Are We on the Road to Sustainable Construction?

By consuming resources and creating pollutants and wastes, the construction of buildings and infrastructure has a dramatic effect on the environment. According to a report by the Willmott Dixon Group, around half of all global energy usage can be attributed to the construction industry. Similarly, an estimated 60% of the total usage of raw materials, 50% of landfill wastes, and 23% of air pollution is the byproduct of construction. If construction and design firms are serious about improving the life span of our environment, they will need to address these problems sooner rather than later.

Changing Trends

That is not to say that changes aren’t already on the way though. Having analysed over 100 businesses to see if they are transparent and informative when it comes to using sustainable timber, a report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that the construction industry is one of the leaders when it comes to building a future without deforestation. This means that not only have companies made public commitments to improving their environmental standards, but there is also visible evidence to back up these claims. Around 60% of the global supply of timber is used in construction, so ensuring a sustainable timber market is crucial to the future of the industry.

Another way construction companies can improve in this aspect of their business is to work with specialists like OCS Environmental Services and Veolia to better recycle and reuse unwanted goods. A recent government report shows that this trend is well underway, and that the UK’s construction waste recovery rate was an impressive 86.5% in 2012. This was already 16.5% higher than the EU’s target for the UK to meet by 2020.

New Technologies

Creating a world of sustainable architecture is not possible out of good will alone though. Having the right tools are crucial to getting the job done right, after all. Construction and design firms will need the help of the latest technologies to make this a reality. One such solution is to take advantage of the way the next generation is incorporating computer simulations into the design process. This is taking construction out of the restrictions inherent in bricks and mortar and into the new digital world. Traditionally, building design was largely reliant upon two-dimensional technical drawings. This meant that any errors or miscalculations may only have been discovered once construction of the structure was already well under way.

However, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, these days may now be a thing of the past. Building information modeling (BIM) is defined as “a digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of a facility.” This process means it’s now possible to create a digital 3D model of the finished structure so that whether you’re building a hospital in Papua New Guinea or a skyscraper in Dubai you’ll be able to understand how the building behaves long before construction actually begins.

While the construction industry has a long way to go until it’s sustainable, the right developments have hopefully been put in place so we can see drastic improvements in the near future. In order for this to be a successful endeavour, though, in needs the support of everyone in the industry.