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Agenda 21 for the Brazilian construction industry – a

proposal
V. M. John (1); V. Agopyan (2); A. K. Abiko (3); R. T. A. Prado (4); O.M.
Gonçalves (5) ; U. E. Souza (6)
(1) Vanderley.John@poli.usp.br; (2) Vahan.Agopyan@poli.usp.br;
(3) Alex.Abiko@poli.usp.br; (4) Racine.Prado@poli.usp.br;
(5) Orestes.Gonçalves@poli.usp.br; (6) Ubiraci.Souza@poli.usp.br;
Dep. Civil Construction Eng., Escola Politécnica, University of São Paulo, Brazil

Abstract
This paper presents a proposal for an Agenda 21 for the Brazilian Construbusiness
adapted to Brazil’s peculiarities. After the characterization of the economic importance
and environmental impacts of construbusiness, the environmental agenda is discussed.
Aspects like (a) reducing construction wastage; (b) increasing the use of recycled
wastes as building materials; (c) energy efficiency; (d) rational use of water; (e)
improving indoor air quality; (f) durability and maintenance; (g) housing, infrastructure
and sanitation services; (h) improving construction quality are presented and its majors
constraints and facilitators in the Brazilian construbusiness briefly discussed.
The desirable institutional framework for the action is discussed. Conclusions were
presented.

Keywords
Agenda 21, sustainable development; sustainable construction; construbusiness;

1 Background
The construbusiness 1 , a concept that includes the construction industry itself and all
industries engaged in its activities, is one the largest sector of any economy. The
construbusiness is responsible for 14% of Brazilian GNP (FIESP, 1999) and
approximately for 11% of the European Union GNP (CIB, 1999). Although is able to
provide efficient shelter to most of the human beings, it is also responsible to produce
an suitable built environment to make possible the entire economy to run, from tourism
and leisure human activities, to agricultural and information technology. Moreover, its

1
A word created by the Brazilian construction related sector to help its the political organization.
Created by analogy with agribusiness concept, conceived in the middle 1950’s (MERRIAM
WEBSTER’S, 2000). Etymology: construction + business.
final products are much bigger and heavier than those of other industrial sectors. Dams,
roads and entire cities, including its services are good examples.
So, the environmental impact, like defined by the sustainable development concept,
of the construbusiness activities is far from being negligible.
The construbusiness is the biggest consumer of natural resources on any economy. It
happens despite the great advance on structural design and materials technology that,
for example, allowed reduce the thickness of a building envelope by at least a tenth of
its original 100 cm thickness, achieved only in 200 years. The estimation varies from
country to country and is difficult to obtain. Some available numbers are 14% to 50%
(SJÖSTROM, 1986), to 50% of material consumption in Japan (KASAI, 1998) and
even 75% for USA (MATOS e WAGNER (1999).
The sector is also related to the consume of major part of the energy, on producing
and conveying building materials, site assembling, and in the post construction phase,
use and operation, maintenance and decommissioning. Buildings are responsible for
consuming more than 50% of the Brazilian electric energy (LAMBERTS &
WESTPHAL, 2000). The UK government estimates that operation and use of buildings
consumes from 40 to 50% of the total energy (DETR, 1998b) and the production and
transportation of building materials is responsible for consume additionally 10% (DETR
1998).
The construbusiness is certainly the major sector when it comes to generation of
wastes. Construction and demolition yearly waste generation estimative varies
worldwide varies from mere 163 kg per capita up to 3658 per capita, with typical values
above 400kg per capita (JOHN, 2000). Considering all waste generated during the
production of the building materials, it is possible that the construbusiness is also the
bigger waste generator in many countries, contributing with up to 40% of the total waste
generated (CIB, 1999).
Due to its huge scale the construbusiness activities are also very important pollution
generator. For example, the Portland cement production is a very important CO2
generator due to limestone decomposition and burning organic fuels (JOHN, 2000).
Consequently, any society that wishes to achieve a more sustainable development
must develop environmental policies specific to the construction industry. The CIB
presented in 1999 its global Agenda 21 for the construction industry (CIB, 1999), now
translated to Portuguese, and countries like UK have developed specific goals to the
construction industry (DETR, 2000).
The CIB Agenda 21 arrange the challenges that construction sector has to overcome
to collaborate in a sustainable development in (1) management and organization, that’s
include e.g. the environmental quality of construction, the development of new building
concepts; (2) product and building issues, related to the improvement of the
environmental performance of buildings and other construction products, including
materials production and recyclability, pollution, indoor air quality, etc.; (3) resource
consumption, including water and other raw materials, the use of recycled materials,
extending the service life; (4) impacts of construction on sustainable urban
development, including housing and life quality, urban growth, governance aspects and
waste generation and management; (5) environmental loads, linked to materials
production, construction, operating, maintena nce and decommissioning; (6) social,
cultural and economic issues, aiming subjects like social equity, employment and
economic sustainability.
2 The sustainable Agenda for the Brazilian construction industry
This paper is a contribution of the Department of Civil Construction Engineering of
Escola Politécnica, University of São Paulo to the discussion of the Brazilian
construbusiness. It takes into account the Brazilian peculiarities in terms of the sector
and Brazilian society environmental, social and economic needs.

