Sustainability in the construction industry

Sustainability in construction is an increasingly recurring theme in the construction labor market. More and more applicants are concerned with their impact on the planet. They would like to work for a sustainable construction company or are looking for positions in sustainability. But what does sustainability in construction actually mean? And what trends and developments are there currently in the architectural world?

When we talk about sustainable construction and renovation, we mainly look at the effects on the environment. From design to construction or renovation, renovation or demolition. The environment and the use of the building must be constantly included in the considerations and choices. The effects on the environment are therefore examined over the entire lifespan of a building.

Why sustainability is important in construction

Sustainability has become increasingly important in our society and making our living environment more sustainable is a priority at both national and international level.
In the Netherlands, a shift has been going on for years. As early as September 2013, the government signed an energy agreement in which it was agreed to make the built environment energy-neutral, circular and climate-adaptive by 2050. The government wants our country to be completely gas-free by 2050. Homes are therefore already equipped with other energy sources, such as solar panels and heat pumps.

Nature- inclusive construction and the reduction of nitrogen and other emissions are becoming increasingly important in residential and non-residential construction . As of January 1, 2021, the BENG (Almost Energy Neutral Buildings) came into effect. BENG is an initiative based on Trias Energetica, a strategy for energy-efficient design developed by TU Delft in 1979.

1. Limit energy consumption by preventing waste
2. Make maximum use of energy from sustainable sources
3. Make efficient use of fossil fuels

All new construction from this date must meet the requirements of the BENG. For example, the share of fossil energy consumption, the share of renewable energy and the total energy requirement of a building are examined. Sustainability is therefore not only an issue for large organizations, but also for small and medium-sized construction companies.

Sustainability is also becoming increasingly important in renovation projects. Buildings are scrutinized and we look at achieving a higher energy label through insulation and sustainable energy sources.

Trends in sustainable construction

Circular construction economy

When we talk about sustainability, we quickly think of saving energy and environmentally friendly material. But more and more often, when it comes to sustainability, it is about circular processes. This is certainly reflected at various levels in sustainable construction .

1. Connecting buildings through IoT or distributing energy between regions and areas creates so-called ‘smart cities’.
2. The reuse of raw materials and materials ensures less waste and less impact on the environment.
3. Shifting the focus during the construction project to the total costs during the life of a building instead of the lowest possible construction costs.
4. Building an adaptable building where spaces can be arranged differently ensures that the building lasts longer or can be dismantled instead of having to be demolished.

Netherlands with the water

Due to global warming and the rising water level, the Netherlands must be designed as climate-proof and water-robust as possible. Buildings must be prepared for major climate differences and lots of water. This, for example, by collecting rainwater and storing it underground.

Smart construction logistics

Koninklijke Bouwend Nederland would like to achieve emission reductions by using construction transport in a smarter way. Instead of building on the construction site, where raw material has to be supplied constantly, they focus on prefab construction. The various building elements are manufactured in factories and only need to be assembled on the construction site. There is a lot to be gained here in terms of transport emissions and material costs.

Purchasing from sustainable organizations

Because there is an increasing focus on sustainability, suppliers of building materials must also become more sustainable and innovate sustainably. In order to distinguish market leaders in the field of sustainability, it is important that the criteria relating to sustainability are given more weight in, for example, tenders.

Passive house

This concept has been in circulation since the end of the 1980s and passive houses have been built in various European countries. A passive house is a house that uses little energy for heating. The houses are extremely well insulated and have, for example, solar panels on the roof.

In the Netherlands we have seen in recent years that more and more buildings such as schools and offices are also being built in this way. In addition, existing houses and buildings are increasingly being converted into passive houses.

Nature-inclusive building

When making choices, we must take into account the short- and long-term effects. Research shows that Dutch biodiversity is under enormous pressure due to the growing demand for ‘affordable’ housing and the expansion of urban areas. That is why it is important that construction companies build more and more nature-inclusive. Think of facing bricks where birds can build a nest, green roofs where bees can go about their business or water buffers for animals. This form of building contributes to local biodiversity and the balance of nature.

Why more and more Dutch construction companies work sustainably

Sustainable buildings are better for the environment and healthier for residents and users. Sustainable construction is therefore not a sales pitch but a real interest and the sector is aware of this.

The construction sector in the Netherlands is estimated to be responsible for 50% of raw material consumption, 40% of total energy consumption and 30% of total water consumption. Construction also accounts for more than 30% of CO2 emissions and almost 40% of our waste consists of construction and demolition waste. Confronting figures, but with the right balance, the construction sector will make a huge impact in the field of sustainability and the circular society.

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