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Construction Innovation

Towards sustainable construction: promotion and best practices


Michael Pitt Matthew Tucker Mike Riley Jennifer Longden

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Michael Pitt Matthew Tucker Mike Riley Jennifer Longden, (2009),"Towards sustainable construction:
promotion and best practices", Construction Innovation, Vol. 9 Iss 2 pp. 201 - 224
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Towards sustainable
construction: promotion
and best practices
Michael Pitt, Matthew Tucker, Mike Riley and Jennifer Longden

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School of Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK

Sustainable
construction

201
Received 19 June 2007
Accepted 4 March 2008

Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to understand what factors best promote or prevent
sustainable construction practices and establish the consistency of how sustainability is measured.
Design/methodology/approach A literature review considered the impact of the industry to
sustainability and identified what action and initiatives are already in place. Through this, the main
drivers, barriers, measures and benchmarks were identified. The opinions of building surveying
professionals were sought and analysed.
Findings The paper suggested that fiscal incentives/penalties and regulations help to drive
sustainable construction. Such financial implications are consistent with affordability being the
biggest barrier highlighted. The majority of respondents believed the industry is taking some account
of sustainability issues, but identified that more needs to be done.
Originality/value Sustainable development is an integral part of the lives and affects all aspects
of business operations. This paper provides an in-depth insight into the level of sustainable
development within the construction industry, identifying implications for both the demand and
supply side.
Keywords Construction industry, Sustainable development, Environmental management,
Best practice, Technical regulations, Buildings
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
Sustainability is defined as . . . that which is capable of being sustained; in ecology the
amount or degree to which the earths resources may be exploited without deleterious
effects (Chambers, 1993). There are three key areas involved in sustainability:
(1) environmental responsibility;
(2) social awareness; and
(3) economic profitability.
Achieving the right balance between these factors supports true sustainability
(Construction Industry Research Information Association CIRIA, 2006). This paper
considered sustainable construction within the context of sustainable development.
The Brundtland Report (WCED, 1987), produced the most widely used definition of
sustainable development as it . . . meets the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. Dickie
and Howard (2000) defined sustainable construction as . . . the contribution of
construction to sustainable development. The construction industry contributes to the
UK in all three areas of sustainable development. Consequently, the need to enforce

Construction Innovation
Vol. 9 No. 2, 2009
pp. 201-224
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1471-4175
DOI 10.1108/14714170910950830

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202

sustainable construction is important as what we build today will provide the built
environment of the future and will influence the ability of future generations to meet
their needs (Dickie and Howard, 2000).
The policy of the UK Government for sustainable development is set against global
initiatives. The 1992 Earth Summit (UN Conference on Environment and Development)
discussed ways of achieving sustainable development. The summit set out 27
principles supporting sustainable development and agreed an action plan; Agenda 21.
Part of this was for all countries to develop national sustainable development
strategies. In 1994, the UK was one of the first countries to do so (DTI, 2004). The Kyoto
Protocol is an agreement made under the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change. In 1999, targets were agreed worldwide on the reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions; the target for the European Union was to reduce emissions
to 8 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012 (DTI, 2004). The UK has set itself the
target of reducing these gas emissions by 8-12 per cent by 2010.
In response to these global agreements, sustainability has been high on Government
Agenda. In 1999, the UNFCCC published a new strategy document; A better quality of
life strategy for sustainable development for the United Kingdom. This report
identified four main aims:
(1) social progress which recognises the needs of everyone;
(2) effective protection of the environment;
(3) prudent use of natural resources; and
(4) maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment
(DEFRA, 1999).
The strategy for sustainable construction was published in 2000 by the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions DETR (2000a), which followed
on from the 1999 priorities. This document set out ways that the construction
industry could contribute to the achievement of more sustainable development.
These were:
.
being more profitable and more competitive;
.
delivering buildings and structures that provide greater satisfaction, well-being
and value to customers and users;
.
respecting and treating its stakeholders more fairly;
.
enhancing and better protecting the natural environment; and
.
minimising its impact on the consumption of energy (especially carbon-based
energy) and natural resources.
As stated by Curwell and Cooper (1998), The construction industry as a whole has to
rapidly come to terms with the broader environmental and social agenda that is
presented by the concept of sustainable development because the built environment
affects all human activity.
The research within this paper considered sustainable construction within this
context and looked to understand what real impact the industry is having on
sustainability issues in practice. Given the amount of focus and activity identified
nationally in this area, is this being translated into action within the industry?

