Sustainability in Major Construction & Infrastructure Projects

Construction Project Governance Audit

The idea of sustainability has become one that we have started to hear a lot more about in recent years. It isn’t a fad that will be with us for a little while but a completely new way of looking at how we act and the affect that we have on everything, and everyone, around us. Sustainability is about the importance of looking at and improving how we act now. We need to do this so that there is a future for the next generation, and the generations that follow. 

Many of the larger construction companies are already taking up the reins when it comes to sustainability and have put in much of the groundwork that is needed to make their businesses more responsible and sustainable, not just in the future but right now. From strategies that will look at reducing their environmental footprint to ensuring that no matter what project they are working on they have a positive and sustainable impact that smaller firms may want to use as inspiration. Effective project management training is key to any sector, and the construction sector and  sustainability is no excpetion.

What is sustainability?

The first thing to understand about sustainability, and this is something not everyone is clear on, is that sustainability is not simply environmentalism. To be sustainable it is important for a company to be able to meet their own needs whilst ensuring that they do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs as well. Sustainability should also consider concerns for economic development and social equity. 

Sustainability means making a commitment to the way in which you work, the raw materials and fuels that you use and the impact that you have on a community that you are working in and trying to ensure that you leave as little negative impact as possible. The way in which many companies within the construction industry are tackling these issues is through the use of a sustainability action plan that considers the ideas of:

  • Net Zero Carbon 
  • Generating Zero Waste
  • Having a positive impact on a significant number of individuals or communities

What constitutes sustainability, and sustainability action plans for one company is not necessarily the right fit for another, however. There is no one-size-fits-all way of approaching the issue. More importantly because different companies are responsible for setting their own targets and deadlines, where one company may seem a little ambitious with their sustainability deadlines (the date by which they plan to have completed all the targets in their action plan) others may appear more realistic. 

What is Net Zero Carbon?

The term Net Zero, sometimes referred to as carbon neutrality, is used to refer to the state of net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide. In order to achieve this it is important to achieve a balance between the carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere and the carbon that is also removed from it. Net-zero is achieved when the total amount of carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere is no greater than the amount that is removed. 

What steps can be taken in construction and infrastructure projects to assist with sustainability?

On paper, it all seems rather straightforward. Companies who are looking to increase their sustainability need to make some adjustments to the way in which they operate so that they reduce their impact on the environment. In some areas there are really simple steps that can actually be taken that will actually have a huge impact for very little extra work. However there are other areas where the changes that are needed are much more complex, may cost a lot more money or are simply not that easy to implement in the first place – and this is why even the most committed companies in the sector need to be realistic about the timescale that is needed to implement change.

Generate Zero Waste

Waste is a growing issue, and whilst there have been improvements in recent years with the way in which waste is dealt with, not just in construction, but also in everyday life, there are still significant advances that need to be made. 

Just as household waste is sorted out into different types for recycling, so too can the waste that is produced by the construction industries. The days of sending everything to landfill should be considered only as a last resort. Companies within the construction industry need to look at the type of waste that they remove from their construction sites and ensure that they are partnering with companies who can assist them in becoming more sustainability. More and more companies who specialise in waste collection of the type generated by construction sites now invest in their own sustainability processes that require them to sort through the waste they remove and recycle it rather than simply putting it into landfill. 

This is something that is done for every type of waste, from building rubble to the type of packaging that new building materials are delivered in, soil to unused building supplies. A significant number of hire company who specialise in larger skip hire have set their recycling targets at 90% or more of the waste that is put into their skips. 

By making a change to a rubbish removing company who are also committed to sustainability a company in the construction sector will already be working towards their sustainability goals. 

The other side of this issue is, of course, that there are dwindling natural resources in the world and demand for construction materials has never been higher. This can, and should, be used by the construction industry as a way of looking at the issue of sustainability and how to achieve those goals.


Modern construction methods, for example modularisation and manufacturing that takes place off-site can also assist when it comes to improving operations, reducing the amount of waste that is produced on a construction site and also reducing activity onsite. These methods are not something that should in any way be considered inferior to more traditional methods. They deliver materials and goods that are of a significant quality that does not compromise on the overall quality of a project. 

The use of modern tools and methodologies for construction – for example augmented and virtual reality and also scanning technologies can, in fact ,also help when it comes to reducing waste. These methods reduce the waste at the source rather than on the construction site itself, which in turn can help to improve sustainability for both the manufacturer and the end user, the construction company. 

Forming the right partnerships with cable tray suppliers who have the same sustainability goals can be an important step that any business should be considering taking. In fact, it may even be the case that those companies who are serious about sustainability and have set themselves some substantial goals to achieve may be looking to align themselves with those companies who have similar goals. 

Positively impacting individuals

Another significant way in which sustainability is being considered is in infrastructure. This is an area that already has a huge and positive impact on the lives of people all over the world. Infrastructure refers to the transport links that people use to get to their employment. It also refers to the leisure activities that they access in their free time, and even the way in which energy and water are delivered to their businesses and homes. The impact of these types of infrastructure is felt all over the world, at any given moment. 

It is easy to see that this type of infrastructure has a benefit that is immediate. However, it also has a social impact that is significant as well. Infrastructure has the ability to drive employment, support small local businesses and supply chain companies, it provides training opportunities and even boosts growth. Infrastructure can transform the lives of those it touches and help to build a new and brighter future. It is important for not only infrastructure projects but also major construction ones that organisations work with the communities they are located in so that the impact the have is one where they leave a lasting and meaningful legacy. A significant construction project should enhance the prosperity and wellbeing of the community it will be a part of. It isn’t simply a question of making improvements to the local community but ensuring that they are done in such a way that sustainability plays a significant part of the project. 

Both major construction projects and those that involve infrastructure should consider the sustainability that they have in the area where they are building. Whilst we often only think of sustainability in terms of the affect that is will have on the environment through concepts like net-zero carbon, it is also truly important to think about the effect that a project will have on those who will be near it. A housing estate for example, whilst being built predominately to house new residents to an area, may also find itself becoming part of an existing community. It is those people in the existing community on whom the construction work may have a negative impact, the view from their own homes may be disrupted, access to their properties made more difficult, they may even find themselves sharing an already overstretched infrastructure with new residents. These are all also aspects that should be considered under the sustainability umbrella.

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