Effect of the Recession on Sustainable Development
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Published: Fri, 09 Feb 2018
Sustainability has been on the lips of everyone involved in the construction industry for the last 10 years. However, the issue of Sustainability arouse first in a Report named ‘Our Common Future’. This then prompted the need for the conference in Brazil (1992). Discussed in this conference were the core principles of sustainability being; ‘Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs’ Greene, D. (1997)
Both ‘Sustainability’ and the ‘Recession’ are both terms in which have a range of meanings and attitudes. As the issue of Sustainability is being used more and more in the construction industry is recent years it is imperative to try and pin point exactly what sustainable commercial construction is. It is also paramount to determine just exactly what the ‘recession’ is and show just how they have affected each other.
In recent years, we have had two previous recessions, one being in the 1980’s and the second one being in the early 1990’s. This is the third ‘recession’ that the country has been in, in as many decades. In June 2008, the country officially entered the third recession, of which we are still in today,
Sustainability has become more of a problem in recent years due to the major issue of the recession. Sustainability needs to be addressed and identified and it is important that it is done within one of the largest industries, if not the biggest, being the construction industry. In my research I will hopefully try to clarify the terms, sustainable commercial construction and the recession and show how each one has affected the other.
Sustainable Commercial Construction; Recession;
One of the main priorities for the construction industry and any construction company are to produce Sustainable Commercial Buildings. As everyone knows, the country has been hit by a recession with the construction industry being hit the hardest. It is important to define exactly what Sustainable Construction in commercial buildings is and exactly what the recession is and see just how the recession has affected Sustainable Commercial Construction
In this dissertation I aim to investigate exactly what the recession is, exactly what sustainable development is and I aim to show the audience just how each one has affected each other
1.3 Project Objectives
- To define the recession
- To define sustainable construction
- To determine just how the recession and sustainable construction have been affected by each other.
- What barriers or influences encourage or deter companies to build Sustainable Commercial Buildings.
1.4 Proposed Structure
First of all the research will define both the recession and will also define sustainable construction and go on to look at how they have been affected by one another. The research should then go on and look at what barriers or influences encourage or deter companies to build Sustainable Buildings.
1.4.2 Collection of Results
The collection of results will be accomplished using professionals who are currently working in and around the construction industry. Results will be collected with information regarding their views on whether Sustainable Construction has been affected by the Recession and other information regarding Sustainable Construction.
The results collected from my interviews will then be analysed so that an outcome can be gained to answer the investigation objectives pointed out earlier. They will also be analysed to show a comparison with past research relating Sustainable Construction and the Recession.
1.4.4 Final Analysis
The final analysis is the last part of the research, like a conclusion it will assess the data to check and make sure that all aspects of the investigation have been covered. The investigation will then be checked to make sure it cannot be improved and revisited.
Sustainable Commercial Construction and the Recession
Scope of the Chapter
This section of the dissertation will determine the definition of Sustainable Commercial Construction and will also try and determine just exactly what a recession is.
2.2 The Recession
In June 2008 the United Kingdom officially entered the recession that we are still in today. The main area that has been affected in this country and many other countries is construction, which has been hit massively. Companies and businesses right across the board are being affected from big names such as Balfour Beatty, the Kier Group down to small independent companies. Any sort of work is few and far between nowadays with every company accepting any sort of work no matter how small or big it is. I feel that this topic as it will show you past the commercial side of the recession. Everybody knows that the country is in the recession, but not that many people know exactly what a recession is and what damage it can cause to the economy and the country. It has a massive knock on affect right the way down the board and I believe that if we are going to get out of the recession quickly and efficiently people need to know how to adapt and work with it.
The recession is not very well understood for one simple factor: There is not a universally agreed upon definition. There is a standard newspaper definition of a recession ‘is a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP) for two or more consecutive quarters’. There are 4 quarters to the year and each one lasts for approximately 12 weeks. This definition is not popular with most economists for two main reasons. Firstly, this definition does not take into account changes in other variables such as unemployment rate or consumer confidence. Secondly, by using quarterly data this definition makes it difficult to pinpoint when a recession starts to when it ends. The second definition is from the Business Cycle Dating Committee (BCDC). The committee provides a better way to find out whether or not there has been a definition as they determine the amount of business activity in the economy by looking at, employment, industrial production, real income and whole-sail retail sites.
