Construction is big business. The construction industry contributes around £117 billion to the UK economy, equating to 6% of the total economic output.

With considerable economic, social and political focus currently being on the sustainability of our country and the wider planet, it is clear that the construction industry has a big part to play in contributing to our overarching sustainability targets.

In this article, we take a look at the construction industry, the sustainability challenges it has and how it may seek to fix them.

The Challenge

With construction playing such a large part in our economy, it stands to reason that it contributes a large amount to the waste and pollution produced by the UK. In fact, some studies suggest that the construction industry could be, in one way or another, contributing 50% of climatic change, 40% of drinking water pollution, 50% of landfill waste and 23% of all air pollution.

These figures are concerning, to say the least. It is clear that as an industry, construction has much to do to lower their impact on the environment.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Until recent years most businesses didn’t take their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) all that seriously. It was often seen as a ‘nice to have’ which came an afterthought to almost all other business processes.

However, over the past few years, the government has started to set a number of ambitious targets in the sustainability space. These targets have seen the introduction of rules and regulations that businesses must follow.

But CSR isn’t just about meeting the government enforced guidelines. As social movements pick up traction, there is increasing pressure for businesses to take sustainability seriously. So much so, that a solid business strategy that focuses on sustainability has become a competitive factor in winning customers and recruiting the best talent.

Minimising Waste

Due to increasing demand for construction, such as new homes and industrial buildings, a considerable amount of waste is being produced by the construction industry every year.

The volume of waste is one issue which must be tackled. One way to approach this is by using renewable and environmentally friendly materials when undertaking new builds. Where this isn’t possible, a focus should be placed on ensuring that any materials used have a considerable lifespan to limit any need for replacement, therefore reducing waste.

This may be done by using reinforcement materials. For example, using steel mesh in concrete can seriously increase its strength and resistance to torque and twisting. Ultimately, this will increase its lifespan and limit any need for replacement.

In cases where building materials must be scrapped, having a thorough understanding of what can be recycled and how that can be done is paramount to reducing the environmental impact of this process. Many materials including wood, concrete bricks and blocks, glass, metals and plasterboard can all be recycled or reused in some way after they have served their primary purpose.

Sustainability is going to play a much bigger part in the construction industry in the coming years. This is a result of both political targets, as well as social pressures for businesses to take more responsibility for their impact on the environment.

Construction businesses who take the opportunity to take sustainability seriously from an early stage will develop a competitive advantage in leading the industry. This is crucial for continued success as customers and employees place more importance on sustainable factors.

By using the points we have highlighted in this article, you can begin to get a better understanding of the environmental impacts of your business and how you may be able to mitigate many of these with the correct planning and procedures.