Benchmarking in construction: an ecological perspective


Construction is a complex and resource-intensive industry, with a significant impact on the environment. In order to mitigate the environmental impacts of construction and improve resource efficiency, it is important to adopt a holistic and systems thinking approach. One useful framework for thinking about the construction process from an ecological perspective is the ecological footprint. The ecological footprint is a measure of the human impact on the environment, and can be used to identify and assess the sustainability of different practices.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in benchmarking as a tool for measuring and improving environmental performance in construction. Benchmarking is a process of comparing the performance of one organisation against others, with the aim of identifying best practice and making improvements. There are many different benchmarking methodologies and tools available, and it can be difficult to know which one to choose.

When choosing a benchmarking methodology, it is important to consider the specific needs and objectives of the organisation. For construction organisations, some of the key considerations include the type of construction project (e.g. commercial, residential, infrastructure), the size of the organisation, and the geographical location. In this article, we will focus on two of the most popular benchmarking methodologies used in construction: the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System and the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).

Why Benchmark?

There are many reasons to benchmark in the construction industry. Perhaps the most obvious reason is to save money. By understanding how your company uses resources relative to others in the industry, you can identify areas where you can improve your own efficiency and cut costs.

In addition to saving money, benchmarking can also help you improve your project management. By understanding how your company stacks up against others in the industry, you can identify areas where you need to make changes or improvements. This knowledge can help you make better decisions about project planning, execution, and resource allocation.

Benchmarking can also help you win new business. If you can demonstrate that your company is more efficient or effective than your competitors, you'll be in a better position to win bids and contracts.

Finally, benchmarking can simply help you understand your company better. By collecting data and comparing it to others in the industry, you can get a clearer picture of your own strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can be invaluable for making decisions about the future of your business.

But there is another aspect of benchmarking that is often overlooked, benchmarking the impact a project has on the climate. In other words, how green is your project?

The construction industry has a major impact on the environment. It is estimated that the construction sector accounts for approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The sector is also a major consumer of energy, water, and raw materials.

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the need to reduce our impact on the environment, there is a growing demand for sustainable or "green" construction. And one of the best ways to ensure that your construction project is sustainable is to benchmark its environmental performance.

Benchmarking the environmental performance of your construction project can help you save money, improve your project management, win new business, and understand your company's impact on the environment.

The Ecological Perspective

In construction, benchmarking is the process of comparing one's own performance against that of other organizations. The goal is to identify best practices and then improve one's own performance in order to remain competitive.

There are a number of different ways to approach benchmarking, but one common framework is to consider it from an ecological perspective. In this view, organisations are seen as interacting with their environment in order to produce desired outcomes. The environment itself is constantly changing, and so organisations must adapt in order to survive and thrive.

One of the benefits of benchmarking from an ecological perspective is that it can help organisations to identify and make use of new niches that may open up as the environment changes. Additionally, this perspective can help organisations to anticipate and prepare for changes in the environment that may be unfavorable to their current way of operating.

This can be achieved by closely monitoring metrics that indicate a high carbon footprint or water usage. For example, construction companies can benchmark their energy use against industry standards and then work to improve their own performance. In this way, they can not only save money, but also reduce their environmental impact. But just having this information is useless on its own. We also need to analyse the data and use it in future decision making.

This is where the ecological perspective comes in handy. By monitoring environmental indicators, we can identify trends and adapt our behaviour accordingly. For example, if we see that the construction industry is becoming increasingly carbon-intensive, we can change our practices to become more efficient and reduce our emissions.

The ecological perspective can also help us to find new ways to use resources that are less damaging to the environment. For example, instead of using concrete, we could use bamboo alternatives, which is a more sustainable material.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a closed-loop system in which resources are used efficiently and waste is minimised. This can only be achieved if we take an ecological perspective and consider the entire system, not just our own individual organisation.

It is difficult to do this for quantity surveyors, this is where Bench iT can help. Bench iT's built in KPI system has sections for all things green, including social responsibility and hard metrics such as water usage and fuel usage to make the benchmarking process as easy as possible

Benefits of Benchmarking

The benefits of benchmarking are many and varied, but can be broadly split into two main categories: improved performance and increased knowledge.

In terms of performance, benchmarking provides a way to compare your company or project against others in the industry, and identify areas where you could be doing better. This in turn can lead to tangible improvements in productivity and efficiency, as well as bottom-line savings.

On the knowledge front, benchmarking gives you a better understanding of industry trends and practices, and can help you identify best-in-class performers that you can learn from. This can be invaluable in terms of keeping your finger on the pulse of the latest industry developments, and ensuring that your company is at the cutting edge.

This has benefits for tracking sustainability performance over time too, as you can compare your outcomes against the latest industry norms and standards. This can help you to set realistic goals and targets for continuous improvement.

In summary, benchmarking provides a range of benefits that can be extremely valuable for construction companies, both in terms of boosting performance and enhancing knowledge.

Case Studies

Ecological benchmarking is a relatively new field that is beginning to gain traction in the construction industry. This type of benchmarking assesses the ecological impact of construction projects and looks for ways to improve upon it. There are many different aspects to consider when conducting an ecological benchmarking study, but one of the most important is the case study.

A case study can provide valuable information about how a construction project affected the environment. It can also offer insight into what improvements could be made to reduce the ecological impact of future projects. When choosing a case study, it is important to select one that is representative of the type of project you are interested in benchmarking. For example, if you are interested in benchmarking the ecological impact of office buildings, you would want to choose a case study that involved the construction of an office building.

There are a few different ways to go about finding a case study. One option is to search for one that has already been conducted. Another option is to conduct your own case study. This can be done by selecting a construction project and then tracking the ecological impact of the project from start to finish.

Once you have selected a case study, the next step is to analyze the data. This will involve looking at the different elements of the project and how they affected the environment. After the data has been analyzed, it is important to develop recommendations for reducing the ecological impact of future projects. These recommendations can then be used to improve the benchmarking process.


As the construction industry continues to grow and evolve, the need for accurate and reliable benchmarking tools becomes increasingly important. In this paper, we have proposed an ecological perspective on construction benchmarking. This perspective stresses the importance of considering the broader environment in which construction projects are situated, and the need to consider the impact of different project types on this environment. We believe that this perspective can provide a valuable framework for future research in this area.

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