Dawn of a new E.R.A
The UK construction industry is worth over 113 billion GBP, employing around 2.8 million people, and continues to experience strong year-on-year growth. Over 75% of construction jobs are private contracts, with the landscape sector delivering over 4.5 billion GBP to the UK economy each year.
According to new research, however, the construction industry also has a darker side, contributing to over 20% of global air pollution, 40% of global drinking water pollution, 40% of worldwide energy usage and 50% of landfill waste.
The health of our planet is deeply reliant on the delicate balance of many interconnecting ecosystems and it is now widely acknowledged that irreversible damage is being caused by careless planning, poor management and a general lack of consideration. With almost 17,500 landscaping businesses employing almost 66,000 people, there is huge scope to pull this sector into a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future.
The landscape sector has a unique opportunity, rarely obtainable by other construction sectors, to combat the negative effects on the environment with a multifaceted approach. Unlike most civil infrastructure or commercial building projects, landscaping companies have the inherent potential to offset environmental costs of raw material manufacture and use, with the beneficial aspect of well-considered habitat creation and management. Not only this, but with such a huge bias towards private contracts, it is also at our disposal to steer clients and projects in a more environmentally sustainable direction, without having the constraints of stringent public budgets and political agendas.
Here at Nicholsons, we care passionately about the environment – it’s hard not to when you work alongside it every day. We appointed a Sustainability Manager and set up an Environmental Committee which meets each quarter to discuss business-wide improvements, and we regularly evaluate our policies to ensure they comply to industry standards and regulations. We contacted fourteen local commercial companies, as well as the Environmental Agency, BALI and APL to establish what others were doing to combat their effects on the environment. With only one response received from those contacted, we saw an opportunity to set our own benchmark for environmental sustainability.
Since then, we have been working towards launching our own, bespoke scheme which we have named the Ecology Rating Award (or E.R.A. for short). It is used to evaluate each of our projects against a carefully developed grading system, covering a range of elements affecting environmental impact including material management, planting considerations, wildlife, conservation and water management.
We have been trialling the new scheme for the past year and have already seen huge leaps in progress. We have updated it to include a more rigorous approach to hard surfaces (utilising the BREEAM Green Guide for material specification), amalgamating the different aspects of all departments into one concise checklist, and added a new award level, the Platinum Award. We are proud to already have 9 new projects reaching this exceptionally high standard.
Whilst the environmental impact of construction may not be a driving factor in everyone’s decision making process, it is of the upmost importance to us. We hope that by leading the way in creating and trialling new ideas, others will see how easy it can be to follow suit. It is fundamental to the Nicholsons philosophy that commercial gain never outweighs that which is truly important: the health of the natural world around us.