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The paper was divided into three key sections, firstly providing a literature review
to determine the following impacts within the industry:
.
environmental;
.
economic;
.
social; and
.
design.
Secondly, the review looked at ways the industry can learn and develop by focusing on:
.
measurement methods and techniques;
.
benchmarks;
.
drivers; and
.
recent studies.
The research was then examined by discussing the methodology used and the analysis
conducted. The findings identified good practice measures and guidance for both the
demand and supply side of the industry in achieving sustainable construction.
Impact of sustainability
Environmental impact
Waste creation. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimated that
40 per cent of all UK waste (including greenhouse gas emissions) is produced by the
construction industry (RICS, 2005b). The government projected that landfill capacity
will be reached by 2017 (Better Buildings Summit, 2003).
The introduction of the Landfill Tax and Aggregate Levy has helped to drive the
reduction and minimisation of waste due to the increased cost associated with disposal
(OECD, 2006). Most major contractors now have waste management policies and
practices in place (The Sustainability Construction Task Group, 2003).
Energy use. The built environment is responsible for 50 per cent of the total UK
energy consumption; 45 per cent to heat, light and ventilate buildings and 5 per cent to
construct them (Edwards, 2002). The government set a target to achieve 60 per cent
energy reduction by 2050 (Better Buildings Summit, 2003). However, RICS believed
that the government is failing in its energy policy to make enough difference. In
response to the UK Energy Review, RICS (2006a) believed the . . . Energy Review is a
failed opportunity to challenge the wider and more fundamental issues about
sustainability and how we all live and work.
Water use. Water consumption in the UK increased by 70 per cent in the last 30
years (Brownhill and Yates, 2001), and with 4.1 million new households needed in UK
by 2016, and an increasing population with higher living standards, these
requirements will increase and have a big impact on the water supply (Edwards, 2002).
The construction industry is in a position to implement water conservation techniques
into refurbishment and new build projects. Incorporating water efficient technology, such
as low-water flush toilets, domestic appliances and reduced flow taps can achieve an
estimated 20 per cent improvement in efficiency (Better Buildings Summit, 2003).
Re-use and re-cycling. Zhang et al. (2000) believed sustainable construction should
take a systematic approach at an operational level and includes recycling construction

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materials, and using renewable and recyclable materials. As 90 per cent of current
building stock will still be in use in 30 years, better management and refurbishment is
required (The Sustainability Construction Task Group, 2004).
Research by the British Research Establishment (BRE), comparing sustainability
between refurbishment and redevelopment of offices clearly concluded refurbishment
is the more sustainable option as it is . . . lower both in environmental impact and
whole life costs than comparative redevelopment solutions (Anderson and Mills,
2002). However, refurbishment is characterised by a higher element of risk and
uncertainty (Egbu, 1995) because of the unknown asbestos or structural problems that
may not be apparent from the start of a project.
Pollution and bio-diversity. The BRE defined pollution from construction as
particles, noise, vibration and vaporous discharges (Kukadia et al., 2003). Risks
should be identified and steps taken to minimise potential pollution (OGC, 2005).
The construction industry must consider enhancing or at least protecting biodiversity
as it considers all things and their habitats and there is an obligation to consider
biodiversity in developments in terms of good design and landscaping (OGC, 2005).
Economic impact
The construction industry in the UK represents about 8 per cent Gross Domestic
Product (DTI, 2005), and 2 million people in the UK are employed in it (CIRIA, 2006),
with an estimated 20 per cent of all employment linked to the industry in some way
(RICS, 2005b).
According to Abidin and Pasquire (2005), most see the client as the key driver
towards sustainable construction but some question if they know enough to brief
effectively. The previous discussion regarding environmental impacts clearly
demonstrated that the consequences of poorly managed construction mechanisms
can have significant impacts on sustainability. In order for this impact to be minimised,
one would contend that increasing client awareness is therefore crucial in order to
move away from predominantly financial decision making.
Value management (VM) practitioners have opportunities to minimise
environmental and social damage Abidin and Pasquire (2005) as they can determine
elements of the design such as energy efficiency, waste minimisation, good indoor
environment, low-running costs and user comfort. VM can deliver good economic return,
accountability and excellence in social and environmental performance; namely lean
construction, and so in this way support sustainability.
Businesses need to attract investment and having a focus on sustainability issues is
one way of doing this. Being seen to consider sustainability has the potential to enhance
a companys profile and improve relationships with stakeholders (The Sustainability
Construction Task Group, 2004). This is also reflected in the increase of socially
responsible investment (SRI). This is a key issue in incorporating greater demand side
initiatives with supply side mechanisms.
SRI is increasing with the FTSE4Good Index rating companies on their
environmental and social performance. The consideration and reporting of
sustainability issues has been encouraged in recent legislation and codes of practice,
such as the Pension Act 1999 which requires Occupational Pension Funds to explain
the consideration of social and environmental issues in their investment plans,
of which property is often a major part. Consequently, 50 per cent of UK Pension Funds

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report on SRI of investments (Yates, 2003a, c) and a survey by Pensions Investment


Research Consultants Ltd, an independent research and advisory consultancy, found
that 92 per cent of the FTSE100 produce environmental information as part of annual
reports (Brownhill and Yates, 2001).
Social impact
The performance, quality and design of commercial and residential buildings, as well
as access to services and recreation, can directly affect quality of life, promotion of
healthy living and cohesiveness of society (CIRIA, 2006). Everyone associated with a
building can benefit from more sustainable practices and as Walker (2000) identified
. . . stakeholders can provide tangible value, provide valuable feedback information
about how they are affected and can co-operate in delivery of the output.
Sustainable green buildings benefit from lower energy costs and are perceived to
be healthier, which can help to reduce absenteeism (Keeping and Shiers, 1996).
A good environment supports staff retention and recruitment and the overall image
and brand of the organisation can be enhanced. Delivery of this is not easy, and
involves a combination of factors, as identified by Shah (2007) as:
[. . .] the gap towards a more sustainable building is the involvement of the supply chain,
stakeholders and the impact on the local community such as the economy, skills, and working
practices.

