What is it?
Sustainable Construction refers to the design, construction and operation of technical works (projects) which combine, in a socially acceptable manner, economy, harmony with the local environment, minimal environmental impact and positive disposition and health impact to the users of these projects. The fundamental attribute of Sustainable Construction is the consideration of the full Life Cycle of the project, from the extraction of raw materials to the design, building, procurement, operation, use and finally the dismantlement of the project and final disposal of its elements.
Why is it important?
Construction ̶ and, more generally, the Construction Industry ̶ has huge economic, environmental and social impacts, worldwide. Today, at a global level, 30% of CO2 emissions, 40% of energy consumption and 40% of raw materials extraction are attributed to construction. The graveness of these impacts has enhanced the demand for “green buildings”, buildings with verified high and socially acceptable levels of economic and environmental performance.
Internationally, Sustainable Construction is evaluated and verified through various special certification systems such as BREEAM, LEED, DGNB and HQE. These systems evaluate the sustainability of the whole building and for its full Life Cycle (design-construction-operation-use-dismantlement-disposal). Evaluation systems have also been developed for specific performance aspects of a building, as for example its energy consumption. Energy consumption certification is now obligatory for every building in the European Union.
The first step for Sustainable Construction is the use of construction materials, which have been certified for their low environmental impact. Construction materials can now be certified, with respect to their environmental performance, through EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) labels, which are a special category of Ecolabels.
The EPD labels may also suffice as certification indicators in cases of public works or government procurement where minimal environmental specifications are to be met.
Close the Loop offers the following integrated services regarding Sustainable Construction:
- Evaluation and Certification of buildings in accordance with international Assessment Methods (BREEAM, LEED, DGNB and HQE)
- Support studies for Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) of construction materials and for communicating the environmental performance in a credible and understandable way
- Installation of Sustainability Management System at the work site
- Project Management Support based on the philosophy and methods of the International Project Management Association (IPMA).
Competitive advantage and distinction in the property market
Competitive advantage in selecting and using appropriate construction materials
Competitive advantage in ecologically sensitive and demanding markets abroad
Discovering opportunities for significant cost savings
Rational and economical use of resources
Adoption of best practices for sustainable urban development
Compared to other products and industries, the processes and products of the construction industry are extremely complex, in the sense that, not only there exist many (often in conflict) interested parties, but many crucial factors are unpredictable and evolve in unpredictable ways. In addition, every construction project has its own particularities and, in that sense, it is unique. Managing complexities, unpredictability and uniqueness requires special methodologies and analytical philosophy.
Close the Loop takes a Systems Approach in dealing with complex problems, presuming the full Life Cycle and reckoning with the unpredictable.
The challenge for Sustainable Construction begins early, at the Planning phase (feasibility study); it is here that the most crucial interventions can be made — more easily and economically. What kind of questions or problems might arise regarding Sustainable Construction for a specific project? Here are some examples:
- In which phase of the Life Cycle might one expect significant impacts? How could they be dealt with (reduced or avoided)?
- Which materials should be used and which methods employed so that those impacts are controlled?
- Are the materials used recyclable? To what degree?
- What is the Carbon Footprint of the construction project? How does it evolve along the life cycle stages of the project?
Close the Loop’s methodology for planning is based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). LCA is used at the level of certification for the whole project (e.g. building) as well as for the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) of the construction materials. In addition, we suggest the use of Management Systems, integrated with Project Management processes, aiming at securing social acceptance of the environmental and economic impacts during construction
We also introduce the use of an integrated Management System for controlling environmental impacts at the construction site (e.g. solid waste, waste water, air pollution, noise), while minimizing the danger for work accidents. The objective is to maximize the overall performance (environmental, economic, social) of the project at the construction phase.