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Sustainability in construction endeavors in the existing times holds fundamental importance. The UK government is paying increased attention to ensuring sustainable practices in modern construction. Since the UK economy is largely benefitting from the output from construction sector hence the government is investing in this domain with a focus on encouraging construction firms to make use of best practices in modern methods of development. Technological advancements and sustainable practices have provided a platform to minimize the environmental threats projected by conventional construction methods. Today, green construction and lean manufacturing make it possible to design and build modern structures that are capable of providing benefits to current and future generations (Hughes et al., 2004)
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, sustainable practices in modern construction are of prime significance to the UK economy. It has been forecasted that construction firms that are adopting current sustainable development best practices would be able to achieve revenues worth £14 billion by 2022 including an input to the employment sector by supporting 65000 construction job opportunities employing thousands of workers (DCLG, 2015). Since sustainable development takes into consideration social, economic, environmental and industrial impact including management of resources in construction, hence implementing best practices helps ensure a safer and profitable environment capable of supporting communities from a futuristic perspective. The application of sustainable development techniques provides various benefits for all the project stakeholders including the client, construction firm, investors, suppliers, communities and the government at large. Some of these advantages are mentioned below.
The importance of adopting sustainable and efficient practices for construction work and built environment endeavors can be gauged from the benefits that these best practices entail. The lean construction approach, for example, brings many benefits to the construction project in terms of timely and quick delivery by reducing cycle time and minimizing delays. The approach also enables effective management of the project, optimized use of materials and efficiency in labor use thus adding value to the project delivery experience. Sustainable development practices such as implementing quality management systems and assessing the sustainability feasibility of the building or structure through evaluation tools helps to ensure that the structure is built to improve the standards of life for existing and new communities while generating a positive environmental impact or influence (Vallance, et al., 2009)
But the question that arises here is how the implications of sustainable practices are reflected practically in construction practices?
From the literature reviewed, it was observed that the implementation of best practices in construction initiatives allows for the optimum and most efficient use of natural resources while generating cost savings through effective usage of labor and other materials. A more important advantage that is effective for the future growth of the construction industry is the ability to design and create cleaner and well-built structures that allow optimized space usage and reflect sustainable features.
Moreover, waste production and emission of harmful substances is greatly minimized through the use of sustainable development practices when constructing buildings and structures (Lincoln et al., 2010). The use of efficient construction procedures and best practices in the built environment projects also ensures that there is efficiency in energy performance and the use of energy resources. Some of the benefits include:
Sustainability in modern construction techniques is the need of the hour with construction and design firms looking for ways to implement best practices in their development initiatives. There are greater opportunities in terms of improvements in the construction industry and great potential in implementing efficient and productive methods to help develop structures that facilitate sustainability. As per recent studies conducted to evaluate the impact and significance of the best practices in construction industry, researchers found out that labor productivity increased to almost 59% as a result of the implementation of sustainable development practices (UNECE/Eurostat/OECD, 2013).
Such results were achieved through making improvements in the factory workplace and increasing efficiency in construction site supervision and management. Through proper schedule planning and activity definition the construction lead time was reduced from 90 days to almost 72 days as per studies conducted for industrial engineering practice. This reflects a decrease of considerable levels in development cycle time which was made possible through proper scheduling thus resulting in reduced operational costs and cost savings for the investors. Practices such as these tend to give rise to well-built and well-designed structures that promote sustainability providing benefits to the community and the environment (UNECE/Eurostat/OECD, 2013; Khan, Adil, 2015; Rebecca, Johansson, 2011).
In order to further review and develop understanding of how the techniques in modern construction tend to improve sustainable development, various literature sources were revised and key parameters associated with the construction as well as management techniques were outlined, which have been detailed as below
The sustainable building or structure design is engineered to be flexible enough to allow for efficient and expansive use of space. The building design that is well laid out also helps in enhancing productivity and profitability during the development and construction process by facilitating proper use of materials, labor or employees and the building space hence allowing for proper management of the construction process minimizing schedule delays, providing backtracking facility and ensuring optimal use of the construction site. Generally, it is recommended that the site layout should be well designed to enhance lean site management or construction adding value to the profitability and feasibility of the structure (Lincoln, 2010)
As discussed previously, sustainable development has become an important consideration in the construction industry with civil engineers, designers and other stakeholders related to the industry such as real-estate firms, policy makers and sustainable development policy firms paying particular attention to implementation of best practices through a significant change in the skill-set and perspectives of those associated with the industry. One major area to improve is the harmful environmental impact that is generated as a result of construction activities and the waste production that is affecting the global environmental aura posing serious concerns for mankind.
