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The construction industry has taken its lead from the Government and the EU in the form of various legislative measures and directives designed to promote sustainable construction and management. The idea of sustainable management was first put forward in 1987 with the Brundtland Report titled Our Common Future ((WCED). 1987). The report articulated the need for the construction industry to understand the importance of the environment within future development. It also discussed how government policy could aid the progress of sustainable construction.
The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 has also influenced the industry. By the UK Government signing up to said protocol it meant that industry was forced to change its carbon and pollutant plans to meet new emission limits.
The strategy for sustainable construction published in 2008 has greatly aided the construction industries understanding of the definition of sustainability. The strategy set out targets for new developments E.g. All new buildings to be carbon neutral by 2019 (Winch 2010). There has been and still is some confusion about the assessment and definition of sustainability. In the interests of both Balfour Beatty and other construction companies the industry should be proactive in partnering with Government to try and put together effective and achievable strategies to cut emissions.
Studies into sustainability across the world have led the UK Government to look beyond not just Environment sustainability but to the other two sectors of sustainability; Economic and Social. These have been overlooked in the past but are now are starting to become increasingly important in assessing the sustainability of projects.
Development of Sustainability in Construction
Sustainability is taking a central role in the way construction project management is progressing in the industry. The key idea which needs to be understood before assessing Balfour Beatty's approach to sustainability is 'What is sustainability?'. The sustainability of a project can be spilt up into three main areas; Environmental, Social and Economic. The second two aforementioned divisions are well known for being overlooked, but are now, slowly, being explored more thoroughly throughout the construction project process.
The environmental side of sustainability is now well documented; with extensive guidance for the construction industry explaining to project managers how they can meet existing and future 'green' legislation and targets. A big subject that project managers should now be fully aware of is the Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), which now are obligatory within the EU. The industry is now well equipped with tools to procure and build projects which satisfy the most up to date legislation and guidance. The introduction of BREEAM and other similar sustainability assessment methods have helped to boost the profile of 'green' projects, however it should be understood that projects can be sustainable and not meet BREEAM requirements. This is a negative of not only the BREEAM assessment method but also the lack of universal and well understood sustainability assessment within the industry.
The idea of impact assessments has crossed over to the economic side of sustainability with financers now also carrying out assessments in developing countries as a way of protecting stakeholders who do not have the ability or power to oppose schemes due to political restrictions.
Whole life costing is being used more and more within the industry as a way of creating an economically sustainable project. By assessing the costs of the project not just on a procurement and construction basis but on a whole life basis a cost-benefit analysis can be carried out to determine the best sustainable solution. This idea promotes further funding in the construction phase to prevent higher or any maintenance costs on completion. This analysis sometimes can be dismissed by clients who intend to let on completion or when the future costs of maintenance are unpredictable.
Social sustainability is accepted a key ingredient when trying to deliver a sustainable project. The focus of social sustainability should be to assess the social needs of the end users of the completed project. This sort of data gathering is recognised as key when designing public infrastructure. Balfour Beatty as a leader in PFI procurement would be expected to understand this area fully and be able to deliver socially conscientious projects. When compared to the rest of the market Balfour Beatty is in a good position to provide these sort of projects; through the acquisition of companies across the world they can pull on extensive resources to research the different needs of a wide variety of societies. The introduction of Corporate Social Responsibility into the industry has promoted a superior environment for sustainability to succeed in an industry traditionally driven by profit. (Nielson, Projectsmart.co.uk 2009)
A Sustainable Approach to Project Management
Feasibility Study and Procurement Strategy
An area which is often overlooked is the feasibility study, when considering sustainability. In an article from the journal Cleaner Production it is suggested that early contractual involvement with contractors and other stakeholders even in the feasibility stage can be advantageous (Shen, et al. 2010). Assessing buildability and changing designs accordingly to make not just the end product sustainable but the whole construction process a much more favourable project can be delivered.
The procurement of projects has changed with the shift to sustainable development. Government projects are no longer assessed solely on price, but now are analysed to determine which provide the best value. Construction contracts which help to detail the responsibilities of stakeholders have also changed to provide a more balanced accountability during and beyond the end of construction to promote sustainable construction.
Design and Construction Strategy
Project managers are expected in today's industry to have a full understanding of sustainable supply chain management. The move to whole life costs and post-construction accountability has caused managers to look more closely at project suppliers and demand a greater design life for products. The change in legislation has also put an emphasis on managers to reduce pollution, fossil fuel consumption and create enhancements for society. For example the enhancement of SSSI's which may be affected by a construction project.
These ideas are now starting to be ingrained into minds of the UK market. However in the future this mindset needs to spread to industry across the world, particularly developing countries.
The problem which is well recognised across the industry is a lack guidance and understanding of assessing the sustainability of projects, as this area seems to very subjective and not easily defined. The industry should look to learn from projects such as SUE-MOT, which has assessed the existing capabilities of companies to assess the sustainability of projects. (Edum-Fotwe and Price 2009)
With all the needs of Vollenbroek's 2002 study available, sustainable "technologies, strategies of innovation and policies of governments", the future of sustainable construction seems promising, allowing the UK construction industry to strive to become one of the leading sustainable industries (Vollenbroek 2002).
Sustainability is now at the forefront of most construction company's endorsement strategies. Through effective project selection and accreditation schemes Balfour Beatty can start promoting itself more strongly as a leader in sustainable design and construction. Project managers trying to win contracts need to be fully aware of both whole life costing and the needs of clients and end users, especially when bidding for government funded projects.
Corporate social responsibility is also an area that Balfour Beatty will need to continue to develop in the future as part of its continuing efforts to identify and satisfy the needs of different societies across its wide client base.
The already vast market that Balfour Beatty covers allows the idea of sustainability to spread around the world. The use of acquisition companies can help improve Balfour Beatty's knowledge base on the subject of both environmental and social sustainability. The use of a more sustainable focussed approach to the cost-benefit analysis of projects should be considered. With clients now searching for companies with experience in sustainable construction the need for Balfour Beatty to improve its 'green' project portfolio is paramount to its success as a construction world leader.