The construction industry traditionally uses a lot of natural resources in their work, meaning it is often a source of pollution. Given the impact of climate change on businesses – not least in the form of natural disasters – many companies are looking to do construction with fewer emissions. This is where sustainable construction, also called green construction, comes in.
In addition to private sector and private investor concerns, much of the push towards green construction initiatives is coming from governments. The movement mirrors developments in other industries, like the energy industry.
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3.6. Sire selection
What is green construction?
Green, sustainable construction is about minimizing wasteand energy usage throughout the construction industry. One key way businesses accomplish this is to use recyclable or renewable materials as much as possible. Green building materials reduce the waste created by most construction projects.
Sustainable construction is not simply the act of building itself; building design is also a factor. A sustainable building design is one that ensures the building has minimal environmental impact for the entirety of its existence. Some ways to ensure this include utilizing energy-efficient roof hatches, solar panels, insulation that traps heat, and relying sparingly on fossil fuel energy.
Green construction is important because the industry typically contributes heavily to greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Especially when considering the impact that supply chains can have on resource use, the construction industry is responsible for 36% of the world’s energy usage and 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
What are the benefits and challenges of green construction?
Moving towards more sustainable construction practices is beneficial not only for the planet, but also for businesses as a whole. However, the shift is not always easy; which makes sense given the high reliance on fossil fuels and resource consumption associated with construction work. If your business is able to, however, sustainable building is worth it.
Benefits of green construction
The most obvious reason to investigate eco building practices is for the environment. 40% of all CO2 emissions is a massive number. Using sustainable technology, renewable resources, and modern construction techniques can help you reduce that.
Green construction also promotes healthier living. Environments have a direct impact on physical and emotional well-being, and design choices such as thermal regulation, gentler light sources, air quality improvements, and ergonomic space all improve health.
Building sustainably also helps your bottom line, considering that climate change is a major factor in business decisions these days. For one thing, especially considering government incentives, green construction is a hefty share of the market, valued at around $134.3 billion annually. Sustainable buildings are also cheaper to operate once constructed, since they use up fewer resources.
Your company will spend less money on materials if you primarily use green building materials, since recycled and reused is cheaper than brand new. Finally, sustainable construction practices make your team more efficient, facilitating operational excellence .
Challenges of green construction
Implementing sustainable construction practices can be challenging initially. Though you will save money in the long run, your spending goes up at first, before being offset by lower maintenance and operating costs. The increased initial cost can mean a smaller budget for new projects, though that can be negotiated.
There is also occasional resistance to change when you start adopting sustainable construction practices, usually motivated by ignorance of their necessity. As a project manager, part of your job will be to help employees understand the need for your proposed changes. That will mitigate resistance.
Green construction strategies
Use eco friendly materials
One of the most evident changes you can make in your construction company is to use less wasteful materials. Some of the most frequently suggested ones are:
- Wood: Paying attention to your use of forests ensures you preserve wildlife habitats while having access to a relatively renewable resource
- Alternative bricks: Bricks are made from all sorts of things these days, including wool and mud. Wool and mud bricks are just as strong as “normal” bricks, but put far less strain on the environment to produce.
- Sustainable concrete: This is made from recycled plastics and other reused material, but behaves essentially the same way as concrete
These are green building materials because they require less energy to produce than normal materials, and they are more renewable as well.
Use energy efficiently
Energy efficiency is important during and after construction. One way your construction business can operate efficiently is by using a modular battery system for equipment and vehicles. Said batteries recharge using solar panels, which means they offset a lot of CO2 emissions every week.
Buildings themselves can become energy efficient when you ensure they use little energy to maintain. You can accomplish this by:
- Adding insulation that maintains a consistent temperature level to avoid too many other sources of heating or cooling
- Designing structures to use sunlight effectively, for example by using low-reflective glass in windows
- Using wind turbines and solar panels at construction sites to help meet the energy requirements of a building
Use water efficiently
Water is one of the most frequently overused resources by any business, not only construction businesses. That makes responsible water use an essential part of green construction.
Reduce the amount of water your buildings consume by recycling and reusing water where you can. Technology like dual-flush and low-flow toilets consume up to 5 times less water than conventional toilets. And today’s sinks are designed to turn themselves off and prevent waste.
Use can also use rainwater for irrigation and landscaping, providing you naturally-occurring energy.
Regular sustainability reporting
You can implement all the sustainability measures you can think of, but it’s important to know what impact they’re having. The best way to measure this is by filling out regular sustainability reports. These reports make sure that you’re achieving the desired result, and help you adjust your project schedule.
Having regular documentation of the energy and resources you’ve saved is the key to continuous improvement in your business, since it’s the only way to measure your efforts.
Regular and accurate sustainability reporting also helps you display your commitment to sustainable building, which can get you more business from clients who are concerned about their carbon footprint.
Ensure indoor quality
Sustainability means that you’re ensuring the health of building occupants. Many environmentally conscious building practices end up improving health outcomes as well. For example, using mainly natural light instead of electricity has been shown to make workers more comfortable.
Air quality is vital to ensure good health. Make sure all the paint and insulation used throughout the building is free of chemicals, and use an HVAC system that’s able to remove pollutants from the air.
Choosing the right place to build is crucial in eco building. Not every location is equally sustainable. One thing that indicates a quality construction site is the proximity of natural resources.
A building’s location is also important to consider. For example, an office building constructed far away from a residential area will mean people need to travel longer to go to work, thus using more resources. The ideal building site is one where the completed building can use existing infrastructure and blend into the atmosphere.
Green construction is more feasible when you use Lumiform to create digital checklists. The paperless software and mobile app help you assign tasks to your workers and measure everything from your energy usage to your waste management, so that you can always operate as sustainably as possible. You can perform audits and even write sustainability reports no matter where you are, since the app works both online and offline.