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Recently, I was asked, “Can contractors really make a difference with sustainability and high performance?” I was surprised by the question because it seemed rather old-school to me.
We’ve come a long way in our design and construction practices. Today, the preconstruction process is more integrated and more fluid, providing plenty of opportunity for contractors to impact the outcome.
Gone are the days where we sit idle waiting for drawings from the architect. We are pulled into the design process earlier. We are seeing positions like “design phase manager” being created, and we are hiring the architect through design-build contracts.
Aside from the design of the facility, according to environmental studies that have been done, the largest contributor to greenhouse gases is construction - when we are putting the work in place.
This question made me realize that there is still a ways to go in educating, and thus, challenging ourselves to think more holistically. Those of us in construction are in a profound position to transform the world around us.
What kind of impact are we talking about?
Contractors directly affect climate change through greenhouse gas emissions
It’s time for us to take responsibility for our portion of greenhouse gas emissions!
At Pepper, we’ve moved the conversation beyond the sustainability of our buildings to the sustainability of those who inhabit them, because the health of our environment is closely tied to the health of our bodies.
The more global warming we have, the more extreme weather events we experience, which leads to increased exposure to viruses and a depletion of the resources on which we depend. For our health, the more greenhouse gases in our air means we breathe more pollution… and the sicker we become.
We know that sustainability isn’t a choice anymore. Regulations or not, what we do impacts our environment so we have a stake in the game. Toxic materials and climate change affect our work too. Construction pollution presents risk, safety and health implications for all of us.
Fortunately, there are several areas in which we are already succeeding without even thinking about it – simply because it’s the right thing to do.
More and more, contractors are invited to the design table early. It’s an opportunity to add value and impact performance both during construction and in the lifecycle of the building.
Sustainability is not new, and I believe within the next five years high performance and resiliency will be just as common as LEED is today. It isn't about implementing another checklist; it’s how buildings get built. And companies that don't plan for it will be left behind.
At Pepper, our services are integrated with each other because estimating, safety, quality, sustainability… they’re all tied together.
I follow leading organizations like the Harvard School of Public Health and developments like the Paris Agreement on climate change. It’s exciting to see the world recognize the need for change and take steps to get there. But we don’t have to wait for change to come from the top, down. It can start with us. If each of us reduces our impact, we can put in place a movement and pay it forward for generations to come.
I came to Pepper from the design side. As an architect working with different general contractors, I saw some of them recommend alternative, unhealthy materials and products because they didn’t know any better. Contractors who are aware of environmental impacts have the opportunity to influence our projects and our industry through the construction process, as much or more than design firms.
So, can a general contractor really impact the performance and sustainability of our buildings? Yes, without a doubt. It’s why I joined Pepper.
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