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Research shows that the UK construction industry has an output worth over £110bn a year and it accounts for about 9% of GDP and employs over 3 million people (Some 30% of construction output is publicly funded with a further 10% accounted for by the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and similar schemes). However, buildings are also responsible for almost half of UK’s carbon emissions, half of water consumption, about one third of landfill waste and 13% of all raw materials used in the UK economy (HM Government 2009, 4) .
Constructing, maintaining and using buildings for homes and employment have a great impact on the environment, which is why sustainability in the construction industry is becoming increasingly important.
The UK construction industry needs to reduce its carbon footprint and consumption of non-renewable natural resources. Excess energy consumption is also a major source of carbon emissions in the UK. Sustainable building methods reduce the damage to the environment that the construction process and use of buildings create. They minimise energy use, waste and pollution, as well as maximising re-use and recycling wherever possible. The UK government and construction industry formed the Low Carbon Industrial Strategy as well as the Strategy for Sustainable Construction which aims for new homes to be zero carbon from 2016.
Business benefits from sustainable construction
Short and long-term cost reductions from waste and disposal costs, as well as increased energy and resource efficiencies
Sustainable construction - the UK strategy
Sustainable procurement is; “ A process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisations, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment”. (Development for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2006, 10)
It aims to realise the shared vision of sustainable construction by:
Providing clarity to business on the Government's position by bringing together diverse regulations and initiatives relating to sustainability;
Why is this strategy needed?
The business case for the sustainable construction agenda is based on:
Increasing profitability by using resources more efficiently;
How to deliver the Strategy
Good procurement practice is crucially important to reduce the overall cost of projects, to improve the economic efficiency of the construction industry and to ensure that projects, when complete, are fit for purpose, thereby securing whole life value. This Strategy seeks to build on a shared commitment to procure in a more sustainable way and focuses on promoting the business case for better procurement practices in the public and private sectors (WEB 1).
Sustainable Procurement National Action Plan
Sustainable Procurement is a process whereby organisations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organisation, but also to society and the economy, whilst minimising damage to the environment (SPTF 2006, 14).In the Action Plan it is discussed that it is evident that what and how Government buys and acquires goods, services and capital, makes a big difference, both to its ability to deliver sustainable development and to its credibility with those it seeks to influence. Furthermore, it is stated that the public sector needs to procure sustainably because that is the only way that they can be sure to offer real value for money over the longer term – unsustainable procurement is not good stewardship of taxpayers’ money.
One of the key barriers to sustainable procurement is that it costs more, at least in the short term, even if it offers long term savings, but the SPTF believes that if sustainable procurement, as part of an improved procurement process, cuts out waste, seeks innovative solutions and is delivered by well trained professionals will reduce rather than add public spending in both short and long term – a resource efficient public sector will have lower impacts.
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