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Disruption in Construction to Build a Sustainable Future

26 March 2020

ORANGEBEAM

By Dato’ Faris Yahaya

As part of ORANGEBEAM’s BOLD blueprint, we constantly look for ways to elevate the lives of communities that we serve and the locations that we operate. We do this by designing and constructing buildings that are not only eco-friendly and sustainable, but through construction processes with minimal impact to the environment. With the alarming environmental issues that have cropped up in the past couple of years, we must take our efforts up a notch now more than ever.

Before diving deeper, let’s first understand the meaning of ‘sustainable construction’. Despite being one of the building industry’s top buzzwords, sustainable construction is also one of the least understood terms. It is often use superficially with oversimplified rhetoric like “eco”, “green”, “smart” and others.

We need to look at “sustainable construction” with a much wider lens.  It requires our full understanding and consideration of the impact to the environment that comes from every component of our projects from siting to design, material sourcing to processes, construction and maintenance, among others.

 

Why Sustainable Construction is Important

 

Climate Crisis

 With the world heating up, the construction sector is complicit in the threat of climate crisis, emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) gas through greenfield development, material production and the use of fossil fuels.

In Malaysia, the International Energy Agency (IEA) recorded that we produced 211 million tonne of CO2 emission in 2019, a 322 percent increase since 1990. In 2019, we were also ranked 27th in the World’s Carbon Emission list, further proving that we are in dire need of sustainable practices, including how we approach construction.

Just like natural disasters are unavoidable, we cannot afford to ignore the looming climate crisis the world is experiencing. More than ever, now is the time for governments, businesses, citizens and especially the construction industry to address the pressing matter of climate crisis that is affecting us.

Exhaustion of our Natural Capital leads to Cost Increase

Sustainable construction should be a top priority because the risks from development are rising as growth continues to exhaust natural capital. If left unregulated, the effects will include an increase in water scarcity, resource bottlenecks, worsening pollution and irreversible biodiversity loss.

It will become increasingly costly to substitute physical capital for natural capital. For example, if water becomes scarcer or more polluted, more investment into infrastructure is needed to cleanse and eventually transport it.

 

How do we disrupt the industry to create a sustainable future?

 

Adopt Industry Best Practice

To drive change, I would suggest implementing industry best practices from around the world. We need to bring in advancements that help construction do more with less – less waste, less cost, less emissions.

One idea is to bring elements from manufacturing into construction. There is a great opportunity for construction companies and investors to explore modular construction as this technique is being executed in various residential and high-rise projects around the world to meet demands quickly and efficiently.

Offer Sustainably by Design

Adopting a ‘sustainably by design’ approach to materials sourcing can reduce the impact of materials used in construction. We should consider innovative construction techniques and materials acquisition to reduce waste, energy and inefficiencies at construction sites.

Sustainable design principles include the ability to:

1) Optimise site potential

2) Minimise non-renewable energy consumption

3) Use environmentally preferable products

4) Protect and conserve water

5) Enhance indoor environmental quality

6) Optimise operational and maintenance practices

Innovative Solutions and Policies

Governments are responding to United Nation’s call to protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Everyone is needed to turn this vision into a reality. From cutting-edge technology solutions to financial institutions and government support, all stakeholders of the construction industry play a crucial role that will determine the success of this initiative.

Technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Industrialised Building System (IBS) are the backbone of sustainable projects. The benefits that comes from these technologies are amplified once combined with emerging practices and advanced technology solutions. For instance, sensor technologies coupled with data analytics can study the whole-life performance of new structures and optimise existing assets to prevent wasteful over-design.

 

Opportunities from Sustainable Construction

 

Bigger Business Opportunities

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission revealed that organisations pursuing sustainable and inclusive business models stand to reap economic opportunities worth US $12 trillion or more each year by 2030. This is especially favourable for businesses in developing nations like Malaysia.

Attract Talents

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that the transformation could generate 15 to 60 million additional jobs over the next two decades and significantly aid millions of employees from poverty.

Elevate Economy

Greening the building stock of social housing programmes could help to alleviate poverty by generating savings on energy expenditure and promoting social inclusion. Cities can stimulate sustained economic growth and employment, which offer opportunities for small-scale enterprises and the informal sector generally.

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