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4 Ways To Turn Sustainability Into Profitability


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Green building practices used to mean simply reducing, reusing, and recycling waste (3Rs). However, there was no good way for companies to build businesses around those concepts. For contractors, 3Rs used to equate to more work without a corresponding increase in revenue. 

If your company is like 60% of other development and AEC firms worldwide, you will incorporate green building practices in 39% of your 2018 projects.

A lot has changed since then. Today, if you want to incorporate green building practices, you'll be doing a lot more than just reducing, reusing and recycling. You'll do it all gladly, too, because it's profitable. Also, you won't be alone.  

If your company is like 60 percent of other development and AEC firms worldwide, you will incorporate green building practices in 39 percent of your 2018 projects. That's an increase from 24 percent in 2015, according to Dodge Data and Analytics. If you don't incorporate any green building practices during 2018, you'll be swimming with a shrinking pool of companies. Just eight of 100 development and AEC firms won't be doing any green building in 2018. That's down from 12 of 100 in 2015.

1. Get Energetic About Energy Efficiency

Reducing energy demands results in a measurable return on investment for building owners. More and more projects take a holistic view of the structure during design to include excellent insulation, HVAC systems with high energy efficiency ratings, efficient lighting, lighting controls, and energy efficient glazing. 

There is also a movement toward harmonizing all building systems, so they work as a whole to squeeze out every last bit of energy efficiency. As building components increasingly include sensors, the race is on to link them up so they 'talk' to one another. These sensor conversations are the next step in the evolution toward smart buildings that can manage every little aspect of energy use. Contractors can benefit from the new energy trends by staying informed, looking for ways to influence design choices related to energy efficiency, and becoming expert at incorporating energy efficient components.

2. Put Green into Existing Buildings

Greening up existing buildings ranks as number two in the United States Green Building Council list of top five trends in green building practices. What’s more, as the Dodge report cited above claims, this market will have a particular focus in the Americas. By this year, 43 percent of surveyed AEC firms expect to bring green building practices to their work on existing buildings. That's six percent more than the world average. 

While energy efficiency tops the list, water conservation and making the indoor environment healthier are also of extreme importance.

While energy efficiency tops the list, water conservation and making the indoor environment healthier are also of extreme importance. Projects are meeting those needs by:

  • installing smart heating and cooling systems
  •  including smart appliances and smart fixtures
  • refurbishing and improving insulation
  •  replacing and retrofitting glazing
  • avoiding products that emit volatile organic compounds
  • improving air movement and circulation    

3. Harness Timeworn Proven Strategies

3Rs are as powerful in green building practices as ever, and they're proven to deliver benefits to every stakeholder on a construction project. Just consider recycling.

Construction and demolition waste are a global problem that's choking landfills with materials that leave a dangerous legacy and pose a potential contamination hazard to groundwater and soils. This waste stream accounts for over 40 percent of the municipal solid waste. It doesn't have to be that way, though. The University of Florida demonstrated how it successfully diverted 84 percent of the waste from one of its projects by recycling asphalt, concrete, cardboard, gypsum board, debris from land clearing, lime rock, and steel.

If you know how to reduce, reuse and recycle, you can use this valuable knowledge to incorporate green building practices into your next project. However, the key is to start early. Set goals for generating as little amount of waste as possible and recycling what is generated. 

4. Put Planning at the Top of the List 

Even though project specifications might sometimes limit the scope of your recycling efforts, there are many recyclable materials common to construction projects. For the best results, remember to to plan for recycling before construction gets underway. 

Salvaging building components from demolition for later use and repurposing portions of structures are also only viable if you plan for them during project scoping. To make the most of these, you need to lay the groundwork as you're estimating the project. In short, incorporating these proven green building practices requires forethought and planning. 

Never limit the effect you can have on green building by underestimating your influence.

Finally, never limit the effect you can have on green building by underestimating your influence. When you have the knowledge and the experience, you can make the case convincingly even if you are not directly informing the design process. 

On the projects where you can inform design, especially when doing a design-build project, you can have greater influence on the green building practices. The key is to have a firm understanding of what motivates owners toward green and how to implement strategies for energy efficiency, retrofitting existing buildings, reducing, reusing, and recycling.

If you liked this article, here are a few more you might enjoy: 

Is Green Building Worth It?

Go Green!

Are You Ready for All the New Business Opportunities in Renewable Energy?

The Future of Green Building

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