Design impact
At the Better Buildings Summit (2003), it was stated that Optimum design requires
optimised performance on the construction site. Design has a key role to play in
sustainability, in which designers own reputation and image can be enhanced by
including sustainable design into their buildings. Whilst they are required to work
within the brief of the client, they do have an opportunity to influence and inform the
client, for example highlighting the reduced operating costs, enhanced corporate
image, and increased well being of occupants (Yates, 2003b).
Wyatt et al. (2000) also argued that architects have a major role to play. The
Architects Registration Board (ARB) code of conduct published in 1999 stated
whilst architects primary responsibility is to the client, they must have . . . due regard
to their wider responsibility to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment
and its natural resources.
Unlike designers, the constructors are not normally involved in the decision on how
sustainable a building project may be, however good practice here can reduce costs,
improve health and safety and improve image (Yates, 2003d). This was reiterated by
Treloar et al. (2001) who stated that building materials selection has demonstrable and
significant energy and greenhouse gas emission implications. Hence, greater
involvement and constructive interaction from the demand side, will inevitably
improve good practice initiatives, drawing closer linkages to the supply side, and
consequently in the delivery of improved sustainable construction.
SRI can help demonstrate faster/better investment returns, increased flexibility, reduced
investment risks, reduced cost, increased market appeal and improved image (Yates,
2003c). This is reiterated by Zairi and Peters (2002), stating that Corporate social
accountability and reporting is therefore seen as a key driver for engaging the wider
community.

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206

Building construction practices


Measurement
Table I summarises the number of methods available for measuring sustainable
buildings within industry.
The Sustainability Construction Task Group (2003) (now called the Sustainability
Forum) believed that there were too many different measures and that consolidation
was required. In 2003, they recommended a unified code of sustainable buildings based
on Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)
and EcoHomes (The Sustainability Construction Task Group, 2003):

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The establishment of a single national Code for Sustainable Buildings (the Code); based on the
Building Research Establishments Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) and
incorporating clearly specified minimum standards in key resource efficiency criteria (energy
and water efficiency, waste and use of materials); and developed by a joint venture body to
develop and establish the Code.

The government issued an outline of the code in January 2005, which stated the
principal objective was to establish a . . . single national standard for sustainable
Measure

Description

Eco-quantum

Assesses the lifecycle of whole units of construction; for example, glazing


systems/structural walls
Evaluates performance of the building through its life. It considers the
individual elements, which when used together will affect the overall
benefits
Developed under ISO 14001, and provide guidelines on good principles
and practice. Briggs and Nestel believe it provides a market driven
framework for balancing environmental protection with socio-economic
needs that embodies the principles of sustainable development (cited in
Zhang et al., 2000)
Developed for office buildings by the BRE and compares and scores
different design strategies for possible pollution and local impact. Some
consider the BREEAM assessment techniques to be heavily feature
orientated for example providing showers for cyclists although it does
some CO2 and energy analysis (Curwell and Cooper, 1998)
Is the BREEAM standard for dwellings, which rates the environmental
qualities of new and renovated houses. It balances the issues of climate
change, resource use and the impact on wildlife with need for quality of
life considerations (BRE)
Used for specific product items, for example light bulbs, paints, etc. and
are based on EU standards (regulation 880/92 March 1992). These use
lifecycle analysis on pre-production, production, distribution, utilisation
and disposal of the product (Keeping and Shiers, 1996)
A method of ranking and scoring of different environmental impacts.
Different issues are weighted using the points so allowing comparisons to
be drawn
A way of measuring the impact of manufacturing construction materials,
including quarrying and transport, the construction process, including
transport to site and the demotion and disposal of materials at end of life
of the building (Anderson and Mills, 2002)

Lifecycle assessment
Environmental
management
systems
Building Research
Establishment
Environmental
Assessment Method
EcoHomes

