Environmental awareness is growing exponentially, with governments and industry leaders recognising the need to reduce reliance on virgin resources, reduce waste, become more energy efficient and most importantly reduce carbon footprints. New laws and levies have been implemented with the aim of holding developers and contractors accountable for construction and infrastructure developments. But sadly, for some it’s viewed as yet another obstacle to have to overcome, rather than an opportunity for greater efficiency.

It’s widely recognised that the UK has a housing shortage and infrastructure development is well behind modern-day needs. But developments cannot be prioritised at the expense of the environment. Recent news headlines blamed environmental regulations for holding up housing developments and called for government to allow them to be ignored and building to proceed. Marks & Spencer’s is putting pressure on the city to be allowed to demolish its historic building, regardless that the carbon footprint for demolition and construction of a new building would require planting more than 2,4 million trees to offset. It makes one wonder where the decision makers have been while one climate change catastrophe after another has been taking place in the past decade – floods, snowstorms, heatwaves etc. And why they’re not making the connection?

Environmental awareness may be increasing, but it’s evident from actions like these that many decision makers lack the basic understanding of the function of natural ecosystems. How they act as a buffer and filter and that there is significant value in keeping them intact. It’s what environmentalists and scientists have been talking about for decades and what business leaders and governments have been consistently ignoring. They’d rather invest in man-made flood mitigation and water sanitation methods. The irony is that in the process they’re destroying the most self-sustainable and efficient solutions that nature has already perfected.

Offsetting carbon emissions is set to become a major priority in construction which requires a holistic and more innovative approach. Rather than seeing environmental regulation as obstacles, there’s an opportunity to build smarter and more sustainably. Some may be frustrated by having to re-invent construction methods and invest in calculating carbon costs, but others see it as a way of getting ahead and gaining a competitive edge in an industry that is currently booming and is set for further growth. Construction leaders can either remain part of the problem or help find the solutions that’ll enable a more sustainable future for all.