Reducing the size of its carbon footprint is a complex task for the construction industry. It is only by considering every aspect of the construction process, from initial planning, the supply chain, materials, equipment and construction techniques, that the industry can lower its environmental impact. A report by the UK Green Building Council has found that 10% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions can be linked to the construction industry. Below is a guide to the carbon footprint of various factors which must be considered when lowering a construction site’s carbon footprint.
One of the easiest ways to reduce CO2 emissions is to consider carefully which materials you use. It is estimated that cement production produces about half of the CO2 the construction industry produces. There are now many low carbon cements on the market which contain magnesia, which means that the cement will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as it begins to set.
The use of equipment on site and the transportation of plant around the country is another major factor which increases the industry’s carbon footprint. By hiring plant from companies which have invested in modernising their fleet of machines, you can be certain that all your plant onsite meets European emissions targets.
The construction industry generates a large quantity of waste. While waste is bad for the immediate environment, it also increases the industry’s carbon footprint, as every piece of material or resource which is wasted will have generated carbon during its production or use.
To cut waste you should use the three Rs:
Before carrying out any type of demolition work you should carefully inspect the site for any materials which can be safely reused. This material should be removed before demolition begins so it is not damaged.
You should encourage your teams to recycle whatever they can. Old concrete can be crushed and used as aggregate, while metal wiring can be melted down and plastics remoulded. The Waste and Resource Action Programme offers plenty of useful information and advice about recycling within the construction industry.
You should double check estimates for all materials you order to ensure the amounts are correct. The over-ordering of materials is a massive generator of waste within the construction industry. As well as damaging the environment and increasing your carbon footprint, over-ordering can also drive up project cost.
Further savings to both your budget and carbon footprint can be made by using fuel efficient modes of transport to move materials to the site. Sourcing materials locally can reduce the distance they have to travel, and the associated carbon cost. To further reduce your carbon footprint, it is also worth considering if lightweight alternatives to materials exist, or if the material could be packed more efficiently. You should also try to order as many materials as possible from one supplier, as this will help to reduce the number of individual deliveries to your site.
By taking these steps, you can help to lower the carbon footprint of the construction industry and help to protect the environment.