How to Commit to Sustainability at Every Step of the Building Process


Sustainability has evolved from a personal choice to a part of corporate social responsibility. Companies have started to embrace eco-friendly values, aware that consumers often prioritize brands that support a cause. That fact has made many businesses reevaluate their organizations, extending all the way to the construction industry. 

Read on to learn a little more about this trend, looking at strategies for sustainability in construction and its importance in every stage of the building process.

1. Research Passive Sustainability

How to Commit to Sustainability at Every Step of the Building Process

Builders and architects should first educate themselves on "passive sustainability." As context, "passive sustainability" refers to strategies that reduce the environmental impact of a project on the surrounding area. 

For example, sun orientation is a big factor in how much energy a commercial building will need. Direct sunlight on its windows will raise its interior temperature and force the AC to work overtime. On the other hand, not enough sunlight will raise the energy bill, as the occupants will need more lighting.

Passive sunlight sustainability involves orienting the longest dimensions of a building to face north and south. That way, most of the exterior surface will be in the sun's path to shade the windows and doors. 

2. Give Thought to Active Sustainability

How to Commit to Sustainability at Every Step of the Building Process

An "active sustainability" strategy will give tenants the power to reduce their carbon footprint every day. While it's important for the building to be eco-friendly in a passive way, the occupants should also get to participate in how their building gives back to the earth.

One option is to talk with clients about installing energy efficient HVAC systems. These HVAC systems are slightly different because of how they work. Using a variable speed motor, they control air flow at different speeds to regulate temperature. This ensures that the business's AC won't be on a high fan setting every time it comes on. 

3. Plan for Renewable Energy Systems

How to Commit to Sustainability at Every Step of the Building Process

Builders and architects can also plan for renewable energy. Investing in clean energy like solar and wind systems can have a substantial impact on a building's carbon footprint. In this situation, the systems are a type of passive sustainability.

Cost is often a concern, of course, but solar panels have fallen in price over recent years. That makes them more accessible to small businesses and mid-size corporations. Commercial businesses can also enjoy huge energy savings if they choose to invest. As context, solar panels save 83 percent of the average electric bill for commercial property owners.

Business owners also get a federal tax credit for using solar panels. That tax is approximately 30 percent of the cost of installing the system, with additional tax breaks in certain states.

4. Source Material Samples Through a Central Platform

Sample sourcing and management can be a lot more efficient and sustainable if you use an online sample hub like Swatchbox. Thousands of material samples are in one central location and can be shipped out incredibly fast. This means that you can source samples "on-demand" rather than having to keep a sample room fully stocked. You can also combine shipping from multiple brands to reduce packaging and shipping waste.

You can also return the samples for free when you are done with them so they can be used again.

5. Choose Native Plants for Landscaping

How to Commit to Sustainability at Every Step of the Building Process

During the planning stages of a commercial building, landscaping plays an important role. It may not seem significant, but picking the right plants will ultimately affect a building's sustainability. 

For example, grasses and plants that are native to other areas are often accustomed to different climates, requiring more water. Plants that are native to the area will have fewer issues. Trees also have value for sustainability. As they grow, they'll shade the building during the hottest times of the day, reducing the strain on an AC unit as it regulates the interior temperature of a building. 

6. Partner With Eco-Friendly Companies

A construction company should always seek out vendors with an eco-friendly reputation. When deciding where to purchase materials, they should first look for local sources. Buying local reduces an organization's carbon footprint by minimizing the distance the materials need to travel. 

Another step every team can take is to research the companies that sell the needed materials. Organizations that produce lumber, steel, concrete and finishing materials should mention somewhere on their website how they source those materials and if they recycle them.

7. Use Pervious Pavement for Stormwater

How to Commit to Sustainability at Every Step of the Building Process

Stormwater might be a passing thought for teams working on smaller construction projects, but they should take it seriously if they're running a sustainable site. After any amount of rainfall, the water seeps into untouched ground, refilling the levels of the local water table. After a big commercial building is complete, that ground is blocked off from absorbing more rain.

This includes parking lots, access roads, sidewalks and any other hardscaping. To get around this issue and help the local environment, consider using pervious pavement. Instead of forcing the water out into the surrounding ground, it soaks it up naturally and releases it into the ground below the pavement. The local environment still gets the water it needs and the property is more eco-friendly.

Committing to Building Sustainability

Business owners who are looking to build aren't always aware of sustainability best practices. It's the job of builders and architects to inform clients about their available options. Mentioning passive and active sustainability will change how a team draws up the project. Working with local and eco-friendly suppliers alters the course of the build, with their materials having as small of an impact on the earth as possible. 

With that in mind, it's important to communicate with clients who are concerned with sustainability. There are steps every crew can take to ensure they've considered all possible avenues, no matter the size or length of the project.

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