How project management can aid environmental sustainability in construction

As we get closer to the UK’s 2050 Net Zero target, boosting sustainability in the construction industry is more important than ever.

The construction industry is a significant contributor to global carbon emissions and one of the largest users of natural resources. So, substantial change is needed.

Project management – a key element to the successful delivery of most construction – can play an equally important role in aiding the sustainability of our industry.  

Here at Greyfriars Project Management, we are specialists in delivering development and infrastructure projects in the construction industry. So, we’ve taken a look at sustainability and how project management can support it.

What is sustainability in the construction industry?

The construction industry has a marked impact on the environment.

As well as being one of the world’s biggest users of natural resources, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), it is estimated that the UK’s built environment is responsible for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

So, as we get closer to the UK government’s interim commitment to a 68% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 – the construction industry has a responsibility to become more sustainable.

Sustainability is mankind’s goal to survive for the long-term without exhausting resources or detrimentally impacting the environment.

Sustainability in the construction industry must be considered from conception to delivery of projects – and beyond.

This includes sustainable design, using renewable and recyclable resources and materials, reducing waste and energy consumption, protecting the natural environment around the site and decarbonising the existing built world.

The aim is to create a better built environment which retains sustainability, during creation, throughout its entire lifecycle and once decommissioned.

How does project management help increase sustainability in construction projects?

Ensuring sustainability in construction projects is not always an easy feat – but good project management can certainly help.

Project managers take responsibility for many key aspects of a construction project, including programme management, cost control and contract administration.

Within this, they play an important role in aiding sustainability by ensuring the project minimises – or even has a positive impact – on sustainability in the construction industry.

There are a number of ways this can occur:

1. Better project delivery

One of the main responsibilities of a project manager is to successfully deliver the project so it meets the client’s requirements and objectives.

So, if sustainability is marked as a key goal for the project, the project management team can plan, monitor and manage it to ensure any decisions made are aligned with this objective.

To boost sustainability, they can consider four key concerns: the environment (impact on the natural environment), social (community benefit), economic (project affordability) and administrative (health and safety).

With their extensive experience and industry knowledge, project managers can help to balance these concerns with other responsibilities to build sustainability into the project and meet set sustainable goals.

2. Applying industry knowledge

A crucial way project managers can aid sustainability is through their knowledge of regulations.

A project management team will be up to date with environmental measures which will affect the delivery of the project. They can bring this understanding to projects to ensure they stay in-line with sustainable policies.

This is especially important with topical issues like nutrient neutrality. The UK government has introduced measures to reduce the additional nutrient contribution from construction to the surrounding water system. Projects can be halted if they do not meet these new regulations.

A project management team will be aware of how to manage this and similar issues to ensure projects comply with environmental regulations.

3. Reducing reworks

Reworks can be very costly, as well as a significant contributor to extra carbon emissions and material wastage. Greater sustainability in construction can be achieved if reworks are minimised.

Through effective project management, including programme and risk management, it can be ensured that a project progresses efficiently, with as few risks and subsequent errors as possible.

This reduces the need for reworks and the resulting need for more people, materials and machinery on site. This leads to less energy and materials wastage and thus greater sustainability.

4. Improving the supply chain

Project managers often provide procurement for construction projects.

It is another critical way they can help make a construction project more sustainable.

They can seek opportunities to engage with sustainable suppliers and services and ensure ‘green’ materials and resources are selected in order to reduce the environmental impact of the project.

Through this, they can create a more environmentally friendly supply chain which brings sustainable value to the project.  

Project management is key to aiding sustainability

These are just some of the ways project management can enhance the sustainability of projects in the construction industry.

Project management assists with physically creating a more sustainable and long-lasting built environment.

How Greyfriars Project Management can help

Here at Greyfriars Project Management, we specialise in delivering development and infrastructure projects for a wide range of clients.

Our expert team provides support and services including full project management, planning support, contract management, budget controls, risk management, masterplanning and more.

With extensive experience and industry knowledge, we help our clients deliver their projects and meet their objectives at every stage of the project, from conception to completion.

Get in touch today to find out more.