‘Diminishing Resources, Better Buildings’ – Sandy Patience

The world is running short of many construction materials we take for granted, and an energy efficient circular economy is vital to a sustainable future, says Sandy Patience of Greenspec.

Speaking at UK Construction Week’s Surface & Materials Hub on Tuesday the 9th of October, Patience told the audience of the many element shortages the world is experiencing, from rare earth elements to helium, and even water.

Patience spoke of the lack of efficiency in many of the products often used in construction, such as bricks, concrete, steel and aluminium, which all take up a lot of energy to produce, and are currently reliant on fossil fuels. Timber however, he told, takes up much less energy, and is far more carbon efficient. He listed many low-impact, low power materials that he believes the industry should adopt, including CLT, foam glass insulation, recycled plastic products, recycled cellulose insulation, lime mortar, cork insulation, clay blocks, timber windows, and wood fibre insulation.

Besides the carbon issues, he also discussed the effect of both procuring some of the these products, and disposing of them. There are huge levels of landfill in construction waste, and the production and extraction of the materials can cause ‘catastrophic’ consequences to animal habitats and lives, as well as those of the humans living near or working in these environments.

Along with this, he criticised a lack of care given towards the thousands of new compounds made every year, with very little research into their carcinogenic effects. Frequently, but slowly, he said, we are finding out that these new compounds can come with dire consequences. Compounds such as asbestos, chlorine and formaldehyde have more famously been known to cause issues, but even a widely used materials such as PVC is compounded of the known human carcinogen vinyl chloride (VC).