Sustainable procurement vs. supply chain risks


We are all too aware of the great risks facing construction projects today, but our industry is less aware of the more sustainable procurement solutions which could address them.

The nature of global supply chains can mean fluctuations in costs, project delays and inconsistent scrutiny on material provenance. The latter point has risen quickly up the agenda, considering high level ESG commitments which require developers and building owners to understand their carbon emissions and wider impacts beyond their site or asset.

Collaborative and measured approaches to material procurement can mitigate those risks.

In a recent article for Construction News, TFT Partner and Head of ESG Mat Lown wrote about new and better approaches to sustainable procurement which manage the carbon and financial risks faced by the construction industry.

More resourceful, sustainable approaches include considered design and material re-use. All require a realistic ‘whole life’ view of building products, such as:

Collaborate across projects and programmes

Procuring materials and reusing materials across a range of construction or demolition projects is a clear route to efficient and sustainable development. It hinges on a holistic approach to project and programme management.

A great example is Grosvenor’s Holbein Gardens, a redevelopment and one-storey extension of a 1980s office building off Sloane Square in London. It is one of the first projects in the UK to reuse steel salvaged directly from a demolition site, reducing embodied carbon and contributing to the growth of the second-hand materials market in our industry.

Addressing the environmental, social and governance agenda means that our teams are working more closely with contractors and material providers than ever before. We are seeing more interest in long-term contracts encompassing maintenance, upgrade and reuse of products during their lifespan.

Find out more about programme management.

Invest in your future supply chain

Leading developers and owners are taking a financial stake in key materials and suppliers to allow closer control over future supply chain issues. It means they can oversee production as well as the installation of materials.

Legal & General’s investment in modular-homes production is one example. The company now operates a dedicated 550,000-square-foot factory near Leeds, which can produce up to 3,500 properties per year. It demonstrates how businesses in our sector can take inspiration from other industries – such as aviation and automotive manufacturing – to supply much-needed homes in more efficient and sustainable ways.

Making these investments work is another challenge for collaboration. Getting the right specialist input to set up and monitor the success of production is critical.

Lay the groundwork for material re-use and smarter specifications

More prescriptive and accurate material specification means a higher quality product with less waste throughout an asset’s life. It’s easier said than done, but the work begins with effective collection and maintenance of building data. If building owners own a useful asset register that encompasses all the materials across their portfolio – with details of their state and potential for reuse – they can make more informed decisions about procurement and maintenance for sustainable use.

‘Materials passports’ offer a means of cataloguing the properties of a product or material, and Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the obvious channel for holding that information. Initially, such a model supports accurate specification and installation, then it informs future building maintenance work and subsequently the re-use opportunities for building materials or products in future schemes.

However, as with many technologies, such models can only succeed if a project team sets it up correctly from the outset and an occupier or owner team maintains it over time.

Are you looking for new opportunities to get more value from your buildings and development projects?

The approaches we describe here each require varying levels of commitment. But for those willing to adopt them, commercial benefits will follow.

Materials are fast becoming an ‘alternative’ commodity in the development process. They add to the commercial real estate equation of building value vs investment.

Are you looking for new opportunities to get more value from your buildings and development projects? Our teams can help you understand the scope for material re-use and plan for more sustainable built asset management. Together, we can help to lessen supply chain pressures and offer alternative solutions to meet demand for materials, helping to build resilience against future crises.

Want to find out more?

Contact Mat Lown, our Head of ESG and Sustainability services, here.

Contact David Medcraft, our Head of Development Management services, here.