The heat is rising, and in an industry that needs all the “eco-consciousness” it can get, you’ve probably wondered how you can run your projects more responsibly.
This post will explore some ideas for doing just that without getting too technical. We’ll explore three steps you can take to greatly reduce your impact on the environment and unlock powerful business benefits while you’re at it.
Let’s get started. 🌱
Why It Matters
Despite the global push to build more sustainably, we can’t afford to lay our concerns to rest just yet. In many sectors, the gap between our sustainability goals and actual performance has widened.
We’re still devastating the natural world, but with each doing what they can – we stand a chance of mitigating a lot of damage. Here are a few heavy facts that should fuel our motivation as we work toward a sustainable future together.
- Some studies estimate that the construction industry is responsible for 50% of all natural resource extraction, with a (conservative) floor of 30%.
- The total GHG (greenhouse gas) emission estimates? A whopping 40%! The major players here are the materials used, heating, cooling & lighting of infrastructure. This excludes the impact of losing oxygen-providing forests during land clearings.
- When the proper precautions are ignored, hazardous chemicals leak into the surrounding environment, polluting nearby water & soil sources – disturbing local ecosystems.
On top of that, the global construction output is expected to grow by 2.6 trillion square feet by 2060. Realistically, this would look like building one NYC each month for the next forty years. Hectic, right?
Luckily, better ways are being sought. Smart buildings are being constructed to combat energy consumption, prefabricated building components are minimizing waste, and many companies are driving C02 recycling initiatives to curb contributions to climate change (see Carbon Cure.)
However, for us to achieve the necessary offset, our efforts to go green must outpace floor growth rates.
How Can You And Your Team Achieve It?
Let’s look at three actions that would make your construction projects more eco-friendly.
- Optimise business processes & achieve resource efficiency.
- Responsibly source your materials, equipment & energy.
- Take measures to protect the local biodiversity.
Let’s explore each in a bit more detail.
1) Aim To Achieve Resource Efficiency Through Process Optimisation In Your Operations
Resource efficiency is all about squeezing the last drop of value out of every existing resource. It’s a crucial standard to implement if you’re looking to go green, cut costs and please your customers.
Whether natural, human or informational – using resources efficiently ensures we get more for less. The method that underlies every successful efficiency upgrade is called ‘process optimisation’.
Process optimisation refers to the redesign of core processes to promote efficiency and to ensure that every part is working harmoniously to achieve the goals of the whole.
It involves the selection & investigation of certain processes by diving into their details and identifying room for improvement. Improvement, in this case, is anything that saves time, money or any other resource.
Data is, therefore, key to any optimisation process.
Digital Transformation is often necessary if companies want to trigger meaningful change across all divisions. Using a project management tool like Appenate allows you to manage & capture all your project data from the comfort of a hand-held device, making it easily accessible at all times (even when there’s no internet connection!)
Whether you choose to embrace digital or stick with your paper ecology, here are some things you should write down about the process you’re trying to transform.
- The business goals this process aims to achieve.
- The unavoidable constraints placed on the process.
- The current strengths & weaknesses.
- Acceptable strategies to optimise & eliminate weaknesses or enhance strengths.
Your next step is to pick the low-hanging fruit that would bring about the most change, implement and monitor the agreed-upon strategies, and follow the same protocol until you’re happy with the outcome.
2) Source Responsibly!
“Responsible sourcing” is the first step to proving that your circle of concerns outstretch financial gain. It entails the procurement of materials with certified origins to meet sustainability objectives.
The bulk of this is usually summarised in a company’s procurement policy – showcasing where you buy, what you buy & for what reason (and whether it addresses a particular environmental or moral concern.)
Many companies are also starting to explore the potential of recycled materials. From hempcrete to eco-bricks, interesting innovations are spawning all over – be sure to keep yourself updated and inspired.
Another great step forward is to find a Sustainability Standards Provider in your area. These are third-party agencies with established frameworks for certification. Built Green is an excellent example (for our Canadian readers😉). Your goal here is to climb as high as possible while staying within your budget.
As you earn those hard-earned stamps of progress – celebrate and make it known! Make sure your current and prospective customers see it. The (near) future is laden with eco-conscious converts, and they’ll happily switch to greener competitors if you don’t bring your “G” game.
A few other essential things that will help:
- Choose responsible, certified & transparent suppliers.
- Buy locally sourced/manufactured, if possible.
- Know the environmental impacts of the materials you use & stay up to date on alternatives in development.
- Leverage renewable energy to power your operations or organise construction activities in a way that allows for the most efficient use of power.
- Cut paper usage out on the field by switching to offline-capable mobile forms.
- Consumers are increasingly demanding proof of ethical sourcing too. Ethical sourcing is concerned with the human side of the supply chain. Read more here.
3) Take The Necessary Measures To Protect The Local Biodiversity
The best thing to do before starting any construction project is to select your site responsibly – if you’re the project owner, of course.
It is estimated that only 16.44% of the land worldwide is protected by law. We have already degraded ¾ of the land that’s available to us.
Thankfully, the 30×30 goal has set global measures to bump up the coverage of protected land & ocean areas to 30% (each) by 2030.
However, we can’t wait for 2030 to make better choices.
If you’re up for a challenge (and you’ve got the voting power), consider restoring a brownfield instead of defaulting to greenfield development. It might involve tedious environmental assessments & cost a bit extra. However, these are the type of trade-offs construction companies might choose to entertain if they’re in it for more than financial gain.
Greyfield development is another excellent way to promote urban density and spare another precious greenfield (buying some time while paying some respect.) Be sure to market the green reason behind your project – it will cultivate awareness & interest in your eco-conscious prospects.
Once you’ve selected your site, it’s time to draw up a comprehensive water, soil & protection plan before you do anything else.
Here are a few things you might add to it…
- Preserve existing vegetation.
- Structure your project schedule in such a way that allows for the least amount of soil exposure time.
- Properly maintain silt fences by checking them after every storm – ensure they are adequately buried at the bottom.
- Use storm inlet filters to keep out trash & debris, or use rocks for an economical alternative.
- Plant vegetative buffers alongside water bodies & keep them groomed for maximum effectivity.
- Properly handle on-site waste by recycling it, covering it & ensuring that it doesn’t accumulate
Take a look at this comprehensive example by the Neoen Solar Farm Project (2017, Australia.)
You’re Well On Your Way
We commend you for making it this far & I hope we’ve mentioned a few inspiring ideas you’re ready to try. Change is best approached by placing one foot in front of the other, so pick a process that hassles you and try to make it as responsibly efficient as you can.
If you’re interested in digging a little deeper, BSI has a few free-to-read reports on sustainability that we found really interesting. Take a look here.
Not Sure Where To Start?
If you’re uncertain about where to go from here and would like to try a tried-and-tested solution that will benefit your bottom line and the earth’s forests at the same time? Try Appenate.
We can provide you with the software to build your own mobile-friendly business apps, cutting paper from your projects entirely.
We can be the start of your process optimization journey. Sign up for our free trial to see what we can achieve together.