Unlocking the green potential

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Sustainability is currently top of everyone’s agenda. We tell you 10 things you need to know to be prepared for the energy revolution

Like everyone else, Safety in Design takes the sustainability agenda seriously. At a very simple level, the organisation wants to ensure that work to enhance a structure’s green credentials is as safe as possible.

It also wants to make sure that the advice offered to businesses on sustainability is well-informed and helpful.

Finally, SID is committed to helping businesses think through their own obligations to the environment – helping to make the construction industry greener, safer and better informed.

So check out the 10 things you need to know to be prepared for the energy revolution, with the help of SID’s guide to a sustainable future.

1.       There is work to be done

It’s easy to be zealous about saving the world – just ask any environmental activist. But not everyone is committed to the green agenda.

That means designers have to be realistic about their clients’ aspirations. It has been suggested that only 12 per cent of UK businesses have adopted The Carbon Trust’s recommended energy-saving measures.

So be prepared to temper your environmentally-friendly dreams with a healthy dose of pragmatism when working with clients. And, if the environment is close to your heart, spell out why sustainability matters, and provide suggestions for making your projects greener.

2.       Education is crucial for sustainability to be “mainstreamed”

The hope of everyone who cares about the environment is that ecological considerations will become embedded in every business decision. That’s what the idea of “mainstreaming” means.

If this is to happen, workers at every level, in every sector of the UK business world, need to buy into the sustainability agenda. That means developing a commitment to green technology, even when it doesn’t lead to better margins. And it means investing in training, such as SiD’s accredited programmes, to enhance understanding and change behaviour.

3.       Price rises could lead to an “efficiency rush”

Most energy efficiency measures involve up-front cost, whether they involve making changes to buildings, or fitting new technology. So any saving in energy costs needs to be offset against the initial cost of the efficiency solution.

As energy becomes more expensive, the time it takes efficiency measures to pay for themselves reduces. And that means more clients are likely to invest in them – for the good of their balance sheet, if not the welfare of the planet.

When the “efficiency rush” arrives, your business needs to be prepared. That means putting the time aside now to ensure your workforce is ready to cope with increased demand.

Invest in training, and make use of free resources like the SID Design Guides. That way, you can equip your employees with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure their work stays safe.

4.       The best solution is to use less energy

No matter how innovative the alternative energy supply, the best way to save the planet will be to reduce our consumption of energy.

Even alternative energy technology requires an input of energy in its manufacture and installation, and this might be sourced from traditional supplies. This means that alternative energy will not completely obviate the need to use finite energy sources.

So use of alternative energy alone will not safeguard our dwindling energy supplies. The only way to do this is to reduce our consumption of energy. And that involves changing habits, and putting energy efficiency at the top of the sustainability agenda.

SID's Design Guides

5.       Small actions make a big difference

It’s easy to feel overawed by the scale of our energy crisis. But small actions taken across business will lead to a massive reduction in carbon consumption.

Everyone can do something, no matter what their role in an organisation. And with small actions, behaviours start to change, so that energy conservation becomes a proper concern of the entire workforce.

6.       Monitoring helps reduce energy consumption

Keep a check on energy consumption, and it will almost certainly fall. That’s why energy monitors are so useful – because they provide real-time insight into how energy is being used.

If you want to reduce energy consumption in your organisation, consider using monitors to help the workforce keep track of what they use. Various solutions are available for this purpose – and all of them significantly enhance the chances of your business becoming greener, and more efficient.

7.       Energy efficiency is not only for new-builds

Do not assume that energy efficiency solutions only have a place on new-builds. In fact, reducing the energy consumption of existing structures provides a real opportunity for the construction industry.

Many existing properties need refurbishment or renovation in order to make them greener. And alternative energy technology like wind turbines and photo-voltaic (PV) panels can be used on any suitably-located structure.

So make sure your business is equipped to update older buildings, as well as design and construct new ones. SID’s Design Guides contain useful information about refurbishment, and other issues like working at height, to ensure you are prepared for this work.

8.       Safety should always feature in your plans

We all want to do our bit for the environment, but our efforts shouldn’t come at the cost of personal safety. The same safety principles apply to construction processes, even when they’re geared at sustainability.

To help you manage the risks involved in environmentally-friendly projects, Safety in Design will be producing a set of Sustainability Design Guides which will provide specific advice for designers working with sustainable technologies and energy efficiency solutions.

 

9.       The future is now

The adoption of green technology is not something to consider for the future. The Government wants all domestic new-builds to be carbon neutral by 2016, with the non-domestic sector following suit by 2019.

New technology is being developed all the time, and UK businesses are expected to make use of it. So sustainability cannot be dismissed as something for another day. The future is now – and the construction industry is faced with a stark choice: embrace it, or be left behind.

10.   Help is at hand

There are plenty of sources of free information and guidance about energy efficiency. You can find out more by visiting the following websites:

 

For more inspiration, check out the Janine Benyus talk where she identifies 12 sustainable design ideas from nature, showing how preserving the future of our planet can also be fun.

That’s the kind of thought leadership you can expect from Safety in Design, as the UK business community rises to the challenge of building a sustainable future.

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