Eco-labels

Eco-points

Table I.
Building construction
measurement systems

Embodies impact
study

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building that all sectors of the building industry will subscribe to and consumers
demand (DCLG, 2005). At this time, it is not clear if the BREEAM standard will be
used for other types of buildings as the code develops.
Benchmarks
All major industry awards now include a sustainability category. These include those
from the Civic Trust, the Royal Institute of British Architects, RICS, the Institution of
Electrical Engineers, Building, Commission for Architecture and the Built
Environment (The Sustainability Construction Task Group, 2003). FTSE4Good
Index rates companies on their environmental and social performance.
There are also a number of benchmark indicators:
.
Sustainable construction and company indicators.
.
DTI Construction key performance indicators (KPIs), including environmental
KPIs based on M4I KPIs.
.
Design quality indicator.
.
Construction Product Association KPIs.
.
Respect for people indicator and tool kits.
.
Whole Life Construction Forum Comparator Tools.
.
Carrillions strategy for sustainability.
Given the number of different benchmarks, it is not clear how important they are seen
to be by industry or even how many of the above are even recognised.
The lack of consistency in the implementation of sustainable practice was shown by
the CIRIA Pioneers Club where experience during the project indicated that no set of
detailed KPIs was likely to be adapted by the industry as a whole (Kersey, 2004).
Drivers
The government is driving the sustainability agenda with a number of fiscal
incentives. The Landfill tax was introduced in 1996 at a cost of 7 per tonne of active
waste and 2 per tonne of inactive waste (The Sustainability Construction Task
Group, 2002). This has increased gradually over the years and in the 2006 budget the
chancellor proposed plans to increase this further to 3 annually for active waste until
35 per tonne level is achieved (HM Treasury, 2006).
Climate Change Levy is a tax on the use of energy by businesses. It offers credits for
energy efficiency schemes and use of renewable sources of energy. Although the
current level is set to rise in line with inflation (HM Treasury, 2006), RICS (2006b) did
not believe it has led to a significant change in building performance or occupation
behaviour. Similarly, RICS were critical of the impact of carbon emissions, for example,
although The Carbon Trust helps the UK move to a low-carbon economy, RICS (2006b)
believed that more needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions of existing buildings.
The Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004 enables building regulations to
address sustainability issues more effectively, with particular focus on energy and
water efficiency and conservation. Building Regulations Part L (updated in April 2006)
set higher standards to promote the conservation of fuel and power for refurbishment
as well as new build work (DCLG, 2006b).

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EU Energy Performance of Building Directive (effective from January 2006)


requires energy performance certificates for all property bought, sold or rented in the
commercial and residential sector. Some believe this is a major opportunity to affect a
step-change in building related energy efficiency (Strong, 2005).
Planning Policy Statement 22 published in 2004, and enforced in 2006, allows local
planning authorities in England and Wales to require a percentage of the energy used
in new residential, commercial or industrial developments to come from on-site
renewable energy developments (DCLG, 2006a). The government has targets for 10
per cent electricity requirement to be generated by renewable sources by 2010, moving
to 20 per cent by 2030 it is currently 3 per cent. Local authorities are expected to use
this as part of the planning criteria when awarding planning permission, although it
is thought this will apply to larger schemes initially (Neale, 2004).
Corporate and social responsibility practices are also now a key driver for
organisations to move towards the encouragement of sustainable practices, for
example, companies listed under the FTSE4Good Index and Dow Jones Sustainability
Index seem to outperform companies rated under other indices (CIC, 2003). Company
image and reputation can encourage businesses to act responsibly and in a sustainable
way, and competitive advantage can be gained by adopting such practices and
publicising their actions to differential themselves (Hirigoyen et al., 2005).
Finally, it is important to reiterate that client awareness and demand has a role to
play in driving the sustainability agenda. Some argue that sustainability options are
only used if viable financially (Anderson and Mills, 2002). Similarly, the decision
around the re-use of a building will be based on sound business criteria rather than the
implications of sustainable development (Ball, 1999). This is an integral component to
overcome in order to achieve sustainable construction as the clients (demand side) need
to commit to a holistic responsibility of not only achieving cost effectiveness in purely
financial terms, but also cost effectiveness that achieves added value that ensures
maximum efficiency of construction mechanisms.
Recent studies
In October 2002, the Association for the Conservation of Energy (ACE) conducted a
survey to investigate the barriers to greater energy efficiency in commercial offices.
They interviewed a number of stakeholders including property managers, architects,
and facilities managers to establish their views and perceptions of these issues. As part
of this investigation, a number of factors were identified that were seen as key to the
promotion of better energy efficiency. These were:
.
Awareness. Public perception and awareness of the issues and better
understanding of ways of addressing energy efficiency.
.
Demand. From clients, tenants, users and investors for better energy efficient
buildings.
.
Financial incentives. To help drive demand from stakeholders.
.
Legislation and Standards. Consistent standards and enforcement.
.
Labelling. Of buildings with energy efficiency rating.
One would contend that this report clearly acknowledged that sustainable construction
is not only based on the supply side, as demand from clients and their increasing