2.1 Reducing on building material wastage


A recent national survey on building site material wastage was conducted by
PCC.USP in collaboration with 16 other Brazilian universities and 80 building sites
from 52 building contractors with financial support of FINEP (AGOPYAN et al., 1998).
The survey succeeded to measure wastage materials actual waste as litter as well
indirect waste, defined as those unnecessarily incorporated in the building (Table
1Table 1 shows some results). The measured values are higher than the figures assumed
by the companies.
Table 1 – Building material wastage during construction both as waste and over
thickness (AGOPYAN et al., 1998). Values are expressed in percent.
Portland Steel Concrete and Sand Ready-mix
Cement rebar ceramic blocks concrete
Minimum 6 2 3 7 2
Maximum 638 23 48 311 23
Median 56 9 13 44 9

The measured values reveal great differences on total wastage between building sites
using same technology, revealing big opportunities to reduce the wastage rate by
changing management and project procedures, which can achieved by education and
better site planning and management practices.
The environmental impact of reducing this wastage rates are obvious.

2.2 Increasing recycling wastes as building materials


When properly done recycling wastes as building materials is a convenient way to
reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry. It has several potential
environmental advantages (Table 2Table 2): (a) helps reducing the consumption of
natural resources; (b) reduces the deposition of landfill; (c) can reduce the energy
consumption on the materials production and all its associated pollution; (d) can result
in more durable materials (JOHN & ZORDAN, 2000).
The Brazilian Portland cement industry is a heavy recycler, with most of the cement
blended with granulated blast furnace slag or fly ash. Most of Brazilian steel rebar is
produced on electric arc furnaces, using steel scrap as raw material. But the
environmental benefits of these activities are not yet publicized properly.

Table 2 –Environmental benefits of recycling on producing some building


materials (in % of the non recycling impact).
Environmental impact Steel Glass Cement 2
Energy consumption 74 6 ~50
Natural resources consumption 90 54 50
Water 40 50 -
Atmosferic polution 86 22 <502
Water pollution 76 -
Wastes in general 105 54
Mineral wastes 97 79
Sources: JOHN (2000); (2) estimative considering replacement 50% of the clinker for fly
ash, and reduction on CO2 production.

The major challenge in this area is recycling construction and demolition wastes. Up
to now only few Brazilian cities have recycling schemes, all of them controlled by the
municipalities. Very important part of the C&DW generated goes to illegal dumping
sites, frequently obstructing waterways and causing urban floods. Cleaning this illegal
dumps costs amount of money to the municipalities (PINTO, 1999).

