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Sustainability and the Irish Construction Industry

The Irish government is now committed to delivering a target of a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2021 (Cap2021) provides a framework for delivering this target. As the construction industry accounts for about 40% of C02 emissions, action taken in the building sector will make a real difference to help us meet our national targets. Cap2021 details indicative emission reductions for the construction industry of between 44 to 50%. 

Waste Management 

The Irish construction industry generates huge amounts of waste. Every year, on our building sites, materials such as metals, wiring, plastics accumulate in large quantities. It is important to recycle these materials to improve sustainability. For example, segregating steel from aluminium by placing into separate containers which can then be collected for recycling is good practice. 

Sustainable suppliers 

Choosing suppliers that are prioritising sustainable practices can help in your efforts to be eco-friendly. Check to see the supplier’s environmental policy at the tender stage. Make sure they have policies and targets for things like waste reduction, transport planning and raw material reduction. 

On-site offices 

Temporary offices that are set up on your site may lack basic energy efficiency measures such as effective insulation or LED lighting. It is important to take care of these details to help reduce energy usage. An on-site combined heat and power (CHP) system could also help the move to more on-site energy efficient practices. 

Moving to offsite construction 

Offsite construction is defined as the designing, planning, manufacturing, fabricating, and assembling of the components of a building structure at a location other than the final site location. Offsite construction will help reduce project delivery times and the build-up of on-site waste. It will also reduce transportation and machinery usage. 

Carbon reduction strategies 

Many construction companies are regularly measuring their carbon footprint. Balfour Beatty, the British construction group, in collaboration with Leeds Beckett and Hertfordshire Universities has developed a carbon calculation tool for the construction industry. This tool can facilitate construction companies to decide on which type of concrete mix to use to minimise carbon emissions. 

Economise your transportation fleet 

Currently, transportation accounts for around 20% of the Ireland’s carbon dioxide emissions. Switching to more efficient vehicles, streamlining site suppliers and sourcing materials locally can help reduce the environmental impact. This can be as simple as a site foreman using his electric vehicle (car or ebike) to commute to the site while leaving the company jeep for on-site transportation. 

Maximise equipment efficiencies 

Making use of renewable alternatives, using high quality fuels and correct equipment lubrication are all way to improve the efficiency of your on-site equipment. For example, keeping telehandlers well lubricated will increase their fuel efficiency. 

Electric options 

Electric machinery on building sites may seem impractical due to the power and running times required. Many companies have focussed on Excavators as a starting point. For example, Volvo’s ECR25 Electric Excavator ranges from up to four hours on one charge. Komatsu and Proterra have launched their own electric excavator which is quieter and cleaner than the conventional option. JCB have launched an electric telehandler (JCB 525-60E) which claims a full day’s shift on one charge.