When choosing a builder for a project, people look for certain qualities before committing to somebody. One is good reviews, especially with the number of cowboy builders out there. Another is a robust insurance policy. As noted by Tradesman Saver: “Customers are more likely to hire a business that is insured because it indicates that the owner takes work seriously and can be trusted.” And with more of us concerned about how our actions affect the environment, another aspect that’s becoming more and more important is how sustainable a builder is.
According to UK house builder Redrow, almost two thirds (63%) of homeowners desired to live in a sustainable home, with 82% even saying they’d pay more for one. As such, those seeking to renovate their property are increasingly looking towards green builders. Being a sustainable tradesperson, therefore, plays a huge part in attracting business these days, which is why builders like yourself need to do everything possible to bolster their green credentials. Here are three ways to do just this.
1. Use more sustainable materials
Some of the most commonly used materials are incredibly bad for the environment. For example, tar and gravel release toxic fumes and are also non-recyclable. Better alternatives include:
Bamboo is incredibly sustainable for a number of reasons. Unlike trees, it grows extremely fast, plus there are no pesticides or chemicals used during harvesting, and the material absorbs more carbon dioxide than most other plants and trees.
For a great sustainable replacement for materials used to build walls like concrete, plaster, stone and gypsum, use straw bales in construction as they are 100% biodegradable. What’s more, they have high insulating properties, as well being cheap and easy to install.
As the name suggests, timbercrete is a mix of timber (sawdust) and concrete. By replacing some of the concrete with recycled wood, builders are less reliant on the energy-intensive material commonly used in construction.
The benefits of using recycled plastic are obvious — reusing this material stops it from ending up in landfill and being incinerated, preventing huge CO2 emissions as a result. What’s more, the plastic can be recycled again in the future, and it makes a strong and durable building material.
Consisting of recycled steel dust and silica, Ferrock is similar to concrete but actually stronger. In addition, the material absorbs carbon dioxide in the drying process, making it even more eco-friendly.
2. Install proper insulation and ventilation
Properly insulating and ventilating a property reduces its energy consumption by stopping heat from escaping, therefore making it more sustainable. Of course, you should also use sustainable insulation materials such as mineral wool, cellulose and hemp to bolster its eco-friendly impact. A supplier with green credentials is essential for this. For example, Berkshire-based company Building Materials Nationwide Limited sells responsibly sourced insulation including everything “from insulated boards to the Kingspan range of products which can be used for walls, ceilings or floors”.
Meanwhile, ventilation is the introduction of outdoor ‘clean’ air into a property, removing stale air in the process. Like insulation, ventilation’s primary benefit is decreasing a building’s energy usage by enabling property owners to better control the airflow inside. As such, they can introduce more air in the summer, reducing the need for air conditioning, while they can bring in less air in the winter and use less heating as a result. Ventilation also protects the structure from issues like mould and damp, and reduces the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in a property, which can harm your health. Again, eco-friendly ventilation types should be used, such as low energy systems.
3. Introduce construction waste management plans
All construction projects over £300,000 in England must have construction waste management plans, but this means a huge number don’t legally need these in place. By introducing one for each and every project, you can do your bit for the environment and get customers onside in the process. As construction waste management company Bywaters explain: “Construction recycling is beneficial for your business as it costs less to recycle waste than send it to landfill, and demonstrates corporate social responsibility while also improving your company’s awareness of sustainable work practices.” It’s also important to note that all construction companies have a duty of care towards managing their waste under s.34 of the Environmental Protection Act.
According to Croner-i, construction waste management plans involve “[reducing] the amount of waste produced on construction sites by setting out how building materials, and any resulting waste, will be managed during a project”. It also points out that the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008 (now repealed) offer guidance on what to include in the plan. It should first set out who exactly is responsible for dealing with waste, as well as who drafted the plan, plus the location of the site and the estimated cost of the project. When it comes to the waste management itself, the main things to include in the plan are:
- An account of each waste type that will be produced during the project.
- An estimate of how much of each different waste type will be produced.
- Details around how the waste will be measured throughout the project.
- The steps proposed for managing each type of waste, including reusing, recycling, recovery and disposal.
- A record of the quantities of waste produced.
The principal contractor and the client should also ensure that:
- All waste from the site is dealt in line with the legal duty of care.
- Contractors are supported in achieving this.
- Materials are handled efficiently and waste managed properly.