There is a lack of strategic understanding of the impact of the construction industry on natural resources and on the environment. The Construction Industry Mass Balance study has for the first time identified and quantified the natural resources used, and the wastes and emissions produced by the industry. This information is presented in order to encourage a holistic view being taken on how the resource sustainability of the industry might be improved. The addition to the stock of the construction industry (the built environment) in 1998 has been calculated as nearly 275 million tonnes in the UK. This required over 420 million tonnes of material resources, of which only 360 million tonnes were incorporated into construction products. The remainder was waste, mostly quarrying waste (97%). If the efficiency of the industry is measured in terms of the ratio of additions to stock : resources required, the resource efficiency of the industry is 64%. Transport accounts for 40% of energy use in construction. Of construction and demolition wastes, just over 50% were recycled or reclaimed for use back in construction. Emissions to the air totalled just over 30 million tonnes, of which over 97% was carbon dioxide. If the other emissions are calculated in terms of their global warming potential, this figure rises to over 500 million tonnes. In order to identify all resource flows for the UK in terms of their mass, some data had to be converted and other data estimated. Trends and influences in the industry were also examined in relation to resource use, and the generation of wastes and emissions. While construction processes are increasingly adopting environmental improvement and waste minimisation practices, resource inputs have received less attention. Coherent action across the construction industry is considered necessary if evolutionary change in the sustainability of all aspects of the construction process is to be achieved. A revised edition of this report was issued in 2003.

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