Green construction is about more than installing solar panels. It’s about developing sustainable construction practices. This is new territory and it is constantly changing.
Now, buildings are increasingly designed with the environment in mind, developed to have a lower environmental impact and built conscientiously to reduce the impact on the environment. Building sustainably makes later sustainability efforts easier to adopt, too.
Sustainability is a growing sector of the construction business. In 2005, McGraw-Hill Construction estimated the value of non-residential green construction to be $3 billion, but by 2010 it had ballooned to somewhere between $43 and 54 billion,* and continues to grow. The recession did not stop green development.** A more recent study found that in 2013, green construction was valued at $260 billion and represented 20% of US commercial construction jobs.***
Commercial construction is where green building techniques are being adopted readily. For one, sustainability efforts can lower operating costs. In 2009, 72% of firms that owned green building assets stated that sustainability efforts were chosen in order to reduce their overall expenses. By 2023, commercial buildings are expected to invest an estimated $960 billion globally on making current built infrastructures environmentally friendly. Energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning, windows, lighting, and plumbing fixtures are some of the areas that immediately reduce the environmental impact and costs.*
The US Department of Energy estimated in 2006 that commercial buildings consumed 18% of all energy consumption nationwide.**** Just as energy efficiency lowers costs in homes, it makes a major difference in the workplace. Architects design buildings now with these considerations about sustainability and energy preservation in mind. For example, they angle buildings and place windows to maximize day light. Many buildings install windows that are designed to help insulate their structure.
Construction sites can also be more environmentally friendly. Construction requires a lot of water, which can negatively impact communities with major water shortages. Introducing systems that reduce water consumption, and improving storm water management, can help. Reducing the amount of raw material and selecting environmentally friendly products such as those made of renewable or recycled resources minimizes the environmental demand. Recycling construction debris reduces construction’s contribution to landfills. Construction Managers contribute to these efforts by identifying how owners can reduce their costs with improved on-site sustainability efforts.
Construction Managers coordinate all aspects of a project. Given the growth in green construction, managers are the ones who must oversee those environmental efforts at every level. Understanding green practices can help a manager ensure that all on-site work meets sustainability expectations. Since contractors are responsible for selecting contractors, they need to ensure that all tradespeople have knowledge of and can implement green practices. Learning about green construction methods will be vital for those looking to build future careers in construction.
At the New England Institute of Technology, students enrolled in the Master’s in Construction Management (MSCM) have the opportunity to learn the business and green building skills that Construction Managers need. The best managers recognize and address industry trends, and New England Institute of Technology encourages students to become excited about the latest advances in management, construction theory and technologies that support the industry.
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*McGraw Hill Construction, Green Outlook 2011: Green Trends Driving Growth. aiacc.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/greenoutlook2011.pdf
**Lux Research, “Driven by Higher Rents and Values, Green Buildings Market Grows to $260 Billion,” 2014. http://www.luxresearchinc.com/news-and-events/press-releases/read/driven-higher-rents-and-values-green-buildings-market-grows-260
***The Business Case for Green Building. http://www.usgbc.org/articles/business-case-green-building
****Buildings Energy Data Book (U.S. Department of Energy), 2009. http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov