4th August Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

 

We work in one of the biggest industries in the world, and because of what we do, we have the most potential to make a difference on protecting the environment. Saving the planet is something we’re all keen to do, everybody wants to be seen as ‘green’, anything from recycling to washing at low temperatures will make a difference. But one of the biggest differences that can be made lies within our industry, in house-building.

Companies are always thinking of new innovative ways of being efficient and we’ve really stepped up our game in the last few years. Offsite construction is now pretty much the norm, we’ve got PopUp Houses, plastic roads, even a ‘bubble’ building here in Newcastle, all of which may be unconventional methods but they’re the methods that are making a difference.

We’re definitely making headway, but with the Governments ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a national basis by at least 80% by 2050 and 34% by 2020 looming over our heads, the pressure is still on. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive also requires all new buildings to be “nearly zero energy” by December 2020 (which is quickly catching up to us).

One way to ensure all new buildings are ‘nearly zero energy’ is to look at ‘Green Buildings’. These buildings are designed to be environmentally-friendly, as well as resource efficient, reducing unnecessary waste of energy, gas and water.  For a while, Green Building was once the new trend in the industry, but it is now an essential part of protecting our environment, and something that all future builds need to take into consideration.

There are five key areas the industry should consider, that, with the smallest changes, could make the biggest difference:

– Materials – It’s important to plan which type of materials will be utilised, but there is now an increased focus on implementing materials which are sustainable and energy efficient, rather than cost effective in order to provide long-term benefits and lower carbon levels.

– Recycling – Recycling materials such as aluminium within builds, will effectively reduce the level of waste products which are currently sent to landfill.

– Insulation and Solar – Ensure builds incorporate cavity wall insulation and double glazing to ensure heat does not escape. Installing solar panelling systems in both traditional and modern properties will capture as much natural energy as possible and reduce CO2 emissions.

– Water – Think of ways to best use and harvest rainwater, which can be used again for gardening or toilet flushing.

– Transport – To reduce transportation CO2 emissions, source materials locally. If transporting resources is necessary, using energy efficient vehicles will help lower emissions.

All buildings need light, heat and water, it’s about looking at different ways to achieve this that are as efficient as possible. Transport is pretty much a necessity in our industry, but there are still more economical ways of doing it. That 2020 target is fast approaching, and in three years I would love to be able to say our industry played a huge part in helping us get there!

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.