For years, the construction industry has worked hand in hand with the government and private sector to mitigate climate change. We all know that while this industry plays a critical role in Australia’s economy, it’s also a top producer of waste and embodied carbon – but that’s changing, thanks to the continuous adoption and innovation of sustainable building techniques. The construction industry is making strides towards green building and sustainable practices to mitigate climate change. Green building initiatives such as net zero building allow for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and create an environmentally sustainable sector.
Construction is considered a priority industry in Australia because it’s a leading provider of jobs and an essential component of economic development. Just think roads, bridges, and commercial buildings, which are central to day-to-day economic activity. In order to support green building initiatives, governments and organizations have begun to incentivize green construction projects. These incentives can range from tax credits and grants to green building certification programs. By taking advantage of these initiatives, the construction industry is able to reduce its environmental impact while still providing high-quality buildings and infrastructure.
Benefits of green construction
Green or sustainable construction encompasses not just the construction process but also the building’s future utility and energy consumption; in other words, a building’s entire life cycle, from planning and construction to maintenance and deconstruction. With this wide impact range, it’s easy to understand that green building affects not just the environment but also people and the economy.
- Environmental benefits – Focused on conserving resources, green construction helps contractors save water, electricity, fuel, and other construction materials. Also, only consuming what’s necessary and giving the environment enough time to recover significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and protects natural resources. Advanced waste management systems help prevent land, water, and air pollution.
- Health benefits – Sustainable development highlights reducing chemicals and including more natural and sustainable materials in the design. This helps improve a building’s indoor air quality, even with little help from air conditioning and fumigation, preventing respiratory illnesses and depression among employees and tenants. Consequently, this translates to increased productivity and reduced absenteeism.
- Economic benefits – Owners of green buildings claim they make significant operating and maintenance cost savings due to this new construction approach. Specifically, a carbon neutral building features easy-to-maintain retrofits and facilities, which also help increase their resale value. While it costs more to construct a green building than a conventional one, it guarantees enormous savings in the long run, making it the ideal approach for long-term, large-scale land development projects.
Forces driving green construction
Green development is more than just a new trend in construction that everyone should follow. Instead, it is one of the multitudes of practical responses to growing environmental concerns. Enough science-based awareness has been raised on climate change that state governments were compelled to pass laws and regulations on climate change mitigation and legislate them across all industries, including the construction industry.
Even today, new laws are being created and existing ones updated to keep the momentum. In fact, a recent climate bill includes cutting emissions by at least 43% by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. This heightened awareness is stirring all sectors of society, not only the business sector. More and more people are gradually embracing an eco-friendly lifestyle, which manifests in their growing interest in products and services with green certification. The ever increasing demand for green building has been a major driving force of the net zero building trend.
Construction companies are heavily invested in green technology integration not only because they wish to comply with climate laws but also because it offers them and their clients some economic advantages. Green construction may be expensive at first, but it pays off eventually. Plus, cost does not concern clients who want to participate in the campaign, as they know the long-term benefits. Besides, construction costs are expected to dwindle as materials become more accessible, and competition picks up.
The role of digital technology in construction sustainability
An aspect of climate change action often downplayed is adaptation. Society is so fixated on mitigating climate change that it forgets that part of the endeavour is to acclimate, assuming it cannot be completely reversed. One solution that has both mitigation and adaptation qualities is digital technology. Incorporated in construction, it can become a valuable tool for optimising green building. Here’s how digital technology can contribute to construction sustainability.
- Instant collaboration and complete project oversight – Construction projects depend heavily on well-managed collaboration. This means fostering open communication within teams and enabling teamwork both onsite and offsite. This can be achieved by adopting digital solutions such as PlanRadar. This software make working together easier than ever by providing a platform where all key players in the construction project can collaborate efficiently. It also provides real-time analytics that allow complete project oversight at any stage of the build, which ultimately increases a construction site’s energy efficiency.
- Streamline processes through automation and increased accessibility – Digital blueprints and tables with calculation and analytics programming increases data accuracy, which in turn reduces waste-generating errors. Also, with all data in one place, accessing information can be done anywhere and on any device. This means distance and accessibility are no longer barriers in document processing and command execution.
- Quicker response to incidents – Construction sites are prone to accidents due to inherent safety hazards. Accidents such as fire, chemical leaks, and collapsing structures can significantly contribute to pollution. By using a digital project management platform, construction companies can immediately respond to accidents and prevent them from destroying assets, adding to construction waste, and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
- Make construction sites and building facilities smart – Another way to automate a construction site or finished building is by using digital twins. This can be integrated with the BIM model to provide an additional layer of information about the structure. And it’s not just any other layer, but one that’s linked to sensors programmed to detect specific changes in their environment. For instance, if the sensors notice a particular area is unoccupied for an extended period, the system can automatically shut off the lights to save energy.
A hopeful proposition—make green the norm
Cost and lack of visibility are two key challenges of green building adoption. Even though it’s already part of the building code in most countries, many construction companies still struggle to comply because of the entailing costs. Plus, monitoring sustainable practices also requires resources to yield data-driven insights into the effectiveness of sustainable construction.
Nevertheless, most technological advancements intended for climate change mitigation are helping to resolve these challenges and clear the path to green construction’s full adoption. Once the technology and techniques for harnessing renewable energy become accessible to everyone, the real transformation will begin.
The developments we’re seeing in cities like Singapore, Vienna, and Madrid will become the norm. In fact, three of our cities – Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne – are among the top five most sustainably led cities according to the Knight Frank Asia Pacific Sustainably Led Cities Index.
Digital technology will continue to play a critical role in this transformation and will undergo its own evolution. Construction project management software like PlanRadar will become integral to all construction operations, ensuring each project is optimised for sustainability.