The Challenges of Sustainable Construction

Ayesha Daya
Ayesha Daya

Published: May 30th, 2023

7 min read

The construction industry has a critical role to play in addressing climate change and sustainability concerns and to secure the future of construction, the industry must adopt sustainable construction methods, minimise construction waste and adopt environmentally responsible practices. Throughout 2023, we have already seen a rise in use of more sustainable methods adopted within the construction industry, as well as an increase in demand for energy efficient, sustainable, and recycled materials used within construction projects. This requirement for sustainable construction, comes with both benefits and challenges.

A benefit of this modern method of construction is that there is a lot of opportunity for sustainable construction as it is now more accessible than ever and worth the initial investment. Currently suppliers are changing their ways to move away from the more traditional materials used within the construction industry to sourcing materials that meet the sustainability requirements that are rising.

However, there are several challenges that make it difficult to source sustainable materials for construction due to lack of availability, high costs and conflicting standards and certifications. In many cases, sustainable materials are simply not widely available or are only produced in small quantities. This can be due to a variety of factors, such as limited production capacity, lack of demand or insufficient infrastructure for processing and transporting the materials. Their use can therefore run the risk of placing suppliers in breach of certain obligations under building contracts connected with delays.

Sustainable materials can also often be more expensive than traditional materials due to factors such as higher production costs, limited availability, and the cost of complying with environmental and social standards. Unless operating on a cost-plus basis, this can make it difficult for builders and developers to justify the higher costs, especially in markets where there is intense competition and tight profit margins. This significantly impacts the sustainability requirements of construction projects as if contractors simply don't have the budget for it, how can this requirement be met. This is something that should be discussed within tender stages to ensure better budgets are obtain to meet the sustainability requirements and what the employer's ultimate requirements are.

Sustainable construction is not a one-size-fits-all practice, but every business must do its part in reducing environmental impact. Sustainable construction uses renewable and recyclable materials, reduces energy consumption, and minimises waste. However, sustainable construction does not stop at materials, it also includes innovation and design that can be repurposed. Collaborating with suppliers and subcontractors can help minimise waste and promote sustainability practices and can also help surrounding supply chain disruptions which arise due to the increase in demand for these sustainable materials.

From the initial stages of a construction project, whether you are the developer or the main contractor, it is important that sustainable methods are discussed from the get-go and that appropriate provisions and obligations are built into your contractual arrangements. With the increase in demand for sustainable materials, it can often be the case that shortages can arise, and supply chain disruptions can then occur and so the intended consequences of this need careful consideration in the drafting process. By working with those with whom you have existing relationships, you can attempt to avoid these issues. Our construction team here at Forbes Solicitors can support you through this.

Our construction experts assist on construction projects from start to finish, whether advising on the procurement process or assisting with the drafting, negotiation, and implementation of suitable contracts.

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