4 Simple Ways You and Your Crew Can Improve Sustainability on a Jobsite

As sustainable construction continues to evolve, many jobsites have started to explore new methods for minimizing water usage, conserving energy, protecting air quality, and decreasing waste. Often, efforts to build a sustainable jobsite yield direct cost benefits because of decreased fuel consumption — not to mention the higher levels of employee satisfaction. However, the initial steps for achieving jobsite sustainability require careful planning, analysis, and coordination.

1. Methods for Minimizing Water Usage

There are a number of simple methods of minimizing water usage on the jobsite. For example, workers can check hose couplings and nozzles to ensure that there are no leaks. Additionally, some construction sites use non-potable water to control dust, wash tools or boots, and keep the overall jobsite clean, and water-saving appliances in job trailers can also reduce waste water.

Construction activities can also leave soil vulnerable to erosion and run-off, and when storm water run-off moves across a jobsite, it moves trash, debris, sediment, oil, grease, and other toxic materials into nearby sources of water. As a result, many construction companies implement storm water pollution protection plans (SWPPP) to prevent soil erosion and the release of potential pollutants. The implementation of a SWPPP can include silt fences, sedimentation ponds, erosion control blankets, and temporary or permanent seeding — as well as keeping jobsites as clean as possible, of course.

2. Keys to Conserving Energy

Many jobsites utilize temporary lighting for security, safety, and interior work, especially if crew members are working at night or in confined spaces. While lighting for security purposes needs to be 24/7, temporary lighting used to illuminate workspaces should only operate during working hours. In addition, vendors can use energy-saving LED bulbs in temporary lighting fixtures; LED bulbs and energy-efficient equipment can also cut power usage in jobsite trailers.

When possible, companies should also conserve energy by using fuel-efficient vehicles and equipment. Fleet management software that utilizes GPS tracking to optimize routes can also increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles on the jobsite. 

3. Best Practices for Protecting Air Quality

Grinding, welding, chemicals, and exhaust from generators or vehicles are just a few examples of sources of dust, particulates, or contaminants that can be released into the jobsite environment and beyond. However, using environmentally-friendly sweeping compounds or dampening jobsite dust can help control the release of these contaminants, and propose use of ventilation and filtering systems can remove particulates from work areas.

Using prefabricated or off-site fabrication processes can also protect air quality and maximize waste management. Rather than expose construction workers to dust and other airborne particles, prefabrication and pre-assembly of building systems occurs in controlled environments, preventing unnecessary exposure. Of course, companies will need to find a balance between the cost of transporting pre-fabricated materials to a jobsite and the benefits gained through better air quality and waste management. 

4. Decreasing the Amount of Waste Materials

When setting up a jobsite, the use of reusable and recycled materials for fencing, concrete forms, scaffolding walkways, and other supplies can decrease costs in addition to reducing waste. For example, crushed concrete waste can be used to pack roadways (to minimize dust) or creating retaining walls. Some companies have created recycling centers that include processing and storage facilities for recycling waste aggregate materials. 

Keeping jobsites clean and well-organized can also reduce waste; for example, maintaining appropriate storage areas for materials will decrease the possibility of those materials becoming damaged during construction activities. Many companies are also moving away from paper toward the use of digital devices for record keeping, which eliminates waste. The use of digital tools also enhances communication throughout a jobsite and minimizes mistakes or errors. 

Of course, employee awareness is an important part of waste reduction, too. Placing recycling bins throughout a jobsite encourages employees to recycle everything from aluminum cans to batteries and electronic devices. Employees often also have the best and most innovative suggestions when it comes to reducing or eliminating waste, since they are the ones dealing with materials and equipment day in and day out. Companies are beginning to implement employee initiative programs to recognize those who prioritize green building techniques and waste reduction at work.