Scottish Parliament building Edinburgh

Scottish Executive now has power to make building regulations that support sustainable development (Photo: Howard Liddell)

Emerging policies are leading to mainstreaming of community and environmentally responsible building and design practices, which until recently were largely marginalised.

This trend has the potential to lead to many more built development projects that are simultaneously more efficient and profitable, much more socially accountable, and much less damaging to the environment than before. This is called sustainable construction. Understanding and adoption of sustainable construction are rapidly increasing. However, the practices that can deliver sustainable construction are being adopted by a very small minority of organisations involved in built development, and on only a tiny percentage of construction projects.

Legislation is inadequate. It could, and should, be more proactive in moving to eliminate unsustainable practices, so that benefits in health and well-being would flow. Much more is required. However, legislation can only ever be a lowest common denominator. It is the actions of industry leaders, responsive to and seeking out contemporary knowledge, that are at the forefront of change. Businesses and individuals are driving improvements in the sustainability performance of mainstream construction practice, not the other way around.

This is gradually being translated into policies issued by governments, industry bodies, professional institutions and individual companies, and ultimately setting the guidelines for changing legislation. Recent experience indicates that it is central European practice that is delivering the appropriate tools, products and materials to drive change in sustainable construction within Europe.

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