In various countries for instance, only limited percentage of the waste material produced through the construction industry is recycled or taken care of which is insufficient to control the harmful effects it has on the environment. Further, carbon dioxide and other pollutants emissions is also giving rise to issues like global warming hence, there is a dire need to implement practices that can mitigate the risks associated with emissions and waste production. Construction Industry in the twenty first century is hence employing construction practices that help reduce waste and pollutants emission through lean manufacturing and efficient structural design or layouts (Vallance et al., 2009).
Organizations today, realizing the significance of the need to implement efficient development practices have started to train their staff and employees to generate awareness amongst them regarding work practices to facilitate sustainability. This includes training them regarding lean construction and it's various aspects, measuring work performance and implementing improvement through lessons learnt and coaching them regarding developing particular skillset and attitudes that promote sustainability and help achieve global sustainable development objectives (Griffith and Bhutto, 2008).
The need to plan for proper construction project delivery is important and timely delivery of the built environment endeavor is a practice that facilitates sustainability by reducing costs and generating savings. Construction firms hence plan project activities accordingly in consultation with project stakeholders with responsibilities and task details designed properly to ensure there are no cost and schedule overruns. Project Lead or cycle times are particularly measured and analyzed through sophisticated softwares and practices implemented to reduce unnecessary delays for future construction work or when planning for new development endeavors (Lincoln, 2010).
Project teams on Construction projects these days tend to make use of simulation techniques and specialized software that enables them to analyze project variables such as operational costs, lead time and material use for various scenarios so that they can select the most optimized design and project specification for the building or structure to be constructed. Discrete event simulation techniques are used by construction managers to forecast labor usage, material quantities and schedule scenarios to predict the best outcome for the construction project. This helps to facilitate sustainability through effective project specifications and optimized design layouts (Guy, 2005).
The tools and construction equipment used by construction staff and engineers are comprehensive and tend to induce stress and other health implications for the staff hence, the project teams these days use ergonomic equipment and safe set of tools that help boost employee performance and productivity during the building construction. The organizations are also implementing safety procedures and mechanisms for the construction activities carried out by the engineers to minimize the risk of accidents that often occur at the development site providing a safer work environment and facilitating safe construction procedures (Hughes et al., 2004).
The implementation of best practices in the construction industry to facilitate the sustainability in development efforts involves the implementation of quality management systems to ensure the efficiency in manufacturing or development projects. Organizations are now making use of quality management systems such as Kaizen, Total quality management and ISO 9001 including other construction quality systems to ensure that the structure meets the particular standards of building design and quality. This leads to sustainable development as the implementation of such quality systems tend to minimize risks associated with environmental impact and structure layout.
Moreover, various tools such as CEEQUAL, BREEAM and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) are used to measure and analyze the feasibility of the building with regards to sustainable development (Marita at al., 2008). These tools are being widely utilized by a large proportion civil engineering practitioners and their utilization has proved to further enhance the sustainability of structures around the globe. It is also important to emphasize at this point of discussion that state of the art engineering management systems and tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) has also played an influential role in ensuring that facilities and engineering support is integrated into the management of construction projects, which can prove to be highly successful in implications of sustainable practices
Similarly, various other standard have evolved in the last many years such as the Built for Life or BfL Standard, which is a government endorsed standard widely being adopted by organizations in the UK that tends to reflect and define design requirements that correspond to well-designed and well-built structures that support the objectives of sustainable development. The real estate developers and architects create layouts and designs that conform to the design parameters of the particular standard. These design parameters such as spacious streets and lanes, visually appealing designs, garbage disposal and recycling facilities, parking area feasibility and connectivity to allow easy access to the visitors and residents of the building and its surrounding structures enhance the asset value of the structure and its marketing feasibility allowing for sustainability in parallel. Such a standard is hugely popular for constructing and designing housing schemes and resident societies (Khan, A., 2015).
