The relationship between construction and climate change
Climate change sits firmly at the top of the agenda for 2020. Whether you’re working in retail, development or government there is no escaping this crucial issue as consumers increasingly prioritise it. Construction is an industry that has a lot to contribute to the climate change discussion, from more sustainable structural design to reducing the impact of building supply chains on the environment. In any discussion about climate change, the construction industry has an important role to play.
A new priority for the industry
Given the wealth of data available about climate change now it’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s an urgent issue. For example, more than 100 structural engineering firms have now signed ‘climate emergency’ declaration that seeks to get the whole of the construction sector to acknowledge the current situation and take steps to create a positive response. There are a number of key ways in which the relationship between construction and climate change could be improved.
Implementing more effective energy efficiency monitoring programmes
For example, the Better Building Partnership’s Design for Performance initiative – currently very effectively used in Australia – has been suggested as an alternative to the UK’s BREEAM certification process. The system evaluates buildings on design and makes it easier to accommodate climate change issues thanks to scrutiny on carbon use and a general rule that sustainable structures are also more economical to build.
A new focus on transparency
8000+ companies globally now disclose data to the Carbon Disclosure Project, often as a result of a customer request. This makes it easier to identify those businesses that are hitting sustainability targets and puts the pressure on those that are not.
Commitments to reduce emissions
Around 8% of overall global CO2 emissions come from the production of steel and concrete, for example. Many companies are now making commitments to reduce emissions, such as the huge concrete manufacturer Heidelberg Cement, and this is starting to change the way that the industry views existing operations. It’s important that companies that are making commitments like this have their targets checked – and this approach can also be incentivised, for example by the requirement to submit annual reports.
Bringing contractors in to the discussion
Climate emergency declarations have been made by some groups within the sector – such as engineers and architects – but not by contractors. Many contractors have set individual targets of their own and there is a sense of momentum in terms of introducing changes that could make a difference to the climate change discussion.
Sub-contractors, too, have yet to fully get on board and this can reduce the overall impact that the sector is making in terms of sustainable efforts. Ensuring that all professions within the construction industry are included in the conversation is going to be key to improving the relationship between construction and climate change in future.
Climate change and sustainability issues can be tough for businesses in the construction sector to tackle. However, there is currently a great deal of motivation to do so as more organisations begin to recognise just how crucial this topic has become.
At The RG Group, we take our corporate responsibility seriously. Find out how we promote sustainability here.