The past 20 years has been a growing realisation that the current model of development is unsustainable and basically, we are living beyond our means. Before anyone knew anything about this current recession, one part of construction that was on the rise was sustainable development. It is rumoured that one of the key factors in which the recession was brought on is that companies were being too selfish in that they were thinking about the short term rather than the long term. Some unsustainable business practices were concerned about profiteering and not focused enough on balancing profit with social and environmental targets.
With the current economic crises being the way it is, companies are rarely willing to spend money on anything but essentials to their business. The credit crunch has virtually halted all new development and with falling land prices, affordability has become more important than ever, thereby highlighting development costs and the increased expense of complying with sustainable standards. Ultimately crucial issues related to sustainable development such as healthcare, education, affordable access to food, water, energy and responsible harvesting of natural resources are being affected as the crisis deepens. The increasing stress we put on resources and environmental systems such as water, land and air cannot go on forever.
The need for Sustainable Commercial Development is too great to be ignored. Even in this recession and the state that the economy is in it is absolutely paramount that we as a country, continent and as a human race continue to develop sustainably. Instead of businesses thinking of their short term future, they now need to be thinking about their long term future. Instead of reeling in the cash straight away, we need to hold out and wait for the return from sustainable buildings and development all round. The sooner people and companies realize this, then the sooner the construction industry will have left the recession and will be planning for the future and sustainable development won’t be a thing upon which businesses sigh about doing, it will become the first thing they think of.
3.0 Sustainable Buildings
Sustainability in building was completely unknown up until around the late 1970’s. The idea only came about in reply to the energy crisis and people concerned about the environment. There are not many people in this country or the world in fact who will not have heard the word ‘sustainability’ but the vast majority of them will not understand what it means. According to Holmberg and Sandbrook (1992) there now appears to be 70 definitions in circulation. However, out of these 70 or so definitions that are circulating there is no definite, set definition of sustainable building but according to Kirby et al (1995) the definition which is commonly deemed as the most accurate or the official one is the Brundtland definition (WCED 1987) ‘development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
Although, Brundtland did make this definition, it is an adaption of a previous definition made by Lester Brown. Lester Brown however defined a sustainable society, rather than sustainable development. He defined a sustainable society as ‘one that is able to satisfy its needs without diminishing the chance of future generations’. (Charles J Kilbert 2008) It is easy to see the comparisons between the two definitions made firstly by Lester Brown and secondly, the Brundtland definition.
Although the Brundtland definition is the most common and widely used, it doesn’t define sustainable construction, only sustainable development. According to Dickie and Howard (2000) they describe sustainable construction as ‘the contribution of construction to sustainable development’. This definition from Dickie an Howard (2000) is very simple, but explains a lot, anyone would be able to understand it.
O’Riorden (1985) commented on the difficulty of describing sustainability, describing its definition as ‘Exploration into a tangled conceptual jungle where watchful eyes lurk at every bend’. This description of how hard and elusive it is to describe correctly what sustainability just shows you how vague and confusing defining sustainability can become.
‘sustainability is like plumbing or air conditioning – it’s a general attitude you apply to a building. It doesn’t create its own architecture but it informs the way architecture is produced’
Slavid, Ruth (1998) uses this definition and it’s obvious that there are not only different definitions but also different meanings to the definitions.
According to Addis, B and Talbot, R (2001) ‘Sustainable development is about achieving economic and social objectives while minimising adverse environmental impacts’
This definition comes from the e-journal; ‘Sustainable construction procurement: a guide to delivering environmentally responsible projects’ by Addis, B and Talbot, R (2001). As you can see all the definitions on this page and the previous page all define sustainable construction, development or sustainability on the whole, and they are all pretty much nothing like each other.
Although there have been many definitions of sustainability for example that from the World Congress of Architects (1993)
‘Sustainability means meeting our needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’
Even though all the definitions above are different you can see a definite trend between them. I believe they are all loosely based on that from the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future. This report is commonly known as ‘The Brundtland Report’.
Some people may believe that having no definition for sustainable development could be an issue because how are people meant to implement and deliver sustainable development and in this case sustainable construction if an official definition has not been agreed.
3.1 Case Study
To help what is understand what is involved in Sustainable Commercial Construction, a case study will be used.
