Construction sector to invest heavily in sustainability

More than half of architecture, engineering, construction firms in the UK and Ireland are investing in recruitment and training as part of their sustainability objectives.

Architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) and manufacturing  companies across Ireland and the UK are set to invest an average of €800,000 each in sustainability initiatives over the next five years.

A new report by software company Autodesk in partnership with global consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan into 600 business decision makers in the AEC and manufacturing industries found that construction companies in the Nordics are leading the way in terms of sustainability, with 91pc of companies within the region having a dedicated sustainability team.

“Empowering people to design, collaborate, build, and fabricate in ways that improve productivity – while also reducing waste, saving money, and staying competitive will play a huge role”

However, for those within the UK and Ireland, sustainability will be a key area for investment over the next five years.

Sustainability objectives

Today, 95pc of companies in the UK and Ireland are investing in improved workflows (reducing waste and energy consumption) as part of their sustainability initiatives. Another area of investment is in technology and software, with over three quarters (77pc) of those in the region investing here today.

The report also found that 50pc of AEC firms in the UK and Ireland are investing in recruitment and training as part of their sustainability objectives, with 54pc planning to invest in the next two years. 

For those within the AEC sector, the most important areas for achieving sustainability impact goals in the future include:

  • Green building (56pc)
  • Low carbon innovation (50pc)
  • Circular design (41pc)
  • Supporting vulnerable communities affected by climate change (31pc)

When asked why their company was embracing sustainability, 91pc of those in the UK and Ireland cited customer retention as the most important factor. 

This was followed by customer expectations (83pc), competitive advantage (64pc), supply chain and partner expectations (54pc), attracting talent and employee satisfaction (39pc), and investor relations (44pc).

Over half (53pc) of AEC respondents in the region also believe sustainable practices improve project quality. These findings indicate that the use of renewable energy, better material choices and circularity approaches could lower the environmental impact of projects or products.

The future of work in construction and engineering

“In Ireland, empowering people to design, collaborate, build, and fabricate in ways that improve productivity – while also reducing waste, saving money, and staying competitive will play a huge role in achieving the objectives set out under the Government’s national policies including the Project Ireland 2040, Action Plan on Housings and Homelessness and the Climate Action Plan,” said Mike Pettinella, EMEA director of Sales at Autodesk.

“The transformation from physical to digital has brought both the AEC and manufacturing industries closer together to make supply chains shorter, increasing collaboration and boosting resilience. The critical next step is sharing learnings and best practices between industries to meet carbon neutral goals in the next decade and beyond.”

Though the benefits of sustainability are clear, firms still face challenges in implementing strategies across both industries, with lack of financial resources (44pc) and access to skills and training (36pc) the most common challenges.

“Technology is already an enabler for our sustainability initiatives. Systems like BIM and Carbon Management Programmes help us effectively measure, monitor, and manage assets from pre-construction to de-construction,” said Chris Landsburgh, , Environmental and Sustainability Manager, Wills Bros.

“It is both collaboration and utilisation of data through these platforms, which allow us to engage with all teams involved in the construction process. This enables us to track the performance and efficiency of our work – which in turn give us the fuel necessary to achieve our sustainability goals.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 23 March 2021