Telling the whole story
Often when sustainability is mentioned in relation to construction design and engineering, there is a heavy focus on energy usage and utility bills. While this is of course a huge design consideration, and has a very real impact on owners, occupiers, and users, it doesn’t quite tell the whole story about the sustainability of the structure.
Sustainable structures need to be measured by assessing the potential impacts on social, environmental and economic principles, often referred to as “people”, “planet” and “profit” pillars, during all stages; design, construction and end usage. Embedding all three pillars into your project in a holistic way is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for your bottom line. Building a reputation as a proactive, socially-responsible and committed organisation will give you the clear edge over competitors since organisations and individuals are taking environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into account for more and more of their business and personal decisions.
Starting the assessment journey with Life Cycle Analysis
Whatever your project, be it a logistics hub, production facility, residential block, or commercial building, one of the best ways of assessing the sustainability of your premises is to undertake a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). This is a full-scale assessment of all the interlinked stages of the project with customised investigations, data collection, analyses, and interpretation of results. It’s important to clearly set out the scope of the LCA from the start and make sure it’s aligned with your own ESG goals as an organisation.
For example, our Building Energy Modelling (BEM) is a process which can be utilised in the design stages of a project to help make informed holistic decisions in a timely manner. Careful planning, thoughtful interpretation of data and innovative solutions from sustainability experts will allow you to deliver a sustainable project for the present and future, where the positive effects ripple their way throughout your organisation and commercial relationships.
Collaboration and innovation: BIM engineering & 3D Modelling
By limiting a project’s sustainability focus to energy usage alone, opportunities in areas like socio-cultural aspects, location and transport, supply chain, function management, circular economy principles and recycling may be overlooked. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits all strategy and at Metec our dedicated Sustainability Team have been hand-picked for their passion, qualifications and experience in delivering transformational projects. Sustainable construction projects are collaborative by nature. Sustainability goals and objectives can be built into the project from the outset and inform the design and delivery throughout.
A collaborative multidisciplinary BIM modelling environment allows for issues to be discovered and resolved at an early stage before ever reaching site. It is considerably faster and cheaper to make amends in a 3D model, than to physically perform reworks on site. This type of planning reduces waste and results in maximised usage of materials. Modular construction can be investigated and measured against onsite work for cost, time, carbon footprint and the ability to recover, reuse and recycle different potential materials.
One of the most important things to remember while assessing sustainability is that nothing exists in isolation and no decision should be made in a silo. This can be incredibly positive when viewed through the right lens. For example, purchasing materials locally does not just reduce your carbon footprint and lower transport costs, it also affects the social aspect of sustainable construction by helping to support local jobs and giving a financial boost to the local community.
Future focus on sustainable projects
The benefits of holistically assessing sustainability continue long after the project has been completed. While energy and utility bills can fluctuate due to dynamic macroeconomic and geopolitical influences, there are other long-term impacts that are not affected by outside factors such as improved health, wellbeing and productivity among building users, occupiers, and employees.
Research shows that when employees were relocated to a building with a design focused on sustainability, health and well-being, they experienced significantly enhanced job satisfaction, a boost in productivity and reduced sick leave. These effects remained consistent when measured even two years after the moving date. This not only benefits the current owners and occupiers but increases the usability, saleability and/or the leasing potential well into the future.
While this research has been conducted on commercial buildings it’s not hard to see how the same effects can be implemented across sectors. For example if residential blocks were to implement these same goals, the increased comfort, health, experience and satisfaction of the residents will create holistically sustainable benefits for both the occupiers and the local communities in which they live.
When sustainability assessments are expanded in scope, in line with ESG goals, the benefits can be extremely far reaching. From the workers at the design and construction stages, to the owners and end-users of the finished premises, right through to the people in the wider community, everyone benefits from a more considered approach to sustainable projects.
At Metec we are team players, working collaboratively with our design partners and construction teams. Wherever you are in your sustainability journey, we can help support you in achieving your vision. If you would like to chat to us to learn more, contact the Head of Sustainability Scott Caldwell at SCaldwell@metec.ie