In times when climate change and our planet’s finite amount of resources are becoming increasingly troubling, it’s important that commercial construction companies are prioritizing sustainable design and construction techniques. Commercial buildings are a large contributor to the planet’s energy usage — approximately 40 percent, in fact — so switching over to green building techniques wherever possible is no longer optional but necessary.
With that said, though, it can be intimidating to attempt to sell a client on green building practices. In some cases, eco-friendly construction methods are assumed to be synonymous with more expensive construction methods. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. By considering the following eight sustainable building techniques, you’ll be well on your way to implementing green building practices that benefit the client, the community and the planet as a whole.
1. Be purposeful in pre-construction planning. Ever heard the old saying, “Waste not, want not?” Having an excess of materials lying around a construction site is oftentimes an indicator of poor planning. Not only should you factor in the pollution and waste that occurs from having more than you need, but also the excess energy that was used to produce those materials. Proper planning also applies to when and how often equipment is available and can be used. The less energy consumed and emissions produced, the better.
2. Present clients with options for alternative energy systems. When on the hunt for an innovative construction method or technique that benefits the environment, encourage your clients to think of alternative energy systems. Think solar panels, eco-friendly insulation, composting toilets, rainwater irrigation systems and more. Make sure to highlight to your clients the money that can be saved in the long run with these systems, especially solar panels. While there is, of course, an installation fee, solar panels can reduce a building’s electricity bill by approximately 75 percent per month, and that’s not even including the savings that may be available through tax credits.
3. Use environmentally friendly equipment. One particularly simple way to focus on green building methods is to choose equipment that produces fewer emissions. See this guide by the EPA to learn about properly sized equipment, maintenance, and alternatives to diesel generators. Also make sure anyone operating the equipment is properly trained in practices like reducing idling and more.
4. Buy local, sustainable building materials. In addition to supporting the local economy, purchasing from local vendors helps to cut down on the energy used in transportation, which reduces the carbon footprint associated with your building materials.
5. Pay very close attention to energy efficiency. Don’t forget to focus on details. Doors and windows should be sealed as tightly as possible to eliminate energy loss. Glazes and tints can be applied to help with heating and cooling, as can air duct and pump sealing.
6. Have a strict plan in place for waste disposal. The EPA estimates that commercial construction companies account for about 130 million tons of debris sent to landfills. By being purposeful in your planning, you should be able to cut down on the waste at your site. However, be sure to send what is left to recycling centers if you can’t reuse the materials yourself.
7. Be careful in demolition phases. Before you begin tearing into things like flooring or ceiling materials that your client no longer wants, think about how those materials can be reused. This means careful demolition planning in order to reduce the amount of waste coming from your site.
8. Think of the birds. Commercial buildings can actually drastically impact local bird populations. In addition to destroying or reducing their natural habitats, large commercial structures can become a site of frequent fatalities for birds if a building is made of glass. If a modern glass style must be used, urge your client to think about factors like netting or special gels that may aid in preventing bird crashes.