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Top 4 Key Drivers of Sustainable Development in the Construction Industry


Top 4 Key Drivers of Sustainable Development in the Construction Industry and Built environment.

Climate change

  1. Carbon neutral living – homes, transport, data: introduce renewable net zero infrastructure such as clean energy or clean transport such as EV and electric rail. For homes try to build efficiently with net zero materials or refurbish buildings which will provide less harm to the environment than building new

  2. Resilience and adaptation: build new assets and infrastructure with future resilience in mind as more flooding and natural disaster will happen and assets need to withstand extra forces. Also, infrastructure has to be interdependent with each other

  3. Drought and water scarcity: minimize leakages of pipe networks and make them more efficient, as well as use smart management of water supply by controlling dam and riverways levels to be able to supply water all year long


  1. Affordable housing: promote developments of brownfield sites and provide affordable housing by refurbishing existing infrastructure or repurposing it

  2. Modern slavery: have full checks to comply with the health and safety and well-being of people working on construction sites on large projects through correct reporting of events and leadership

  3. Indigenous rights: creating accessible drinking water for everyone

  4. Fair opportunities and access for populations and minorities: creating links between different urban areas, increasing connectivity and access to jobs, such as regenerating parts of outer London by creating new stations.

Health and well-being

  1. Birds, bees, and green space: create green spaces in cities for the well-being of people but also to increase the biodiversity of areas and shelter animals. Also, build green bridges which allow animals to cross motorways

  2. Air quality (indoor and out): reduce congestion in cities by introducing more green transport such as rail or electric busses which subsequently improve air quality. Introduce green spaces and vehicle tolls to reduce traffic and improve the transport infrastructure in urban areas (e.g. London ULEZ Zones)

  3. Flexible working: allow people to work from home, which reduces the number of trips they take such as in private vehicles

  4. Food quality and security: incorporate flood defenses and drought protocols (water management) to protect food

Water and resources

  1. Single-use plastics: create recycling facilities

  2. Circular economy: The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended. In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum

  3. Use SuDS pond: Where rainfall lands on a surface, you can use source control sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) techniques to control run-off at, or close to, the source. This prevents pollutants from entering and contaminating watercourses


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Starting Point on how to decarbonize the built environment industry (Thinking shift)

Image from: BEAMA

  1. Build nothing – challenging the root cause of the need to build and exploring alternative options

  2. Build less – maximizing the use of existing assets to reduce the need to build new

  3. Build clever – minimizing resource consumption, using low-carbon materials

  4. Build efficiently – eliminating waste and embracing new construction technologies.

Most decisions on a construction project should be made sooner at the planning stage (RIBA Plan of Work Stages 0-3) before the design is completed and finalized as it is harder to change features in the construction stage due to high embodied carbon.

Build nothing

Challenge the root cause of the need to explore alternative approaches to achieve the desired outcome

  • Example: Giving people green spaces to improve air quality and water quality hence there is no need to build more hospitals. Reducing the possibility of people getting ill from the quality of life

  • Example: Build no motorways as the problem is not giving enough access but encouraging people to use public transport instead of private vehicles. A new motorway will not solve the congestion problem as demand will increase with the capacity increase introduced with the new motorway

Build less

Maximise the use of existing assets, optimise asset operation and management to reduce the extent of new construction required

  • Increase the usage of existing assets by efficient planning and optimization (eg. Such as hot desking of people going to the office, instead of an allocation seat)

  • Utilize the current assets with minimal new builds such as improving the timetable of railway services and introducing more trains where demand is high

  • Refurbishment of buildings instead of demolishing and building new as it can be more expensive

  • Use an old power plant to create office space (Battersea power station)

Build clever

Minimizing resource consumption, using low-carbon materials & smart design

  • Low-carbon materials (certified EPDs of material are a good measure to identify low-carbon solutions)

  • Streamlining delivery process (incorporate the supply chain during the concept and inception stages of a project to end up with a more efficient, optimized design which will include the delivery process of materials to the site)

  • Minimizing resource consumption (build open spaces with fewer columns, use less dense materials such as steel)

  • Build efficiently by eliminating waste ( use efficient construction methods such as prefabrication that have minimal waste. if waste is present, measure it and recycle it by setting a baseline of metrics)

  • Source materials locally ( this reduces the transportation emissions of transporting raw material from factories to the site)


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