Approaches to Safeguarding Sustainability Requirements in Public Construction Projects – the Client’s Perspective
Paper in proceedings, 2016
In recent years, the concept of sustainability has penetrated much of modern political, social and industrial discourse. Its recent popularization, stemming from the Brundtland report of 1987, has led to sustainability becoming a household term in nearly every industry, of which the construction sector is no exception. Considering the importance that sustainability has in the construction industry, and how it is particularly emphasized in construction financed by public funds, questions need to be raised in terms how capable the construction client is in meeting and achieving the sustainability requirements, often set by politics, that exist whilst safeguarding project delivery.
The study is based on four interviews targeting public clients in Sweden and it investigates how sustainability requirements are managed in large public construction projects. What is of particular interest is the degree to which public client organizations either develop or procure systems/staff to ensure that the criteria for social, environmental and cultural sustainability are maintained and that the consequences of different approaches are managed.
The results support the idea of having a multifaceted approach to sustainable construction, arguing that terms such as social and cultural sustainability may instead be dealt with separately from the more strictly defined sustainability terms of toxicity, waste and energy consumption. There is also a suggestion that once the client organization begins incorporating a sustainability mind-set in all of its affairs, members of that organization may begin working with sustainability on a perfunctory basis without necessarily understanding the underlying reasons for their actions. Finally, the challenge with sustainability is perhaps not so much that there is a lack of capability as much as there is a lack of resources for working with sustainability.