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how can the construction industry design for sustainability?.

The Government recently announced that it was commissioning a review into its approach to net zero, as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a combination of other global factors which have changed the UK's economic environment since the strategy was originally published in 2021. The intention is to adapt the strategy where appropriate to minimise the impact on the public and to increase opportunities for financial growth. MP Chris Skidmore has been appointed as the review Chair and he has the task of ensuring that delivery of the UK's net zero target by 2050 does not place undue burdens on consumers and businesses.

At Build Space, we are passionate about embracing next-gen technologies and practices in order to drive efficiencies, and we believe that supporting the Government in meeting the net zero target is an important part of every business policy. To this end, we believe that the single greatest change that the UK's construction industry can make in order to play its part, is to design for sustainability.

It has long been recognised that the construction industry makes a significant impact on the environment, not only whilst construction is underway, but throughout the life of the building and even to the point at which it is decommissioned and demolished. Below, we consider ways in which the construction industry can accommodate long-term sustainability as a design aspiration for every future build. 

1. Use sustainable materials. Sustainable materials include recycled materials such as aggregates, metals and plastics, wood which has been sustainably harvested, and materials that have a low carbon footprint. Choosing to build with sustainable materials not only reduces the environmental impact of a build, but promotes a circular economy.

2. Reduce waste. If the planning stage is conducted thoroughly, the materials ordered should be commensurate with the requirements of the build, thereby generating very little waste. What waste that is generated should be recycled or reused where appropriate, and disposed of through the correct channels where it cannot be repurposed.

3. Use renewable energy. The construction industry is responsible for circa 3% of the UK's total annual energy usage. Reducing its reliance on the national grid and instead looking to alternative forms of power, such as solar and wind, could make a significant difference to the industry's carbon footprint.

4. Design for energy efficiency. Incorporating sufficient insulation and ventilation into buildings is essential for human health and reduces the cost of heating and cooling the building. It also reduces the cost of ongoing maintenance to address damp issues. Energy-efficient windows and lighting can provide optimal natural light, whilst water-saving taps can offer long-term cost savings. These benefits also offer an effective way of combating climate change.

5. Consider the life cycle of the building. When designing a building with sustainability in mind, you not only consider its initial purpose, but also ways in which it could be adapted and re-used in the future. Extending the life of a building not only reduces waste but minimises its environmental impact.

6. Implement green building standards. Prioritising sustainability at the design stage of construction projects is a key aim of green building standards such as LEED and BREEAM. Both frameworks are designed to improve the sustainability and performance of assets throughout their full life cycle, from concept to demolition. Implementing a standard such as these can guide an organisation in effectively delivering sustainability best practice.

These are by no means the only ways in which the construction industry can meet the challenges of the future. However, by incorporating one or more of these steps into the design and construction of your building projects, we believe that the construction industry will make great strides into reducing its environmental impact and supporting the UK government to deliver its challenging net zero targets. We believe in a sustainable future for all and look forward to doing our bit to help.

If your organisation is keen to improve its sustainability credentials, we can help you to achieve your aspirations by matching you with the appropriate talent to support you in developing your plans. We have access to a wide range of industry professionals on both permanent and freelance contracts who can support your business to implement best practice, roll out new processes and drive towards a more sustainable future.

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