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22 January 2008


Michael Townsend

I think this is a very real concern, and it will be interesting to see which way it goes.

Of course, if sustainability is perceived as a "nice to have", requiring additional expense, then in many cases we may see some good intentions come to nothing.

If, on the other hand, we view sustainability as another opportunity to drive efficiency and reduce cost, then surely we will see the approach gain momentum? Surely sustainability and efficiency are one and the same thing; for example if we reduce carbon, we reduce energy and consequently reduce cost? Commercially, the sustainable option has to be the way forward.

Ah yes, I hear the challenge, but that depends on how one measures cost and value; while the whole life cost should be the cheaper option, what about the capital cost? If this is higher, in order to meet the more stringent codes, the additional cost will surely have to be passed on to the customer, and in a tight market this will hardly be attractive?

Again this presents an opportunity; we can always challenge any cost situation. In my experience there are only a limited number of reasons why there will be a premium (in addition to scope/scale); usually a combination of:
a) Level of specification
b) Lack of economies of scale
c) Genuine recovery of investment
d) Market exploitation

These are of course in addition to any of the hidden forms of "waste" inherent within all cost structures (commonly cited as somewhere between 20-40%) in construction.

Whatever the reason, even with a higher specification, the good news is that it is possible to do something about it - by making all these factors visible and then looking at ways to improve.

I would urge all organisations to keep being innovative and seek ways to drive efficiency and sustainability improvements.

This becomes even more important in the face of a "down turn" or even the "R" word. This is a time when we all need to keep our heads and keep being innovative; after all, isn't the glass half full?

Phil Clark

Keep up the positive thinking Michael. You've convinced me. Hopefully the industry can follow.

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