Question
Asked 11th May, 2014

What are the challenges in implementing sustainability in the construction industry sector?

The construction industry sector has been identified as a slow adopter of sustainability. What are some of the challenges specific to the construction industry that is hampering its progress? Are there any papers or evidence which discusses about this in the literature?

Most recent answer

23rd Oct, 2014
Ramana Koti
Lord, Aeck & Sargent Inc.
At least for architects' and designers' perceptions, here is what a recent survey of sustainable design leaders in the US indicated:
Top challenge: Inertia/habits/established patterns
Runners up: Lack of commitment from clients, first cost of projects, insufficiently integrated design, schedule/time.
See resources of the attached publication.

All Answers (12)

12th May, 2014
Mohamed Benmerikhi Ph.D
EDHEC Business School Lille
The construction industry seems to be slow in integrating sustainability into its projects. There is the inclination to think that many factors are at play as to why this is the case. Some of the difficulties or rather the challenges that the industry faces are related to the following:
(1) Sustainability requires the injection of resources to develop a knowledge base for its implmentation,
(2) This knowledge base requires training of project managers and other construction personnel,
(3) Supply chains develoment may be problematic in certain countries.
2 Recommendations
12th May, 2014
Iyenemi Ibimina Kakulu
Rivers State University of Science and Technology
The construction industry is a complex one and sustainability in this industry is multifaceted.
The approach to sustainability needs to be addressed in a similar manner. Issues that deal with sourcing various building components from natural resources such as timber and deforestation can be dealt differently from sustainability in sand mining, etc. A multi-dimensional approach is recommended.
17th May, 2014
M. Arkam C. Munaaim
Universiti Malaysia Perlis
Generally, the awareness on sustainability is still lacking everywhere even to the construction personnel or building operators. Our research in 2010 was disclosed that more that 60percent of respondents was not able to describe the main terms on sustainablity such as Green Technology, Green Energy and even Sustainable Building. The research was interviewed 120 respondents from 4 academic institutions staff in Penang, Malaysia. After 4 years from the research, it is hoped that the awareness level is increase to support Sustainable Development. Regulatory and enforcements from the Policy Makers sometimes can helps but at the same time, the contradiction on interest conflict is really unpredictable.
1 Recommendation
Hi Renard,
You might want to have a look at these papers from the Australian context:
Crabtree, L., & Hes, D. (2009). Sustainability uptake on housing in metropolitan Australia: An institutional problem, not a technological one. Housing Studies, 24(2), 203-224. doi: 10.1080/02673030802704337
Binder, G. (2008). Understanding innovation for sustainability within the Australian building industry: An evolutionary social learning model. Journal of Green Building, 3(3), 119-132. doi: 10.3992/jgb.3.3.119
Hope these help.
1 Recommendation
13th Aug, 2014
Louis Gunnigan
Technological University Dublin - City Campus
Sometimes a good approach to start answering this question is to look at how specific large scale projects approach the issue. See the following link for a recent example from Ireland. http://ggda.ie/assets/GG_Sustainability_Strategy_Oct_11.pdf
The construction industry generally just builds what they are asked to by an owner who uses an engineer or architect to describe what the owner needs in more detail.  It seems that the current approach taken by most owners it to get their project done for the lowest initial cost because of the short term vision of their financial advisers. Including products that are more reliable or sustainable usually cost more up front while they may reduce the total cost of a project over its useful life.  According to leading facility management associations, the total cost of a capital project over its useful life is in the range of 4 to 6 times its initial construction cost.  By designing and specifying materials for a new project with sustainability and the total cost of ownership in mind, the initial cost may be a small percentage higher but the life-cycle cost could be reduced to 3 or 4 times the initial cost.  Until capital project owners start looking at the total costs of ownership (maintenance, operations, energy, obsolescence and decommissioning cost, etc.) the construction industry won't be moving in a sustainable direction quickly.  Engineers and architects can and often do play a role in educating their clients in that direction. The contractor probably has the least input into those decisions.
20th Aug, 2014
Iyenemi Ibimina Kakulu
Rivers State University of Science and Technology
I agree with Steven to a large extent and suggest that the cost-in-use and life cycle costs of a building are an essential ingredient for sustainability decision making.
23rd Oct, 2014
Francesco Asdrubali
Università Degli Studi Roma Tre
I think that the LCA (LIfe Cycle Assessment) approach applied to builidngs  since the  design phase could be valuable tool to improve the sustainibily of the building sector.
Please have a look at my paper: 
 F. Asdrubali, C. Baldassarri, V.Fthenakis: “Life Cycle Analysis in the construction sector: guiding the optimization of conventional Italian buildings”, Energy and Buildings, 64 (2013), 73-89.
you can download it from Research Gate 
1 Recommendation
23rd Oct, 2014
Ramana Koti
Lord, Aeck & Sargent Inc.
At least for architects' and designers' perceptions, here is what a recent survey of sustainable design leaders in the US indicated:
Top challenge: Inertia/habits/established patterns
Runners up: Lack of commitment from clients, first cost of projects, insufficiently integrated design, schedule/time.
See resources of the attached publication.

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