2024: Embracing the Green Horizon

Turning Legislation into Opportunity

While economic challenges persist, the demand for eco-friendly solutions driven by evolving environ-mental regulations remains strong.

Dan Smith, Stockist Business Development Manager at AG Paving + Building Products, shares insights on how builders’ merchants can seize opportunities in 2024 through legislative alignment.

2023 undoubtedly posed significant challenges for builders’ merchants, reflecting broader economic trends in the UK.

Stubborn inflation, rising borrowing rates, and the subsequent cost of living crisis have all contributed to tightening purse strings, affecting both commercial and domestic projects. However, amidst this financial constraint, one sector that continues to thrive is sustainable landscaping solutions.

Fuelled by the UK’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, environmental consciousness gained significant traction throughout 2023 and is set to further escalate in 2024 as the UK government introduces more measures to reduce the construction industry’s environmental footprint.

What does this mean for builders’ merchants? While legislation can present hurdles, it also creates opportunities that savvy merchants can leverage.

Flood Prevention and Permeable Paving.

Windier, wetter and wilder, the UK has witnessed an increase in rainfall and surface flooding due to climate change-induced rising temperatures, over the past four decades.

This has resulted in devastating consequences, including evacuations, property damage, and unfortunately, loss of lives. Consequently, the UK government is shifting its focus towards Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS), prioritizing them highly on their agenda. SuDS encompass a variety of strategies, management practices, structures, and design solutions aimed at efficiently and sustainably draining surface water from development sites, reducing flood risks.

Currently, only Wales has legislation in place that mandates SuDS inclusion in planning applications. However, the UK government has announced that England will follow suit in 2024, aligning with Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. Consequently, most new constructions in England will require SuDS-specific authorization from the SuDS Approval Body (SAB) before commencing construction.

This emphasis on SuDs has resulted in a growing demand for innovative water runoff management solutions in both domestic and commercial projects. Additionally, the surge in construction activity has exacerbated water-stressed regions, emphasizing the need to conserve water and maintain water quality. Architects and contractors now face increased pressure to incorporate sustainable elements into their designs.

Schedule 3 of the act outlines a process to ensure that new developments include high-quality SuDS, aiming to reduce surface water flooding, pollution, and alleviate pressure on traditional drainage and sewerage systems.

How can you take advantage of this new legislation?

Permeable Paving stands out as a solution capable of rapidly and safely removing surface water, allowing it to gradually infiltrate the ground with pollutants removed or be diverted for recycling, thus promoting water-sensitive urban design principles. This approach not only addresses environmental concerns but also encourages the creation of interactive community spaces supporting rich and diverse biodiversity.

Tree Preservation + Retaining Walling

As construction activities continue to rise, space becomes increasingly precious, both from a financial and environmental standpoint. Concerns related to deforestation, soil degradation, preserving local character, and mitigating climate change have led to the introduction of various government legislations aimed at safeguarding biodiversity and conserving natural habitats throughout the UK.

Trees and soil play a vital role in wildlife habitats, as well as in carbon dioxide sequestration. Consequently, legislations governing land use, protecting Conservation Areas, and implementing Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) have become more prevalent. While these regulations are essential for mitigating the environmental impact of urban development, they can pose challenges for architects, contractors, and developers designing commercial and domestic buildings.

Dry-build retaining wall systems offer an aesthetically pleasing solution to mitigate land loss for development purposes while complying with land preservation legislation. Even in steep, sloping hillsides, some systems can be implemented in incredibly tight spaces and, when combined with engineering solutions like soil nailing systems, minimize excavation, reducing associated digging costs—especially in light of the ban on using rebated red diesel in the construction sector. Often cost effective and simple to build, retaining walls offer mortar-free, flexible structural support for domestic and commercial projects.

To counteract the loss of green spaces across the UK, architects, contractors, and developers must consider sustainable hard landscaping options that align with their specific surroundings while adhering to legislation, thus contributing to the UK’s carbon-neutral objectives. As regulations continue to evolve, builders’ merchants who proactively offer sustainable solutions in response to customer demands position themselves for lucrative opportunities in 2024 and beyond.

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