2.3 Energy efficiency in buildings


As mentioned earlier buildings are responsible for almost 50% of electric energy
consumption in Brazil, and this share is growing.
LAMBERTS & WESPAHL (2000) points out several different possibilities for
action, concerning to education, developing energy code, improving air conditioning
systems, substitution of electric showers, improving roof insulation, installing hot water
pipe systems to allow easily replacement of electric showers, using of solar heating, and
window improvement.
The PROCEL (Nationa l Electric Energy Efficiency Program) is already developing
actions for improvement the efficiency of some building appliances.

2.4 Water conservation


Brazilian large cities, like São Paulo , are facing nowadays water shortages. It
happens mainly because of the population concentration, water leakage on the
distribution system, and unsound use of water, due to lack of users education and
technology limitations.
Concerning water conservation, two fundamental programs are being carried out in
Brazil. The PURA The Rational Use of Water Program was implanted in the State of
São Paulo and the PNCDA – The National Water Conservation Program.
These programs develop activities as follows:
− consciousness and educational campaign related rational use of water;
− manageme nt of water use in buildings, water metering systems;
R&D technology – development of methodologies – survey of consumption and
demand profiles, reuse of water, use of rain water, etc. – and equipment – low volume
WC, aerated and self-closing faucets, waterless technologies, etc..
Most of these methodologies and technologies developed in both programs, are
already available in the Brazilian market.

2.5 Improving indoor air quality


Indoor air quality is considered to be a relevant subject nowadays in Brazil mainly on
large commercial buildings. The Ministry of Health issued in 1998 a directive on the
indoor air quality (Portaria 3523, 28/08/1998) requiring specific procedures for
maintenance and hygiene of air conditioning systems in large buildings (TROTTA &
ARAÚJO, 2000). But with the increase on the use of air conditioning in houses
(LAMBERTS & WESTPHAL, 2000) its importance will grow in the near future to
include almost all buildings.
There is a need for discussion of more comprehensive measures, including
education, VOC emission, particulate emissions, etc. Also, available Brazilian field
researches on the subject is incipient

2.6 Durability and Maintenance


Increasing service life of the built environment is certainly a major challenge for
achieving a more sustainable construction industry (SJÖSTRÖM, 2000). It is not only
concerned to the increasing of physical durability of the construction but also its
functional durability, that demands flexibility and capacity of being upgraded. In
Brazil, the discussion about durability is almost limited to reinforced concrete structures
- the last version of the Brazilian Design Concrete Structures Standard have made
important advances in this field – and must be increased to other aspects of the
construction.
Declaration of the service life of the building components is a major necessity for
both evaluations the environmental impact of each specific technical solution as well as
for service life planning, which allows to plan maintenance in the design phase. This
methodology is presented by ISO 15686-1 (SJÖSTRÖM, 2000).
Maintenance rarely is a major concern during a construction design and some
established building technologies requires frequent and expensive maintenance
activities. Building user manuals are frequently delivered to the clients but most of them
lack of detailed maintenance.
Durability and maintenance are also a relevant discussion in public works. Concepts
like life cycle costs should be implemented to select more competitive technologies.

2.7 Housing, infrastructure and sanitation services deficit


The sustainable development includes better life for the entire population.
Brazil is still a country with very important needs of housing, infrastructure, and
sanitation services. In big cities like São Paulo the public transportation system is far
from efficient, encouraging people to use private cars, the collected sewage is not
properly treated contaminating watercourses, a significant part of the streets are not
paved and part of the population lives in favelas, some of them built in environmental
protected areas.
The fulfilment of this goal is mainly a social and political problem that will demand
the sector to work closely together with other social actors interested in overcoming
those problems. But this goal also introduces technical problems, mainly those related to
the development of new technological solutions which should have at the same time low
financial cost and low environmental impact.

