new developments greater than ever before, it’s looking as though 2018 will bring with it a new generation of low-carbon buildings. I envisage that the leading British firms will use 2018 to review and refresh their green policies, lest they be left scrambling to meet the new expectations and regulations that 2020 and beyond will bring. This will take the form of investing in new technologies and company infrastructures, exploring new supply partnerships, and introducing updated systems and processes with which to train staff and sub-contractors.
The London Plan, the Clean Growth strategy and a flexing of muscles from the UK GBC could just provide the perfect combination of factors needed to force companies to start making changes fit for the long-term
As with most evolutions when it comes to sustainability, incumbent policies and practices within firms will only change when the businesses in question are pushed towards innovations. Despite the raft of evidence about the economic benefits of going green (not to mention the moral argument), it’s hard to encourage people to divert from the status quo when the incentives are all carrot and no stick. The London Plan, the Clean Growth strategy and a flexing of muscles from the UK GBC could just provide the perfect combination of factors needed to force companies to start making changes fit for the long-term.
It’s therefore important that we review all of our business practices and start to make changes before the decisions are taken out of our hands. Recognising that sustainability can actually be a cost-effective and commercially viable option, particularly when it comes to waste materials, is the first step on that journey and a narrative that many of our sector’s decision makers are waking up to.
Because unless the industry as a whole starts to engage with the green agenda, much of its impact will be lost. The key to sustainable developments having the most impact is through collaboration throughout the entire supply chain and amongst contractors and subcontractors. Without collaboration throughout the industry, the efforts of a single sector or contractor risk being lost. 2018 therefore feels ripe for this type of cross-sector progress.
To ensure this happens, the duty of ensuring that projects are completed in the greenest way possible should not be limited to an individual role. Although some companies might have an individual fulfilling the role of ‘head of sustainability’, for example; sustainability needs to be embraced and executed by every operative involved. At ITC, sustainability has been embraced at every level of the company. It’s something we encourage from the moment a new team member walks through the door. Since collaborative working has become much more of a hot topic within the industry, being valued for its efficiency and as an effective way of reducing waste, it’s likely that we could really start to see the positive effects of ‘collaborative sustainable thinking’ on a larger scale this year.
The real objective is that sustainability and greener building will become so integrated into all the processes of construction that it will be business as usual. The industry isn’t quite there yet, but with the increased interest and innovation in sustainability, coupled with tougher targets from policy makers, we’re closer than ever. It will take a collaborative effort, but it’s all lining up for 2018 to be construction’s greenest year yet.
Tony Smith is director at ITC Concepts