Sustainability – An Important Force To Reshape Construction

The engineering as well as the construction industries happen to be facing rising demands when it comes to the decarbonization and environmentally friendly practices. Novel regulatory requirements will make sure to compel the companies to disclose data on greenhouse gas emissions as well as climate-related risks. Industry executives must go ahead and actively recognize and, not just that, even address these developments.

So as to better understand and, at the same time, benchmark the quality of disclosures that are related to environmental, social, and governance- ESG throughout the engineering as well as the construction industry, a recent EY study was was conducted of the top 30 engineers as well as contractors identified by Engineering News-Record and thereafter evaluated them across over 10 sustainability parameters. It is well to be noted that the study goes on to include social and governance topics, but this article stresses the environmental part of the study.

New regulations happen to be prioritizing environmental disclosures

The EY study goes on to highlight that new as well as proposed regulations at the state, national, along with international levels will go ahead and require companies to measure as well as disclose greenhouse gas emissions as well as climate risk information, something that most have not gone on to prioritize to date.

In October 2023, for instance, Gavin Newsom, the California Gov., went ahead and signed two bills into law that will go on to require public and private companies that conduct business in California and meet certain yearly revenue thresholds to go ahead and offer climate-related disclosures, which include Scope 1, Scope 2, as well as Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions, in sync with the recommendations of the Task Force concerning climate-related financial disclosures. Furthermore, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission- SEC went ahead and proposed a climate-related disclosure rule in 2022, which happens to be pending finalization. Both the regulations go on to include an assurance element, which will require disclosures to be assured by an independent third-party assurance offeror.
In the study, it was found that just six out of the 30 companies, essentially five public and one private, went on to report greenhouse gas emissions data. Managing Director, Climate Change and Sustainability Services at Ernst & Young LLP, Jennifer Leitsch, said that both public and private engineering as well as construction firms will get impacted by way of new climate disclosure regulations and that the companies must act now so as to understand what regulations apply to them and thereafter conduct a gap assessment so as to understand what actions they require to take so as to comply. This could go on to include data collection to help with the GHG emissions calculations, a climate risk evaluation, or executing the processes as well as controls so as to prepare for assurance.

Engineering as well as construction firms happen to be working together so as to share leading practices within this area. In May last year, the Associated General Contractors of America- AGC went ahead and launched a new Task Force on Decarbonization and Carbon Reporting.² Its objective included developing an industry guidebook pertaining to carbon reporting as well as educating the sector on related topics.

The construction sector happens to be going circular

As per The Circular Built Environment Playbook,³ high-income nations comprise 16% of the overall world’s population; but they happen to be generating over one-third of the world’s waste. Circular construction happens to be a way so as to reduce the environmental effect of the construction industry, which is anyways known for its high burden on the environment. The fundamentals of a circular economy when it comes to the built environment go ahead and include reduction in the consumption of materials as well as resources and optimization when it comes to the life span of materials as well as product use, as well as designing for disassembly, reuse, and recycling, plus zero waste. Engineering as well as construction companies go on to play a crucial role when it comes to tackling the worldwide environmental crisis, and they happen to have a major opportunity to regenerate resources as well as accelerate socioeconomic development.

Circular building makes optimal use of the resources and, at the same time, minimizes waste by way of the building’s whole lifecycle. The design, operation, as well as deconstruction push value over time by way of using durable products as well as services made of nontoxic, secondary, sustainably sourced, reusable, renewable, or even recyclable materials. More value can go on to arise from an increase in the structure’s space efficiency over time by way of shared occupancy, flexibility, as well as adaptability. This will also go ahead and add longevity, resiliency, durability and will be easy on maintenance as well as reparability.

Climate happens to be a key driver so as to apply new technologies within engineering and construction

Technology is helping with climate-friendly solutions, from the initial phases of building to making sure of energy efficiency. Sustainable design will be crucial as construction companies go ahead and reduce their energy consumption within the buildings that are completed. The construction industry, apparently, must include sustainable design, engineering, as well as construction practices pushed by applicable data so as to track, measure, and also decrease emissions and waste across the project lifecycle. Smart building sensors, energy-efficient building materials, and 3D printing create lasting as well as positive outcomes for the environment.

