Protecting the environment and living and working more sustainably have become global priorities in recent years. The trendline is moving in the direction of an even more restrictive environment for the worst polluters.
As a big contributor to both landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions, construction always has a target on its back as an industry that could be doing more to pollute less. While some construction leaders see this as a disadvantage, others say it’s an opportunity to lead. If an industry as large and important as construction can introduce more sustainable practices, so can all other sectors.
Here are five methods the industry can adopt to improve sustainability.
1. Integrate Sustainability Into Your Company’s DNA
The best way to kick off a move towards greater sustainability is from the inside out, with a holistic method that considers every aspect of your operation. A good place to start that effort is with materials suppliers. By building a network of trusted vendors who can supply sustainable building materials, you’re supporting sustainable businesses while increasing your own sustainability. Your workforce itself is another baseline change you can make, focusing your hiring efforts around candidates with experience in sustainable construction. You can also train your existing employees in best methods and practices, teaching them the importance of sustainable construction to secure enthusiastic participation.
2. Explore Just-In-Time (JIT) Production
Materials are typically ordered in advance of a project, usually by estimating how much pipe, wood, shingles, etc. the job calls for. Such practice could save money when the estimate was spot-on, but that isn’t always the case. It can, instead, result in overproduction and creates unnecessary waste. Just-In-Time production is a sustainable construction practice whereby materials orders are only placed in the exact amounts the client requests and only when needed. This means fewer dumpsters of waste produced, and less need for storing excess materials, freeing up that storage space to be put to better use.
3. Become Less Reliant on Paper Documents
One method of improving sustainability in construction is by reducing the need for paper blueprints, drawings, and specs. There are many reasons for firms to move away from hard copy, but more sustainable construction is a big one. There are many better alternatives to clicking that “print” button these days. Construction management software solutions can help by taking project documents online and making them accessible to any worker with a mobile device. Paper is not only antithetical to sustainability; it’s an unreliable recorder of project data. If everyone working on a project is referencing the same digital document, which reflects changes in real-time, the chances for costly rework resulting from outdated plans decreases significantly.
4. Reduce Transportation and Wasteful Vehicle Use
Hauling materials, equipment, or even workers to a job site is typically done in vehicles that produce carbon dioxide. Therefore, any reduction in moving things or people around that can be achieved is a step towards sustainability. Any materials that can be sourced locally will cut down on the amount of fossil fuel needed for transport, meaning less emissions. By more carefully planning delivery schedules, companies can ensure they get the required materials with fewer trips. Equipment idling is another major source of job site pollution, which can also be eliminated simply by implementing more careful scheduling.
5. Improved Waste Management
Construction projects create a lot of waste, most of which ends up in landfills. Fortunately, the hauling process has grown more efficient over time, with most job sites now able to discard waste using a single bin that gets hauled away and picked through later. Through the picking process, waste winds up in its proper place, while reusable materials can be salvaged and repurposed. Making use of a hauling company can significantly reduce the amount of waste clogging landfills.
“Through haulers, we can achieve 75% landfill avoidance through their process, and we don’t need to separate materials to do it,” Dale Forsberg, president of St. Louis Park-based Watson-Forsberg, told For Construction Pros. “On a couple of sites, we’ve hit 95%.”
All of these methods can be put into practice with a minimal upfront cost. Some extra planning, process shuffling, and dedication to improving sustainability in construction are really all it takes to start the journey. By exploring these and other methods, a company can boost profits and efficiency while being a better environmental steward.