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Last edited 10 Mar 2021
Sustainability and construction bid management
The environment we live, work and socialise in is in flux. The year 2019 brought about the UN Climate Action Summit. The goal of this summit was to address climate change directly. A key point was that globally, we must do more immediately to address climate change.
 The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement plays a key role within sustainability and climate change. It is an agreement initially reached at a Paris COP 21 climate change conference in 2015. It came into force the following year.
The English text edition of the Paris Agreement (dated 2015) comprises 29 Articles over 25 pages. This document sets out environmental aims and objectives, which are agreed by the parties (parties here meaning countries).
- Acknowledgement that we must take action against climate change based on scientific data. Climate change is an urgent threat;
- The importance of conserving greenhouse gas sinks. Sinks store carbon dioxide - examples include soil, sea and plants;
- Public awareness, education and training about climate is extremely important;
- Understanding that producing goods and services sustainably will help to address climate change.
Several UN climate action summits, conferences and dialogues were held in 2019. Locations included Madrid, New York, Brazil, Ghana and Poland. At these events, grassroots enterprises, big businesses and scientists gathered to discuss key environmental initiatives and plans.
We can already see climate change in action right now. This is evident with increasing events such as the Australian bush fires in 2019 and 2020. These fires severely impacted people, animals and landscapes across the country. Global warming is likely to increase bushfire risk by 30%, according to the World Weather Attribution consortium and the BBC.
Climate and sustainability experts are concerned that we are not on target to meet average global temperate targets. Due to climate change, temperatures have risen, which contributes to the events described above.
Companies and individuals recognise the impact and responsibility they have when producing and delivering services. However, in 2018, new UK construction work was valued at over £113 billion by the Office for National Statistics. There has also been a steady rise in new construction organisations carrying out works. How can construction businesses thrive economically, whilst also being sustainable?
- Amey: A huge company within the construction industry, they produced a white paper outlining decarbonisation within the UK. This involves significant changes to the heating structure, change in policy, and investment in low carbon technology.
- Kier Group Plc: Through smart technology, in line with high environmental standards, 92% of Kier Group operations are ISO 14001 certified. They provide energy saving advice to clients and are members of environmental protection schemes like the Considerate Constructors Scheme.
- Morgan Sindall: Recording their carbon emissions yearly enables Morgan Sindall to measure and reduce climate change impact. Morgan Sindall verifies their CO2 emissions through the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme (CEMARS). They also measure the total amount of construction activity waste which is diverted from landfill annually.
 What might a bid manager and their construction clients consider?
Bid managers when supporting their clients will find very specific environmental questions in the tendering process. Social, legislative and environmental pressures influence questions posed by buyers seeking construction services. Buyers – particularly those within the public sector such as councils and government bodies – must consider sustainability. They must source construction companies who, through their service delivery, will:
- Mitigate climate change risks through practices and procedures;
- Provide sustainable and economic value both at contract acquisition and during the project lifetime.
 How can construction organisations evidence sustainability?
Innovation is key for larger companies, as they are at the forefront of public awareness. Larger companies who have the capital can invest in new methods of reducing and mitigating their CO2 emissions. During tender writing, it is essential that they can be evidenced and measurable. This must be in solid facts and figures. There is little value in providing vague statements without the ability to demonstrate this to buyers.
Other suggestions may include alternative means of communications for meetings, such as Skype or Zoom. Doing so enables individuals to maximise their productivity, spending less on the road commuting to meetings.
An environmental dashboard is an excellent opportunity for small and large construction companies to demonstrate innovation. A dashboard can be as flexible as your organisation needs it to be. Therefore, Bid Managers in the Construction Industry could suggest elements such as measuring energy, fuel or water consumption. Other approaches could be reporting on the total weight of construction materials recyclables saved from landfill each month.
Embodied carbon is becoming something of a buzzword in construction tender questions. Indeed, demonstrating that your business measures embodied carbon is essential for many large construction businesses.
As a Bid Manager in Construction, it is important to differentiate between carbon footprint and embodied carbon, across your quality responses. In simple terms, embodied carbon is measured through all processes starting from the ground (literally) and includes:
- All carbon emissions used to produce a final construction project – this is embodied carbon.
- All carbon emissions produced by that completed construction project in use – this is carbon footprint.
As a Bid Manager, your construction-sector clients may be interested in Passivhaus (or other green standards, such as BREEAM). Passivhaus is a building construction standard, established by The Passivhaus Trust. Buildings are designed and modelled using a bespoke package. The building is assessed, to determine if it passes criteria, such as:
- How airtight is the fabric of the building?
- Are the windows high performance and sufficiently insulating?
- Has the design enabled the efficient recovery of heat within the building?
- Is it very well insulated?
Buildings certified as Passivhaus can range in size and scope. They are designed to be so efficient that the need for internal heating is negligible. This means that the building does not lose heat. So much so, that rooms maintain pleasant ambient air temperature within the space.
Passivhaus is important to the construction sector because more heat-efficient buildings means less CO2. For one building alone – this makes a difference. For larger housing contracts and frameworks – the cumulative CO2 saving is more significant. Designing houses to this standard makes sense, both financially and environmentally.
It is beneficial for construction companies to consider Passivhaus, particularly those who specialise in housing. Passivhaus certification is highly regarded by procurement buyers seeking environmentally friendly construction businesses.
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