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Section 1 Sustainability in Construction

Section 2 Sustainable Construction and Demolition Techniques

Section 3 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Section 4 Sustainable Construction Management 


Description:  This unit introduces the concept of sustainable development.

Author:  Gates MacBain Associates

Section 1  Sustainability in Construction

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Describe what sustainable construction is.
  • State the factors which need to be considered in order to ensure a building is constructed to sustainable requirements.

The development of sustainability in construction started in 1987 with the Brundtland Report which identified the need to meet ‘the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. This lead to a raft of codes and legislation, which will be dealt with in Unit 4 of this module.
Sustainable Construction is the application of sustainable development to the construction industry and reflects the principals of sustainable development which are:
  •  environmental protection
  • economic development
  • social development, in the siting, design, building, maintenance and occupation of buildings. 
Sustainable buildings are designed and constructed to high environmental standards and should:
  • Minimise energy requirements - good levels of insulation, building orientation to maximise solar gains and shelter from prevailing winds, maximising daylighting, energy efficient lighting and appliances.
  • Reduce water consumption  - rainwater reuse, water efficient appliances, minimising and attenuating surface water run-off to prevent flooding and pollution.
  • Use materials which are of low environmental impact e.g. resource efficient  -   use of long-life materials of low environmental impact during extraction, manufacture and use, avoid using toxic materials and those from non-renewable and non-sustainable sources, use of materials which can be reused / recycled, use of recycled materials.
  • Reduce wastage  - Instigate systems to reduce wastage in the ordering and use of materials.
  • Transport  - Location near to public transport routes, proximity to amenities and places of work, space for home working - e.g. home office to reduce commuting. Use of locally produced materials to reduce transportation requirements
  • Conserve / enhance the natural environment  - conservation and enhancement of the site ecology / biodiversity.
  • Safeguard human health and wellbeing - use of non-toxic finishes and materials, natural daylighting, freedom from noise, indoor air quality, private outdoor space, green space, design for community and 'sense of place', integration with the surroundings / landscape.
You should read through the CIOB paper on Sustainability and Construction at the website below and visit The Constructing Excellence web site which provides an excellent source of information relating to sustainability. To access this click on the link ‘About Sustainability in Construction’.



  • Halliday, S, (2008) Sustainable Construction, Butterworth-Heineman, Oxford. Chapter 13.

Self-Assessment Task

  • Outline the factors that need to be considered in order that construction takes place in order to conform to the requirements of sustainable principles.

Section 2  Sustainable Construction and Demolition Techniques

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to outline the areas covered by:
  • Sustainable construction technology
  • Sustainable demolition technology


The use of sensitive construction techniques can reduce the environmental impact that construction can have.   

An excellent introduction to this topic is available by visiting the site accessible by clicking the Building Materials and Techniques link and then working through the related pages. 


Construction, demolition, refurbishment and material supply processes are responsible for a significant amount of waste.  It is estimated that the construction industry accounts for 17% of total waste produced in the UK.   

One of the major sources is demolitions which are creating waste instead of reusing the materials.  The demolition industry has an important role to play in maximising the separation of waste materials, which can also create a supply of uncontaminated resources suitable for reclamation and recycling.  Though this will only be done if there is a demand for these materials.  

Making more effective use of materials through reclamation and high grade recycling can have a significant impact on the total use of resources such as aggregates and will also reduce pressure on landfill sites.  

Materials recovery will only happen where it is economically viable. The 'antiques' side of demolition salvage, concerned mainly with interior fittings such as baths, toilets, sinks, radiators and fireplaces; joinery, fine mouldings and reclaimed flooring; stained glass; ironwork; garden statuary, tiles, fencing and walls; roofing and bricks has become big business though there should be a priority in the reclamation of all building materials in order that they are recycled. Information on demolition can be found by clicking on the Demolition link below.


Constructionsite Units

Self-Assessment Task

  • Outline the main factors relating to sustainable construction and demolition.

Section 3  Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Outline the principles relating to Corporate Social Responsibility.

CSR is the recognition by companies that there are benefits to integrating socially responsible behavior as part of their business ethos. Such benefits include: 
  • enhancing company reputation
  • creating good will and positive public relations
  • attract stable investment
CSR does not provide a new set of business objectives which need to be met but identifies objectives to enable the company to meet the existing targets. CSR is a key driver for private sector companies seeking to embrace sustainability into their business.   

The main principles relate to: 
  • integrity 
  • transparency
  • responsiveness
  • fairness and diversity
The way that CSR is implemented will depend on the size of the company though the most important thing is the involvement of dialogue although it could also involve the production of a CSR policy.  To obtain more information on CSR you should read the CIOB Paper Corporate Social Responsibility and Construction while further details and guidance for the construction industry is available on the Government website Netregs which can be accessed from the link below. 


Self-Assessment Task

  • Outline the main principles relating to Corporate Social Responsibility.

Section 4  Sustainable Construction Management

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Explain the purpose of an environmental management system.

There are a number of methods relating to environmental management system (EMS) available to manage sustainability in construction; the main ones are ISO 14000 and Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS). 

These are a series of policies and procedures adopted by an organisation to monitor and reduce the impact of its activities on the environment.  The most widely used EMS is that described by the ISO 14000 of standards, an overview of which can be viewed by clicking on the link below. 

The EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is a management tool for companies and other organisations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. Details of this and other EMS schemes can be reached from the link. These sites are accessible from the E-Learning Materials for Sustainable Construction Management website which provides additional useful information. 


Self-Assessment Task

  • Briefly explain the purpose of an environmental management system and the factors it deals with.

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