Garbage in, Green Building Out
Even as the architectural and construction industries all over the world are scaling down traditional projects in the light of this global economic downturn, the numbers are showing that green building construction practice is on the rise. This may be partly due to the significant returns on investment that green building represents, thanks to greater energy efficiency dividends. Yet, as always, there are even more opportunities to be gleaned from the pursuit of green building practices, even if some of them are ‘rubbish’.
What I actually mean is that the area of waste management is a burgeoning area of development. According to this article from eponline.com, waste management comes second to energy efficiency in terms of project goals. Yet, only 28% of materials on average are submitted for recycling and re-use. The importance of waste management being second to energy efficiency will continue to trend as more technologies develop, and as more project managers realize the cost-savings potential in this practice.
The article in turn quotes a McGraw Hill report on waste management on construction sites, which highlights some key areas. Here are some of them, quoted in the article and from the McGraw Hill press release about the report.
- Most contractors place sustainable waste management (61 percent) and responsible use of materials and resources (57 percent) as two of the three most important aspects of green building, behind energy efficiency. This importance is expected to increase in five years to 80 percent and 78 percent, respectively.
- Waste diversion activity is increasing despite the recession; 20 percent of firms are diverting half of their construction waste on 60 percent or more of projects, and 25 percent of firms expect to do so within the next year.
- The biggest drivers behind sustainable construction waste management practices include client demand (82 percent) and government regulations (81 percent). Competitive advantage (77 percent) and increases in education and awareness (75 percent) are also cited as major influencing factors.
- Already, 57 percent of contractors have set sustainability positions and diversion goals, and 43 percent plan to divert more than 50 percent of waste from projects this year.
A main driver here is cost savings and competitive advantage. Yet another aspect that comes into play as shown by the above, is client demand as the importance of green building emerges as a cultural phenomenon. The construction industry is traditionally looked upon as being somewhat conservative and immovable when it comes to new ways of approaching problems. Yet, meeting client demand is also a traditional business value. And it seems that clients are demanding green at every stage, including the way that waste is managed on site.
With this issue in particular, a connection is being made to incorporate the old ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ mantra on a commercial scale, rather than as a tagline aimed at individual consumers. To me, this is an indication that minds are being changed, driven by numbers, by imposed regulations, and by traditional economic realities. But it shows too that at heart, it is a change in priorities and consciousness on the part of decision makers and property owners that plays the greatest part in making a change in approach to construction projects on a commercial scale.
This is what happens in a healthy industry and its relation to the marketplace; good ideas are embraced, shared, and implemented across the board, to everyone’s benefit. And the ones that no longer make sense are trashed.