To make a difference for the good in the green building space, the Responsible Construction Leadership Group – started in 2013 and set to end in 2020 – has developed a program of green building guidance that will soon be available to the Australian construction industry.
The organisation’s charter puts a limit on the life of the group “to focus the group”, but also to give it time to develop its full program for the industry. The RCLG uses communication and collaboration as tools to increase the uptake and improve the quality of environmentally sound construction practices.
Of three current RCLG projects, one focuses on sustainable site sheds, one on the value of data collection, and a third on reducing construction waste. A fourth, completed in 2014, comprised an environmental management questionnaire to be used by contractors when vetting subcontractors or suppliers in the tender process.
Before a site shed is procured, plans might dictate that materials include recycled and recyclable materials, low-VOC finishes and an abundance of natural light. In planning, the shed is designed for energy efficiency. While current Australian market offering of temporary site accommodation is lacking leadership in the space of sustainability, the set of criteria developed by the RCLG is hoped to motivate change in this space.
Now that a scope of works for temporary site accommodation has been developed to share with industry, the RCLG is collaborating with the Australian Constructors Association’s Sustainability Working Group to hold a facilitated workshop between industry, site shed manufacturers and the NSW Government (as a large client). The purpose of the workshop, scheduled for mid-April, is to build a path towards collaborative change within the supply chain that leads to broad uptake of the recommendations outlined in the RCLG’s scope of works.
This project comes at a time when NSW Public Works is developing minimum standards for site sheds built at NSW government projects. The RCLG is looking for additional opportunities to collaborate with the state.
A second project uses a collation of business cases to point out the value of resource usage data collection and reporting. The RCLG has developed templates for collecting data and management system approaches, a data collection framework and templates for reporting ease, research and paperwork. New programs of work continue to be established to create further resources for industry.
The third current project focuses on construction waste. There is much excitement in industry around the development of a circular economy, where “waste” is never landfilled, but returned to the supply chain for productive use. Planning in advance makes it possible to reduce, reuse or eliminate the waste. Problem wastes are being identified with opportunities for reuse, recycling and upcycling sought. This will allow industry to close the gap on the 10-20 per cent of construction and demolition waste currently sent to landfill with no viable alternative.
The overarching goal of the RCLG is “improved environmental outcomes of the built environment in Australia through a consistent and aligned approach to environmental management” in the industry. The group wants to see its professional guidance and materials, the construction industry’s best practices, become industry standards used by a widening group of stakeholders.
Communication and collaboration are watchwords as the RCLG reaches out to work with stakeholders.
“The management approaches include establishment of tools and frameworks, the setting of targets and thresholds, and ongoing measurement and monitoring to improve environmental outcomes over time,” the charter says.
Last year’s stakeholder workshop brought together representatives of the Australian Constructors Association, the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia, Good Environmental Choice Australia and The Australian Supply Chain Sustainability School.
The workshop aimed to share objectives and look for places to collaborate. The workshop did, in fact, lead to collaboration and as a result the stakeholder workshop is now intended to be an annual event.
The Responsible Construction Leadership Group started in 2013 with three companies with a demonstrated commitment to sustainable building practices.
At the end of 2014, the RCLG drew 10 members. At the end of 2015, membership dropped to seven due to industry change brought about by firms restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and individuals moving on.
Today, the RCLG works with construction companies principally in NSW, with the intention that the benefits will be useful across Australia. First benefits go to RCLG members. They initiate, discuss and approve the programs of work. They benefit from collaboration. The materials the group develops and the guidance it provides, however, are open to all.
For further information on the group, including a list of signatories, access to the current set of tools and resources and contacts, go to www.responsibleconstruction.org.
Joe Karten is senior project engineer – sustainability at Built, which is a signatory to the Responsible Construction Leadership Group.