Engineering consultancy Patrick Parsons has released a new report that explores the attitudes of UK construction firms to sustainability.
Based on interviews with 100 senior executives from construction firms that were collectively involved in £26.6billion projects last year, the ‘Sustainable by design’ demonstrated that the industry is becoming increasingly focused on the importance of deliberately using design and engineering to reduce projects’ carbon footprint, water use and waste.More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents said that they believe that it’s important to undertake sustainability planning during the early stages of design, engineering and construction.
The survey also revealed that 85 per cent of respondents think that enough is being done to reach net zero on time and a similar number believe that the COP26 Summit was instrumental in raising environmental, social and governance issues on the construction agenda.
The senior executives indicated that when it came to sustainable design, the most important area on which to focus is energy-efficient systems and the utilisation of natural light, smart windows and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, with just over half (51 per cent) of respondents deeming it ‘very important’. This was followed by reducing water and sewage waste (47 per cent), and sourcing materials with lower embodied carbon, such as timber, clay and stone (35 per cent).
According to the report, the majority of respondents expect that the focus on sustainable design will increase over the next three years, with more than half (53 per cent) believing that the importance of energy-efficient design will increase significantly and just under a third expecting the same to happen with waste reduction.
Interestingly, the construction firms have already identified significant commercial benefits from using sustainable design and engineering, with 83 per cent of respondents saying that projects designed with green credentials have given them a competitive advantage and two-thirds stating that sustainable design is adding value to current developments.
Among the challenges that the respondents said that the industry must overcome in order to reach net zero were reductions in the carbon emissions associated with building material supply chains (68 per cent) and changes to planning regulations that support the sector (63 per cent). The majority also indicated that the paucity of alternative materials with less embodied carbon was a significant barrier that needed to be dealt with.
‘The industry must collaborate to overcome the obstacles to improving sustainability in construction, and the government needs to lead the industry on the issue, with planning regulations that encourage carbon neutrality,’ the report stated.
The full report can be viewed here.