BUILDING BRICKS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

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The sustainability of construction, real estate, infrastructure, and urban development have increasingly received the attention of governments, private organizations, and researchers alike. This is justified because of the risks and threats these activities pose to the natural environment as well as their effect on the social, economic, cultural and political dimensions of sustainability. Today, 40% of the global energy consumption and more than 30% of the global carbon dioxide equivalent emissions are attributed to buildings—making the building sector the single most significant industry in terms of emissions. In addition, the building sector consumes 12% of freshwater and 30% of raw material and it generates approximately 20% of water effluents and as much as 40% of landfill waste globally. While there are variations in the estimated environmental consequences of construction, real estate, infrastructure, and urban development, there appears to be a broad census on the need for major transformations in the industry in order to embrace sustainability and to contribute to sustainable development.

While sustainability in construction, buildings and real estate has become common in developed countries, the share of “green projects’’ in developing countries is significantly lower. A series of reports published by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group explored the future of the construction industry. They described some key trends that include
– the global expansion of engineering and construction companies (i.e., carrying activities on a more global scale),
– the massive financing required to close the global infrastructure gap,
– the need to increase the resilience of buildings and infrastructure to disasters, and
– the needed transformations in the politics and regulations concerning construction.

Bangladesh will become a developed country by 2041. Socio-economic development is taking place everywhere in Bangladesh in line with this vision. As a result, the consumption of materials used in construction works is also increasing rapidly. In Bangladesh, the current rates of consumption of cement, coarse aggregate, fine aggregate, and steel are estimated at 0.5, 1.3, 0.9, and 0.16 kg/capita/day. The current rates are far behind the global rates of consumption. However, the rates will gradually increase to meet global rates due to socio-economic development needs.

Construction & Real Estate’s Role in SDG:
In September 2015, 193 world leaders came together with a vision to transform our world for the better. They came to an agreement of 17 global goals for sustainable development (SDGs), with the aim to make an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. In the pursuit of reaching these goals, it is inevitable for a business to take action. One essential thought behind these goals was to make them famous so that we all have common goals and know what we are fighting for. The construction industry is considered to be the industry that could potentially reduce its energy consumption with the lowest cost. However, the question is how to implement the SDGs in the construction industry. The SDG compass presents five steps that assist companies in maximizing their contribution to the SDGs: understanding the SDGs, defining priorities, goal setting and integrating sustainability. It is particularly important that a company is fully capable of identifying all goals which apply to them. The construction industry could highly influence goals 11(sustainable cities & communities), 9(Infrastructure & Innovation) and 7(affordable & clean energy), but certainly also some of the other goals.

The SDGs emerged as an outcome of the Rio 20+ United Nations Summit in 2012. As presented in The Future We Want. Our Common Vision, the summit concluded by recognizing the need to establish global development guidelines that simultaneously consider human needs, environmental sustainability, human rights and partnerships. The Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, which were detailed in Transforming our world, were developed through an inclusive participatory process before being approved by the heads of 193 countries. The 17 goals and their 169 targets are structured around 5 key themes—people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships—known as the five Ps.

The five Ps proposed in the 2030 Agenda require different stakeholders (including governments, institutions, and businesses) to expand their scope of action beyond environmental attributes to all the interconnected dimensions of sustainable development. Recent publications have attempted to identify the different SDGs and targets where the construction industry can specifically contribute. Lynch and Mosbah point to SDG 1 (target focused on reducing the exposure to climate-related events), SDG 9 (target focused on building infrastructure that is supportive of economic development and human well-being), and SDG 11 (target that emphasizes the role of cities in construction work in the built environment). In addition to those 3 SDGs, Goubran et al. also point to the role of buildings and the construction sector in achieving the renewable energy goals within SDG 7, in ensuring attainment of the sustainable consumption and production targets in SDG 12, and in attaining the climate adaptation target of SDG 13. Di Foggia specifically relates energy efficiency in buildings and construction to SDGs 11 and 13. However, much of the available research is mainly focused on available sustainability assessment tools, standards and certifications, or uses single or region-specific case studies. These approaches limit the applicability of the findings and their ability to trigger transformative change.

