Paul Gooden, Environmental and Sustainability Manager at Optima Contracting talks about environmental performance.
With an ever-increasing focus on sustainability in the built-environment, the drive to improve environmental performance continues across the construction industry. Developers and investors alike look for low-risk high-quality developments, attractive to the current and future market. Specifically, we understand that quality plays an important part in the construction industry. The ‘environmental quality’ of products, projects and internal built-environment conditions is increasingly important and valued with standards raising continually.
Product quality improves by considering, not just its functional performance or cost value, but also its impact on the environment. A high-quality product should be:
- Designed for durability, resilience and longevity and be resistant to material degradation minimising the frequency of replacement and maximising materials optimisation
- Manufactured to precise project requirements creating minimal material waste
- Installed on-site correctly first-time, resulting in zero snags requiring further work or materials
- Protected against product damage that would require replacement materials
- Minimise the risk of pollution or other environmental incident occurring
- Use low environmental impact, and responsibly sourced, materials from a sustainable supply chain
- Minimise the use of harmful chemicals during manufacture
Quality is also vital when considering the robustness and reliability of data used to determine the environmental performance of materials, products and, ultimately, built-environment projects. Accurately demonstrating performance against high levels of environmental standards criteria indicates quality in environmental performance.
What do we mean by environmental quality?
We consider quality in environmental performance in different ways. Often this might mean the condition of a particular ecological habitat or natural feature, such as the air, water or biodiversity, as measured relative to certain requirements. Or it can refer to the varied characteristics of an indoor space in the built-environment. Various factors affect the health and wellbeing of occupants, including indoor air quality, ventilation, acoustics and thermal comfort.
Measuring and quantifying quality
Quality can be a subjective concept which requires robust mechanisms to measure, assess and evaluate performance against rigorous standard criteria.
The environmental quality of a product or development is best measured using recognised and technically-robust certification assessment schemes such as BREEAM, LEED and SKA. The health and wellbeing performance of a building’s design and construction is also evaluated and driven using the WELL or Fitwel certification standards. These schemes all operate by setting best-practice levels of performance criteria achieved by the provision of high-quality evidence demonstrating compliance against the requirements.
The adoption and implementation of a certified Quality Management System (QMS), such as ISO 9001, helps improve the overall performance of an organisation. Certified organisations provide products or services that meet relevant standards and address risks and opportunities for further improvement. When aligned with an Environmental Management System a QMS is a vital mechanism for sustainable development performance improvements in the built-environment.