Environmental disruption and usage of energy and resources are two significant issues that, until a few decades ago, weren’t taken very seriously in the construction industry. But now that concerns over the depletion of natural resources and the impact of climate change have grown too big to ignore, we’re beginning to see improvements in the methods used by construction firms worldwide.
And this is not just a proactive response that may relapse when trends suddenly change. Governments are revamping building regulations to ensure the shift into efficient and eco-friendly construction will be permanent and scalable. For instance, Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC) has recently gone through a three-year amendment cycle to lean toward innovation and sustainability. This collective effort by all key players in urban development has led to the advent of ‘sustainable construction’, and it is reshaping the world as we know it.
What is sustainable construction?
In 1987, the United Nations published the Brundtland Report, in which the term ‘sustainable development’ was coined. While the report covers all aspects of economic and social development, it’s apparent where sustainable development applies the most – the construction industry. After all, construction is responsible for 40 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Following the definition given to sustainable development—the ability to meet the needs of all people in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own—we can safely say sustainable construction is about being able to continue building structures without damaging the environment. The terms ‘green construction’ and ‘green building’ were all born from the fact that this initiative ultimately benefits the environment.
The construction waste problem
Reducing construction waste is one of the primary goals of sustainable construction, and it’s no simple task. Currently, construction waste accounts for 16.8 per cent of all the waste produced in Australia annually. Even though 76 per cent of that is recycled, the leftover that ends up in landfill is still staggering.
Meanwhile, only 70 per cent of construction materials are used in each project. The rest is scrapped. Construction waste is even greater in projects where demolishing existing structures is necessary. With sustainable construction, which involves reducing, recycling, and reusing materials, contractors can significantly lessen the construction waste sent to landfill.
Integrating sustainable practices into construction waste management demands accuracy and precision. Since sustainability is heavily absorbed into the NCC, compliance standards have become more complex. Many established contractors in Australia use PlanRadar to meet those standards through comprehensive tracking and reporting that provide real-time insights into material utility and waste management.
PlanRadar’s construction management software , which covers construction management, documentation and plans and BIM models, has helped countless Australian contractors successfully adopt lean construction methods and stay compliant with latest construction industry guidelines.
Understanding embodied energy in the construction process
Embodied energy is the total energy it takes to construct a building. This includes the fuel used to mine, manufacture, and transport all construction materials and run equipment. In other words, a construction project’s total carbon footprint. Sustainable construction addresses this problem in many ways:
- Utilizing sustainable building materials helps reduce mining and processing costs.
- Sourcing construction materials from places near the construction site also cuts down on fuel use.
- Implementing an efficient project management system helps prevent downtime.
- Adopting digital solutions, including PlanRadar, streamlines processes and fast-track decision-making and execution.
Reducing a building’s embodied energy to net zero remains unlikely because present construction still heavily relies on fossil fuels. But we’ve come a long way thanks to sustainable construction.
How sustainable construction is striking a balance
Net zero carbon construction doesn’t mean avoiding using materials with a carbon footprint altogether. Instead, it means combining innovation and dependence on sustainable resources to offset the energy required to build and operate a structure.
For example, a house built using sustainable building methods will have features that can save enough energy throughout its lifetime to counterbalance (or even exceed) the energy used to build it. Simply put, not only does sustainable construction reduce embodied energy during construction, but it also reduces the energy consumption of the finished structure. That’s how it strikes a balance between building quality and energy conservation.
Apart from reducing on-site waste and embodied energy, sustainable construction has other distinct goals, which may also reflect its benefits:
- Build energy-efficient and comfortable structures.
- Promote the use of alternative energy sources.
- Protect the environment (both flora and fauna) during and after construction.
- Eliminate the need for toxic chemicals.
Sustainable construction will make residential buildings safer because they are built with eco-friendly materials. Occupants can also save a great deal of energy in the long run, especially when the latest additions to the NCC are applied during construction. Lastly, cohabitation with wildlife will be possible as the vegetation around construction sites will have better protection than ever.
Green living is growing in popularity faster than sustainable construction, meaning there’s more demand than supply. Those contractors who already use sustainable construction methods can leverage them to set their brand apart. The same goes for realtors and investment property owners who offer green buildings.
The challenges of sustainable construction
While sustainable construction is well on its way to full adoption in Australia, it’s still in the early stages. There are still many issues to address, including cost, evolving regulatory guidelines, slower adoption rate and reskilling workers with environmentally sustainable building materials and equipment. We’re at a phase where sustainable construction materials currently cost more to produce than traditional ones. Adoption should ideally take effect across the board, meaning manufacturing companies must invest in new equipment and facilities before demand settles down along with the prices.
Some regulatory changes have also modified essential parts of normal construction processes, compelling contractors to retrain their teams. This affects performance and quality assurance as everyone is new to the latest regulations. In addition, realtors new to green construction may need proper training on sustainability, including using real estate management software with green tech integration.
Wrap-up: going green at all stages of the project build
We were way past the point of no return when we started embracing green living. Sustainable construction is the future, and the future is now. If you run a construction company that still uses traditional construction methods or a real estate business that offers non-sustainable residential or commercial spaces, you are missing out on great opportunities.
Of course, sustainability should start with your own processes. Using the correct construction, real estate, or property management software could mean the difference between a well-executed project and a defective one. PlanRadar is the way to go if you want to streamline your operation and scale up your business. Start your 30-day free PlanRadar trial, or contact us to find out how PlanRadar can help position your business for success in a sustainable world.