The release of Part L has shifted the focus of the sustainability discussion to thermal efficiency. U-values are going lower than a limbo champ. Ground source heat pumps are improving energy supply efficiencies. However, there are key areas that are missed in the sustainability discussions.
There are practical steps that can be taken to make a significant impact on the sustainability of housing developments that are not related to thermal efficiency or green energy.
How products are delivered to the site, how long products last, and which materials are used in construction are also matters of importance.
Why should housebuilders care? What difference do these small gains in sustainability make?
The UN 2022 Gap Report indicates that the world is currently on track for 2.4 or 2.6 degrees of global warming instead of the previous target of 1.5 degrees. Governments are tasked with putting regulations in place to limit this.
House builders have an opportunity to make a significant difference in the prevention of this amount of global warming. The built environment contributes 40% of annual global CO2 emissions which means improvements here can make a significant contribution to help stay as close to 1.5 degrees of global warming as possible.
Also, consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable development and are willing to pay more for houses that can back up their sustainability credentials with credible initiatives and accreditations.
Sometimes important opportunities to build more sustainably can be missed. Let’s take a look at three of them.
Logistics & Transportation
Ahmet Sezer and Anna Fredriksson published a paper on Science Direct which points out that,
“Construction logistics have been overlooked as a measure to reduce environmental impact and increase productivity, even though its potential was highlighted already during the 1990s and early 2000s”.
The numbers on construction logistics are significant. Later in the same paper, Sezer and Fredriksson point to the data.
“construction transport accounts for 2.4%–5.5% of CO2 emissions… materials transport constitutes 16% of the total emissions from a project.”
16% of total project emissions come from materials transport. Here are three ways to mitigate this:
Delivery loads should be maximised for capacity so more is delivered in every load.
Deliveries should be delivered on time to minimise to make sure the development progresses according to schedule and materials are ready at the same time as the tradespeople
Deliveries should be double-checked to make sure that every part is there, preventing the need for return trips
Better delivery systems are a win/win for sustainability, the build project schedule, customer service, and the financial success of the project.
If products are delivered too soon they can easily be damaged or components lost. This causes delays with remedial work and/or returns and extra deliveries may be required.
Flexible/just in-time-time deliveries maximise project success and minimise the impact on the planet.
2. Product Lifespan
The UN’s 2022 Emissions Gap Report says that using products with longer lifetimes is one of the top three things industries can do to lower emissions (Table 5.3). For businesses, their advice is to “design long-lived products” (Table 5.4).
This raises the question: how can developers build long-lasting houses? Often it comes down to the quality of the products used in the build.
It is all too easy to gravitate towards “value” products, thinking that it doesn’t matter too much how long a product will last. “Value” often means cheap, and these products will be headed to landfill in just a few years.
This is why the UN Emissions Report makes product lifespan one of the top 3 recommendations.
Many construction professionals are now prioritising this.
Using high-quality, long-lifespan products also has the added benefit of raising the perceived value of your development.
3. Material Lifecycle
The difference between the lifecycle and lifespan of a building product is that lifecycle considers the extraction of raw materials, the processing and manufacturing of those materials, transportation, construction, use and maintenance, demolition, disposal and treatment, and then either recovery and reuse or incineration and landfilling. Lifespan has to do with the lifetime of the product when it is in the “use” stage of its lifecycle.
Materials like stone, brick, glass, wood, and concrete all have different life cycles and environmental impacts.
While we don’t have the time to delve into all of the life cycles of each, wood is the only material that is not only sustainable but regenerative. It naturally reduces carbon and has a long lifespan if taken care of properly.
Properly managed forests certified by the FSC make sure that both the forest’s flora, fauna, and local communities are protected in the process, and that enough wood is regrown to replace that which is removed.
At the end of life, wood can be reused in a variety of ways. One way is by turning it into heating pellets or Refuse Derived Fuel.
Over the past few years, Europe has increased their green energy from approximately 10 percent to 20 percent. This has been done largely by burning wood and converting it into electricity. The end of life for timber can contribute to the sustainability of the economy in the same way that its beginning does. This makes it the most sustainable building material.
Conclusion – Sustainable Staircases
By addressing how products are delivered to the site, how long products last, and which materials are used in construction, developers can improve sustainability. If you would like to learn more, check out our recently published eBook.
At Multi-Turn, we offer staircase design consultancy as part of our service to ensure every staircase is a success.
We have spent years designing wood staircases of high quality. We have also optimised our delivery system and guarantee that your product fits right the first time, to avoid hassle and unnecessary emissions. And all our timber is FSC certified.
But the first step in any project is finding out what staircase success means to you and your project. We identify the success factors with you and use this as our starting point for design and specification. Success can be different for each project.
This is why we discuss this with you before providing a quote. To find out more, talk to one of our team on 01962 712299. Alternatively, send us your plans to email@example.com for a no-obligation quote.