As Earth Day approaches, we wanted to find out what members of the construction industry think about environmental impact and what steps they are taking towards reducing it. In our Builder’s Club survey, of the 290 responses we received, 80% reported having taken an action to reduce environmental impact in the last year.
39% reported having taken steps to reduce paper usage, including digital-only pathways for project management, eliminating paper blueprints, digital instead of paper long-term record archiving, and using screens to display status instead of daily paper reports.
Wes Simpson, Executive Director of Operations at Green Mechanical Construction, assessed the impact of their paper reduction strategies:
"Before Green Mechanical implemented Procore, we distributed 5 hard copies of each purchase order. Now, all of our PO's are held electronically. With the amount of PO's we write every year, we estimate saving over 10,000 sheets of paper from this alone. We have also implemented an electronic invoice router that will save even more paper. On top of this, much of our documentation management has seen reduced hard copies due to Procore, Sharefile, and other resources."
Senior Project Manager Sean Moraes at RPC Turn-Key solutions described a strategy that included using “large 50-60 inch screens on all sites that are attached to computers to show the most up to date drawings and site instructions.”
And Assistant Project Manager Zach Plancich of Madison Construction reported taking matters in to his own hands. “When working oilfield construction in Alaska, instead of having a notepad and paper I had an 11x17 dry erase board that I always took notes with.”
23% noted fundamental changes other than paper reduction they and their organization had made on jobsites. These actions included waste reduction and recycling, water reclamation, and ongoing energy efficiency efforts.
VP & Retired US Navy Seabee Master Chief Mike Korman reported diverting construction debris to Habitat For Humanity. Several construction professionals, including Project Administrator Carissa Stephens of Chancel HRT, mentioned implementing mandatory job site recycling for all waste. And Phil Moran, Chief Information Officer of D. F. Pray, reduced needless energy consumption by installing timers on generators and lights so that they are always off when not in use.
Engineering Assistant Travis Orth of Sierra View General Contractors has found a way to get recyclable materials directly into the hands of the local community. “Instead of throwing much of the excess building materials in the dumpster, I found local groups that utilized reclaimed and industrial type materials and offered it to them. They are utilizing the materials to build onto their community garden.”
But actions to reduce impact don't have to be organization-wide or a huge commitment. 10% commented that one small step they take is to reduce their transportation footprint to work or job sites. This included carpooling and use of electric vehicles and bicycles. Some often use public transportation to get to a site.
Even just changing light bulbs to LED lights, or ensuring that all the lights in the plant are turned off at the end of the day, can have a meaningful impact.