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The Bruntland Report is commonly given as providing the definitive definition of sustainable development; and there are in excess of 200 other documented definitions. Sustainable construction, the application of sustainable development within the construction environment, equally is subject to many definitions. Sustainable construction represents a new paradigm of what it is that makes up a project and that is more than just the 'three pillars' of cost, quality and time. Significant effort has clearly been expended on academic debate.
Equally, the government and other bodies have developed a significant number of initiatives relative to sustainability. These are principally aimed at high level issues and the development of a sustainable construction project rather than the inception of sustainability in the production and design phases of the project. To a lesser extent they deal with the site level inception of sustainable construction practices.
Despite the significant work in the area of sustainability there is still a general lack of maturity in relation to the inception of sustainability practices within the design and construction stages of projects. The importance of development of sustainable construction practices cannot be underestimated in relation to ensuring a viable future for construction as a whole.
Â This paper explores from literature the need to review the site practices which form sustainable construction at the site level and the perceived issues which relate to them.
Â Keywords: Sustainability, site practices, design and construction.
The Bruntland Report (1987) is commonly given as providing the definitive definition of sustainable development; "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
This is not the only definition that is available with in excess of 200 other documented definitions.
Holmberg (1994) recorded over 80 definitions of sustainability, by 1998 this had risen to 160 (Hill, 1998) and in 2000 it was intimated that the number of definitions had reached 200 (Parkin, 2000).
The multitude of definition has proliferated in a search for a true understanding of what is required to achieve sustainability in a real world scenario. The range of definitions also shows the various viewpoints and perceived starting points that underlie the complexity of achieving an agreement as to what the true issues of sustainable development are and what needs to be accomplished to achieve a number of aims of maintaining development. Multiple definitions have been derived so as to allow a more complete understanding of the concept by the various stakeholders.
It should also be noted that the issue is made more complex by international viewpoints which bring with them a number of alternative starting points in relation to sustainability in the development arena.
Sustainable construction is the application of sustainable development within the construction environment, one of the most widely accepted definitions being (Kibert, 1994) "the creation and responsible management of a healthy built environment based on resource efficient and ecological principles". Bourdeau et al (1998) note the importance of sustainability and that it represents a new paradigm of what constitutes the requirements for a successful project. The requirements being more than cost, quality and time. Also the importance of development of sustainable construction practices cannot be underestimated in relation to ensuring a viable future for construction as a whole.
Sustainability in construction is not a new area in relation to academic research but there is still a lack of maturity in relation to the inception of sustainability practices within the design and construction stages of projects.
Bidarianzadeh and Fortune (2002) encapsulate the dilemma of sustainable construction in their comment "the construction industry, undeniably, has a huge impact on the environment and the term 'sustainable construction' may seem to contain an oxymoron. How can an industry such as construction, traditionally so thoroughly dependent on the use of nature's resources and concerned primarily with creating new structures, answer increasing societal and, in turn, governmental demands for a sustainable industry?"
Much as with definitions of sustainable development the subset definitions of sustainable construction are divided and open to a multitude of definitions. The key elements of sustainable construction are often debated in terms of key 'pillars' the number of which predominantly falls into the three or four 'pillar' camps. Hill and Bowen's (1997) detailed concept of sustainable construction considered Four 'pillars' these being 'social', 'economic', 'biophysical' and 'technical. This expands on the more traditional view of the three pillars of sustainability being social, economic and environment.
The government and other bodies have developed a significant number of initiatives such as the government "building a better quality of life" (DETR, 2000). These are principally aimed at high level issues and the development of a sustainable construction project (Edwards & Hyett, 2001) rather than the inception of sustainability in the production of the structure.
A significant number of the incentives are in relation to larger concepts such as action plans (Addis & Talbot, 2001) and initiatives and to a lesser extent they deal with the site level inception of sustainable construction practices.
