As we have already discussed in previous posts, the need for the UK's construction industry to be more proactive in its environmental sustainability measures is growing. Pressure is increasing to comply with government targets and to identify and implement innovative measures for reducing carbon emissions in the built environment.
We recently polled our LinkedIn following to determine what decarbonomics measure is likely to have the greatest impact, and a staggering 45% of respondents identified sustainable materials as being the key to shaping our industry and reducing our environmental impact.
What is decarbonomics?
Decarbonomics is the term applied to creating Net Zero communities, using a data-driven and systems-level approach. By applying decarbonomics practices, using next-gen technologies and considering the whole life impact of a build during its concept phase, it is possible to build with sustainability in mind, reducing the carbon emissions from the built environment and creating structures that are designed and built to stand the test of time.
What are sustainable materials?
Sustainable building materials fall into four categories:
1. Those that are reused from existing structures on site. This includes reusing good quality brick, stone and timber from demolished structures rather than buying new.
2. Reclaimed materials that require minimal processing. This involves reusing good quality build materials that were not already on site.
3. Manufactured materials which are predominantly derived from recycled content. This includes concrete that is made with recycled crushed aggregates.
4. Materials that have a naturally low embodied carbon and minimal environmental impact. This includes sustainably harvested timber and other materials that have been independently accredited as being responsibly sourced.
Why are sustainable materials so important?
Using sustainable materials is not only better for the planet, but it could have a marked impact on the way in which modern, future-proof buildings are designed and built. By taking the time to fully consider the long-term impact of any new build during the concept phase, it is possible to make ecologically sound choices which will not only reduce carbon emissions and help construction companies achieve their green targets but will have a raft of other benefits.
Benefits of sustainable materials
1. They will create a healthier environment for the future occupants of the building.
Sustainable materials tend to be made from non-toxic materials, therefore they emit fewer harmful chemicals, which contributes to healthier indoor environments for building occupants.
2. They will be more efficient to heat and ventilate.
In general, sustainable materials have better insulation properties than their traditional counterparts, meaning that buildings that are constructed with sustainable materials tend to require less energy for heating and cooling, which leads to impressive energy savings and a reduced level of greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Less waste generated.
By choosing to invest in sustainable materials, construction companies are encouraged to consider the whole-life implications of their projects. This helps them to not only select the most appropriate materials for their build but also to order the correct quantities, minimising the amount of waste that is consigned to landfill and reducing their costs.
4. Conserve resources for future generations.
Sustainable materials are designed to last the test of time, and when used appropriately and in a considered manner, it is possible to safeguard stocks to ensure that the materials that future generations require are in a healthy position to be harvested as required.
Incentive to use sustainable materials
Many construction companies are already using sustainable materials in their builds. Indeed, it is a key requirement for achieving BREEAM certification, a standard that is rapidly becoming more prevalent and desirable, in particular for commercial buildings.
With increased public and governmental pressure to evolve and change building techniques to adapt to a modern and sustainable world, using materials such as bamboo, recycled steel, and low-VOC paints is not only a good thing to do for the planet but could set a company apart from the competition in terms of its reputation and profitability.
The future of sustainable materials
Moving forward, it is crucial that the construction industry continues to explore and embrace the materials, techniques and technologies that will allow it to fulfil its vision of a sustainable and environmentally responsible future.
We at Build Space are excited to see what the future brings and are sure that the UK's dedicated and passionate construction industry will be at the forefront of some exciting new innovations.