Big Project ME ‘Top 10 Green Building Tips’
The below tips are directed to all stakeholders involved throughout the supply chain of the construction industry (from architects/designers to end-users/operators) to operate in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner. All these tips complement each other and should be applied in accordance with the projects’ specific requirements and contexts. As such they are not ranked in a specific order.
Each of these points is a “tip” for those involved in the construction industry to operate in a more environmentally and economically sustainable manner.
- Actively engage in sustainable procurement: keeping a constant dialogue with the suppliers involved during the project and knowing where their products come from (how they are produced, where they are derived from and in which conditions) can already lead to better practices. Ensure that human rights and biodiversity are not threatened throughout the production chain of the products and services you use. Products that are manufactured locally/regionally will have a lower impact in terms of transportation-related carbon footprint. They can also support the economic development of a designated region/industry. Review the GRI reports of the suppliers and/or choose suppliers that disclose their environmental/CSR/ISO policies and standards.Another way to procure construction material sustainably is to ask suppliers to deliver products in sturdy pallets or containers. These should be returnable and can reduce construction wastage related to packaging of products.
- Develop an integrated project design and delivery plan: an “efficient” project in terms of implementation but also in terms of environmental / sustainable / green standards includes all stakeholders (at all levels) that should cooperate from the project’s inception. The action plan should not be clustered but a holistic approach should be encouraged, where inputs from everyone are welcomed at each stage of the project to gain valuable insights, share best practices and learn from each other’s expertise. Models such as Building Information Models (BIM) can help rationalize processes, identify risks and challenges, and optimize cooperation.
- Prioritize training and awareness: staff should continuously be encouraged to engage in training programmes relevant to their field of action, but they should also understand the key concepts and processes behind sustainability and green requirements and standards. This is especially important as these standards continuously evolve, with new regulations enforced and new technologies developed. If staff understand how their actions affect the overall efficiency of their office/building, then they are empowered to contribute to its energy savings.The above is also true for building owners. Training for owners, developers and contractors should also be prioritized, reminding them that “building green” is not necessarily more expensive than using conventional/traditional materials and systems. Instead, if well designed, a green building will add value to a project through reduced operational costs and will provide a healthier/safer environment to its occupants, and thus will increase the buildings overall value. Communications, awareness and financial modeling to highlight middle and long-term savings are keys.
- Respect green building standards and regulations: This tip might sound obvious, but the current changes in regulations in the region imply that you remain informed on the new requirements, mechanisms and documents required and to have your project approved. Complying with the new regulations (for instance in Dubai) will impact your operations but will surely have a long-term positive impact on the environment. Respond pro-actively to these changes by keeping yourself informed, by training your staff and updating your internal processes accordingly.
- Respect the regulations and standards on HSE: Complying with the enforced regulations in a specific emirate/country should be complemented with the implementation of specific policies and standards on Health, Safety and Environment. Global assessment methods (BREEAM, ASHRAE) and norms (ISO) have been widely used globally and helped raise the bar in terms of HSE performances. They ensure that proper processes and control mechanisms are in place to optimize the activities and guarantee staff safety. Control, compile, report and assess any breach in these standards, and identify solutions to solve issues at the earliest.
- Encourage innovations and implement new technologies: remain informed on new technologies and systems that could help you perform better, at lower costs and with a lower impact on the environment. Follow the market trends, but also consider new ideas developed by the Academia as they might represent the future of your industry.
- Prepare a carbon/environmental management plan: sustainability should be part of your project and mindset since the earliest stage, and each step of the project should be reviewed and assessed against the possible environmental targets you have in place (energy-water savings, recycling targets, …).In your project proposals, include a carbon/environmental management plan with a list of specific targets, chain of responsibilities, tools and indicators to assess the success of your plan. Define a strict baseline and materiality assessment, and complement them with a sustainability/energy audit to identify targets and methodology.
