In Australia today, sustainability has become the discussion topic in the construction industry. Building and living green is becoming increasingly popular from both a financial and human perspective, and the industry is beginning to embrace a sustainability-friendly mindset. Jobsite spoke exclusively to Professor David Carmichael, from the University of New South Wales’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering on why sustainability is becoming a necessity rather than a nice thing to have.
It’s not all about costs
It is notable that buildings in Australia are now being judged on their environmental friendliness. As such, developers have had to react to this demand and move away from solely concentrating on cost, production, and time.
Professor Carmichael comments on the reasons why sustainability is becoming prioritised by construction companies. “There has been an increasing public call to embrace more sustainable practices, and an acknowledgement that the industry is a large contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. The industry is undergoing a change whereby client organisations are growing their tender selection criteria to include environmental and social issues. A focus on corporate social responsibility and integrated reporting initiatives is changing attitudes as well. Shareholder investment portfolios now include sustainable companies."
The hidden gems in the space
There has been a push across the construction industry – from materials to design – to ensure sustainability becomes a reality rather than something that is merely talked about. This way, there are innovations in the sustainable construction space that are supporting the cause and ensuring that sustainability is top of mind for businesses.
With more and more emissions being released into the atmosphere, newer equipment, equipment modifications, alternative fuels, and operator training can aid and reduce the volume of the harmful releases.
Professor Carmichael also notes that increased legislation is restricting practices that are unsafe or damaging to the environment. “There has been a nationwide push to sustainable building. This doesn’t just include the end product. Sustainability is being considered at every stage of a building’s life – during its design, construction, operation, and demolition.”
Hyped doesn’t mean realistic
However, with increased interest in sustainability comes the threat of products, initiatives, and solutions being over-hyped. Professor Carmichael says that not all companies are totally committed to a sustainable future.
“Some companies are adopting a 'greenwashing' approach. These businesses are promoting sustainability credentials, which don’t exist other than in their marketing literature.”
Besides, with increased interest in environmental responsibility comes the acknowledgement that sustainability is not always affordable.
“Initiatives which are introduced by some companies solely to increase profits are also touted as being sustainability initiatives, where there happens to be a coincidental sustainability spin-off. For some companies in the construction industry, sustainability is only considered when the direct financial benefits outweigh the direct costs.”