We assembled a panel of industry experts to tackle this month’s question.
Here’s what they had to say:
Kristian Cichon, director of acquisitions, Deugen Development LLC (Hoboken)
The shift towards sustainability in the construction industry needs to continue improving both from an environmental and cost impact to a developer. As both a builder and owner, Deugen has shifted towards prefabrication, sourcing ‘greener’ equipment and working more frequently with locally based suppliers and contractors in an effort to reduce waste, energy consumption and ultimately reducing build and operation costs. Our new industrial project in East Rutherford will be a terrific demonstration of sustainability and efficiency as it will be comprised of a prefabricated superstructure and contain a solar roof that will be able to power the entire facility with clean energy. Throughout the rest of our portfolio, energy-efficient equipment selection —especially among the HVAC, plumbing and electric trades — has proven to generate a strong ROI when it comes to maintenance and energy cost savings in the long run.
Jillian Dorell, design & construction project manager, Larken Associates (Branchburg)
The use of premanufactured framing and walls and incorporating reclaimed materials into projects allows for economies of scale at the point of production to limit raw material waste. The increased adoption of these materials will make a significant impact on the industry’s sustainability efforts in the years to come.
Additionally, many carpet manufacturers are introducing lines with sustainable components and more companies are working on zero carbon emissions and have eliminated the use of toxic materials that have proven harmful to people and the environment.
Looking forward, I expect to see a larger push towards embracing environmentally responsible practices that also offer enhanced efficiency and profitability. There is a great opportunity to bring in building products and materials from U.S.-based manufacturers rather than foreign suppliers, which will enhance sustainability by requiring less time spent in transit using pollution-generating vehicles and vessels.
Tracey Kasper, principal, project management, Avison Young (Morristown)
Sustainable construction requires an experienced team, commitment from all parties and an understanding that meeting standards may affect project cost and timing.
Improve building performance and reduce waste and emissions with proper design and material selection. Design features can reduce noise, light pollution, heat island effects and water use, for example. Specify low-emission materials and recycled or reused products. Source locally to cut travel time and truck emissions while boosting the area economy. Further reduce vehicle emissions with electric or hydrogen models and schedule deliveries to avoid traffic congestion.
Methods matter, so follow sustainable practices such as separating recyclables, using proper filtration and reducing particulates. Avoid tracked-in contaminants or harmful solvents, glues and chemicals. Modular construction can reduce waste and pollution, and enhanced commissioning positions building systems for optimal performance. Following LEED, Energy Star and other rating systems provide design and construction requirements as well as tracking metrics for ongoing performance.
Andrew Natale, chief operating officer, SJP Project Solutions
Sustainability initiatives have become increasingly paramount to commercial real estate investors and developers, as well as within the communities where they operate. Ensuring the construction process meets these rising standards has rapidly become one of the most pressing issues in the industry.
Sustainability cannot be an afterthought in best-in-class real estate — it must be thoughtfully integrated into a project from conception. This can be achieved by immediately working with design firms to ensure that development plans reflect the highest standards of energy efficiency in building systems, which has become exponentially easier due to recent advances in technology.
Additionally, our current supply chain has been exposed as both carbon-intensive and fragile — however, this can be offset by sourcing locally supplied, renewable materials and utilizing recycled construction materials. Contractors can also minimize their environmental impact by instituting waste stream management practices to properly handle, store and dispose of ecologically damaging materials.
Breana Wheeler, U.S. director of operations, BREEAM
The market is experiencing growing pressure from investors and stakeholders focused on reducing the environmental impacts of the built environment. As design drives down operational carbon emissions, the scale of the carbon emissions from construction becomes more significant. The first thing to consider is how to best measure and report on the environmental impacts — and specifically carbon emissions — of construction projects. Emissions from the transport of materials, use of energy on site and creation and disposal of C&D waste all need to be measured robustly to identify ways to drive these numbers down. The industry must also invest in suitably qualified people and tools that automate sustainable tracking processes wherever possible, and be prepared for rigorous reporting requirements coming from owners throughout the tendering process. Construction firms that do not make this change will find themselves losing work as clients demand that they demonstrate their ability to measure, manage and report environmental impacts.