Manufacturers power up to help housebuilders reach green target

The construction industry is under more pressure than ever to incorporate energy-saving methods into private and social new builds. Mark Parsons, Technical Director at Russell Roof Tiles identifies how manufacturers have an important role in helping housebuilders and developers to be more sustainable.

The Government has outlined plans which states that 25 million new homes – both private and social housing – must be insulated and energy efficient by 2050, as part of the 2008 Climate Change Act. This has seen low-energy and sustainability have a greater impact on many housebuilding projects over the past two years. Housebuilders and developers now need to guarantee that each new-build project does not only reduce its environmental impact but also takes the appropriate steps to ensure each home is fit for the future. To enable this, responsible sourcing of building products is an essential part of the process.

As a result, construction material manufacturers need to ensure that they take environment responsibility seriously and this can be shown by investing more than ever in new products and technology to help customers deliver the Government’s ambitious goals. In addition, it has become more commonplace across the industry over the past couple years for developers and housebuilders to be more green-energy focussed and to be seen working with like-minded companies which share the same ethos.

When considering suppliers, housebuilders and developers need to take into consideration whether a manufacturer has been recognised for its commitment in green-energy through accreditations and policies.

For example, the BES 6001: Issue 3 is the most recent version of the BRE Framework for the Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products and it highlights where a manufacturer is reducing both its environmental impact and its consumption of resources while ISO14001 environmental management maps out a framework and certifies processes that companies can follow to meet sustainability standards, including the manufacturing, packaging of products, transportation and finally the disposal of products.

Achieving a “good” or “excellent” rating highlights how serious a manufacturer is about going the extra mile to ensure its environmental responsibilities are being met and this is achieved through a number of different methods.

Housebuilders might like to know if a construction materials manufacturer uses local raw material suppliers as this can reduce the environment impact of large trucks travelling long distance and creating pollution. For example, it is best that a concrete roof tile manufacturer sources key material for production from a supplier in the same region or even town.

It may seem obvious but the manufacturing of materials and even the material used can also play a large part. Concrete roof tiles for example use considerably less energy usage when compared with its similar clay counterparts. This is largely because of the extensive power required for curing clay, in a 1000⁰ + kiln for up to 48 hours. Concrete tiles are cured at a much lower temperature and for a shorter period of time. This means that an energy saving of up to 30 per cent of that energy used in the production of clay tiles can be achieved in comparison.

Concrete roof tiles therefore have much lower embodied carbon than those of clay and although cement does have a high carbon embodiment, it typically represents less than 20 per cent of the weight of the tile composition. The remainder of the materials used in production are “natural” products.

The advancement of modern manufacturing techniques has allowed for new construction products on the market which is also geared toward environmental benefits. For instance, the thin leading-edge roof tile has been instrumental in providing a sustainable roofing solution for housebuilders who need to incorporate insulation and energy-saving roofs on hundreds of houses. The tile uses 15 per cent less raw materials than a standard concrete roof tile and the product has less depth. This means that around 20 per cent more tiles can be packed onto a pallet which equates to a much lower carbon footprint when transporting them.

By introducing new products and technology to reduce environment impact and by working closely with housebuilders and developers, manufacturers can provide a necessary role in helping their customers reach the government’s aims.