Why Now Is the Time To Adopt Sustainable Construction Practices
The construction industry contributes to the world in so many positive ways, building’s toll on our planet can sometimes be overlooked. Nonetheless, construction-related activities are impacting the environment in adverse ways on a global scale. From the use of toxic materials to the widespread consumption of natural resources, more than 400 million tons of material is consumed in construction every year. More pointedly, the construction industry is using 50% of all natural resources including 25% of wood, while producing 25% of global waste.
Fortunately, building green is going global with $260 billion spent in sustainable construction in 2013 alone. In fact, it’s estimated that $187 billion will be spent on sustainable construction materials by 2026. By 2018, the green construction industry is expected to account for one-third of the global building market–a huge win for builders and environmentalists alike.
The primary purpose of green construction is to reduce the number of natural resources used and waste generated. In addition to being good for the environment, adopting green construction practices can also save companies and owners money. Below, we’ll discuss how companies can get started with sustainable construction, as well as highlight some of the top profitable benefits of building green.
How to Get Started Building Green
In order to save money by building green, a construction company needs to know where to begin to focus their efforts on the areas that will have the most impact. The documentary “Building Green” offers insight on how to apply green building methods effectively. This documentary is a series 13 videos showcasing how to achieve sustainable construction. Each part of the series is a 25-minute long, in-depth look at a different aspect of green building. There are segments about interior design, lighting, water, foundation, exterior finishes, and framing and roofing. This is a solid introduction to the theory and application of green construction without spending a great deal of money or time.
Another way to effectively use sustainable construction methods is to review the training modules available at BuildingGreen, Inc, a US Green Building Council approved resource. Construction companies interested in sustainable design or constructing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings can complete training programs via BuildingGreen, Inc. LEED certification is an ultimate seal of approval for green construction and buildings that are LEED certified have met rigorous standards in environmental performance and sustainable design.
As a construction company interested in green construction, LEED certification is the gold standard to meet. At the same time, understanding the rules and standards of sustainable construction ensures a building company will not lose money due to fines or penalties associated with using the wrong materials or methods.
The next step is to establish a process that enables a construction company to carry out building green goals. One way to reduce the number of materials and waste involved with a construction project is through Lean construction. This theoretical approach to construction is evolved from Lean manufacturing principles but with a slightly different take. In lean construction, the goal is to reduce waste and improve productivity by taking into account the customer, the building process and natural environment. A Lean construction project evaluates every step in the process including design, construction and maintenance. According to some studies, Lean construction has resulted in significantly less of an environmental impact by reducing material waste by 64%.
In Lean construction, steps are taken to align each of these processes with the construction project, its natural environment, and the customers or individuals who are using the building. The method also helps to establish project standardization–a key tactic to increase project efficiency tenfold. By choosing Lean construction, businesses can minimize their cost of materials and labor, while increasing the value of the project for the customer. In addition to saving money on materials costs, builders are also producing less waste.
3 Benefits of Sustainable Construction
While construction companies might be gung-ho to start building green, company managers may feel like there is a lack of interest among building owners to go sustainable. Often, this is a perception that green construction is more complicated and costly. However, this is not the case, and both companies and owners can actually save money. Construction companies can encourage the idea of going green by discussing the cost benefits and ROI the project is likely to receive.
1. Improved Labor Productivity and ROI
One way for construction companies to offset productivity issues is to start adopting sustainable construction. In fact, companies that choose eco-conscious practices and standards experience an increase in employee productivity by approximately 16%. These practices and standards range from using LED lighting and nontoxic paint to being based in a LEED-compliant building. Overall, going green leads to a greater return on investment by choosing to operate out of a green building.
Furthermore, owners who have chosen to build green for new projects noticed an increased ROI of 9.2%. As for updating existing green projects including retrofitting old structures and updating conventional methods to be more environmentally sustainable, this ROI increased to 19.2%. At the same time, the operating costs for new construction when using green methods decreased 13.6%. While implementing green construction has many benefits for the environment, the numbers don’t lie, making the case to go sustainable a no brainer for both owners and contractors.
2. Government Incentives
When choosing to go green with construction, builders and building owners alike can profit through government incentives. The primary way this works is through tax credits for meeting certain sustainability goals in new or updated construction. One place to check for tax credits is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA has an archive of state and federal funding opportunities for green building. Note that several tax credits have recently been eliminated, so companies will need to look into specific programs of interest to see if their projects qualify. Construction firms, business owners and residents involved in tribal green building, which encompasses construction in Native American tribal communities and Indian reservations, will have better luck. There are several EPA funding opportunities for at the tribal, state and federal levels.
Municipalities in some states also provide fee reduction and/or waivers for construction projects that involve building green and meet certain standards. This government incentive allows developers to reduce fees or review times, which can be a cost savings solution.
Another way construction companies can benefit from government assistance is with community development block grants (CDBGs) geared at green building. CDBGs are one of the longest-running grant programs offered via the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Green construction projects that benefit underprivileged or low-income individuals should look into community development block grant funding options.
3. Increased Business for Contractors
As noted at the start of this blog post, green construction is on the rise. The US Green Business Council, which provides LEED certification standards, stated green construction was expected to generate more than 2.1 million jobs by 2018. Rather than being a trend, building green is becoming the standard for construction businesses. There are three main drivers for this evolution to ecological construction:
- Environmental standards and regulations
- Construction companies striving for cost savings
- Building owners interested in sustainable and less toxic buildings
Construction companies that want to promote green building should connect with owners who are equally as interested in this type of construction. Fortunately, modern owners are awakening to both the cost savings in construction as well as the overall lifecycle of the project. In addition, 61% of corporate leaders see sustainability as key to setting their companies apart in their respective industry, which can lead to financial gains. This indicates that more than half of businesses are on board with choosing green construction over conventional building methods. Nonetheless, it’s up to construction companies to fulfill this need among building owners.
Building Green Today
Choosing environmentally beneficial building practices and materials offers a wealth of benefits to construction companies, owners as well as our planet. Along with saving money by using fewer resources, construction companies can increase their earnings potential by fulfilling demands in this growing niche. Ultimately, building green is becoming the mainstream solution for upgrading and constructing new structures and buildings.
Building green is no longer just about saving and making more money. Those construction companies that lag behind in the green building market will eventually get left behind completely. Green construction is no longer the wave of the future. It is the future we have entered into and are embracing wholeheartedly.