As the global population continues to work towards building a more sustainable future for our planet, there has never been a more important time for those in construction to understand the impact their work is having on the both the environment and the societies in which we operate – so understanding your carbon footprint is essential.

In its simplest form, a carbon footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by operations – including the construction process, transportation, and materials used. And, there are several common issues on construction sites in relation to sustainability — including energy consumption, waste generation, and material sourcing — but solving them doesn’t have to cost the earth.

At Agilité, we’re in the process of calculating how much carbon we’re emitting on our sites — through the use of materials, energy, and the waste we produce — to benchmark where we are, and how we could offset that amount through other projects, to achieve carbon neutrality.

Only by understanding, and therefore trying to proactively reduce our usage and reliance on some of the main producers of greenhouse gases — such as sand, water, other raw materials, as well as the high levels of power needed to operate a site — can we start to evaluate renewable and more sustainable alternatives.

For example, energy consumption can be reduced by swapping to energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems during construction, as well as using renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, to power the site.

As construction sites also generate a lot of waste — including generic debris, product packaging, and other materials — proper waste management practices, such as separation of waste, composting, reuse and recycling, can help reduce surpluses.

We know that sourcing sustainable materials can be challenging, particularly if it’s not a part of the client’s budget (read more in our ‘sustainable supply chain guide’) but it’s essential to reduce the negative impact of construction on the planet. Where possible, though, it’s important to use recycled or locally-sourced products — and choose materials that have a lower environmental impact.

That’s why understanding your carbon footprint and implementing sustainable practices on construction sites is essential for reducing the harmful impact of construction on the planet.

It’s no secret that the construction industry is largely responsible for the carbon footprint of UK businesses. In April 2022, sobering statistics from Bimhow revealed that the industry contributes to: 

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way – and the onus is on us as business owners to make better decisions. Much of this comes down to the supply chain, leveraging transparency and visibility, and working with sustainable suppliers. 

It’s a topic that we discuss at length in our latest report, Conscious Construction: Building a Sustainable Supply Chain. Here, our senior project manager Antonio Borges shares his tips for sustainable store concepts and materials – without breaking the bank. 

 

Power down

Construction projects aren’t running 24 hours a day – and neither should your power. Powering down temporary installations such as lighting can save up to 5 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. 

 

Source sustainable materials 

Working with recycled or recyclable materials reduces our reliance on new production. Educating yourself on factors like the four main types of plastics and looking for credentials such as ISO 14001 will guide decision-making. 

 

Seek robust solutions 

Not only should materials be sustainable; they should be robust. Consider the long-term impact of the materials you use. For example, investing in hardwood flooring once will have less impact than continually reflooring a retail store. 

 

Plan your project space wisely 

The space itself should be designed efficiently, with zones to encourage free movement rather than staying in one place. This will help to disperse energy equally, and without waste. 

 

Encourage a lean approach 

When signing up to work with any new supplier, always enquire about lean materials. A value engineering approach will help to use fewer materials without compromising the overall look and feel of the project. 

 

Reduce the impact of your deliveries 

By grouping deliveries, you can save on journeys and reduce emissions. Bulk ordering materials to the site will decrease mileage, as will working with local suppliers. According to the World Economic Forum, last-mile deliveries will contribute to some of the largest increases in carbon emissions by 2030. 

 

Think about reusing space 

Demolition is a huge factor in the footprint of the construction sector – contributing 0.004 to 0.1kg of CO2 per kg of concrete material. Reusing elements in an existing space will lessen our reliance on demolition.  

 

Use smart technology to reduce energy consumption 

Smart control systems offer a holistic dashboard of analytics to identify where energy is being used – and crucially, where it’s being wasted. Keeping an eye on these analytics will help to drive costs down and maintain lower emissions. 

 

Lower temperatures for better energy efficiencies 

Lower temperatures work wonders for energy consumption. The UK alone has the potential to save 1.18 million tonnes of CO2 per year by turning down thermostats by just 1C.  

 

Use local suppliers 

With transportation accounting for 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions, it pays to use local suppliers. Once again, optimising deliveries in bulk will reduce mileage, while it’s also advisable to work with greener logistics teams where possible. 

 

Find out more in our latest report 

Creating a more sustainable supply chain doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Even making the smallest changes can have a huge impact – it all starts with education. For more insights, download our free copy of Conscious Construction: Building a Sustainable Supply Chain today.

 

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