According to the literature reviewed in this research, such construction quality measures and standards tend to create designs and structures that provide benefits to the community and its surrounding environment providing a safer place for existing and future generations which is one of the prime objectives of the sustainable development as projected and emphasized by various organizations that are working towards the attainment of sustainable development. The entire idea of sustainable development is to facilitate the development of green sites and an environment friendly structures and practices in construction that tend to eliminate the harmful effects and impacts of the current resource intensive construction activities.
These management and assessment tools tend to ensure the green construction for sustainable development is focused primarily at ensuring that the construction work is professional and the installation of material is proper. Another key factor is the assurance of minimal waste production including proper disposal and recycling of any waste that could otherwise harm the community and its surrounding environment.
According to Cabinco (2016), WRAP researchers conducted studies to evaluate the impact of best practices for green construction and found out that construction activities carried out away from the development site is more effective as it results in 80% less waste as compared to on-site manufacturing. This is a trending practice in modern construction that entails off-site manufacturing hence resulting in less waste production and also less traffic due to lesser deliveries to the development or construction site. The factory workplace employs efficient working procedures that allow optimal use of materials and resources for construction including effective processes for recycling and disposal of waste. A sustainable practice as approved by the use of such tools and systems would also hence ensure minimal waste to landfill as per Cabinco (2016) and therefore the factory environment is more suited to achieve this objective. Procedures for managing and disposing off of waste should comply with the standard guidelines set for sustainable environment and organizations should ensure that their waste disposal plan meets the defined principles.
One of the core concepts of sustainable assessment and implementation systems/tools in construction work is the efficient use of energy resources and optimum energy performance. Cabinco (2016) explains that as compared to the conventional methods of construction, modern development practices/tools tens to ensure (through implementation of limitations, engineering values, ratings etc.) that parameters such as 'U' tolerance and air tightness with regards to development of product in the industry with factory tolerances is precise and optimal. For example experts various standard / tools suggest a value of 0.42W/m²K for an insulated wall with brick blocks along with a U value of 0.32W/m²K for off-site produced materials. Manufacturers and industrial processes can hence deliver energy efficient resources that cater to defined optimized values that help build sustainable structures and ensure high energy performance, and to achieve the required rating on accordance with the adopted sustainable standards (BREEM, CEEQUAL etc.)
Another example is of the air pressure checks which can help regulate/optimize energy efficiency and as per the defined/standard values, for example figure of 10m3/hr at 50Pa for commercial buildings is considered the lowest acceptable value. Zero carbon buildings have values below 33/hr at 50Pa and a solar array or panel is included for the most optimized use of energy for sustainable development. Existing buildings can also be improved using the same principles and objectives that ensure green construction. Other energy efficiency systems include the use of a sedum roofing mechanism and other sustainable energy systems (Cabinco, 2016)
Green Construction provides a greater control over the use of materials and the optimal balance of resources. Organizations that adopt the modern methods of construction use energy efficient materials such as sedum roofs such as volumetric MMC and other fabrics. An example is the use of timber frame which also provides timber cladding that greatly facilitates sustainability in materials. There is another option of plastic boarding that is also available apart from timber cladding. Organizations today make use of completely recyclable solutions for construction activities that provide the most efficient utility of materials.
An important consideration from the sustainability practice is the utility of the building after it has served its purpose. The question here is how much material from the building can be reused or recycled? This includes materials such as glass, timber and steel etc. Then there are parts that will shift to the landfill such as panels, plastering and insulated material. A building should be designed and built so that it provides the most benefit to the community at the end if it's life-cycle so that material from it can be reused to benefit future communities and generations. The Modern Methods of Construction should hence be useful enough to provide the most benefit to all project stakeholders including the ability to help achieve global sustainable development objectives. Generally the best practice for green construction involves the optimized combination of off-site production, energy efficiency procedures, optimum material utility and low U figures. Employing these practices/standards can help facilitate green construction and sustainability in the built environment.
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