How can we make construction sites more sustainable?

The UK is now committed to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which will require fundamental changes to the way we currently live and work…

As the built environment currently accounts for around 33% of the UK’s carbon emissions, however, actions taken by the construction industry will make a real difference to whether or not we meet the target.

Reducing emissions within construction has become an increasingly pressing issue in recent years, with the industry making an agreement with the Government in 2017 to halve emissions in the built environment by 2025. This means that sustainability is already a key focus for many construction companies, with many now focused on creating buildings that are eco-friendly by design.

However, as the UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) new framework has recognised, there are two elements to consider when reducing carbon emissions in construction. While creating energy-efficient buildings is key, it’s just as important for businesses to consider how to reduce their impact on the environment during the construction of these buildings.

Could your organisation be more environmentally-conscious in the construction phase?

Here are our five top tips for embedding sustainability into your project from the start…

  1. Check your cabins

When you’re setting up temporary offices on your site, you may not consider the environmental impact of these buildings as you do with more permanent structures – but you should. Often, on-site cabins lack basic energy efficiency measures, such as proper insulation or LED lighting, which means there are plenty of opportunities for you to achieve some quick wins in this area.

  1. Don’t forget about transport

You also need to think about how much energy you’re using (and potentially wasting) for transportation, as transporting materials to your site can account for a significant amount of your carbon emissions during the construction phase. While you may have limited influence over the efficiency of the vehicles that deliver to your site, you can strive to reduce your transportation emissions by sourcing materials locally and using consolidation centres to reduce the number of journeys required.

  1. Cut down on waste

The construction industry produces huge amounts of waste – every year, around 400 million tonnes of material is used in construction, with around 100 million tonnes going to waste[1]. If you have excess materials at the end of your project, you can reduce the wastage by co-ordinating with other organisations to see if they can use your left-over materials. You should also have facilities on-site so  your workers can sort different waste materials into different skips or bins, enabling you to recycle materials where possible.

  1. Measure your success

Setting sustainability targets for your business and regularly measuring your performance against them is a great way to motivate your staff to follow green initiatives and boost your reputation as a responsible organisation. You may even engage with a rating scheme like the Civil Engineering Environmental Quality Assessment and Award Scheme (CEEQUAL) or the Building Research Establishment Environmental Method (BREEAM), as a high rating from partners like these can really boost your green credentials

  1. Seek sustainable suppliers

When you have various suppliers involved in your project, it can be even more complex to keep your site emissions to a minimum. However, by seeking suppliers that also prioritise sustainable practices, you can ensure that everyone on your site is working in an eco-friendly way.

The best way to find out whether a potential supplier can support your efforts is to review their environmental policy at the pre-qualification stage. Look for suppliers that go beyond the basic environmental policy to include details around their policies and targets for things like waste reduction, transport planning and raw material reduction.

Connecting conscious organisations

At Constructionline, we strive to make it easier for buyers to find like-minded suppliers. We pre-qualify all of our supplier members, with extended assessments for our Gold and Platinum suppliers that include their environmental management credentials.

[1] Find out more on ‘Reducing your construction waste’.


Blog Public Sector, SMEs
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