According to a research led by Sherif Goubran following are the SDG targets directly or indirectly dependent on construction and real estate activities:
In the 17 SDGs there are 169 targets. 74 of the 169 targets of the agenda (44%) were found to be dependent on construction and real estate activities—of which 29 targets (17%) are directly dependent and 45 targets (27%) indirectly dependent.

Le Blanc presents a linkage map for all the SDG targets where the targets are connected based on their synergies or similarity, and concluded that the targets of SDG 11, which is generally cited as the most relevant to construction and real estate, are connected to SDG 3 through 5 targets, SDG 1 through 4 targets, SDG 12 and SDG 10 through 3 targets each, SDG 6 through 2 targets, and SDG 16 through only 1 target. The analysis conducted in this research revealed that the two SDGs (namely SDG 1 and SDG 3) (which Le Blanc found to be most connected to SDG 11) are not the most highly dependent on construction and real estate activities: SDG 1 has only 1 target (14% of the goal’s targets) directly dependent on construction and real estate activities, and SDG 3 has 2 targets directly (15% of the goal’s targets) and 2 indirectly (15% of the goal’s targets) dependent on construction and real estate activities.

 

 

In the 17 SDGs there are 169 targets. 74 of the 169 targets of the agenda (44%) were found to be dependent on construction and real estate activities—of which 29 targets (17%) are directly dependent and 45 targets (27%) indirectly dependent.

Le Blanc presents a linkage map for all the SDG targets where the targets are connected based on their synergies or similarity, and concluded that the targets of SDG 11, which is generally cited as the most relevant to construction and real estate, are connected to SDG 3 through 5 targets, SDG 1 through 4 targets, SDG 12 and SDG 10 through 3 targets each, SDG 6 through 2 targets, and SDG 16 through only 1 target. The analysis conducted in this research revealed that the two SDGs (namely SDG 1 and SDG 3) (which Le Blanc found to be most connected to SDG 11) are not the most highly dependent on construction and real estate activities: SDG 1 has only 1 target (14% of the goal’s targets) directly dependent on construction and real estate activities, and SDG 3 has 2 targets directly (15% of the goal’s targets) and 2 indirectly (15% of the goal’s targets) dependent on construction and real estate activities.

Steps for Future:
The construction industries need to take initiatives to implement the SDGs in their business platforms. There are five distinct steps:
– understanding the SDGs,
– defining priorities,
– setting goals,
– integrating, and
– reporting and communicating.
The goals should be set with time-bound targets. The goals should be monitored, evaluated, reported and communicated among the stakeholders. The industries are to be prepared accordingly, just as universities are prepared for accreditation of their programmes.
The 17 SDGs represent targets and goals which aim towards a somehow perfect world, but not all of them are equally relevant for each individual company. Each individual company should conduct an assessment on the current, potential, positive and negative impacts they have on the SDGs and the likelihood of future ones. A way for the companies to do this assessment is by executing a high-level mapping of their value chain, where areas with high likelihood of either negative or positive impacts on the issues that the SDGs represent are identified.

Tools:
To map high impact areas, certain tools and methodologies are available:

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies:
Life-cycle assessment or life cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life-cycle analysis) is a methodology for assessing environmental impacts associated with all the stages of the life-cycle of a commercial product, process, or service. For instance, in the case of a manufactured product, environmental impacts are assessed from raw material extraction and processing (cradle), through the product’s manufacture, distribution and use, to the recycling or final disposal of the materials composing it (grave).
An LCA study involves a thorough inventory of the energy and materials that are required across the industry value chain of the product, process or service, and calculates the corresponding emissions to the environment. LCA thus assesses cumulative potential environmental impacts. The aim is to document and improve the overall environmental profile of the product.