Augenbroe et al. (1998), through the use of a Delphi analysis concluded that "important factors of change in Greece are energy and resource conservation as well as land use regulation and urban planning policies." Manoliadis and Tsolas (2006) expanded on these findings and outlined fifteen drivers for change to implement sustainable construction these being:" energy conservation; waste reduction; indoor environmentally quality; environmentally-friendly energy technologies; resource conservation; incentive programmes; performance-based on standards; land use regulations and urban planning polices; education and training; re-engineering the design process; sustainable construction materials; new cost metrics based on economic and ecological value systems; new kinds of partnerships and project stakeholders; product innovation and/or certification and recognition of commercial buildings as productivity assets". Al-Yami and Price (2006) note that Drivers should be those that stimulate stakeholders to adopt sustainable design in their building project at the briefing process.
Construction sustainability practices
The project will need to review the site practices which form sustainable construction at the site level. These have been indicated (Chant, 2004) as principles comprising "Avoiding pollution; Protecting and enhancing biodiversity; Improving energy efficiency and management; Efficient use of resources; Transport and travel planning; Respect for people; Working with local communities; Partnership working; Sustained and increased productivity and profitability; Improved project delivery; Monitoring and reporting performance against targets; and Designing for whole life costing (life cycle analysis)" based on WS Atkins Consultants, 2004. These are however not definitive as alternative sets of construction site practices that are required for sustainability have been put forward. Khalfan et al, (2002) and Xing (2007) highlight the key roles that construction sustainability practices need to provide. Khalfan et al, (2007) encapsulated the requirements of the ten phases of construction as being:
Whilst Xing (2007) provides the key items as internal impacts which "include whole life cost and whole life revenue. The external impacts include economic impacts, natural resources depletion, environmental impacts, and social impacts. In the CSAM, environmental impacts from the activities are split into five elements: greenhouse gases emissions, pollution (e.g. from combusting fossil fuels), waste, nuisance (such as noise, odour and visual impacts) and biodiversity. The natural resources depletion indicators capture resources used including materials, land, water and fossil fuel reserve. The social impacts of a building life cycle assessed including the following elements: crime, mobility, education, community participation, satisfaction, health, housing condition, poverty".
The project will then investigate the perception to inception of sustainable processes within the design and construction stages of projects. Previous research (Williams and Dair, 2007) has looked at the stakeholder perceptions of barriers to sustainable construction primarily looking at the issues from an Investors/developers point of view. The project will provide important information as to the issues that industry needs to address to establish sustainable construction practices through the design and construction phases of a project.
What is required is the inception of revised or innovative practices that bring about the goals of sustainability in the construction arena. The issues of innovation within construction have been researched extensively and it is interesting to note the definition of innovations.
Lim and Ofori, G (2007) gave the following noted in relation to their findings that innovation could be defined as "'the purposeful search for new knowledge and the application of this knowledge in production'. 'Newness' applied in most industrial contexts may encompass two notions: (1) differentiation; and (2) the creation of competitive advantage."
This points to the most significant sustainability driver of all construction change the development of a competitive edge or something which sets the company apart. The research of Lim and Ofori based on 21 interviews concluded that the predominant driver to innovation in the construction industry was profit. This tied in with similar research by Linde and Porter (1995), Slaughter (2000) and Prahalad and Venkat (2004).
Lim and Ofori, (2007) use some of the limitations that have been discussed in relation to the drive to innovate and propose that the alternative viewpoint should be taken in relation to the idea of innovations and suggest that these should be grouped into three classifications when looking at the strategic viewpoint of innovations. These innovation types are "innovations that consumers are willing to pay for (Type 1 innovations); innovations that reduce contractors' construction costs (Type 2 innovations); and innovations that provide contractors with sustainable competitive advantage (Type 3 innovations)."
The project will also investigate the perception to inception of sustainable processes within the design and construction stages of projects. The project will provide important information as to the issues that industry needs to address to establish sustainable construction practices through the design and construction phases of a project.
It is initially proposed that a quantitative investigation of an appropriate cross-section of construction professionals is undertaken (Bryman & Bell, 2007; Yin, 2008) to review perception in relation to the sustainability practices