Pollution and climate change have devastating impacts on the modern world. Across the globe, nine out of every 10 people breathe polluted air, and climate change has the potential to alter the global landscape dramatically and permanently.
Construction projects generate significant amounts of pollution and waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that construction and demolition projects generate approximately 569 million tons of waste every year. But environmentally friendly construction strategies can help reduce waste and curb the emission of pollutants.
What are sustainable construction techniques, why are they important, and what steps can construction businesses take to implement them? We'll answer these questions below.
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Green construction refers to practices that promote responsible building, reduce waste and help preserve the environment. Green construction practices can take a variety of forms, but they commonly extend to multiple aspects of the construction process, including design, building, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.
Some environmentally friendly strategies construction businesses can implement include the following:
Construction business owners and contractors can take several steps to improve overall health and safety on the job site. Using safer, eco-friendly products and safety-conscious protocols is one such step. Consider implementing these products and programs:
Traditional demolition practices generate tremendous amounts of rubble and waste that tend to pile up in landfills — including materials such as concrete, wood, asphalt, gypsum from drywall, metals, bricks, glass, plastics, trees, stumps and earth. But greener demolition practices can help alleviate this concern. Some improved, environmentally friendly demolition practices companies can adopt include the following:
Construction businesses and contractors can also do their part for the environment by using locally sourced and alternative materials. Transporting materials over excessive distances leads to higher fuel consumption and dramatically increases the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Buying locally helps reduce both fuel consumption and emissions. And alternative materials help cut down on the release of toxic pollutants.
Here are a few alternative and recycled materials for use in construction projects:
Using locally sourced and alternative materials is an excellent way to help protect the environment, but it has ancillary benefits for construction companies as well. Using locally sourced materials often means shorter transit times and fewer transportation-related delays in construction. And buying locally helps support the local economy and gives nearby businesses a much-appreciated boost. Those businesses may one day repay the favor by engaging your construction services, extending the benefits all around.
Construction companies can use renewable energy sources as part of their green construction strategies. Harnessing renewable energy sources can help construction businesses reduce their fossil fuel consumption and make their buildings more energy-efficient.
Harnessing renewable also offers several ancillary benefits. If fuel costs in your area are high, using renewable energy may help your company lower its utility costs. And using alternative forms of energy helps reduce strain on the electrical grid and reduce the risk of blackouts and brownouts, especially in the summer, when electricity costs often soar.
Using solar panels on the roofs of buildings or as standalone panels in yards or gardens helps transform buildings into power generators. In a residential construction project, contractors could install photovoltaic windows that contain solar cells. These windows would be able to adjust their transparency in response to the amount of sunlight they received and help moderate the temperature inside the home.
Using solar power in building construction can provide these benefits:
Using the power generated from turbine farms is another way to invest in alternative energy. Construction companies can use wind turbines of any size to help power their buildings. They can partner with large wind farms for energy, or they can install vertical axis or helical wind turbines on the roofs or in the yards of new constructions. These installations help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, and they also offer the benefit of requiring very little maintenance.
The U.S. Department of Energy lists these advantages of using wind energy instead of fossil fuel energy:
Geothermal energy is less well known than its wind and solar counterparts, but it offers a valuable alternative to fossil fuels as well.
Geothermal energy is the heat energy produced beneath the earth's crust. Reservoirs of hot water lie at various depths beneath the surface of the earth. Water and steam carry this energy to the earth's surface, where it sometimes erupts as geysers or forms bubbling hot springs.
But even where these natural features are not visible at the surface, companies can drill wells a mile deep or more to tap into these valuable reservoirs. Then they harness the subterranean heat and use it for energy in place of traditional fuels.
The U.S. Department of Energy lists the following benefits of geothermal energy:
Construction businesses can also work with land developers to incorporate green space and mixed-use areas into their projects. Incorporating green spaces into construction projects allows vegetation to flourish and increases the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere. Green spaces can be parks or tree-lined walkways, but they can also include innovative solutions like rooftop or indoor gardens.
Incorporating green spaces helps improve the air quality inside buildings as well — plants act as natural air filters, removing carbon dioxide and pollutants and releasing clean oxygen for a fresher indoor environment.
Mixed-use spaces can also help form part of an eco-friendly construction strategy. Instead of merely building a commercial complex, a construction business could partner with a land developer to create a multipurpose area containing office buildings, parks and tree-lined bike paths. A space like this would help sustain the local ecosystem as well as promote the additional benefits of fitness and community.
Construction equipment can drink up gallons of fuel and produce tons of carbon emissions. But choosing eco-friendly equipment can help reduce these harmful environmental impacts. Look for machinery with low fuel consumption and low emissions, or rent equipment that can use alternative fuels or biodegradable hydraulic oil.
A few of the latest trends in eco-friendly construction techniques and installations include the following:
Implementing green construction strategies provides several different benefits for construction businesses, consumers and the community.
Of course, the environmental benefits that result from green construction practices are the most important. Petroleum generators and leaking pipelines can cause catastrophic environmental damage. And the carbon emissions associated with fossil fuel consumption are well known for their impact on global temperature increases, polar ice cap melting, ocean acidification, increased severe weather patterns and more. Using sustainable energies and practices helps curb these harmful effects and promote a healthy global ecosystem that we and our descendants can enjoy for generations.
Energy efficiency often goes hand in hand with financial efficiency. Using green construction practices can help lower costs. In the United States, 20% of all the energy used goes toward powering commercial buildings, but greener practices can help low that number. For instance, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that commercial buildings that rely on solar energy use up to 70% less electricity than conventional buildings and provide benefits in the form of reduced utility bills.
The green energy sector helps create much-needed jobs across the country. Demand is high for people who have the skills and expertise to design, install and maintain solar panels and wind turbines. And in the future, the green energy sector will only expand. It will need more people to develop innovations in sustainable energy and more people with the skills to keep the new technology running effectively. By incorporating sustainable energy into their construction practices, construction businesses help create job opportunities in their communities and across the United States.
Implementing eco-friendly construction practices also helps businesses receive tax benefits they can use to boost their savings or grow and develop. Homes and businesses that have incorporated green energy solutions like photovoltaic cells, solar heaters, geothermal energy, small wind farms of or energy-efficient appliances are eligible to collect tax incentives from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These incentives can help encourage companies to incorporate green solutions as part of their business operations.
For construction companies, green practices often provide a boost in reputation. More and more, consumers are looking to businesses to demonstrate their values in the way they operate. If businesses don't share their values, consumers are less likely to work with them. But a company that demonstrates genuine care for the well-being of the community and the environment will likely earn clients' respect.
When local businesses and residents learn that they can trust a construction company to operate in eco-friendly ways — and provide quality results while doing so — they are more likely to partner with the company for construction services. They are also more likely to engage in word-of-mouth advertising that helps boost the company's reputation even more and allow it to win more and more bids.
Rent whatever you need from the people who do whatever it takes. That's the Cat® rental motto, and it has served our customers well for years. When you need quality, green equipment for your job site, contact The Cat Rental Store to find eco-friendly machines among our extensive catalog of rental equipment. We are committed to keeping up with the latest trends in green construction and can help you find the solutions you need.
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