Contractors share their thoughts on reducing a job’s environmental footprint.
Industry is going greener, and construction is no exception.
"Contractors are stepping up their sustainability game, not just in the buildings they are constructing but in their practices and operations around the jobsite,” said Tommy Linstroth, CEO of Green Badger, which produces collaborative web and mobile apps for the green construction industry. Linstroth said his company works with general contractors around the country to help implement sustainability goals.
“One of the easiest, though often neglected, first steps is clearly communicating your sustainability policies in the job trailer and around the site,” Linstroth noted. “What good does having a recycling program in place matter when no one knows how to use it?” By way of example, he said Choate Construction, a southeast commercial general contractor, clearly posts expectations for their employees and all subs for waste and indoor air quality.
Some contractors are taking an aggressive approach to going green. “Lendlease is working on zero-waste construction practices and has partnered with the drywall industry to effect change in recycling practices,” Linstroth said. “Turner Construction is exploring how to have net-zero jobsites by offsetting all the electricity used in the construction process."
“The number one reason why this is important is because of the immediate effect of construction — it reduces the surface area of soil and puts greatly in imbalance any existing ecosystems, natural water outlets or plants that used to absorb it.”
Soil stabilization is a green focus at structural steel fabricator and installer Rosh Metal. Alex Bar, the company’s operations manager, called it probably the most important measure to take to reduce construction-related environmental impact.
“The number one reason why this is important is because of the immediate effect of construction — it reduces the surface area of soil and puts greatly in imbalance any existing ecosystems, natural water outlets or plants that used to absorb it.” Soil stabilization helps eliminate that imbalance, provides a firmer foundation for the building and abates erosion effects, he noted.
Sotereas (Teris) Pantazes, now CEO of home improvement platform EFynch, said he thought a lot about how to implement green practices when he owned a solar installation company for 10 years.
“Scrap metal has value, so every year we saved the scrap metal at our warehouse and would cash it out — recycle — in November,” said Pantazes. “The metal we saved each year would pay for our company Christmas party.” Having that end benefit provided a real incentive for his crews to work hard to collect scrap metal and trash.
His full team participated in a 15-minute trash pickup around the jobsite at the end of every work day, separating their finds into rubbish and recycling. “You would be surprised in modern times how recyclable all packaging has become. Everything from cardboard boxes, hard plastics and metal shipping bands, which could have as much as 5 pounds of steel in one pallet,” he added.
During his 10 years in solar installation, doing more than 5,000 jobs, Pantazes said he averaged less than 10 pounds of trash per job. “Think about it — that is probably less than one full contractor trash bag.”
Find more advice on greening your construction jobsite in4 Simple Ways You and Your Crew Can Improve Sustainability on a Jobsite.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.