Building Sustainability into the Construction Sector

Sustainability is a big issue in the construction sector. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, 39 percent of the country’s CO2 emissions come from buildings, which also account for 40 percent of energy consumption, 13 percent of water consumption and 15 percent of GDP. Such impressive figures spell opportunity for the sustainable building sector.

The council manages the internationally recognized LEED certification issued to buildings that meet certain environmental benchmarks, including site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, use of sustainable materials and indoor environmental. The top award is LEED Platinum. Several companies are trying to conform to the standard, including some high profile ones.

General Motors has said it expects one of its engine plants being constructed in Brazil to be awarded a LEED certificate, an indication that automotive companies are looking to building sustainability to boost their green credentials.

There are other encouraging examples of sustainability in the construction sector. Pennsylvania State University chose a team of Balfour Beatty companies (Balfour Beatty Construction, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Heery International, and Halsall), one of the largest construction companies in the U.S., to provide integrated construction management services for the retrofit of Building 661 at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, Pa. The $30 million project will house the new home of a U.S. Department of Energy Innovation Hub for Energy-Efficient Buildings (EEB Hub), one out of a total of three hubs nationwide.

EEB Hub's mission is to reduce energy use in the U.S. commercial buildings sector by 20 percent by 2020. The Hub will design, demonstrate and deploy market-proven solutions in the Greater Philadelphia region to help the construction sector accomplish its full potential for ongoing energy efficiency. The Hub was previously known as the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster.

Elsewhere, CEMEX, one the world’s top building materials companies, has made improvements related to sustainable construction, the company’s carbon strategy, environmental and biodiversity management, and workplace safety. It has also taken forward socially responsible steps with affordable housing and infrastructure to communities around the world. The company has reached an alternative fuels substitution rate of close to 25% in its cement operations in 2011. The company says it is on track to achieve a rate of 35% by 2015. In addition, CEMEX’s Affordable Housing Program assisted in building more than 3.200 homes for economically-excluded families, and Its affordable housing solutions were made available in five new countries, including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala and Haiti.

Image credit: Builders Counsel