Sustainability spotlight on Water Neutrality in Construction

Water Neutrality Ellis Fox Blog

The task of initiating sustainable business practices is becoming increasingly complex. While a great deal of focus has been placed on more sustainable building methods, increasing energy efficiency, using repurposed building materials and reducing waste on site, an element of sustainability that isn’t widely talked about is water neutrality.

A recent industry survey of construction executives indicates that the current status of water neutrality is not particularly high.  At best 43% of the companies surveyed have projects that are 15% to 20% water neutral. This indicates the volume of work ahead if the industry is to achieve its sustainability aims.

Understanding the importance of Water Neutrality

By definition, water neutrality is a sustainable design concept with the objective of improving water efficiency during construction and after a development has been completed. The overall goal is to engineer the total demand for water. After development has taken place it should ideally be the same, or less, than before. This includes mitigating for storm drainage and pollution, and taking into account the impact of development on biodiversity and natural habitats.

In general construction leaders are in agreement that water neutrality is an important part of sustainable construction and is likely to become an even greater priority in future.  Given the increasing ferocity of seasonal storms and the subsequent destruction of infrastructure that’s been left in their wake, it’s becoming necessary to have a more holistic view of developments. Not just to be able to obtain planning permissions, but also to protect the investments being made in infrastructure and construction.

Water scarcity and efficiency

The UK is fortunate in that it has never really had water scarcity issue in terms of a lack of rainfall or volume of water. Instead it’s the overabundance of rainfall that is highlighting many infrastructure challenges. But that doesn’t mean that UK construction can be lax about improving water efficiency.

In the highly industrialised nation that the UK is, pollution remains a major issue. It’s not just manufacturers that are guilty. Construction developments can have a big impact on natural habitats and have a hand in polluting water sources. Sustainability efforts in construction can’t be achieved if water neutrality is not given equal priority to reducing waste and improving the efficiency of building methods.

Small changes have the potential to have a big impact as long as construction leaders are willing to drive the process.