Construction and Sustainability

by Brian Frederick
November 17, 2017

Eco-friendly construction

Sustainability is a hot topic these days. And it’s impacting every aspect of our lives. From reusable shopping bags at the grocery store to recycling nearly everything, going green has become the norm. But what exactly does sustainability mean? And what’s more, how does it impact construction?

Let’s take a look.

What is sustainability?

Because it has become a political point of contention, there’s a lot of disagreement about what sustainability means. For some, it’s just a superficial subject, one that only needs to be taken seriously because of government regulations. For others, it’s an encompassing term that refers to environmental protection and efficient use of resources.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, there are a lot of reasons to embrace sustainability in construction, not least of all for it’s impact on your bottom line. But more on that later.

How does sustainability impact construction?

You probably already knew this, but construction is one of the biggest industries affected by environmental regulations.

And that makes sense, when you look at the facts. Construction is responsible for a huge amount of emissions, arising from almost every aspect of the building process. A 2009 Chinese study on the environmental impact of the construction of One Peking in Hong Kong found that while the lion’s share comes from material creation (steel manufacturing, lumber, etc.), a not insignificant amount is generated by transportation and construction equipment.

So, how do you reduce your carbon footprint and save money too?

Responsible sourcing

As was just mentioned, one of the biggest offenders in terms of emissions and waste is the materials manufacturing process. Reducing the negative impact of this relies on responsible sourcing. The UK now requires 25% of all materials used in construction be from responsible sources.

And that requires a holistic approach, from mining and materials harvesting, all the way through the manufacturing process, including the use of renewable or reclaimed materials, building design and supply-chain management.

Green buildings

Believe it or not, finished buildings create a large footprint on the environment, whether it’s in the form of emissions from energy usage, water usage, or even their impact on the land they’re situated on.

With this in mind, the U.S. government offers a variety of incentives to create green buildings. Known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), this building standard seeks to provide maximum functionality while minimizing environmental impact.

For construction companies, this means adhering to a framework during the construction process. This includes meeting control measures for sheet metal and air conditioning, protecting stored on-site materials adequately, and providing proper air filtration during the construction process.

The good news is that while these might just seem like more regulations, they can actually positively benefit you by reducing waste and jobsite risk that could lead to injuries, missed time and/or fines and penalties.

Maximize vehicle efficiency

One of the easiest ways to minimize your carbon footprint, not to mention save a ton on fuel, is to make sure your fleet of vehicles is operating at peak efficiency. There are several parts to this.

First, using a GPS tool, you can track and more effectively route vehicles and equipment. Whether it’s finding a better route to a site, or re-routing a closer piece of equipment instead of dispatching a new one, by understanding exactly where your fleet is deployed, you can minimize the amount of time they spend in transit.

Secondly, a telematics tool like ES Track will help you identify and eliminate fuel wasted on unnecessarily idling equipment. Considering the average idling time for heavy equipment is a staggering 40%, reducing that by even a quarter will mean huge savings in fuel costs — not to mention wear and tear on your machines.

Another way to maximize your efficiency is by reducing or eliminating poor driving habits that burn excess fuel. Hard acceleration and sharp breaking are far less efficient, not to mention less safe, than more conservative driving. ES Track Operator Scorecards are an easy way to keep an eye on who is driving safely — and who isn’t.

Going green can save green

Sustainability is about so much more than being eco-friendly. It’s also about saving money. And as more and more consumers become conscious of the effects their choices have on the planet, they’re starting to demand sustainability in every aspect of their lives. There’s no reason to assume construction should be exempt. And considering going green can help you operate more profitably, there’s no reason not to.

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