Whitecross High School, Hereford, England
Owner: Herefordshire County Council
Address: Three Elms Road, Herford, Herefordshire
Architect: Haverstock Associates
Building Services Consultant: Couch Perry & Wilkes
Contractor: Stepnell LTD
Figure 1 Image of Whitecross High School, Hereford, England
Whitecross High School in Hereford was primarily designed where energy / sustainability was high priority for the client. The gross internal floor area of the school is 9160m2 and was built for approximately 900 students. The brief for the project contained stringent sustainability requirements, and this became the key driver for the design process.
Sustainable features of Whitecross High School:
High mass and thermal insulation levels with low air permeability rates
Excellent air quality and summertime temperature control
Heat recovery ventilation 90% efficient
Very Low annual energy consumption
Sustainable solutions provided within PFI cost framework
Natural materials used throughout construction
Hazardous materials excluded from the building specification
Following the case study, we can see at the Whitecross High School that not only is there sustainable energy solutions in this sustainable building but there have been solutions designed in the buildings. For example the excellent air quality and summertime temperature control system means that other expensive and unreliable systems would not be needed, saving time and money on the sustainable building.
You can tell by the number of definitions and the lack of agreement of an official definition about the subject of sustainability and sustainable construction is confusing and complex. The main disagreement is apparent around how to implement sustainable construction what systems actually make a sustainable building, sustainable.
4.0 Research Approach
4.1 Scope of the Chapter
This chapter of my dissertation will outline the research methods used to complete my dissertation. It will compare the two different types of research and will also show why I have chosen my specific method.
4.2 Qualitative and Quantitative Research
When researching for any type of information there are different methods that can be used. There are two principal strands of data collection methodologies and strategies which are distinctly different. (Bryman 2004)
Quantitative research involves the use of structured questions where the answer are predetermined, this research is done over a large number of respondents and is statistically valid while qualitative research is about collecting and analysing data interpreting what people say or do for instance a questionnaire.
The very nature of the dissertation, the different types of information needed in order to achieve the objectives and the resources that are actually available like time implications for instance affects what types of research methods will be used.
To gain a wider perspective about sustainable development and about the current recession period, it is always a good idea to do some research within the public, using both primary and secondary research. There are many different types of research that you could do, some of which are quantitative and qualitative approaches. Usually research methods and styles are not mutually exclusive although only one, or a small number of approaches, will normally be adopted due to resource constraints on the work. The different approaches focus on collection and analysis of data rather than examination of theory and literature. Quantitative approaches normally seek to gather factual data, studying relationships between facts and how such facts and relationships accord with theories and the findings and of research carried out previously.
Qualitative approaches seek to gain and understand people’s perceptions, both as individuals and as groups. This research looks at people’s beliefs, understandings, opinions and views etc are investigated. The data is detailed and rich in content because the data gathered may be unstructed, but will be in their raw form. If you do use this method of research you would have to be willing to be highly laborious, involving transcripting interviews etc. The researchers are likely to be closely involved in all stages of the work in a more active way than usually is acceptable in quantitative studies.
Features of Qualitative research
Features of Quantitative research
Difference in respect to:
The aim is a complete, detailed description.
The aim is to classify features, count them, and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed.
Rationalism: ‘That human beings achieve knowledge because of their capacity to reason’ (Bernard, 1994)
Empiricism; ‘ the only knowledge that human beings acquire is from sensory experiences’
Researcher may only know roughly in advance what he/she is looking for
Researcher knows clearly in advance what he/she is looking for.
Approach to inquiry
Structured/ rigid/ predetermined methodology
Unstructured/ flexible/ open methodology
Recommended during earlier phases of research projects
Recommended during latter phases of research projects
Main Purpose of investigation
To quantify extent or variation in phenomenon, situation, issues etc.
To describe variation in a phenomenon, situation, issue etc.
The design emerges as the study unfolds
All aspects of the study are carefully designed before data is collected
Measurement of variables
Emphasis on some form of either measurement or classification of variable.
Emphasis on description of variables
Researcher is the data gathering instrument
Researcher uses tools, such as questionnaires or equipment to collect numerical data
Emphasis on greater sample size
Data is in the form of words, pictures or objects
Data is in the form of numbers and statistics.
Focus of inquiry
Narrows focus in terms of extent of inquiry, but assembles required information from a greater number of respondents
Covers multiple issues but assembles required information from fewer respondents
Subjective – individuals’ interpretation of events is important ,e.g., uses participant observation, in-depth interviews etc.
