3 min read

The world continues to become more aware of the impact of global warming, overuse of resources, and waste products on the environment. As a result, governments and businesses are making changes in an attempt to halt and even reverse the damage done so far, and sustainable construction is a vital part of this.

Construction contributes a huge amount towards the success of economies. Housing, travel infrastructure, sporting developments, waste management, and resource distribution all depend on intelligent construction.

However, the materials used and energy consumed during the process of any large construction project can be enormous.

Travel construction

Consider the impact of the biggest construction project in Europe: Crossrail.

Over 1,500km of cabling will be used to power the new line. Alongside this, thousands of tonnes of concrete has been used to line the walls of the tunnels. However, this is, of course, vital to secure the structure of the passageways.

The energy to power the new line, as well as the required materials to build 200m long trains, is huge. However, sustainability has been kept in mind for the project.

The trains will regenerate electricity back into the power supply when braking. Running them, in general, will also use 30% less energy than the current trains in use on the London Underground.

Furthermore, in-depth Environmental Statements are published online regularly, highlighting efforts to make the work as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible, demonstrated by:

  • 84% of construction machinery in the central section was fitted with pollutant reducing emission controls
  • 98% of material excavated from sites was beneficially reused
  • 96% of the contracts awarded by Crossrail were to UK companies with 62% of suppliers based outside London.

Sporting venues construction

The biggest sporting event in the world, the Olympics, is due to be held in Tokyo in 2020. At the heart of preparations has been sustainable construction.

Recent developments in the feasibility of recycling grey water and capturing rainwater will mean that precious groundwater reserves will not be impacted as harshly during the event, which is attended by tens of thousands for an entire month, as they otherwise would be. The Olympic commission for the 2020 games also wants the event to be completely carbon neutral. They seek to achieve this by using renewable energy from solar power and other sources to power construction efforts.

One of the biggest stadiums in the world, the Nou Camp, home of FC Barcelona is also being renovated. This project is being undertaken with a clear ethos of sustainability at its heart. The brand new roof will be designed to collect rainwater and old parts of the stadium will be broken down and reused for other parts of the construction.

Housing construction

Populations continue to grow and less space and resources are made available. As a result, creating affordable and sustainable housing is one of the most pressing concerns for governments around the world.

By 2020, two-thirds of us will live in cities, and space will have an even bigger premium. Furthermore, the carbon footprint of steel and concrete will continue to be significant. Due to this, some construction firms believe that skyscrapers should be built from wood instead.

One study, cited in this video on wooden skyscrapers, states that the carbon footprint of building a high rise building out of timber would be 75% less than that of a steel and concrete one.

The future…

The hope is that developments in sustainable construction will have a real and lasting impact on the health of the environment. Alongside this are hopes of benefits to the people who interact with the structures which are critical for modern living. However, until a united global shift is instigated, it may be a long time before every construction project is delivered sustainably.