Estimates made show that the built environment requires over 100,000 different materials for construction, operation and maintenance including some that are considered to be harmful to the environment and people. Materials like cement in the form of concrete are amongst the most heavily consumed materials on the planet, more so than even food or fuel; only water is more consumed per capita around the world. In addition, the built environment is a source of around 40% of all solid waste and makes up a significant fraction of waste going to landfill in many countries.
Challenges and opportunities
The construction sector consumes significant quantities of natural materials. Extraction of virgin raw materials for large volume products like concrete (cement, sand and gravel) and ferrous/non-ferrous metals for reinforcement and other components of structures can have significant negative sustainability impacts at their sites of extraction and production. Significant opportunities therefore exist to improve the sourcing and use of virgin materials and their replacement by other suitable, more sustainable, alternatives such as reused or recycled materials.
A study by the UK government estimates that avoidable waste equivalent to 2% of the construction industry’s revenue goes to landfill – this in a sector where few companies make significant profit. Skanska is working hard to eliminate self-generated waste as there is a strong business case to reinforce our existing environmental commitment.
Further information is available in our Green Urban Development Report No. 2 - "Material revolution"
Policy and strategy
Skanska's approach to materials is to focus on things we can directly control and directly influence.
The strategic direction is informed by our Environmental Policy and Strategy. The Color Palette™ defines external products and services for our customers. Both have been shaped by recognition of the need to reduce waste associated with the construction sector.
Our Environmental Policy states that we will “Generate zero waste through reducing upfront demand, reusing materials whenever possible and recycling (down-cycling) and where these options are not currently practicable, provide environmentally sound treatment or disposal”. Furthermore, it also states that we will “proactively select and use materials that are benign to people and the environment”.
The Color Palette™ and our Environmental Strategy challenge projects to generate Zero Waste through planning and design to increase material efficiency, reuse and recycling of materials and products. This key priority is complemented with two other targets - Zero Unsustainable Materials and Zero Hazardous Materials. This is to target the three priorities of material use that poses challenges and opportunities within the construction sector. Using Sustainable materials encourage wider use of reused, recycled and renewable materials and the target for Zero Hazardous Materials on our projects is to mitigate the risk of negative impacts these can have on the environment and human health.
In 2008 we began to put in place a more consistent, approach to materials to take account of
- Resource efficiency – improve material use in line with the Waste Hierarchy.
- Hazardous materials – find ways to phase out hazardous materials even when legal.
- Sustainability of materials – understand what makes a material sustainable and increase the use of these materials.
Delivery of these objectives has already taken considerable effort and even more will be required over an extended period of time due to the complex nature of our materials supply chains.
View some of our case studies on Materials:
- Kladno Environmental Education Center, Czech Republic
- New Meadowlands Stadium, USA
- Bromma Blocks, Sweden
- Barts and the London, UK
Next steps - 2016-2020
For Business Plan 2016-2020 we have taken this one step further by positioning Materials as one of four key components of the Skanska Color Palette™ and our Journey to Deep Green™
An estimate made is that we use over 90,000 suppliers of materials of which most are local. A close cooperation with suppliers is needed to fulfill Skanska’s ambitions related to Material use. We also need closer working relationships between different internal functions such as Design, Procurement, Logistics, Production and Environmental Management based on an overall higher quality of common understanding of priorities and solutions.
Green Strategic Indicator (GSI)
For the Business Plan 2016-2020 a set of new GSIs were agreed as a means of monitoring environmental progress. The GSI for materials is "zero waste in our construction processes" which has now been strengthened further with sub-indicators, which will support progress at Business Unit level to reduce waste and a more efficient use of materials. Each Business Unit reports annually their performance against the sub-indicators they have selected to work with. Target for self-generated waste during this business plan is that more than 95% of this waste should be diverted from landfill.