The Government Construction Strategy 2016-20 has set a benchmark for construction clients to adopt a whole-life approach to cost and carbon reduction across the industry, while Construction 2025 sets out long-term goals to reduce environmental impact.

As the global population rises, greenhouse gases continue to be emitted and resources continue to be used at an alarming rate. The Government Office for Science reports that there will be profound changes in the environment by 2050, which will pose significant problems for the construction industry.

The construction industry has a significant impact on the environment, accounting for 40% of the energy used, and this does not even take into account the impact manufacturing has upon the process.

As environmental integrity becomes more measurable than ever before, manufacturers must pay close attention to their sustainability credentials.

What steps can be taken, then, to reduce environmental impact and improve sustainability?

  1. Standards

Products accredited to standards such ISO 14001 can be adopted. ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system, setting guidelines for the efficient use of resources and the reduction of waste.

  1. Recycling

Recycling has an important role to play, such as recovering cement, iron and steel from infrastructure at the end of life of existing stocks. These materials could then be used by manufacturers.

Using recycled materials not only helps organisations meet environmental targets, but will also help meet demand for resources. Manufacturers now need to view all decisions as a cycle and consider how each stage of their process impacts the next.

  1. Technology

Manufacturers embracing new technology can develop highly efficient processes, enabling them to make the most of raw materials. As part of a government report, it is estimated that carbon emissions across current manufacturing process chains can be reduced by 24 – 40% by adopting best practice and state-of-the-art technology.

  1. Whole life costs

Changes in purchasing processes, company resources and available assets have led to a focus on Opex budgeting over Capex spend. There is a growing emphasis on the associated costs over a period of time, especially on Government or public sector tenders. Focusing on whole life costs will help improve the environmental performance of buildings, by reducing waste and placing a clearer focus on quality.

  1. BIM

BIM is a collaborative tool that reduces waste, risk of error and facilitates the sharing of detailed information. This leads to better buildings, throughout the design, construction and operational phases of a building’s life cycle.

With BIM enabling specifiers to gain a clearer insight into the build process, this has never been a better opportunity to improve the environmental impact of buildings, ensuring sustainable products from green manufacturers are specified.

Taking these steps will go a long way towards helping to mitigate environmental impact. There is now an expectation that companies should be working towards a sustainable future. As a result, organisations that are not committed to environmental improvements in the manufacturing process may well lose out to greener competitors. Sustainable manufacturing is no longer a luxury, but a business essential.

Brian Sofely has authored a whitepaper on this topic: ‘How can manufacturers begin to mitigate and quantify their environmental impact from a steel doorset manufacturer’s perspective?’.