Sustainability in Construction

Construction industry must inevitably change its historic methods of operating with little regard for environmental impacts to a new mode that makes environmental concerns a centerpiece of its efforts. Previously, the concern on environment was relatively a small part of most construction development. However, with the growing awareness on environmental protection due to the depletion of non-renewable resources, global warming, and extremity of destruction to ecology and biodiversity impact, this issue has gained wider attention by the construction practitioners worldwide. Many efforts are being directed to build sustainably in the construction world. The direction of the industry is now shifting from developing with environmental concern as a small part of the process into having the development process being integrated within the wider context of environmental agenda. Thus, the activities of construction industry must work and comply with the needs to protect and sustain the environment. This shift of ideology is illustrated in Fig. 24.1. Sustainable construction, which has inevitably been dubbed 'green construction,' describes the responsibility of the construction industry in attaining sustainability. Sustainable construction aims to produce structures that enhance the quality of life and protect the environment efficiently and profitably. Sustainable construction is all about maintaining a balance between the human need for buildings for shelter and business operations and infrastructure for higher quality of well-being on the one hand, and preserving natural resources and ecosystems, on which we and future generations depend on the other hand, as shown in Fig. 24.2.

Construction Solar Energy
Fig. 24.2 Achieving balance of sustainable construction.

Kibert (2007) has introduced seven principles of sustainable construction as encapsulated in Table 24.1. The first principle (conserve) is of utmost importance because it contrasts the major problem that forces us to address sustainability in the first place - over consumption. It leads us to use passive measures to provide heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting and forces us to consider high-efficiency system and durable materials that require low maintenance. Second principle (reuse) refers to the desire of reusing resources that we have extracted with minimal reprocessing. Third principle (renew/recycle) refers to items that are in essence reduced to raw materials and used as new products. Resources that are recyclable, that have recycled content, or that are from renewable resources must be given priority over non-recyclable/non-renewable resources. Principle 4 concerns exercising environmental stewardship and restoring the nature where possible. The fifth principle (non-toxics) in a practical sense is the elimination of toxics in the indoor and exterior built environment. Principle 6 is about the economic side of construction which has direct consequences on the environment. By including the life cycle costing as early as possible in the project process and embedded this consideration in the development of project design, it will have a positive impact on the level of pollution produced, energy usage and frequency of maintenance during the occupation of the building. Last but not least, Principle 7 is about quality of life which can be achieved through excellence in design, workmanships in producing the outcome, planning for communities at large, management and selection of materials, etc.

Table 24.1 The seven principles of sustainable construction.

Principle 1 - Minimize resource consumption (conserve) Principle 2 - Maximize resource reuse (reuse) Principle 3 - Use renewable or recyclable resources (renew/recycle) Principle 4 - Protect the natural environment (protect nature) Principle 5 - Create a healthy, non-toxic environment (non-toxics) Principle 6 - Apply life cycle cost analysis and true cost (economics) Principle 7 - Pursue quality in creating the built environment (quality)

Source: Kibert (2007)

Construction practitioners worldwide are beginning to appreciate sustain-ability and acknowledge the advantages of sustainable building. For example, the concept of green building costs lower than conventional method and saves energy as demonstrated by Hydes and Creech (2000). This was further supported by Heerwagen (2000), Bartlett and Howard (2000), and Pettifer (2004), who added that sustainable buildings will contribute positively to better quality of life, work efficiency, and healthy work environment. Yates (2001) explored the business benefits of sustainability and concluded that the benefits are diverse and potentially very significant. The approach of sustainable construction with its underlying principles provides a comprehensive guide to enable the construction players to be more responsible to the environmental protection needs without neglecting the social and economic needs in striving for a better living.

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