How Construction is Becoming More Sustainable

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A 2021 Forbes.com article stated, “Environmental sustainability and the energy-intensive construction industry don’t often go hand-in-hand.”

It’s true the industry consumes raw materials and natural resources and generates carbon emissions, but consider the positive aspects of the construction industry.

Image: Autodesk Connected Construction

The industry has managed to increase production despite supply chain disruptions, an extended labor shortage and the challenge of managing risks over the past two years that have derailed a great many project schedules. For example, starts of single-family residences in 2021 were up by 13%, while multi-family and commercial construction starts increased by 16%. The industry has been outright resilient.


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Despite the many challenges that face construction companies, there has been widespread adoption of sustainable practices around the world. Nearly half of companies are considering sustainability to be a major concern, which is notable when you realize it was a niche issue about a decade ago.

Of all industries, the largest uptick of interest in sustainable design has occurred in construction, where it makes economic sense to use renewable and recyclable materials and minimize heavy equipment on building projects to reduce energy consumption and waste. In addition, an International Institute for Management Development article related, “More companies are seeing sustainability as an area of competitive advantage…”

Image: GreenBuildingElements.com

That is impressive considering the challenges:

  • Regulations and safety
  • Labor shortages
  • Scalability and finances
  • Scheduling and supply chain issues
  • Sourcing alternative materials
  • Subcontractor issues
  • Technology adoption pressure

Even without the sustainability factor, today’s construction projects are complex to begin with. Even so, following are ways construction is becoming more sustainable:

  • Innovators are developing sustainable building materials that will result in lower carbon emissions. Some can even absorb carbon dioxide and heat from the environment.
  • Architects and engineers are designing more energy efficient buildings with the help of building information modeling (BIM) processes.
  • Increasingly more companies are digitizing their processes and using digital twins to enable sustainable practices throughout the lifecycle of a building. By operating assets and equipment in an energy efficient manner, long-term facilities operation and maintenance are more sustainable.
  • Prefabrication in a controlled environment increases precision and reduces material waste. Prefab is being used for construction of building modules, as well as mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.
  • By reducing trips to a jobsite during design, construction and after handover, mobile technology extends sustainability benefits across the project from start to finish.
  • Project data can be collected and used to track, measure and reduce emissions and waste throughout the project lifecycle.

As sustainable choices prove to be good for business , more engineering and construction companies are making sustainability a priority. Using less fuel is obviously profitable to business as well as the environment. As surveys by global strategy firm Kearney indicated, if the cost of sustainable products was lower, more companies would use them to meet sustainability goals. Meanwhile, customer and investor demand for sustainable buildings will continue to drive adoption, goal-setting and sustainable business practices.