By Jennifer Outram
Now that sustainable practices and green building strategies have hit the mainstream market, integrating the best practices in green building into a company’s framework can boost environmental awareness as well as the company’s bottom line.
Embedding Sustainability into Operations
Firms should avoid the mistake of thinking that sustainability in the construction industry begins with large-scale blueprints and multimillion-dollar designs. It is important to consider how small- and medium-sized companies can establish healthy and sustainable practices for the environment as well as for employees.
The first practice sustainable companies must develop is promoting energy efficiency at work. This will help the company save money and improve the workspace environment. The first step companies can take is purchasing EPEAT-registered and Energy Star-rated products. EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) provides product ratings that support organizations’ IT and sustainability goals, while Energy Star offers products that are sustainably certified. Companies can also donate, recycle or dispose of outdated electronics at donation centers or recycling programs.
Companies can allow employees to work from home as well. This helps reduce transportation pollution that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints. By instituting virtual teleconferences and distributing materials electronically, companies can make it easier for employees to work from home.
Another step companies can take to improve sustainability is choosing certifiably sustainable or refurbished office furniture. Selecting sustainable office furniture can improve the air quality of the workspace, while also helping reduce unnecessary wood harvesting and use of raw natural materials. Selecting recycled furniture further saves energy, electricity and fuel required in the manufacturing and shipping process.
Designing with a Sustainable Purpose
By prioritizing sustainability at the very beginning of the design process, sustainability becomes the focus and not an afterthought. Whether the project is a new build, a retrofit or a renovation, there is now a wide variety of green building materials in the construction industry.
Some new green building materials include organic cellulose insulation made from recycled paper, flush toilets that use gray water, irrigation systems that use captured rainwater, solar heating and electrical systems, polystyrene drainage systems, energy recovery ventilators and many more. Many of these options are competitively priced, so incorporating them is a win-win solution for everyone.
Once the sustainable building components are selected, it’s important to know where they are produced, manufactured and transported. The best way to know how and where sustainable products come from is by researching suppliers to ensure they follow environmentally responsible practices. Local products and providers are generally considered the most efficient in terms of cost and energy consumption.
When a company makes a concentrated effort to offer the best practices in green building, it also supports the future of the construction industry.
Jennifer Outram works with Farmingdale, N.Y.-based ContractERP, which provides software solutions and technology advice for organizations working to improve sustainability. She can be reached at 866-743-5665 or at www.contracterp.com.