No, not snow. And no, not any four-letter curse words. An article surfaced last week from Building Design + Construction about a word that’s thrown around (myself guilty) repeatedly. Sustainability — a term that can mean a lot of different things — is easily assigned to be a synonymous description of “green” design and construction projects, however author Stacy Smedley affirms this is not the full truth.
Bite your tongue the next time you’re tempted to reference sustainability, and refer to this list of common inaccuracies first.
- Breaking the myth: Sustainability = All Environmental
Although the environment is a big part of it — it’s a relatively small piece of the equation. Since sustainability refers to the ability to stand the test of time, this can pretty much be applicable to any initiative.
Smedley points out that,
“Sustainability encompasses safety, ethics, community investment and diversity and inclusion. For example, ethics can greatly affect a company’s ability to stand the test of time. A company truly invested in sustainability needs to back up the words with action. For a building project, that might mean choosing materials produced in environmentally responsible ways by a properly paid labor force. Globally, there are too many examples of goods and materials manufactured in unsafe environments by an exploited workforce. Making the sustainable decision in this case has more to do with social equity than the environmental protection.”
- Breaking the myth: Sustainability requires big bucks
Not always true. More commonly, this notion comes from longer-lasting building materials and consultants for achievement of accreditations and certifications. Regardless of the lofty initial cost, the long-term investment is pretty slim — sustainable materials are almost a form of asset for the future. Over the life of a lease, commercial tenants are taking advantage of systems that offer generous savings over their project’s life cycle. For instance, many HVAC and water systems can pay for themselves if there is a higher quality setup purchased upfront. The reality is, with realistic planning, sustainability goals are saving millions. With an honest view of the full project, construction costs over the long term are lessened by high-caliber materials and decreased maintenance and repair requirements.
- Breaking the myth: Sustainability projects will take forever
The same way any design change will delay a typical construction schedule, it’s critical to patch up these details before a project is kicked off. Just as with any project, if a decision has been made midway through procurement that a shift in suppliers is desired, this will certainly hinder your schedule. As Smedley coined it, “Sustainable elements do not delay projects; waiting to consider sustainable strategies too late in design and making changes that significantly impact a project’s scope delays projects.
For more insights on sustainability and news and views from some of the best construction minds out there, check out Building Design + Construction magazine.