materials recycling Ellis Fox blog

Circling back to Sustainability in Construction

The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on priorities in line with current challenges and opportunities. Within the construction industry, major headlines bemoan the state of supply shortages and the likelihood that it’s only going to get worse as 2022 progresses. This is going to have a huge impact on the ability to deliver projects on time and on budget and has already resulted in a slowing down in the pipeline of future projects. It’ will be a fine balancing act to try meet infrastructure demand while the supply of materials remains throttled.

A new rail framework of £6.5 billion is due to come up for bidding soon. Major investments in energy and road infrastructure are also on the cards. Already material costs are up by 23%. At what level do bidders budget if inflation is set to continue? Or is it time to look at ways to generate greater materials efficiency and for alternative materials that are more readily available and less susceptible to inflation?

Waste as a resource

The construction industry generates almost a third of the UK’s waste which suggests there is massive potential for greater efficiency on site. In an ideal world, materials forecasting would be more accurate and wastage would be minimised, but as we all know this is incredibly difficult to achieve on site. A key element to reducing waste, however, is to keep excess materials separate rather than accumulating them in a single waste pile. This ensures they can be used elsewhere rather than being sent to landfill even donated to charities that can make good use of them.

Where materials can’t be reused in their existing form, there’s an opportunity to recycle or repurpose them for other construction uses. New forms of aggregate are being created from waste materials that are proving to be more robust and more affordable than using virgin resources. Taking an approach that waste can be a resource assigns value to it, and with that value, people are less inclined to waste – so it has a dual benefit.  This highlights that the greatest potential for reducing waste and creating materials efficiency is in changing the mindset approach to how materials are source and used.

The construction industry has made good progress recently with greater innovation and adopting more efficient construction practices. It’ll be interesting to see further developments in this area that can move the industry forward and take advantage of the opportunities for further expansion.