Few people would deny that striving for sustainability in the design and construction industries is a worthy goal.
In fact, it’s becoming an imperative. Globally, the construction industry consumes approximately 40% of the planet’s physical resources and 30% of its energy and accounts for 40% of solid waste and greenhouse gases.
Despite understanding the need for sustainability, many architects, designers and building owners see the associated costs as a barrier. The reality is that, while switching to sustainable building practices does require an initial investment, it’s not as much as many assume. In addition, embracing sustainability delivers some very real benefits.
Sustainable Practices Deliver Results
Research shows that, if companies were to simply embrace existing sustainability practices (no innovation required), they could expect to see the following results:
Other benefits associated with sustainability initiatives include access to public and private grants, federal and local tax incentives, and improved public perception.
– A revenue increase of at least 9%
– A 75% reduction in energy expenses
– A 10% reduction in waste management expenses
– A 10% reduction in costs associated with the consumption of materials and water
And then there’s the compounding effect. When architects, designers, engineers, contractors, suppliers, and building owners work together on sustainability, both the industry and the environment reap more benefits, more quickly.
Sustainable Solutions for Affordable Housing
The two-story homes at “the woods at Monticello” include numerous energy-efficient technologies, including the use of Fox Blocks’ ICF construction.
Other green features include:
-Geospring water heating systems
-SeriousWindows which have an impressive U-value of .15
-Low-wattage LED lighting
-Closed-cell spray foam for attic insulation
-An energy recovery ventilation system
The Road to Sustainable Design and Construction
As obvious as the benefits of sustainability are, getting there may mean a significant change in the way you’re doing business (depending on where you’re starting from, of course).
Rather than taking a piecemeal approach, it makes sense implement changes strategically by making a plan. Specific steps could include the following.
1. Preparing a case for building owners
Designing a building that’s green from the ground up requires buy-in from the building owner, so think about how you can persuade them.
-Develop a standard pitch that you can tweak depending on the individual project.
-Prepare responses to common objections.
-Prepare a list of possible sources of external funding (grants, tax credits, etc.).
-Put together a few case studies you can use to illustrate your selling points.
2. Stay on top of the latest industry innovations
The green building industry is booming, so you have to make an effort to stay on top of the latest developments in related fields. Good options include:
-Sustainable Building & Design Magazine
-Green Building Solutions
3. Stay on top of rating and certification opportunities
While you may have to convince some clients on the value of sustainable design and construction, others will specifically search out architects, designers, and contractors with proven experience in green buildings. Rating and certification opportunities include:
Be sure to talk about these certifications on your website and on your social media accounts (if you have them). This gives prospective clients an idea of what services you offer and will help you show up more frequently in online searches.
4. Choose the right partners
While a sustainable building starts with the design, it also requires the participation of suppliers and contractors.
Your efforts will be more successful if you choose suppliers with expertise in green building materials and contractors experienced in applying sustainable methods on their sites.
-ICF blocks are made with two layers of Expanded Polystyrene Insulation (EPS), surrounding a resilient reinforced concrete core. They can reduce a building’s HVAC costs by up to 40%.
-Cool roofing materials reflect the sun’s energy back into the atmosphere rather than transferring it into the building’s interior.
-Low-E windows have a coating of clear metallic oxide that keeps heat out during the summer and in during the winter.
-On-site recycling eliminates the transportation costs (and related fuel consumption) needed to transfer materials to an off-site recycling facility. Materials like excess concrete, for example, can be crushed on site and used for foundations, parking lots, etc.
-Contractors can use silt fencing to keep wastewater from reaching local water systems. Other contractors treat wastewater on site or use walk-off mats to remove dirt and chemicals from workers’ shoes.
-While on-site sorting of materials used to be common, the current best practice is to combine all waste materials in a single container to reduce the transportation costs associated with multiple half-filled containers.
-Protecting on-site vegetation is an important step in preventing soil erosion. Some contractors even use mulch to stabilize soil during non-growing seasons.
Staying Ahead in the Industry
There are many national, state and local incentive programs available that provide financial support to offset some of the capital costs in sustainable design and construction. By simply designing to meet specific thresholds for energy efficiency and sustainability, the architect, building owner or contractor can take advantage of these incentive programs and be recognized for their efforts.
Sustainable building design and construction is at a tipping point. For now, it’s a competitive advantage, allowing you to establish yourself as a leader in a segment that’s gaining in popularity (and will continue to do so).
Within a few years, sustainable buildings will become mainstream. They’ll be the norm, and architects and designers who can’t meet sustainability expectations will fall behind. Wouldn’t you rather be on the leading edge?