Sustainable construction requires contractors to build roads, bridges, buildings, and seawalls with a focus on reducing the social, economic, and environmental impact of the project—and it’s becoming increasingly important.
The construction industry has a significant impact on the environment, particularly through energy use and fossil fuel emission. In fact, the building and construction industry is responsible for roughly 39 percent of all carbon emissions in the world.
The demand for sustainable construction is growing, with the green building materials market expected to grow by $187.4 billion to 2027. Growth is driven by a variety of factors, including government regulations, investment by federal agencies, and, of course, the beneficial impact on the environment.
Contractors who want to remain competitive are embracing sustainable building construction techniques and making them a part of their standard operating procedures.
Sustainable construction techniques
It may seem daunting to start the transition to sustainable construction, but it’s worth the time and investment. Environmental benefits of sustainable construction include:
- Natural resource protection
- Pollution reduction
- Lower carbon footprint
- Energy consumption reduction
- Reduced waste
There are also benefits to the business, including:
- Improved reputation in the market and the community
- Tax incentives
- Cost savings on environmental services
- Increased leads on projects as demand for sustainability increases
Here are eight sustainable construction techniques you can start to implement today, along with some insight into how our own product—Cor-Tuf Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) is a premium material for sustainable concrete construction..
Use prefabricated elements
As you surely know, prefabricated construction is the creation of structural elements offsite. Once complete, prefabricated components are transported to the job site for installation.
Prefabrication allows construction companies to build components in a controlled environment, which improves quality. Better quality translates into fewer mistakes and, therefore, less waste.
Prefabricated elements can be built faster, as the machinery needed for construction is already set up and ready to go. Some structural components require large machinery for manufacturing, and transporting that machinery to the job site for construction wastes time and energy. Keeping all machinery in one central location lowers fuel consumption.
When components are manufactured offsite, the amount of machinery and laborers required onsite decreases. Installation can be done more quickly. This reduces the time roads or bridges are closed for construction. This creates less pollution since drivers don’t have to take long detours and there are less traffic jams and congestion.
One specific type of prefabrication worth noting is a sustainable bridge construction technique called accelerated bridge construction (ABC). We have used the ABC method with Cor-Tuf Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC) and have seen, firsthand, the reduced environmental impact of bridge construction with this method.
ABC construction projects are faster, requiring less time on the job site. Multiple components can be built offsite and then installed simultaneously on the job site. Shorter bridge closures reduce traffic congestion and pollution while improving the safety of workers and local residents. It’s also better for the local economy, as long road closures can negatively impact local businesses.
Additionally, when you use Cor-Tuf UHPC for prefabricated elements, the components last longer, reducing the need for future maintenance and lowering the total overall cost of the project.
Low-impact design (LID)
LID refers to low-impact construction techniques that reduce the effect on the surrounding environment. Low-impact building provides many benefits to construction projects, including improved water quality, reduced runoff, and improved ecosystem diversity.
Cor-Tuf UHPC is the ideal material for Low-Impact Design. It can be transported and installed with smaller machinery. Reduced emissions and ground disturbance provide a greener construction option.
Cor-Tuf also delivers decreased Limits of Disturbance (LOD), making it a great choice for environmentally sensitive areas. When used for sustainable bridge construction, Cor-Tuf concrete piles require less footing and support because they are lighter in weight. The total number of concrete piles required for a bridge is also lowered due to Cor-Tuf’s superior strength and durability. The combination of fewer pilings and reduced footing requirements further lowers the environmental impact of bridge construction projects and creates less disturbance to the local ecosystem.
Limit the use of large equipment
Large equipment consumes more energy and creates more pollution. Prefabrication reduces the need for large machinery on the job site, but contractors should also be on the lookout for sustainable building materials that can be installed onsite with smaller equipment.
Cor-Tuf UHPC is one such material. Due to the greatly increased strength per pound of Cor-Tuf UHPC, components can be both significantly smaller and lighter than those made from traditional concrete. In fact, concrete walls made with Cor-Tuf are 50 percent lighter when compared to traditional concrete.
With smaller, fewer, and lighter components, all aspects of the building process can be dramatically reduced. This extends throughout the entire process, including design, manufacture of raw materials, time required for component manufacture, energy usage, machinery size and complexity, labor man-hours, environmental impact, and overall time of disruption.
All of this translates into a markedly smaller impact on the community and the taxpayers: a very real win for all concerned.
Plan ahead to limit idle time
Planning each construction job out step by step as you go wastes time and energy. The less time laborers spend waiting and machines sit idling, the better it is for the environment.
Planning ahead for each project is the best way to get onsite work done quickly and efficiently, so your team consumes the least amount of energy and creates less waste. We recommend standardizing as many processes as possible, so everyone on your team is familiar with how to perform certain tasks. Standardization also helps your bottom line, as an efficient team can get more work accomplished in less time.
Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a technology that allows subcontractors to collaborate on projects and estimate the amount of material required for a specific section of a project. These estimates reduce the amount of time and labor required (while minimizing waste in the process).
Use sustainable and energy efficient materials
Construction companies can select building materials that are built from recycled materials. Using locally sourced materials also has a positive environmental impact, as this reduces the transportation needed for delivery.
Materials that come with less packaging are also more environmentally friendly. Additionally, we recommend using lighter-weight materials, as they require less fuel for transportation.
Cor-Tuf UHPC, for example, delivers the same strength as steel, but with much lower costs. Contractors can use smaller machinery to transport Cor-Tuf UHPC and reduce fuel consumption without sacrificing quality. And since Cor-Tuf UHPC is resistant to oxidation and environmental degradation, it lasts longer. An average lifespan of 100 years lowers maintenance requirements, helping the environment while saving money.
Work with the seasons
Believe it or not, the weather can have a direct correlation to your impact on local wildlife and vegetation. The growing season of plants, egg incubation periods for local wildlife, and bird nestings are just some of the seasonal factors to consider when planning construction projects. The best way to reduce your negative impact is to work with local officials and environmental experts to plan the ideal time for construction work.
Reduce overall environmental impact
Runoff from construction projects pollutes sewer systems and waterways. Contractors can use silt fencing to contain runoff and protect local waterways.
Something as simple as prohibiting construction workers from smoking on the job site also helps reduce pollution. Recycling waste is yet another step that can be taken to help the environment.
Encouraging workers to sort waste materials on the job site helps with recycling efforts, making this an excellent practice to standardize on jobs. Waste reduction further reduces a project’s overall environmental impact.
Given the increase in demand, now is the time for contractors to embrace sustainable construction. There are many ways to start on the path towards sustainable projects that are environmentally friendly. We are proud that Cor-Tuf helps deliver a quality construction project with a low environmental impact. The exceptional durability of Cor-Tuf UHPC provides a lower total life cycle cost while delivering the additional benefits of safety, resiliency, and energy efficiency.