As ConTech has gone on to become an important arm of building sustainability, the fact is that it has proven to be more resilient to economic head winds vis-à-vis other innovation-oriented segments. While FinTech & Property Technology- PropTech went on to record sharp yearly declines in capital flows of 30% and 38%, respectively, investment in ConTech dipped by just 1%, thereby reaching $5.68 billion in 2022 ⁴. Worldwide, the US happened to be the most active country, with 97 startups going ahead and attracting 42.5% of all ConTech capital, which is more than four times the amount of investment in the next most active country, and that’s the UK, with 20 startups as well as 8.8% of the funding.

Advanced as well as green construction materials happen to be supporting the ESG agenda

Green as well as advanced construction materials go on to contribute higher efficiency, recyclability, as well as durability of performance, which, in the long run, go ahead and bring more advantages than the up-front capital outlays. The fact is that sustainable design is indeed going to be crucial as construction companies look forward to lessen their energy consumption in the buildings that happen to be completed. Engineering and construction leaders, apparently, go ahead and face competing pressures as they look to control costs while at the same time focusing when it comes to reducing the carbon footprint, but making use of energy-intensive heavy equipment in order to develop structures that happen to be scalable, taller, healthier, greener, and more technologically advanced than ever.

It is worth noting that novel sustainable materials can go ahead and help decrease the level of embodied carbon a building has. Embodied carbon is the greenhouse gas emissions that are associated with the construction process, which includes production, logistics, and the installation of building materials. Embodied carbon goes ahead and contributes almost 11% of the overall 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions that buildings share across the world ⁵. Numerous tactics can be used so as to help reduce the amount of embodied carbon in a construction project. One such way is to reduce the number of materials which are used in construction by way of designing buildings that happen to be more efficient while at the same time needing fewer materials.

One more way is to make use of low-carbon materials like timber and bamboo, as well as recycled steel. Novel construction materials have been created and existing ones upgraded so as to pave the way to decrease carbon emissions and also push energy efficiency. Some instances of green construction materials go on to include carbon fiber, and although it happens to be costly, it is 75% lighter as compared to iron and, as a matter of fact, 30% lighter than aluminium. Moreover, making use of prefabricated building elements can go on to reduce the amount of waste generated during construction and also lessen the carbon footprint within the building. It is made use of to reinforce traditional buildings and, at the same time, reduce the thickness of panels as well as lower their weight. Once it gets added to concrete, it offers excellent thermal insulation. Construction companies make use of cross-laminated timber- CLT, which comes bonded in layers and is manufactured off-site as well as assembled on-site. CLT happens to be robust, light, and fire-resistant as well.

The construction sector itself is prone to the impacts of climate change

There happens to be added motivation for engineering as well as construction companies to make use of sustainable practices since the results when it comes to climate change go on to directly affect the bottom line. With the rising number of extreme weather conditions, damage as well as insurance costs happen to be rising. Gradual climate change, such as temperatures and wind conditions along with rising sea levels, and at the same time extreme weather events like floods, fires, as well as droughts all go on to affect construction. Such effects include rapid degradation of construction materials, such as corrosion of metals, as well as shorter life spans when it comes to wooden buildings, thereby leading to structural damage. Water damage as well as leaks can also lead to mold growth, and the fact is that a sudden shift in energy usage can cause HVAC usage to surge, thereby leading to higher operational costs.
In order to mitigate these risks, the sector must go ahead and apply climate-resilient solutions such as building codes that help in sustainable construction and go ahead and address risks that are connected with climate change. Construction companies require appropriate health and safety scenarios for workers at the site, which include preparedness for weather events and natural disasters of extreme nature. Making use of climate-resilient design as well as materials and solutions that are apt to mitigate the effects of climate change is a necessity when it comes to a more sustainable future.


¹ “$4.2 Trillion Can Be Saved by Investing in More Resilient Infrastructure, New World Bank Report Finds,” The World Bank, June 19, 2019, ©2019 The World Bank.

² Task Force on Decarbonization and Carbon Reporting – Associated General Contractors of America, © May 31, 2023.

³ The Circular Built Environment Playbook – The World Green Building Council, © May 2023 Ed.

⁴ Construction Dive

⁵ US Environmental Protection Agency