Green Sky Thinking: Can construction really be sustainable?

Posted on Jul 30 2015 - 8:05am by John Peters
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The construction industry has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only if it is open to innovation and change with a more holistic approach.

68% of construction professionals think not enough is being done to reduce carbon emissions in the industry, said a report from the Construction Industry Council. This finding comes as no surprise to the panelists at the Green Sky Thinking event in London where they posed the question, “Can construction really be sustainable?”

The panel of industry experts tackled this golden question, discussing the development of innovative products, the role of codes and standards and how to embed sustainability throughout projects and company strategy.

David Ball, Founder and Chairman of David Ball Group, an award-winning manufacturing company creating products for the global construction industry, sat on the panel at the debate and said that while the construction industry acknowledges something must be done, the time to act is now.

He said “The recent EU climate change package gives us 15 years to right the wrongs of decades of damage and destruction and cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. For these emissions targets to be met we must look to each and every industry for potential savings. The construction industry is one such area that can support these changes.”

Currently the production of cement is the third highest man-made producer of CO2, after transportation and energy and the construction industry spends trillions on the refurbishment and maintenance of buildings to make them more efficient.

David said that “The construction industry has already taken steps to achieve this, with green innovations developing throughout the industry. Both the cement and concrete industries are at the forefront of this drive to a more sustainable legacy from the built environment.

“As an industry, we need to start looking at solutions holistically. Instead of ‘chasing’ a single sustainability metric like embedded carbon, we need to look to the carbon of the buildings life, from creation all the way through to demolition. Introducing standards in this area is essential to ensure this change in behaviour. “

Investment groups also recognise that construction plays a large role in sustainability. A recent study by Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing suggested that 71% of the population are interested in sustainable investment; however individual investors have a positive, but conflicted, view of sustainable investing.

The green economy has a significant growth potential, especially for those in the construction sector. Building analysts have suggested that they expect building revenue to rise by 23% annually in the next three years, and have predicted that it will be worth 290 billion dollars by 2017. The growing demand for green building projects presents companies with an opportunity, to generate additional revenue streams, if green construction is one of its core capabilities. Latest studies also confirmed increased revenue from sustainable structures; therefore this is a genuine driver for the construction industry to adopt sustainable practices.

David believes that the construction industry is dedicated to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, with the cement industry alone improving its Climate Change Agreement performance by 33% over 1990 energy levels by using alternative fuels. But there needs to be a holistic approach if current practices are to change. “The debate was a great opportunity for industry leaders across the various sectors to come together to voice their opinions. It was also excellent to see active planning for the future by working together to come up with potential solutions to solve the problem.”

The panel of industry experts tackled this golden question, discussing the development of innovative products, the role of codes and standards and how to embed sustainability throughout projects and company strategy.

The panel of industry experts tackled this golden question, discussing the development of innovative products, the role of codes and standards and how to embed sustainability throughout projects and company strategy.

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