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Building a more sustainable future

7 November 2017 No Comment

Responsible sourcing remains a key topic of discussion for much of the construction sector.

As part of a recent study, we surveyed a wide cross-section of the industry to help us gain a market insight into sustainable attitudes and practices. Architects, consultants, contractors, developers, engineers and building inspectors all provided feedback– with varied responses.

The results were very encouraging, demonstrating that sustainable practices are being implemented across a range of businesses in the building environment, with a strong focus on responsible sourcing.

From the survey, it is clear that the construction industry has an opportunity to improve in its sustainable development. For example, some respondents named ‘recycled content’ as important in sustainability across many materials. However, for steel this is not a key metric, as most steel is recycled due to its inherent value at the end of its initial ‘life’ (i.e. scrap).  Therefore, recycled content should not be a metric to drive sustainable development.

A more appropriate metric might be the ability to recycle steel (in, for example, composite products) or account for the durability of steel − which will extend the life of an asset and therefore reduce the resources required for a given design over time.

Another opinion that arose from the survey was the view that sustainable procurement is a costly process. Again, this can be a misconception if whole life costing has not been taken into account. For instance, the use of higher strength steels can reduce the weight of a steel component, in turn enabling further design freedom. This could significantly increase asset value – a benefit that would outweigh the initial capital expenditure.

It is critical that a life cycle perspective is taken, if the correct resource and economic decisions are going to be made.  This is, however, a difficult process, particularly as that life cycle can cut across asset ownership boundaries and supply chain responsibilities.  But if we do not consider the total life cycle, we are likely to make misinformed resource decisions and reduce our positive impact on an industry that thirsts for resource optimisation.

As an industry, we can also attack waste.  We believe that there are clear benefits from the early involvement of materials and solutions providers, such as Tata Steel, in the development of an asset. Combining the design process with a clear understanding of current supply chain capabilities, and utilising the innovation within the supply chain to develop and stretch that capability, will bring significant benefits.

This is partially reflected in the survey responses, with 60% of respondents stating that they would specify responsibly sourced materials at the design stage – a critical stage in ensuring that sustainability is built into the construction project.

Commenting on the results of the report, Rory Bergin, Partner, Sustainable Futures at HTA Design LLP, agrees, “For too long has the construction industry purchased and installed building products without knowing where they came from, how they were made, or even where the original materials were sourced. The first thing we need to fix as an industry is to remove the negative impacts of the materials we use, then remove the negative impact of the building itself.”

We lead the way in responsible sourcing with our entire UK construction portfolio certified responsibly and ethically sourced under the BES 6001 Responsible Sourcing Standard.

For further information on how we ensure sustainability and about Tata Steel’s ‘Life Building’ approach, please contact us: barry.rust@tatasteel.com or join our network

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