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awareness towards sustainability issues is crucial. Whilst the report concluded that
there was some progress in each area, more is needed to be done (ACE, 2003).
This issue of demand and supply is reiterated further by Sponge (2003), a network
of professional individuals within the construction industry, undertook a survey in
2003 in partnership with the Sustainable Construction Task Group about the
sustainability performance of the construction industry by researching the experience
and perceptions of its members. Their findings included:
.
Incentives. Should be used to encourage clients to adopt and specify a more
sustainable approach.
.
Barriers. Proof of the business case needs to be gathered and promoted. Fiscal
and regulatory framework could be better used to achieve sustainable policy
objectives.
.
Companies. Should be encouraged to promote their own sustainability performance.
More recently the RICS (2005a) published a study of building value when buildings are
green i.e. use resources efficiently, reduce waste and provide good internal
environment. It identified the benefits of green buildings from an environmental,
social and economic perspective. The study considered buildings in North America and
the UK and shows that a clear link is beginning to emerge between the market value
of a building and its green features (RICS, 2005a). In brief, it concludes:
.
green buildings are good for the environment;
.
they provide healthier places to live and can result with greater productivity in
the work place;
.
they attract higher rents and prices, attract tenants and reduce tenant turnover;
.
they cost less to operate and maintain; and
.
no-one owners, developers, etc. is effectively communicating these benefits.
The key to this report is that it helps provide proof of the business case for greener
buildings. This is related to the improvement of business productivity rather than
energy efficiency.
Research methodology
The literature review has defined sustainable construction within the context of
sustainable development and discussed the extent that both the supply and demand
side of the construction industry can impact on sustainability issues within the three
key areas of the environment, economic and social impact. A similar research
methodology to de Vaus (2001) was thus followed, in order to provide clear and logical
research process (Figure 1).
The remainder of the paper focused on the research process undertaken, and
worked through a logical research process (as shown in Figure 1), then finally provided
conclusions and implications of the main research findings.
Theory
The aim of this study was to investigate if the themes identified within the literature
review were perceived to be the same by professionals working in the industry today.

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Starting point of
theory testing
Theory
Inference

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210

Deduction

Implications for
propositions

Propositions

New
theory

Analyse
data

Develop measures,
sample etc
Collect data

Figure 1.
The logic of the research
process

Starting point of
theory building
Source: Taken from de Vaus (2001)

These themes included the drivers and barriers to sustainable construction as well as the
influence and role of stakeholders. Finally, the methods of measurement and
benchmarking were tested to establish if there has been any standardisation of them.
Essentially, this is a deductive approach and as such quantitative research methods are
best suited to this type of research (Bryman, 2004). Deductive reasoning is based on
testing theory, in this case by unravelling the key drivers, barriers, and benchmarks
through surveying a snapshot audience to effectively explore the responses in
comparison to those discussed within the literature reviewed in the first half of the paper.
According to de Vaus (2001) a theory testing approach begins with a theory and
uses theory to guide which observations to make: it moves from the general to the
particular, as shown in Figure 2.
Propositions
It was considered important to achieve a volume of responses, which could provide a
snapshot of the strength of opinion and experience of the sample to sustainability
issues. Therefore, a quantitative survey method based on a self-completion
questionnaire was proposed. As stated by David and Sutton (2004), if you are
seeking to test a hypothesis you will want to measure the relationship
Conceptual-abstract
Level

Start
here

Theory
Deductive reasoning

Empirical
level

Figure 2.
Deductive reasoning

Obs 1

Source: de Vaus (2001)

Obs 2

Obs 3

Obs 4

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between variables. Hence, through the literature reviewed, the following variables
were chosen under the key themes of drivers, barriers and benchmarks:
(1) Drivers of sustainable construction:
.
client awareness;
.
building regulations;
.
client demand;
.
financial incentives;
.
investment;
.
labelling/measurement;
.
planning policy; and
.
taxes/levies.
(2) Barriers of sustainable construction:
.
affordability;
.
building regulations;
.
lack of client awareness;
.
lack of business case understanding;
.
lack of client demand;
.
lack of proven alternative technologies;
.
lack of one labelling/measurement standard; and
.
planning policy.
(3) Benchmark indicators:
.
FTSE4Good Index;
.
Morley Fund Managements Sustainability Matrix;
.
business in the environment/community surveys;
.
DTI Construction KPIs (including environmental KPIs;
.
design quality indicator;
.
Construction Product Association KPIs;
.
respect for people indicators and toolkits; and
.
Whole Life Cost Forum Comparator Tool.
Develop measures
It was decided to ask respondents to rank drivers, barriers and Benchmarks 1-3 in
terms of importance (1 being the most important). By ranking the variables, strength of
feeling about the main variables could be ascertained, rather than just frequency of
choice. For example:
What do you believe are the three most important drivers for the industry to achieve
sustainable construction? (please rank them in order of importance- 1,2,3 and choose
only three)
Client Awareness
Building Regulations

(3,2,1)
(3,2,1)

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It was not felt to be appropriate to ask all the options to be ranked 1-9 as this could put
respondents off answering at all. Another approach considered was asking for strength
of feeling on each variable based on a Likert scale. For example:
Do you agree that Client Awareness is the most important driver to achieve sustainable
construction? (choose only one answer)

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212

Dont agree

Dont agree

Slightly agree

Slightly agree

(1,2,3,4)

