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A Lasting foundation – Sustainable Development Goals in construction and real estate

10 March 2023
Reading Time: 3 mins

Inspired Plc's Georgina Penfold highlights the importance of having an overarching framework when it comes to sustainable outcomes in real estate and construction - and how Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can support this.

Our lives take place within a frame our built environment forms: Homes, workplaces and communities. They are fusions of unique social, environmental and economic factors acting in constant flux with each other and our planet that is being fundamentally reshaped by climate change.

This sets a stage where construction and real estate industries influence the course of humanity, from ensuring buildings can withstand changing climate, use less resources and co-exist with the changing natural environment.

Like any construction project, this needs to happen within a credible, mutually agreed framework that operates beyond short-term gain, such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, an interlinked blueprint for countries to create peace and prosperity for our planet.

When examining Sustainable Development Goals together with the construction and real estate industries, a natural first focus is the multidimensional development opportunities within Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. From resilient transport systems, waste management and water sanitation, the interlinking strands of this development goal bring the collective power of individual targets together.

However, the influence of construction and real estate industries extend beyond the first glance. These industries require vast natural and human resources. The power of these requirements is realised when decisions are made on how they are used.

Choices of materials, reducing the embodied energy in building materials and the energy consumption of the building, protecting natural habitats during and after the construction phase are just examples of decisions that affect the impact an individual project has on the community surrounding it.

New skills, solutions and versatility are needed in the face of our changing built environment. Old buildings must be altered to reflect current standards and the environmental impacts of existing buildings must be reduced.

All this creates a need for a diverse and specially trained workforce, whether young people at the beginning of their career or those whose careers are being transformed by the changing landscapes within their specialities.

Again, the influence goes beyond first glance. Every decision, whether about materials, hiring staff or associating with a partner, is connected to a wider supply chain which can reach the other side of the world: Countries that are all interconnected by a shared ambition to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

Furthermore, these industries create opportunities for fulfilling work where human rights are respected while contributing to economic growth, innovation and inclusive industrialisation. Human life continues to take place around the built environment, and the industries that contribute towards them play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable world for us all.

To be ahead of the challenges on our and future generations’ ability to meet their needs, all industries must collaborate. Just one example of this is that every building must be heated and powered sustainably.

As a leading utilities and sustainability consultancy, Inspired PLC wants to act as an agent of this necessary societal change. We support organisations of every size and sector on their unique decarbonisation journeys, whether this means finding ways for their estate to become more energy-efficient, mapping out their carbon footprint or reducing their emissions across their entire supply chain. Think of a critical friend, who wants you to make informed decisions.

This is not all we are, however. Inspired wants to contribute towards the global drive to reach Sustainable Development Goals across the environments where our lives take place, our homes, schools and workplaces.

That’s why we have created SDGMe, an app which allows you to track how you contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals every day in these environments.

When living our everyday lives, it’s easy to think that progress towards sustainable development happens out of an individual’s reach.

However, every action has an impact. When we take a moment to reflect and retrace our steps, we can see that our every decision made today echoes to tomorrow.

I turned off the tap while brushing my teeth. I turned off the lights when leaving the room. I picked up litter on my way home. Even though small actions, all of them contribute towards Sustainable Development Goals.

Once we realise the impact these actions carry, the decision about taking them becomes an informed one.

As individuals we are more powerful than we think. When these efforts come together to form a community, we are even stronger.

As proud members of the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development, we showcased SDGme in the Beyond Net Zero Pavilion at UKREIIF 2023.