The construction industry plays a pivotal role in shaping the build environment, but also carries a significant environmental impact. The UK built environment is responsible for approximately 25% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions. Concern over diminishing natural resources and the state of the environment in general has raised public and media attention around construction and the processes involved. To address this, governments around the world have implemented regulations to promote sustainable practices and reduce the industry’s ecological footprint. The Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy, which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy issued in March 2021 sets out how the Government seeks to decarbonise the construction sector. This blog article, the sixth in the series, explores environmental regulations affecting the construction industry both in the UK and US. These regulations can be divided into general regulations that govern the construction industry more generally and regulations that govern specific materials such as timber.
Adherence to environmental regulations is a legal requirement for businesses. Failure to comply can result in fines, legal actions and disruption to projects. Meeting regulatory standards ensures that businesses within the construction industry operate within the legal framework, avoiding any potential legal consequences. In addition to this, it is important for businesses to demonstrate ethical business practices. By adhering to such standards and regulations, businesses can manage their reputation, mitigate any risk by allowing for supply chain transparency and improve market access by increasing competitiveness for a business. Demonstrating an adherence to such regulations also ensures Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which allows for more partnerships with businesses whose values align with broader societal and environmental goals.
In the UK, construction companies are subject to a comprehensive regulatory framework that promotes sustainable construction practices.
- The National Model Design Code (NMDC) provide guidance on the production of design codes for developments.
- The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) outline health and safety requirements, emphasising the importance of environmental consideration in project planning and execution.
- The Environmental Protection Act 1990 covers a wide range of environmental issues, including waste management and pollution control and applies to the construction industry through waste disposal and management provisions.
- Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 requires environmental impact assessments for certain types of projects, influencing constriction planning and design.
- A number of Building Regulations and Sustainable Construction Policies that govern construction and building standards and Part L which focuses on the conservation.
The UK government’s commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 further influences construction regulations.
In the US, construction regulations vary across states and municipalities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees federal environmental regulations, while individual states may have additional requirements. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act are fundamental federal laws that influence construction practices, with a focus on air and water quality.
- The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to assess and consider the environmental impact of their proposed construction actions.
- The Clean Air Act regulates air quality and emissions, impacting construction activities that may contribute to air pollution.
- The Clean Water Act regulates discharges into water, affecting construction projects related to water quality.
- The Resource Recovery and Conservation Act (RCRA) governs the management and disposal of hazardous waste, including waste generated during construction.
- The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) addresses the cleanup of hazardous waste sites, applicable to construction sites with potential contamination.
- The Endangered Species Act protects endangered and threated species and their habitats, influencing construction projects in ecologically sensitive areas.
- The Energy Policy Act includes provisions for energy efficiency in federal buildings and projects.
- LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a widely recognized green building certification influencing construction practices.
- State and Local Regulations often have additional environmental regulations.
In the Governments Clean Growth Strategy, the government has committed to increasing the use of timber in UK construction to 40 percent by 2050. This is because timber is a sustainable material. In a global market, where a customers can be thousands of miles away, providing evidence of managed forests is increasingly important. Sustainable and local supply chains are being encouraged. In 2020, the UK imported over 80 per cent of the timber it consumed. Most global production of timber has come from North America, Russia, China and Brazil and global production is increasing over time to meet rising demand. When dealing with timber, customers want to know if harvested areas are being regenerated, if wildlife habitat is being protected and if the bio-diversity of the forest is being maintained. In a global market, where customers can be thousands of miles away, providing evidence of managed forests is increasingly important. A number of regional and international regulations govern the use of timber in the use of construction.
- PEFC: PEFC is a global umbrella organisation for the assessment of, and mutual recognition of national forest certification schemes. It provides an assurance mechanism to purchasers of wood and paper products. These national schemes build upon the inter government processes for the promotion of sustainable forest management, or services of on-going mechanism supported by 149 governments in the world covering 85% of the worlds forest areas.
- CSA: Canada’s National Sustainable Forest Management standard is based on international criteria for sustainable forest management and Canada’s own national SFM criteria which were developed by the Canadian Council of Forest ministers. The CSA launched an optional Chain of Custody and labelling program in July 2001.
- SFI: The Sustainable Forestry Initiative was developed by the American Forest and Paper Association for its membership, and is now available for use by any interested party through a licensing arrangement. The SFI program is a comprehensive systems and performance-based standard that integrates the perpetual regeneration and harvesting of trees with the protection of wildlife, soil and water quantities, bio-diversity and ecologically significant sights. Over the past 3 years AF & PA have strengthened the credibility of the standard by introducing a third-party certification process and an independent sustainable Forestry Board with broad representation of interests to govern SFI.
There are a number of regulations that govern the use of aluminium in construction, including that for brise soleil. In the EU, REACH governs the use of chemicals including those in the production of aluminium.
CE Marking indicates compliance with EU product safety standards and internationally, ISO standards relate to the properties and use of aluminium, which may be referred to in construction regulations.
Aluminium is generally regarded as a sustainable product and this mainly comes from its thermal properties as it provides excellent insulation. It prevents heat loss from a building and reduces heat loads in summer. At Contrasol, 90% of our aluminium products are from recycled materials. Finally, aluminium doesn’t rust and generally maintains its original aesthetic effect far longer than most materials, reducing the need to replace it, making it a sustainable option.
To conclude, environmental regulations are not only essential for legal compliance but also serve as a foundation for sustainable and responsible business practices. When choosing suppliers with whom to partner, aligning with businesses that share a commitment to environmental stewardship can lead to mutual success, enhanced reputation and a positive impact on the industry as a whole. At Contrasol, we proudly adhere to and comply with all applicable environmental regulations governing our industry. Our commitment to legal and ethical practices, sustainability and corporate responsibility is reflected in our unwavering adherence to these regulations. We prioritise environmental stewardship, ensuring that our operations and those of our partners align with the highest legal and ethical standards.