Skanska USA expresses its corporate commitment to the triple bottom line through its Sustainability Agenda. The following is the third of a five-part series exploring how Skanska is approaching the triple bottom line for the good of its clients, its respective businesses and for the good of the places we live, play and work. You can read parts one and two here.
In the design and construction community, the environmental focus is too often on what is being built: perhaps a facility targeting a level of LEED® certification or Living Building Challenge certification, or seeking to exceed ASHRAE 90.1 standards.
Those are wonderful measures for whoever will use a building after construction, but they say very little about those involved in construction – yet the volume of green work a contractor has is the basis for any number of green rankings. The truth is, the building team can influence the client’s wishes, but they don’t directly control them.
We need another way to fully measure and demonstrate the building team’s commitment and achievements towards sustainability. How can we as an industry make it easier to evaluate green credentials?
At Skanska, we developed our Green Strategic Indicators (GSIs) to help us measure our present status and our ambitions along three key green areas: our brand, our people and our projects. The resources tracked – against a 2011 baseline – are energy, carbon, materials, and water. These seven simple metrics provide a road map for how we build, and what we build.
Essentially, we want to measure and manage what a contractor can do to emphasize sustainability.
The most challenging goals relate to carbon footprinting and waste disposal. With waste handling, while large cities such as Washington, D.C., and Seattle routinely achieve high levels of waste diversion, that’s not always the case in less urban parts of the U.S. But no matter where we’re building or what the client’s requirements are, we’re obligated by our Green Strategic Indicators to recycle construction waste – even if it costs us more to do so. In 2013, our target is recycling at least 94 percent of our construction waste, a goal that increases to 98 waste diversion by 2015.
Read more: Carbon footprinting. [pagebreak]
For carbon footprinting, we are increasing the number of projects on which we track the carbon emissions of construction. We track this across three categories: embodied carbon of the materials we use, carbon emitted both in transporting people and supplies to and from the job sites, and the energy used during construction. This isn’t something our clients have asked us to do, but we need to do it to in order to benchmark and reduce construction-phase carbon emissions.
Besides reducing our environmental footprint, we’re finding that it makes good business sense to track carbon. For example, Skanska’s civil group is tracking carbon on some projects in the western U.S. For them, releasing less carbon means using less energy and materials, increasing efficiency and job savings.
These GSIs supplement another system that can affect the methods we use to work: our ISO 14001 environmental management system certification. ISO 14001 is a global standard for environmental management systems. It ensures regulatory compliance and that environmental impacts are being measured and reduced. Our ISO 14001 program tracks 10 elements, including resource and waste management, soil and erosion control, hazardous materials and noise and vibration.
ISO 14001 is embedded into how all our projects operate. Through this, our employees are informed of and connected to the Green Strategic Indicators. For our certification, we undergo annual third-party audits to ensure that we are doing what we say we do 100 percent of the time on all our projects.
By tracking environmental impacts through these methods, we can contribute to a better overall measurement of which contractors are truly working green – and which are only building it for their clients.
Courtney Lorenz is the Director of Environmental Management for Skanska USA Building.
A brighter, greener way to build
by Lee Chapman
Building project sites are typically lit up as brightly as Christmas trees around the clock, even at night when no workers are present.
But just as a greater focus on energy conservation has made high efficiency lighting and occupancy sensors commonplace in finished buildings, why can’t contractors use greener solutions for lighting buildings still under construction than always-on incandescent or metal halide fixtures?
I had that thought in mind at the 2009 Greenbuild in Phoenix. I tried to find a lighting manufacturer making strands of light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures for temporary use on jobsites. It seemed wasteful to pay large sums to power traditional fixtures when LED lights are much more efficient. Even if LED lights cost more than incandescent or metal halide fixtures, I sensed that the money would be more than recouped on longer projects, or by re-using the LED lights on multiple, shorter jobs.
I didn’t find a manufacturer that made temporary LED stringers, but I found a firm that was filling to try: Clear-Vu Lighting of Westbury, N.Y. Skanska and Clear-Vu collaborated to develop this new lighting product. The LED luminaries not only use less electricity than incandescent bulbs, but they are brighter as well for increased safety. And no more having your jobsite double as a Christmas tree: Clear-Vu incorporates a time clock that can dim the lights at night.
Skanska piloted the LED jobsite lighting in 2009, and it was a great success. Today, several Skanska projects are using it. We’ve found that the LED lighting pays for itself in three to five months, depending on utility rates. Even better, this product may earn a LEED Innovation in Design point depending on how it’s used.
With this LED lighting solution, we have a way to make construction a bit greener.
Lee Chapman is an Assistant Project Manager at Skanska USA.