Term Paper: Sustainability Skills

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Sustainability in the UK Construction industry

Can the UK Construction Industry Meet the Challenges of Sustainable Development?

Issues such as climate change, a rapidly growing global population, pollution, and other environmental issues have brought the global community together with the realization that the way that we have been doing things cannot continue. The last century was dominated by rapid economic growth and development, without regard to the long-term effects on the environment. Now, the world has come to the realization that these practices cannot continue and that we must all do our part to ensure a secure future for the generations that follow us.

The construction industry is one of the biggest culprits, in terms of environmental impact. The construction industry cuts down millions of acres of forests in order to provide timber for now buildings. They continually employ harmful chemicals and petroleum products in the trade. Goods manufactured for home construction spew toxic chemicals and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by the ton. The construction industry is not the only culprit, but they are a major contributor, and subsequently the industry that can have the greatest impact in terms of alleviating the situation. The world has focused on the construction industry to pave the way for others to begin using more sustainable practices in their industries as well.

Clients and government agencies are demanding that the construction industry change its practices to become more sustainable. Furthermore, it is not a slow change that they are demanding, but a rapid response to a growing concern about the environment. Developing sustainable practices means a paradigm shift in the way the construction industry thinks. In the past, the industry only needed to be concerned about costs and the ability to deliver the product on time. However, now they must add the immediate impact that their project will have on the environment and the long-term impact that it will have as well. At the same time, they must continue to offer a product that is durable and meets strict industry, government and consumer standards. The construction industry has many plates to balance and it will take changing attitudes in order to change the outcome of future projects.

The purpose of this research is to investigate and assess the readiness of the UK construction industry to meet the challenges that it faces now and that it will continue to face in the future. The issue of sustainability has been around longer in other countries than it has in the UK. For instance, the U.S. And Canada have more advanced legislation and practices than those in the UK, where sustainability has become a rather recent issue of major concern. This research will assess the readiness of the industry in terms of the ability of the construction industry to put sustainable practices in place on a daily basis.

Sustainability represents the latest "buzz word" and it is what clients and the government want to hear. The government is under extreme pressures from foreign entities and the general public to take measures to make certain that the construction industry complies with the standards that they set. However, in actual practices, it is suspected that this new theoretical buzz is only that due to the resources and knowledge available within the trades.

This research will focus on the current level of sustainability in actual practice in the UK construction industry, as compared to the expectations placed by the government. It will examine the resources available to accomplish the task, the willingness to comply, financial barriers to compliance, and any other obstacles to compliance that are identified during the course of this research. It will paint a picture of the current state and future of sustainable practices in the UK construction industry.

Significance of the Problem

The Energy Performance Buildings Directive (EPBD), Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and Council on the energy performances in building, is one of the latest inventions of the road to a sustainable future. The EPBD is the UK response to pressure from the European Energy Commission that requires all member countries to reduce their energy consumption (European Energy commission, 2008). This directive was first adopted in 2002 and will mean that buildings will have to meet stringent guidelines for efficient energy use (2008 Building Performance Directive Implementation Advisory Group). This directive applies to residential and non-residential buildings, both new and existing builds. The directive was first adopted in England and Wales. It was adopted into Irish law in 2006 (2008 Building Performance Directive Implementation Advisory Group).

The EPBD requires information regarding the energy performance of a building to be provided to potential purchasers, users, or renters of a building. This information allows these persons to take the long-term energy efficiency of the building into account in the transaction decisions (2008 Building Performance Directive Implementation Advisory Group). As part of the directive, a Building Energy Rating (BER) certificate is provided at the point of sale, rent, or other business transaction. The following is an example of the BER rating system.

Source: 2008 Building Performance Directive Implementation Advisory Group

As one can see, the energy rating also takes into account the environmental impact of the building, in addition to the energy efficiency rating. The schedule for implementation of the EPC requires EPCs on all buildings by April 6, 2008. There are certain buildings that are initially exempt from this requirement, but in October of 2008, it will be a requirement for all buildings. After the initial certification, regular inspections of the heating and air conditioning systems will be required (2008 Building Performance Directive Implementation Advisory Group).

The EPBD will have a significant impact on the construction industry. The industry must construct buildings in such a manner as to attain the greatest efficiency in terms of energy usage. This must be taken into consideration from not only a regulatory standpoint, but also from a sales standpoint. Those companies that develop a reputation for constructing the most energy efficient buildings will be rewarded with a greater number of contracts that those that construction buildings that do not meet standards. This will be a marketing point, as well as a regulatory requirement.

Global trends pressure the construction industry to construct buildings in a more efficient manner. This trend reflects attention to the future impact of the building, as well as the immediate gains. This is a new way of thinking for the construction industry. The construction industry used to be concerned only with construction issues. Once the building was up, it was someone else's problem, in terms of maintenance and long-term costs. Now the construction industry must take the long-term costs of maintaining and heating the building into the construction equation. They must develop a new way of thinking about the buildings and the people that will use them in the future. The EPBD is significant because it codifies this trend and makes it a requirement. It forces a change in the way that the construction industry thinks about their final product.

The EPBD will place many new constraints on the construction industry that will affect design and architecture, as well as new techniques that will need to be used by the trades. This legislation is central in producing the need for construction industries to put new procedures and policies into place. This research will play a significant role in understanding the demands that this new legislation will have on the construction industry, as well as determining how to improve the performance of the industry in the future. It will identify challenges that the industry faces and will help to determine the areas where improvements need to be made.

The new paradigm for the construction industry will generate the need for members of the industry to learn a new way of doing business. A similar situation exists in other industries including power generation and oil industries. These industries face a need to develop individual and organizational learning skills (Coverdale, 2002). It is expected that these industries will require 19,000 graduates over the next 15 years to replace those persons lost to attrition (Coverdale, 2002). Key skills are currently concentrated in the over 50 group, creating a gap in the knowledge base of the future (Coverdale, 2002).

With the current knowledge base concentrated in the upper range of the employee base, this translates into few persons that will have the knowledge and skills to make the transition into sustainable building practices. Older workers may have updated their skills as required, but their philosophy and thought process reflect what was being taught at the time of their education. These workers will not be able to transfer the necessary skills to the younger generation that are needed in order to incorporate new sustainability standards. The industry faces a significant need to produce employees that are skilled in sustainable building practices and will be able to fulfill the needs of the industry in the future.

The EPBD will place even greater constraints on the ability of the construction industry to meet the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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