2.8 Improve the construction process quality


There is no possible environmental action without a systemic and successful quality
scheme, because the defects are an expensive form of wasting environmental resources.
Then, the ongoing efforts for quality improvement within the construbusiness sector
must be intensified.
It is worth mentioning the arrangements towards the quality that some industrial
sectors that produces building materials have been developing since the early 90’s,
implementing Quality Assurance Programs – PSQs.

3 Institutional framework
Several industrial associations and companies already have environmental friendly
products in its catalogues and/or its own environmental agenda. Since the environmental
impact of a construction facility depends on the environmental impact of each different
component, the effect of any environmental measure of one agent is multiplied if its
action is coordinated with actions from the other players.
It will be very important if those entities succeed building synergic networks based
on its common environmental and economic interests. Such networks must attract
architects and engineers involved in de design and specification, that are very important
on taking the decision of adopting environmental friendly technologies (SILVA,
AGOPYA & JOHN, 2000). Such networks can develop more comprehensive
environmental friendly solutions for buildings and other construction products,
increasing its marketing appeal. As a result they will help the consumers to easily
realize the available options for protecting the environment when commissioning,
buying or refurbishing buildings. These networks also must help the development of
building assessment methods to be used even during the design phase (SILVA,
AGOPYA & JOHN, 2000) making possible to demonstrate the environmental benefits
of the proposed solutions.
Additionally, in the past few years, the Brazilian construbusiness has been acting as
a unity. This collective action is being developed under the umbrella of the
PBQP-Habitat (Brazilian National Program for Quality and Productivity in the Habitat)
and its state branches aiming to solve the construbusiness’ quality related problems. In
the Committees that steer the PBQP-Habitat and its regional branches, representatives
of different industrial associations connected to the construbusiness are discussing ways
to progressively improve the quality of the construction as a whole.
In the scope of PBQP-Habitat and its state branches the environmental related
aspects are mentioned side by side with the quality. In fact, some industrial associations
already adopted quality goals that have evident environmental connections. The most
evident are those related to the gradual reduction of the water consumption in toilets.
Then, it seems to be possible develop a strategy to allow the development of a National
Agenda 21 for the construbusiness within the same structure.

4 Conclusions
The Agenda 21 for the Brazilian construbusiness must be developed considering the
countries characteristics. The Agenda must include not only technical aspects related to
the construction products related to its environmental loads, but address broader range
of aspects including cultural, organizational, institutional and economic issues.
In the Brazilian market there are several products that help to protect the
environment, but there is a lack of global solutions. Products to promote for rational use
of water and efficient use of energy; improve durability; reduce the consumption of
natural resources; among several others are already available. There is a need for
synergic networks between companies and industrial and professional associations, to
promote more comprehensive environmental solutions and assessment tools, allowing
enlarging the market for these environmentally friendly solutions.
The PBQP-Habitat and its state branches can also play an important role on the
development of a truly national Agenda 21 for the Construbusiness.

5 References
AGOPYAN, V. (coordenador). Alternativas para a redução do desperdício de
materiais nos canteiros de obras. Relatório Final. São Paulo : EP USP, 5v. 1998

CIB Agenda 21 on sustainable construction. CIB Report Publication 237. 1999


DETR Sustainable development: opportunities for change – Sustainable
constuction. Available over Internet:
www.environment.detr.gov.uk/sustainable/construction/consult/index.htm. 26/09/2000
CIB Agenda 21 on sustainable construction. CIB Report Publication 237. 1999
LAMBERTS, R.; WESTPHAL, F. Energy Efficiency in Buildings in Brazil. In:
Construction and Environment: from theory into practice. CIB PCC USP, 2000 (in
this publication)
PINTO, T.P. Recycling in construction sites: environmental responsibility. In:
Construction and Environment: from theory into practice. CIB PCC USP, 2000 (in
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methodology for research and development. Escola Politécnica, USP, 2000. Tese de
Livre Docência. (In portuguese)