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November event - The rise of Sustainability and the implications for Project Managers

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The November 2013 APM HK event was very interesting and covered the hot topic of sustainability in construction projects.  The presentation was delivered by Simon Moorhouse, Associate Director of the global consultancy and construction company Mace, and a Chartered Civil Engineer.  He is an expert on sustainability and his engaging talk was attended by 78 members and guests at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club on 19.11.2013.

Sustainable development was defined in The Brundtland Commissions first report in 1987, entitled Our Common Future as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."  This ground-breaking report has set the strategic agenda for the pursuit of a sustainable world and has not been improved on since.

Simon was the Executive Project Manager for the HK$4.8Bn Phase 3 Development of Science Park, in Hong Kong (winner of the 2012 Green Building Awards - Grand Award for Buildings under Design) and other world class sustainable developments, such as the London 2012 Olympics.  As a Chartered Civil Engineer, Simon has over 20 years contracting, construction management and project management experience within Asia, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.  He is well placed (or old enough to remember the days before landfill tax and waste segregation on sites - and before the acronyms LEED, BEAM and CSR were in existence) to deliver practical and timely  sustainability advice and insights.

In the presentation, Simon reviewed how the growing awareness and regulation around sustainability was affecting the development of the built environment and how the increasing demands which resulted have affected the way projects were delivered in the past.  Over the past four decades, Governments become increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable development as climate change and the effects of pollution become self-evident.

Over the past two decades, a number of Green Building Councils (GBCs) and accreditation organizations were established.  These include the 1990 BREEAM, 1993 USGBC, 2002 WGBC, 2009 HKGBC and 2010 BEAM Plus.  Currently, there are more than 100 national GBCs registered with the World Green Building Council (WGBC).

Increasing demands from clients, regulators and corporates, concerned with sustainable developments are now focusing on energy efficiency, energy taxation, declining air quality, increasing corporate social responsibility with respect to the environmental impact of building throughout their entire design life.  

Simon explained how projects would need to be delivered in the future to ensure sustainability, and he highlighted six important steps:

1. Start Early Project managers need to select target accreditation system and assess the perquisites in good time. 

2. Choose the right team Managers should adopt a knowledge based approach, and to select wisely the internal / external sustainability consultants and to ensure the materials budget, which is crucial to accreditation, is right. 

3. Design is crucial Sufficient time should be allowed and it should be simple enough to maximize passive features.  There should be a project-specific credit assessment. 

4. Complimentary procurement In tender assessment, sustainability should be incorporated.  Affordability of maturing products and fledging technology should be allowed. 

5. Construct, record, monitor & act Make sure the project is on the right track at the beginning.  It is essential to maintain records progressively to develop trends, for example, waste on site and its diversion from site for early warning.  Make sure the contractors comply with specifications. 

6. Maximize integration The design team should be aware of sustainability requirements and ensure that sustainability remains throughout the project life.  Note changes in budget and design can affect credits.  He also emphasized that clear reporting and communication, consolidated and an integrated programme are essential if sustainability is to be achieved.

Simon then illustrated his points with a case study of managing sustainable project drawing on his experience: the HK$4.8Bn Phase 3 Development of Science Park in Hong Kong for which he was Executive Project Manager and the London 2012 Olympics approach to sustainability as the most effective games in this respect to date.

Some 870 million pounds worth of savings were delivered, carbon emission was cut by 50% and 90% of materials from demolition were reused or recycled. Although this was an outstanding achievement, Simon observed that the next one will hopefully do even better as lessons are learned and re-applied by the profession. 


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