However, whilst this ensured each variable would be considered, it does not highlight
only the most important ones. Also, it had the disadvantage of making the
questionnaire appear cluttered and less clear for the respondent.
The literature review discussed the role of stakeholders in the decision-making
process. Therefore, a question was included on who the principal stakeholder is.
The Sustainability Building Task Group (2003) identified the range of different
measures and the need to some standardisation. The research looked to see which are
most familiar and recognised by the sample group. Finally, a general opinion question
based on a Likert scale was asked to see if the industry is consistently taking account
of sustainability issues.
The research focused on director/partners within the building surveying faculty.
These professionals can work in all areas of the industry so it was felt that they would
be relatively representative of the whole profession. Other options considered included
commercial property, construction, planning and development and valuation but these
may have been too specialist. Cost prohibited more than one faculty being surveyed,
which would have been preferable.
Sample
Having identified a stratified population of building surveyors a random sample was
chosen. The RICS holds 7,733 records of individuals within the building surveying
faculty. They can provide minimum list of 1,000 names, but it was important that the
sample provided was random. RICS chose a sample of 1,200 names at random by
computer and then de-duped the list to avoid any duplicate names or more than one
individual per firm. A final list of 1,002 names was provided by the RICS. The sample
was further reduced down by using a Microsoft Excel random formula, which allocated
a random number between 1 and 1,002 to each record. These were then sorted in
ascending order and the top 200 records were surveyed.
Data collection
About 200 questionnaires were sent out; 120 were sent to members of the RICS
(MRICS), and 80 were sent to fellows of the RICS (FRICS). In the context of this study,
the FRICS[1] represents a more experienced surveyor than an MRICS, which may or
may not affect the responses. The split between types of membership was identified
after the 200 sample had been chosen at random.
A total of 83 questionnaires/responses were returned (49 MRICS, 34 FRICS, almost
identical proportion to the original sample).
Analysis:
Q:

What do you believe are the three most important drivers for the industry to
achieve sustainable construction?

(1) Valid responses relates to how many times the variable was chosen.
(2) Missing or less important responses relates to how many times the variable
was not chosen at all.
(3) Sum relates to the ranking given to each variable when chosen and totalled up.

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The ranking in Table II could show a higher rating for one variable based on the
number of times it was chosen first. That could rank it higher than another variable
chosen more times, but given a lower rank. The rankings are shown graphically in
Figure 3.

Financial incentives
Building regulations
Client awareness
Client demand
Planning policy
Taxes/levies
Investment
Other
Labelling/measurement

Valid responses

Ranking sum

52
47
34
34
23
22
9
2
2

100
97
71
63
39
35
18
6
2

Sustainable
construction

213

Table II.
Driver frequency table
and sum of rankings

120

100

80

60

40

20

0
Financial
Building
Client
incentives regulations awareness

Client
demand

Planning
policy

Taxes/
levies

Investment

Other

Labelling/
measurement

Figure 3.
Drivers bar chart
ranking

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214

Financial incentives and building regulations were seen to be the most important
drivers for supporting sustainable construction. Client awareness came third with
client demand fourth.
It is possible that ranking the responses would produce a different result when
compared to frequency of choice of any one variable. Table III shows that although
there are minor differences, the overall result is the same in this instance:
Q:

What are the three key barriers for the industry against sustainable construction?

The ranking in Table IV could show a higher rating for one variable based on the number
of times it was chosen first. That could rank it higher than another variable chosen more
times but given a lower rank. The rankings are shown graphically in Figure 4.
Affordability was clearly shown to be the most important barrier to sustainable
construction with lack of client demand and awareness second and third, respectively.
The lack of business case understanding did rank higher than lack of proven
alternative technologies despite the latter being chosen more times than the former
(Table V):
Q:

In your experience, who is the principal stakeholder in determining a


sustainable construction approach in a project?

As shown in Figure 5, clearly the client is seen as the most important person in
determining sustainable construction practice with architect in second place:

Drivers

Table III.
Driver ranking
vs frequency

Table IV.
Barrier frequency table
and sum of rankings

Financial incentives
Building regulations
Client awareness
Client demand
Planning policy
Taxes/levies
Investment
Other
Labelling/measurement

Ranking
(%)

Ranking no.

Response
(%)

Response no.

Difference
(%)

23.2
22.5
16.5
14.6
9.0
8.1
4.2
1.4
0.5

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
9
8

23.1
20.9
15.1
15.1
10.2
9.8
4.0
0.9
0.9

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
9
8

2 0.1
2 1.6
2 1.4
0.5
1.2
1.7
2 0.2
2 0.5
0.4

Affordability
Lack of client demand
Lack of client awareness
Lack of proven alternative technologies
Lack of business case understanding
Building regulations
Planning policy
Lack of labelling/measurement standard
Other

Valid responses

Ranking sum

65
50
36
23
18
11
10
8
4

150
105
60
31
34
20
14
10
12

Sustainable
construction

160

140

120

215
100

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80

60

40

20

0
Affordability

Lack of
client
demand

Lack of
client
awareness

Lack of Lack of proven Building


business case alternative
regulations
understanding technologies

Barriers
Affordability
Lack of client demand
Lack of client awareness
Lack of business case understanding
Lack of proven alternative technologies
Building regulations
Planning policy
Other
Labelling/measurement

Q:

Planning
policy

Other

Lack of
labelling/
measurement
standard

Ranking
(%)

Ranking
no.

Response
(%)

Response
no.

