The Construction Team’s Role on a Sustainable Design Team

By Kristin M. Purdy, AIA

Successful sustainably-focused projects require shared values and vision throughout a project — from early design stages through construction. Whereas conventional projects usually focus primarily on initial material cost, sustainably-minded projects consider the full life-cycle cost of the building.

The top five ways your construction team helps to achieve sustainability goals:

  1. Review the Project Specifications for Sustainable Goals
    Review the environmental performance requirements in the “front end” of the project specifications, outline environmental rating certification goals and energy performance requirements. Sometimes certification is not a sustainability goal for a project, but certain environmentally-conscious decisions are. This would also be indicated in the project specifications. It’s critical to understand environmental performance requirements and sustainability goals during estimating, bidding, and execution.
  2. Consider Short Term Versus Long Term Cost in Early Planning
    Source high-quality, long-lasting, healthy, locally manufactured materials. They may not always be the least expensive, but consider the long-term and regional impact the project’s sustainability goals have that override first-cost investments. Design and construction teams benefit from evaluating these options together.
  3. Divert Debris
    Most construction and demolition debris can be diverted from a landfill through intentional recycling and diversion. And many interior finish materials can be recovered through manufacturers’ reuse or take-back programs.
  4. Indoor Air Quality Plan
    Develop an indoor air quality plan that promotes environmentally-conscious decisions. The construction and design team can promote the use of low-toxicity and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials in the building and on the project site. These changes protect site workers from harmful chemical exposure as well as occupants from material and product off-gassing.
  5. Implement an Integrative Process
    For a project to be environmentally successful, the design team, contractors and construction managers must share clients’ sustainability goals with subcontractors and suppliers. By engaging the entire team early on, there will be an increased opportunity for all to contribute to achieving mutual sustainability goals.

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