- Implement sustainable/green building design: a building that approaches sustainability and green features/materials from its design phase has a very strong potential to perform in an environmentally friendly manner. The design and architectural phase will take into account the geographical location of the project, its position, its requirements and need in terms of materials and systems. Based on the previous point, including “green” on the design phase is a proactive way to reach great performances, and prevents the contractors from engaging in corrective measures later on in the project.Considering sustainability from the design phase is crucial, and just as important is the need to keep in mind the end product, its users and its main purpose.
- Consider retrofit: As a building owner, inform yourself on your assets’ current energy and water performances by engaging in a sustainability/energy audit. Define areas of change and consumption reduction targets, and apply retrofit initiatives to reach them, considering that some can be achieved as low cost/no cost.
- “You can’t save what you can’t measure”: throughout the implementation of your project, continuously measure and keep track of your energy and water consumption, either manually or using metering systems. This will help you identify potential areas of waste and room for improvement during the implementation of the same projects or for future ones. In line with these measurements, identify systems, tools, materials…that will help you improve your performance by reducing your energy and water consumption.
- Understand biodiversity and climatic context: Be aware of the environment in which you operate, and of the impact your activities will have on biodiversity in order to reduce environmental risks and prevent any damages (for instance water/soils/air pollution).Work with the environment, not against it: consider using renewable energy (i.e. solar) onsite to limit your energy consumption from fossil fuels. Be aware of the climatic conditions and design your project with the environment in mind.
- Share best practices with other companies/stakeholders: An easy way to improve your performances is to share solutions and best practices with all the stakeholders involved in your project, but also with the other organizations in your field of activities. This does not imply to breach confidentiality between the different companies, but it can instead contribute to identify solutions that can benefit all. Through its various events (networking, focus days, monthly technical workshops), EmiratesGBC, for example, provides an active platform for its members to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
- Do not miss the commissioning and quality assurance stages: Commissioning is the process of verifying and documenting that the facility and all of its systems, components and assemblies are planned, designed, installed, tested, operated, and maintained to meet the owner’s project requirements. This stage is critical to reduce the cost of delivering the project while ensuring that all stakeholders involved in the project implementation are fully accountable for the quality of their work and the performance of the asset.
- Involve experts: Do take advantage of the experience and expertise of organizations/professionals that can guide your project planning and implementation, identify strengths and weaknesses, and help you build relevant, realistic and verifiable targets. In construction, this includes hiring specialist workers/contractors that work on projects that require special skills.
- Design strategies to minimize construction waste: Construction waste largely contributes to local and regional landfills. Right at the outset, contractors and designers can integrate their roles by sharing information regarding product specifications such as sizing to reduce wastage. For example, walls frames can correspond to default industry sizing of drywall or plasterboard. This method can significantly reduce cut-off waste when drywall/plasterboard is made to fit the design of the framing layout.Implementing onsite recycling processes and facilities will help better manage construction waste and reduce the impact on the environment. It will also lead to a better understanding of resources management and usage, and prevent future wastage. Alternatively, work an agreement with suppliers to buy back unused building materials.
- Construction disassembly: Incorporate construction materials, parts (components and fasteners), and methods that are easy to access and disassemble. This includes ease in disassembly and removal after construction is completed as well as ease in disassembly of parts of the finished building if needed for renovation projects later on. The process ensures a maximization of the value of materials used during the construction phase, quick recycling after the phase, and a minimization of the environmental impact typically caused by construction waste.
- Value engineer: Using the aphorism “less is more”, plan for simplicity and efficiency. Simplicity results in less wastage as it maximizes function of existing resources and thereby reduces cost over time. In construction this entails:
- Identifying unnecessary costs in design and construction from the outset.
- Researching new technological methods used during construction to ensure the process will deliver efficiency at a lower cost to all stakeholders – savings are eventually shared between owner and contractor.
- Planning building supplies from the beginning to ensure wastage does not occur with materials that are not needed or used. This helps to eliminate purchase costs as well as disposal costs.
- Provide safe storage of building materials to prevent damage from natural and artificial elements.