Difference
(%)

34.4
24.1
13.8
7.8
7.1
4.6
3.2
2.8
2.3

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

28.9
22.2
16.0
8.0
10.2
4.9
4.4
1.8
3.6

1
2
3
5
4
6
7
9
8

2 5.5
2 1.9
2.2
0.2
3.1
0.3
1.2
2 1.0
1.3

In your experience, which measurement method is most commonly used


during a project?

BREEAM was the most recognised measure of sustainable construction. However, it is


worth highlighting that 28.9 per cent of the respondents did not answer this question or
put dont know (Figure 6):
Q:

Which three sustainability benchmark indicators do you think are most


recognised?

Figure 4.
Barrier bar chart
ranking

Table V.
Barrier frequency
vs ranking

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5.3%
2.7%

21.3%

216

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Stakeholder
Client
Architect/Designer
Constructor/Builder
Investor

70.7%

Figure 5.
Stakeholder pie chart

The ranking in Table VI could show a higher rating for one variable based on the
number of times it was chosen first. That could rank it higher than another variable
chosen more times but given a lower rank.
As shown in Figure 7, the DTI was clearly the most recognised industry
benchmark, but there is a more even spread across the others. However, again a high
proportion of respondents missed out this question or didnt know.
The ranking score compared to the frequency score (Table VII) reverses second and
third places due to more respondents choosing Construction Product Association KPIs
but giving them a lower ranking that Whole Life Cost Forum Comparator Tool.
However, FTSE4Good Index was fifth in the frequency score instead of fourth and the
percentage response was lower than the percentage ranking. This would indicate that
when it was chosen, it was given higher ranking than design quality indicators:
Q:

In your opinion is the construction industry consistently taking account of


sustainability issues?

Opinion across the profession is that some consideration is made of sustainable


construction practices by the industry (Figure 8).
Comments were invited at the bottom of the survey and a summary of those
received are:
.
Tax and other incentives required to make affordable.
.
Cost limitations limiting the true fulfilment of sustainability.

3.4%

1.7%

5.1%

13.6%

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Sustainable
construction

Measure
None
BREEAM
Eco-Homes
Eco-Labels
Eco-Points
Embodied Impact
Study

5.1%

217

71.2%

Figure 6.
Measure pie chart

DTI Construction on KPIs (incl. Environmental KPIs)


Construction Product Association KPIs
Whole Life Cost Forum Comparator Tool
Design quality indicator
FTSE4Good Index
Morley Fund Managements Sustainability Matrix
Business in the environment/community surveys
Respect for people indicators and toolkits
Other
.
.
.
.

Valid responses

Ranking sum

39
26
24
20
16
15
11
7
3

99
41
44
34
36
25
17
8
8

The industry is geared to replacement rather than repair.


No commonly accepted definition of sustainability within the industry.
National simple benchmark scheme under building regulations or BRE needed.
Issues surrounding sustainable construction are driven on a project by project
basis, with some clients endorsing green construction philosophies and others
prioritising around cost.
Construction industry is reactive thus only completing things that need/have to
be done. Construction needs to become more proactive.

Conclusion
Through the literature reviewed and the incorporation of the research undertaken, it is
clear that there are a number of key themes that directly construct linkages to the

Table VI.
Benchmark frequency
table and sum of rankings

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120

100

218

80

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60

40

20

Figure 7.
Benchmark bar chart

DTI
Whole Life Construction
Construction Cost Forum
Product
on KPI's (incl. Comparitor Association
Environmental
Tool
KPI's
KPI's)

FTSE4
Good
Index

Benchmarks

Table VII.
Benchmark frequency vs
ranking

DTI Construction KPIs


Whole Life Cost Forum Comparator Tool
Construction Product Association KPIs
FTSE4Good Index
Design quality indicator
Morley Fund Managements Sustainability
Matrix
Business in the environment/community
surveys
Respect for people indicators and toolkits
Other

Design
quality
indicator

Moreley Fund Business


Respect for
Management's
in the
people
Sustainability environment/ indicators
Matrix
community and toolkits
surveys

Other

Ranking Ranking Response Response Difference


(%)
no.
(%)
no.
(%)
31.7
14.1
13.1
11.5
10.9

1
2
3
4
5

24.2
14.9
16.1
9.9
12.4

1
3
2
5
4

2 7.5
0.8
3.0
2 1.6
1.5

8.0

9.3

1.3

5.4
2.6
2.6

7
8
9

6.8
4.3
1.9

7
8
9

1.4
1.8
2 0.7

relationship between the demand and supply side of construction, identifying what
clients need to achieve in order to require the supply side.
Financial incentives and building regulations were identified as the two most
important drivers of sustainable construction. This concurs with earlier research
from the ACE suggesting that financial incentives would help to drive demand