Objective – seeks precise measurement &analysis of target concepts, e.g., uses surveys, questionnaires etc
Dominant research value
Reliability and objectivity
Authenticity but does not claim to be value- free
Qualitative data is more ‘rich’, time consuming, and less able to be generalized.Â
Quantitative data is more efficient, able to test hypotheses, but may miss contextual detail.
Dominant research topic
Explains prevalence, incidence, extent, nature of issues, opinions and attitude; discovers regularities and formulates theories
Explores experiences, meanings, perceptions and feelings
Researcher tends to become subjectively immersed in the subject matter.
Researcher tends to remain objectively separated from the subject matter.
Analysis of data
Subjects variables to frequency distributions, cross-tabulations or other statistical procedures
Subjects responses, narratives or observation data to identification of themes and describes these
Communication of findings
Organisation more analytical in nature, drawing references and conclusions, and testing magnitude and strength of relationship
Organisational more descriptive and narrative in nature
Figure 2 Table adapted from www.wilderdom.com and Kumar (2005)
The features of qualitative and quantitative research methods along with the differences in the two methods can be seen in Figure which has been adapted from www.wilderdom.com and Kumar (2005)
The table shows the two different research methods that can be used and their advantages and disadvantages. It shoes the features of both Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research.
4.3 Research Design
There are several different ways that the research for this project could be undertaken and when looking at the most suitable method. There are three major factors that are the most significant amongst the others that need to be taken into account. They are;
These three factors that have been identified are all issues that could affect the consistency, therefore the reliability of the data for my dissertation
4.4 Approaches to date collection
Interviews have been described by Kumar (2005) as being person to person interaction with specific purposes. There are two main types of interviews and these can be seen in figure below taken from Kumar (2005, page. 123)
Flexible interview structure
Rigid interview structure
Flexible interview contents
Rigidy interview, rigid interview contents
Flexible interview questions
Questions and their wording
Figure 3 Diagram showing the two possible interview techniques
The advantages and disadvantages of interviews have been identified in the table below.
Advantages of Interview
Disadvantages of Interview
More appropriate for complex situations
Can be expensive and time consuming
Interviewing has a wider application
Interviewee could be bias
Questions can be explained
Quality of information may deteriorate
Good for in depth information
Quality of interviewee may be poor
Face to face interaction
Quality of data could differ on interaction
Figure 4 Advantages and disadvantages of the interview
4.5 Research Proposal
Because of my dissertation, and what it is involving, it was not feasible for me to produce any quantitative data as the majority of the general public will have very limited or no information whatsoever about my chosen subject. Therefore my research method was a set of self designed research questions used to gather honest and first hand information, about the effects the recession is having on commercial sustainable construction. The purpose of this interview based approach was to abstract through questions the information needed to answer the research question. Tesch, (1990) defines qualitative research as ‘Intensive study of one individual or a group as an entitiy, through observation, self-reports and any other means’. In this case the individual was interviewed alone, yet was also grouped together in order to distinguish any inter related experiences.
It is clear that to get the best information possible, a wide range of professionals needs to be used. I therefore opted to use professionals from different backgrounds to interview. The professions in which I used are;
Life Cycle Director
Commercial Sector Director
Senior Design Manager
The reason for selection of the professionals is that hopefully I can gain an insight into the different views on the set of self designed questions that have been prepared for them.
I was careful in choosing the professionals in which I did. I wanted to gain the best information possible to obtain the best results for my dissertation. I decided on choosing professionals who are well established in their different fields and have a wide vocabulary of knowledge, and in some cases, have plenty of experience.
4.7 Interview Design
I decided in order to gain the best and most accurate information it would be best to have a structure interview. Therefore I would take a set of pre determined questions into the interview and asked to the professionals. The advantages of such a structured interview would be that each and every one of the professionals would be asked the same questions then a better analysis could be gained as their responses are all to the same questions
The above chapter covers the whole process of collecting data and the means for it to be compiled.
5.0 Data Collection Activities
5.1 Scope of the Chapter
This chapter in hand looks at the activities that took place in order for me to successfully collect the data. The data collection activity covers what was completed to collect the resulting information and the processes that have taken place. The following chapter should show the results collected, which be analysed according to the objectives.
5.2 Data Collection
The only source of data collection was conducted using structures interviews. The interviews were recording on different days, but in the same week as I deemed it important as it would give me the most accurate information. The professionals all gave a good sample of answers to the questions given to them. The interviewees were of a high professional level and of high standard.
