NBS reveals only a third of projects achieve sustainable construction goals

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sustainable construction goals
©Francesco Scatena.

NBS has revealed its findings of its ‘Sustainable Futures’ report, which has shown that only a third of projects manage meet sustainable construction goals, despite a drive towards net zero carbon in the sector

Alongside this, the report also revealed that a further third of respondents ‘rarely achieved’ sustainable construction goals, and 1 in 10 never achieve them at all.

The study, which polled 608 construction professionals, found that less people are achieving sustainability targets on projects, compared to those in its 2014 Sustainability Report.

Respondents of the Sustainable Futures report were also quizzed on the number of projects that had received clear sustainability targets within the past year. The results showed 69% had worked on projects where sustainability goals had been included at least some of the time, whilst 25% had seen targets ‘most of the time’.

However, just 14% had seen targets set on every build, showing a need for improvement when goal-setting at the start of each project.

Only 4% of respondents have worked on exclusively net-zero projects

Although the government’s 2050 net zero targets are in-sight, just 4% of respondents have worked on exclusively net-zero projects and over half (51%) had not worked on a single net-zero project in the past year.

The report highlighted that those who are more confident on the topic of sustainability are also more likely to include sustainable construction goals within their own builds, and work on net-zero projects.

Barriers to achieving construction sustainability goals

The study also explored some of the barriers that people believed to hinder achieving construction sustainability goals, and what can be improved.

Over half of respondents stated that a lack of client demand was the most common barrier to achieving sustainability, the highest cause next to the cost of sustainability.

Another concern was the view that sustainable products are being ‘value engineered’, suggesting cost-cutting measures could rise question marks over quality.

37% also stated that lack of government policy and regulation was another reason for a lack of take up of sustainable practices, highlighting the impact government intervention could have on the hearts and minds of those working in the sector.

sustainable construction goals

Report shows a clear appetite for sustainability

The report also looked at individual responsibility as well as how the subject of sustainability is perceived from within organisations.

97% of respondents said that sustainability is either important or quite important to them personally. 81% of respondents in executive or leadership roles also placed sustainability as either important or quite important.

When asked why they personally think about sustainability in projects, 87% stated that their own personal beliefs and values played a key part in the decision making.

NBS state that a lack of legislative direction from the government regarding sustainability may be generating a stronger feeling of personal responsibility from construction professionals.

The Sustainable Futures report also captured thoughts and feelings as to what the next step in sustainable architecture could be.

Many spontaneously referred to the need for a circular economy and that more time should be spent recycling and reusing existing building stock, rather than building new each time.

Also mentioned was the development of sustainable products and technology, using newer material which is lower in carbon or produces less emissions, as well as materials that are easier to deconstruct at the end of its lifecycle.

However, it was noted that these materials needed to be economically viable for them to be specified and used.

‘Projects need to have clearer guidelines on sustainability goal setting’

Lee Jones, head of manufacturer solutions at NBS and acting head of sustainability at Byggfakta Group, commented: “At NBS, sustainability is a high priority for us and we recognise the role construction plays in tackling the global issue of climate change.

“The findings are eye opening – it’s clear that projects need to have clearer guidelines on sustainability goal setting, implementing targets up front during the design phases will help encourage lower carbon outcomes. A further uptake of digital construction will help architects and specifiers ‘design in’ these measures.

“There’s also a need for greater communication and trust between all parties in terms of specific responsibilities. Uncertainty around who is accountable for what is allowing sustainability standards to slip. Further work is needed on behalf of product manufacturers when it comes to providing sustainability information for their products – that way green credentials can be compared and understood.

“It’s promising that individuals are now taking on more personable responsibility to deliver more environmentally friendly results – and we’ve seen how further education and knowledge on the topic goes hand in hand with sustainability success.

“Moving forward, it’s clear the industry needs further guidance and commitment from the UK government around sustainable legislation and that we need to prioritise a circular economy, thinking more about recycling and reuse of existing buildings.

“Given how much we’ve learnt from this year’s study, it will be fascinating to see how far the needle has moved in our next sustainability report.”

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