5.3%
14.5%

Opinion
Not at all
Partially
Considerably

Sustainable
construction

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219

80.3%

Figure 8.
Opinion pie chart

from stakeholders. Similarly they felt that consistent standards and enforcement of
legislation, which would include the building regulations, were important (ACE, 2003).
Financial incentives and more stringent requirements that support sustainable
practice in building regulations and planning policy ensure a level of equality across
the industry. Over time, this should counter the affordability barrier as it serves to
provide a level playing field and avoids the current perception of a premium for
building green.
However, in ACEs research, awareness was the most important factor likely to
make a difference to energy efficiency in offices (ACE, 2003) before financial
incentives and legislation/standards, respectively. Client awareness was seen as next
important and unless clients are aware of sustainability issues they are not able to brief
sustainable construction practices, which links to Sponges (2003) recommendations of
using incentives to raise client awareness.
Education of the client will raise awareness and increase demand for sustainable
construction practices. This is crucial if sustainable practices are to be adopted over
and above the requirements of building regulations. Client knowledge is particularly
important as they are the principal stakeholder in determining sustainable
construction practice. However, the industry should take the lead in guiding the
client on sustainability issues and educating them to the benefits. The role is
recognised by the ARB in their code of conduct (Wyatt et al., 2000) but perhaps
contractors and investors have opportunity here too.
Affordability was seen as the biggest barrier to sustainable construction and would
indicate that sustainable construction is more expensive to execute compared to

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220

standard practices. This ties in with the assertion by Anderson and Mills (2002) that
sustainability options are only used if they are financially viable. Lack of business case
understanding could also be associated with Affordability, due to the financial
implications of this barrier. The work by RICS (2005a) in their Green Value report
demonstrated the longer term benefits to sustainable construction and provides a clear
business case for it.
The respondents put lack of client demand as a second barrier to sustainable
construction, with lack of client awareness third. The lack of client demand could be
associated with lack of customer awareness but also with the perception that higher
costs are associated with sustainable construction. This re-enforces the earlier research
advocating better promotion of the business case for sustainable construction (Sponge,
2003) and raising public awareness of its issues and benefits (ACE, 2003).
Different stakeholders can influence the implementation of sustainable
construction. Abidin and Pasquire (2005) saw the client as a key driver towards
this, and has been confirmed by this research. The client is the principal stakeholder in
determining a sustainable construction approach in a project but the architect/designer
also has a role to play. This supports the assertion that architects have a responsibility
to protect the environment as well as to their clients (Wyatt et al., 2000) and should use
their influence to educate the client as much as possible. Investors are considered less
important but that is when compared to the client. As expected, constructors were seen
to have limited impact on determining the approach to a project.
BREEAM appeared to be the most widely recognised measurement tool, with only a
low-percentage highlighting EcoHomes, which is slightly surprising given that the
Code for Sustainable Homes initiative uses EcoHomes as its measure. However,
the BRE (2006) developed both EcoHomes for domestic dwellings and BREEAM for
commercial properties so this could indicate that this sample is more involved in
commercial property than residential. About 24 respondents answered dont know,
which would indicate a lack of familiarity with measures of sustainability. Progress
has been made in establishing common standards for measuring and benchmarking
sustainability, although the low-response rate and missing data could highlight a
knowledge gap within the sample group.
The DTI Construction KPIs were the most recognised by the sample. These are
focused on time, cost, quality, client satisfaction, change orders, business performance
and health and safety (DETR, 2000b) and are a way for construction companies to
compare themselves to each other. The next five benchmarks surveyed were ranked
similarly by the respondents. Again, 24 respondents did not answer this question at all,
which would appear to indicate a lack of knowledge in this area.
Finally, it is important to address areas of further research. The response rate of the
survey at 41.5 per cent was high but there was not enough data to determine if
the results from this study were statistically representative of the whole population of
directors/partners within the RICS building surveying faculty. However, it does
provide a snapshot of opinion that would indicate some progress towards sustainable
construction is being made.
The scope of this research only allowed for one sample group to be tested, whereas
earlier research had included other stakeholders. It would be interesting to conduct
further research with architects and property managers to see if they share similar
views.

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Financial incentives and penalties scored strongly overall and it would be


interesting to explore this further linking it to affordability and business case
justification. The most recognised measure was BREEAM. However, this could
be indicative of the business focus of the sample group within the building surveyor
faculty. A similar study across other faculties, in particular the RICS Residential
faculty would enable familiarity of EcoHomes to be tested.
The findings have attempted to draw out the potential linkages between the
demand and supply side of achieving sustainable construction. Frequently, sustainable
construction is perceived by what suppliers are required to undertake in order to
achieve, for example through heavy focus on the design and build. However, this paper
has sought to identify that to achieve sustainable construction, it is essential to bridge
the gap with client demand, to ensure that client awareness becomes more
sophisticated and financial budgeting moves towards a holistic process to incorporate
a wider environmental consideration.
The study has identified methods of good practice for sustainable construction
within a UK context. Future research will seek to explore current initiatives that are
taking place within other developed countries, particularly focused around Scandinavia.
Note
1. FRICS can be applied for after a minimum of five years experience. However, applicants
must have achieved at the highest level in terms of: post-qualification professional
experience; managerial responsibilities; and structured and planned professional
development. And have made significant contributions through: academic study or
specialist skills; RICS activities; and promoting the profession (RICS, 2004).
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