Construction is clearly a resource-heavy industry. The products used can have an impact on the surrounding environment, especially the extraction of raw materials for cement, bricks, and other materials. The tools and resources regularly used by contract workers and construction companies can also have a serious long-term impact. Examples include the use of resources such as chemicals on-site and the fuel used by excavators and lorries.

What is sustainable construction?

So, what is regarded as sustainable construction? Basically, it refers to processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life cycle:

  • Location
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Operation
  • Maintenance and renovation
  • Demolition

To be genuinely sustainable requires creating structures that provide well-being and value to owners or tenants, with design and implementation that aims to protect the natural environment to the greatest degree possible. This is to minimise the impact it has on the use of resources such as energy and materials.

As might be expected from a highly regulated industry, awards are abound in the construction industry. A brief look at those awards which are particularly relevant to sustainability identifies the following companies as being ahead of the pack.

The tools and resources regularly used by contract workers and construction companies can also have a serious long-term impact; such as chemicals on-site and the fuel used by excavators and lorries.

Canary Wharf Contractors

In 2017, Canary Wharf Group won its first BREEAM award (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). This worldwide-recognized standard is a sustainability assessment method which sets standards for the environmental performance of buildings through the design, specification, construction, and operation phases.

Canary Wharf Constructors received an 87.1 per cent rating for 1 Bank Street, the largest building of its kind to achieve this rating in Europe. The building was specifically designed to be adaptable and resilient to climate change. It contains 1,500 sq. m of green infrastructure including enhancing the aquatic habitats of the docks being developed.

Additionally, the company has been feted for constructing the Canary Wharf Crossrail Station. It used cost-effective design features and technologies that created benefits including:

  • Lower CO2 emissions
  • Maximum recyclability of excavated material
  • Considerate and efficient use of resources
  • Reduction in impact from noise, dust, vibration, and site traffic on the local community

Laing O’Rourke

Laing O’Rourke was voted the ‘Most Considerate Site’ in the country in 2018. The CCS (Considerate Constructors) Awards recognise the UK’s best construction sites for the contribution they make to enhancing the industry’s image, using the overall criteria of consideration towards local neighbourhoods, the public, the workforce and the environment.

Their main contribution to sustainability is the effective use made of resources.

Its ethos of Design for Manufacture and Assembly means that many of the products it uses have lower embodied carbon. It is also a pioneer in the use of cement-free concrete. Since 2009/10, its construction waste per unit has reduced by 26 per cent.


Mace is another construction giant noted for the breadth of its initiatives regarding sustainability. Since 2016, it has trained more than 3,000 of its employees in sustainability and has also developed innovative courses on tackling modern slavery and responsible sourcing.

Mace has also been widely praised for its sustainability values, especially in relation to recent projects such as the Sky Campus project, the Believe in Better Building, the Health and Wellbeing Centre, and its own new headquarters.

Specific best practices include

  • 100 per cent of timber sustainably certified
  • 1 per cent of other vital materials certified as responsibly sourced
  • More than 2,000 tonnes of carbon sequestered thanks to the use of cross-laminated timber, going beyond zero carbon

These achievements in sustainability have led to London Stansted awarding Mace the tender as the main contractor for the construction of a new £150 million arrivals terminal, which will begin later in 2019.

To highlight the best sustainable practices by construction companies, it is worth looking at what kinds of practices need to be eliminated (or at least minimized) in order to move towards sustainability.