4 Tips to Make Your Construction Business More Green

Rose Morrison imageRose Morrison  •  

Green construction

Growing awareness of the environmental impact that consumption may cause has individuals and businesses more interested than ever in sustainability and green practices.

Because building and construction are responsible for around 39% of global greenhouse gas emissions, contractors and subcontractors may be under especially close scrutiny.

For construction companies, finding ways to make daily work greener can help demonstrate sustainability and draw in new customers.

There are a few green practices and tips that construction businesses, contractors, and subcontractors can apply, regardless of the niche or sector they are in.

1. Experiment With Green Materials

Research on sustainable construction has found that the CO2 emissions from the materials production phase account for as much as 93.4% of overall construction carbon emissions.

Many common building materials — like concrete or asphalt shingles — can have a serious environmental impact. Sustainable alternatives to these materials can help significantly cut down on the emissions a project will produce.

As a contractor or subcontractor, you may have a large amount of control over which materials a particular project uses.

Even if you don’t have full control over the materials used in a product, being able to recommend these materials can give consumers and contractors a wider range of options when it comes to sustainable construction.

Bamboo, for example, is a biodegradable material and fast-growing resource. It has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, as well as greater compressive strength than concrete or brick. It is typically used for indoor construction, like flooring and cabinetry, but can also be treated for outdoor use.

Cork offers similar benefits and is impervious to water. Its ability to absorb shock and noise also makes it a good option for insulation and floor tiling.

A number of construction companies use denim as green insulation — and it’s becoming a more common insulation choice for companies interested in qualifying for LEED certification.

It’s also possible to more sustainably source commonly used building materials without fully committing to materials like bamboo. Reclaimed wood and roof tiles are a great way to reduce a project’s carbon emissions, for example, without requiring that customers use unfamiliar or unusual materials.

2. Use Management Tech to Reduce Waste

Efficient management can also have a big impact on the overall environmental impact a project will have. By adopting advanced management platforms or tools, you can collect the information necessary to make construction projects greener.

Waste-tracking technology, for example, can be a major asset. Tracking tools help you identify when this waste is being generated during a job, allowing you to more effectively mitigate waste and recover materials that can be used in future work.

Of the 600 million tons of C&D debris generated in the U.S. in 2018, less than 145 million tons were sent to next use. Finding ways to more effectively track waste for reuse can help you significantly reduce the environmental impact a project has.

Utility tracking systems can provide similar benefits. These tools will track your use of water and energy over a project, allowing you to identify tasks or methods that consume large amounts of resources.

If you use smart technology on your site — like IoT lights, monitors, or sensors — you can also use smart site management systems to coordinate and track device performance. This tracking will provide additional insights into your work’s consumption of resources over time.

3. Take Advantage of Green Construction Equipment

Electric tools and vehicles, rather than gas-powered ones, can help you cut down on emissions produced by daily work. More efficient equipment and lighting can also help here by driving down the amount of energy a project will consume.

Even small changes to site equipment can make a noticeable difference. LED lighting, for example, is much more energy-efficient than conventional lighting. Swapping out conventional bulbs for LED lights can help significantly reduce the amount of electricity necessary for a project.

An effective maintenance schedule will also help here. By reducing the risk of generator failure with regular service, for example, you can eliminate downtime and extend the lifespan of power-generating equipment. Less downtime means less energy spent waiting for repairs, and a longer equipment lifespan means less emissions produced by the manufacture of new equipment.

Choice of building equipment is also important — and because building managers will be using installed equipment for years, building equipment may have an even greater impact than on-site construction practices.

The building heater a particular company chooses, for example, may have a serious impact on performance and therefore building emissions. Selecting an electric heater, rather than one that is gas- or diesel-fired, may significantly reduce the annual carbon emissions a building will produce.

4. Optimize Travel and Transportation

Good site management practices can also help you reduce project emissions. Travel and transportation — like bringing materials on-site and transporting workers — can be responsible for a significant portion of the emissions produced by construction.

Simple management techniques can help you cut down on unnecessary travel and transportation. Encouraging ridesharing for each job you work on, for example, can help reduce the number of cars necessary to transport workers to and from the site. Ensuring your project has enough parking can help cut down on vehicle idling.

More efficient materials management and planning can help you reduce the number of trips you and your team need to make to and from the site. This can save time and help reduce emissions from trucks and other construction vehicles.

Virtual meetings may also be a major help here. If you can video conference with a contractor, subcontractor, or client instead of meeting in-person, you may be able to significantly reduce emissions associated with travel.

These strategies are especially effective if you’re coordinating with workers or clients who are located out of state or across the country. In addition to simplifying stakeholder itineraries, you can also avoid the high carbon costs associated with air travel or long-distance road travel.

While video conferencing may not be an option for every project, using it when possible can further cut down on unnecessary travel.

These Practices Can Help Make Construction Projects Green

Green practices can make a major difference in the impact a construction project will have. Choice of materials, management techniques, and construction equipment may all help a business reduce its carbon footprint.

As consumers become more conscious of how consumption can impact the environment, these green practices may become even more important.

Rose Morrison is the managing editor of Renovated, where she covers contracting and residential construction topics. Check out her Twitter to see more of her work.

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