5.3 Interview Results
I considered it was important to correctly select the amount of the actual questions I would be asking. This was for the simple reason that it would give me the best and most accurate answers about sustainable commercial buildings, the recession and whether or not they have had an effect on each other.
I deemed it necessary to find out the age of the interviewees, the years of experience they have in the necessary feild and more importantly what their profession was.
Age of the interviewee
Figure 5 shows the age of the participants
Amount of experience in current profession
Figure 6 shows the amount of experience each interviewee has
What profession the participants are in
Figure 7 shows the profession of the interviewees
6.0 Data analysis
6.1 Scope of the chapter
In this chapter I will critically analyse the results that were compiled from the interviews that were undertaken. The results will assess the impact that the interviews have had upon the research completed, and will compare or contrast findings. The way in which I will be analysing the interviews is by looking at each question, explaining each of the results and from there, I will be analysing them.
Question 01 Analysis
Do you utilise in-house staff rather than specialist consultants?
You can see from the transcripts that the interviewees have answered the question, with different opinions. Interviewee 1 and Interviewee 3 both say that they use both in-house and specialist consultants. Interviewee 3 then goes on to say that the main reason they are using in-house staff rather than specialist consultants is that they are ‘much much cheaper’.
Interviewee 2 and Interviewee number 5 both have the same sort of answer. They both said that they try to use specialist consultants rather than in-house staff in their companies. Interviewee number 2 explained it was because ‘contractors are seeing the need for specialist advice that can help them differentiate in a competitive market; to have an edge and make sure they win the tender.’
Interviewee number 4 however, said that in his company they try to utilise the in-house staff as much as possible but because the company in which he is employed by is ‘fairly small company compared to the Balfour Beatty’s, Carillion’s and other such companies.’.
From this question, I have a mixed bag of answers to whether companies use in-house staff or specialist consultants. Because of the varied answers, I believe that some companies are doing better in the recession than other companies and still can afford the specialist consultants.
I also believe from the answers that some people believe it is more important to gain the specialist knowledge than it is to use in house staff as they believe using in-house staff hinders your chances of winning a contract when tendering for it so having the best knowledge possible is key.
Questions 02: Analysis
Has the amount of contractors being tendered to changed since the recessional period started?
I can see from the transcripts there is a popular answer to this question. Interviewee numbers 3, 4 and 5 all agree that there has been some change in the amount of contractors being tendered too.
Interviewee 1 the Senior Design Manager is alone when saying that there has been no change. He explains because Balfour Beatty is a ‘big big company’ they have ‘a local supply chain in every major area’. He explains that at Balfour Beatty they use contractors that they have had previous relationships with because ‘you get better quality out of them’.
Interviewee number 2 is also alone with his answer. He states ‘Tender lists are long, but I am not too sure at the moment if this is better or worse than before.’. At the moment, he is unsure as to whether having long tender lists is better or worse than before. He then goes on to state a main problem with long tender lists is that ‘contractors don’t want to spend money on sustainability advice if they only have a low win probability.’
There is a common answer among the professionals about the amount of contractors being tendered too. The two Building Surveyors and the Life Cycle Director all believed that there has been some change since the recession started.
This tells me that the building surveyors definitely believe that there has been a significant change in the amount of contractors being tendered too.
The Senior Design Manager (Interviewee 1), whom I believe is the professional with the most experience, is completely alone with his answer. This in my opinion is because he works at one of the largest construction companies in Europe. Although the recession would still have had an effect on Balfour Beatty, I believe they would not nearly be as affected by is as some of the smaller companies in the industry.
The Commercial Sector Director (Interviewee 2) doesn’t really give a definitive answer to the question; he just states that the tender lists are long.
What financial arrangements have been put in place depending on sustainability?
When asking this question you can see from the transcripts that there was a very popular occurrence of and around the term ‘BREEAM Excellent’
Interviewee numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 all mentioned the word BREEAM. Interviewee 1 said ‘I think if affected by the recession but it’s actually probably a very positive time for us’ he also went on to say ‘if you look at commercial projects whoever is building a commercial project has got to think about their tenant and tenants often look for; is it a sustainable building? So it is actually a marketing tool that we are using now you know to give us an advantage against our opponents so sustainability rath
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