In the face of new eco-focused updates to UK building regulations, and in preparation for the Future Homes and Buildings standards, sustainability is a topic attracting some much-needed attention in the construction industry right now. The recent 2022 Rated People Home Improvement Trends Report even found that 63% of tradespeople are making environmentally-friendly changes in 2022.
In this episode of Talking Trade, our host Andy Willcox talks to John, a self-employed architect and sustainability enthusiast, and bricklayer James about their opinions and experiences of working sustainably in construction.
Here are some of the main takeaways from the episode about sustainability…
Q How would you describe sustainable construction?
John: It’s about meeting our own needs when making our buildings, but without prejudicing our children and our grandchildren’s needs. Make sure that what you’re doing today is not going to stop future generations from doing their stuff.
Q Do you find it easy to go green in a construction business?
James: I have to confess, as a bricklayer, we use materials, construct builds, etc. Housing developers, as you know, don’t seem to be as concerned about sustainability and keeping green. Some like to pretend they are, but they’re not really doing much to promote sustainability.
For myself, I don’t ask many questions about sustainability; you just use the materials because they’re there, and everything is moving so fast, and there are so many moving parts to the business. You’re focussing on everything moving smoothly and quickly.
John: I don’t think you’re on your own, James. If you take the example of concrete and cement, 9% of global CO2 comes from the construction of cement. There is a greener alternative to concrete called limecrete.
One of the main constraints of limecrete is that it’s not mainstream. This means that when you go to Builders Merchants, only 1 in 100 customers wants this material, so it costs more money and time to sell.
Until it becomes mainstream, we’re in a difficult area where things are more expensive and more hassle. You’re not alone; the industry isn’t quite up to speed yet. I’m not slagging anyone off though, because there’s a growing number of people becoming more interested in the subject, from clients to contractors.
Q How do you stay up-to-date with updates to Building Regulations?
From 15th June 2022, there are going to be some changes to Building Regulations in the UK. Find out more here.
James: It’s good to speak to other tradespeople who are doing a similar thing and bounce ideas off of each other. I had a phone call last week with a friend about the building regulations, and he was saying things like, “we’re in the dark,” and “we don’t know what’s going to change until it actually happens.”
We don’t know much. Do we have to increase the size of our cavities? Increase the width of the insulation? Do we have to change the type of insulation to a more expensive one? I’m the one having to relate to the customers why their costs have increased because of the new regulations.
John: The overheating problem is a real issue. When we put more insulation in our buildings to stop heat loss, it means the buildings can have problems cooling down. The new Part O updates mean that windows facing south might need to have shading installed, and things like that…
Airtightness is also important. It’s not just another regulation that’s been imposed; it’s come out of actual building physics to help them perform better.