Environmentally-extended input-output (EEIO) models:
Environmentally-extended input-output (EEIO) models are consumption-based indicators of material use are commonly referred to as “material footprints” (comparable to carbon footprints and water footprints) or as raw material equivalents (RME) for imported and exported goods. Raw material equivalents or material footprints of traded goods comprise the material inputs required along the entire supply chain associated with their production. This includes both direct and indirect flows: For example, the ore mined to extract the metal contained in a mobile phone as well as the coal needed to generate the electricity needed to produce the metal concentrates would be included. In order to allocate domestic extraction to exported goods, information on the production and trade structure of an economy is required. In monetary terms, information on the production structure is contained in commonly available economy-wide input-output tables (IOT) which recently have been combined with trade statistics to form multi-regional IO (MRIO) tables.
Some tools can be applied to specific SDGs:
– GHG Protocol Scope 3 Evaluator
– The social Hotspots Database
– The Human Rights and Bussiness Country Guide
– WBCSD Global Water Tool
– Poverty Footprint Tool

Setting Goals:
After the impact assessment and prioritization, a helpful tool to driving good performance is to set specific, measurable and time-bound sustainability goals. In the SDG Compass, goal setting consists of four actions:
– Define the scope of goals and select KPIs
– Define baseline and select goal type
– Set level of ambition
– Announce commitment to SDGs
It is essential to select key performance indicators (KPIs) that are specific, measurable and time-bound targets in order to measure progress. When the KPIs are selected, the baseline can be tied to a particular point in time or a particular period in time. In addition, the goals can be absolute goals, which take only the KPI into account, or they can be relative goals, which compare the KPI to a unit of output. However, the value of ambition of the goals are recommended to be considered carefully. Ambitious goals tend to result in greater impacts and better performance in comparison with more modest goals. Finally, making some or all of the company’s goals public, may inspire employees and business partners and result in a constructive dialogue with external stakeholders.

Integration:
After identifying the specific KPIs and setting goals for the company’s strategic priorities, the next task is to integrate it into the core business. The SDG compass describes three actions, which can be undertaken in order to accomplish this:

Anchoring sustainability goals within the business
Active leadership by the CEO and senior management is important to succeed with organizational change. They need to create a shared understanding within the company of how the SDGs can be achieved.

Embed sustainability across all functions
It is essential to ensure support and ownership of corporate functions such as R&D, Business Development, Supply Management, operations and Human Resources. Some companies have established cross-functional sustainability councils, boards or task forces. Figure 4 illustrates the integration of sustainability through the company’s functions.

Engage in partnership
At least three different types of partnerships between companies exist.
– Companies in the value chain can combine complementary skills, technologies, and resources.
– Industry leaders can come together to raise standards and practices across the entire industry.
– Complex challenges can be tackled by multi-stakeholder partnerships. (governments, private sector and civil society organizations)
Engineers need to consider SDGs during the design, construction, operation, and maintenance processes of buildings. A building needs to be designed keeping in mind energy consumption, material consumption, the possibility of utilisation of locally available materials, as well as long-term durability of the building. During construction, a plan for minimising waste should be provided, along with a definite management plan to minimise pollution and ensure the health and safety of the workers and all visitors. Materials can be processed in a controlled environment to reduce pollution, improve the quality of material, and reduce time and waste. The possibilities of recycling and reusing materials need to be studied carefully. During construction, the methodology of construction, sequence of construction, compaction technique of concrete, curing duration and procedure, removal of shuttering, quality ensuring policies, etc., are to be provided. A maintenance guideline and also recycling and re-use of materials after the demolition of a structure at the end of service life are necessary. To ensure resilient infrastructures, the local exposure and climate conditions should be carefully considered, such as salinity, flood, cyclone, earthquake, presence of sulfate in soil, etc.

Concluding Remark:
The construction and real estate sectors are one of the main contributors to the global economy and the global employment market. Until recently, these industries have been mainly focused on the environmental dimension of sustainable development. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the construction and real estate sectors have struggled to adapt to the expanded definition it presents, and remain focused on the environmental issues.

People argue that the SDGs are not as appealing as their predecessor, the MDGs, because they were more precise and measurable. The MDGs held everyone accountable for meeting these “quantified and time-bound” targets. Some think the SDGs seem as just idealistic rhetoric to motivate people in rich and free countries to care about the world’s poor, and some find many of the goals unattainable.

Furthermore, the SDGs are broken down into 17 goals and 169 indicators, which may seem like a lot, considering the importance of not losing sight of the big picture. Greater cooperation between governments, the private sector and many facets of civil society is necessary in order to accomplish all this. If companies are not fully capable of defining which of these many goals that apply to them, it may be difficult for the world to achieve the SDGs.

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