by Lee Jones
Setting the scene
The human race is faced with a dilemma. Not one that just impacts us immediately, but one that affects every living thing on Earth and the planet itself. Pretty much everyone will have heard about greenhouse gases; there are a number of them (six main types), and in particular there is a lot of talk about reducing the amount of carbon that we produce as a species. But what does it all mean, and why are we only focusing on carbon dioxide?
Firstly, carbon dioxide is the gas most produced by humans: from energy provision, transport, manufacture, construction, farming and much more. All of these activities generate and emit carbon into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases absorb infrared heat from the sun and trap that heat within the atmosphere. The more carbon emitted, the higher the temperature gets. ‘Simples’! What’s more, the sea actually absorbs carbon and turns it into carbonic acidic which will ultimately kill off marine life. There are currently around eight billion people on Earth, and this number is growing day by day. This means that the amount of carbon generated will continue to rise – and unless we do something about it, we are going to be in a pretty grim place within a few years, where places will be too hot to live in and food sources will be depleted.
How does this impact construction product manufacturers?
Obviously, the need to lower emissions is everybody’s responsibility. However, the construction sector is responsible for around 40% of all carbon emissions emitted into the atmosphere. This is down to use, but also the production of materials and construction. Manufacturing itself is also a key villain in the carbon fight; since the start of the industrial revolution, when mass manufacturing began, carbon emissions in the atmosphere have rocketed from a manageable five billion tonnes of CO2 per year to almost 40 billion tonnes per year. This number is currently increasing year on year.
Combine the construction sector’s input with the manufacturing input and it becomes clear why construction product manufacturers need to do more. Many organizations in our sector, including the RIBA, have set goals on reducing carbon emissions: the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge outlines these in a clear way. It calls upon its members to actively design buildings more sustainably and, combined with forthcoming Building Regulations changes, is moving very quickly. This means that outside of your moral obligations as a manufacturer, your clients will now be demanding details of your sustainable measures.
How change can become a chanceYes, you could just swap the letter ‘g’ for ‘c’, but really this is a golden opportunity for manufacturers willing to embrace development. Here are a few examples:
1) Gain more specifications
Specifiers’ and contractors’ demand for sustainably sourced and efficient products is on the rise. Eventually, it will become a mandatory requirement: not a ‘nice-to-have’ feature. For manufacturers embracing this opportunity and making changes, they will have the edge on their competition. This could just start with being open about your own energy use, for example: mapping out how you consume energy and identifying where you minimize use. Look at more sustainably sourced materials… the list goes on. NBS is on a mission to help both the specifier and the manufacturer make more sustainable decisions. For manufacturers, NBS Source can help you to list sustainability credentials within your product data and make that visible in a uniform way to the specifier through our connected platforms.
2) Reduce your operational costs
From focusing on your buildings’ passive measures (how a building can naturally reduce energy consumption) to switching to low-energy-consuming appliances and systems, you can lower your annual operational spend whilst increasing your sustainable credentials. LED lighting, better insulation, renewable energy: there are an abundance of easy wins that you can make. You could go one step further and look at your fleet: there are numerous incentives available for switching cars to low or zero-emission vehicles. Calculating your embodied carbon from transport and energy use is a pretty straightforward thing to do, and from there it is easy to identify where the hotspots are, and where you can make the most impact with any planned changes.
3) Increased marketing activity
When you have mapped out your changes (or if you have already adopted measures), you can market the fact that you are doing so. Being seen to be making these changes by clients can help to boost your brand awareness and make you more desirable as a prospect. Through integrated marketing campaigns, you can get this positive message out there: either indirectly promoting your products or giving you a new angle to get your products in front of specifiers.
4) Product innovationThrough the introduction of new products (or by reviewing existing ones) – making small or even large changes to how a product is manufactured and performs – can be a huge benefit if considered sustainably. Low energy consumption is at the forefront of net zero building design, but there are also factors like water consumption to consider. Designing a product to operate sustainably goes without saying, then, but also factor in how it is made. Can efficiencies be made in production to reduce energy and waste? Can materials be sourced more locally and ethically? Simple things like using recycled material can help. The result will be a better, more specifiable product and (again) lead to better marketing opportunities.
5) Third-party certification
Nothing demonstrates a manufacturer’s desire to be best in class more than allowing their products to be independently certified. Any performance or manufacturing claims can then be better trusted by specifiers if a third party has accredited those claims through independent testing. When designing with safety in mind, third-party certification is a must. Sustainability is going the same way. Schemes such as FSC and WRAS have been used for years; providing certificates relating to your products helps specifiers make decisions. Crucially though, you need to present these alongside your product data and listings to make them as easily accessible as possible. NBS Source provides a uniform process for manufacturers to do this.
Now is the time to make positive changes to the way that you work, and the way that your products and brand are perceived in the industry. With small steps and a clear roadmap, you can make big improvements: not only to your profit potential but also to the environment. If you would like to discuss more about how NBS could help you demonstrate your brand’s and products’ sustainability benefits to hundreds of thousands of specifiers, please contact us via the button below.