Many industries have started to focus on environmental sustainability in their products and services. Yearly sustainability reports are becoming more common and companies are now starting to differentiate themselves by becoming more sustainable than their competitors. Customers are also more commonly seeing green initiatives on products they buy and websites they visit. Construction has an extremely large impact on the environment and will be expected by their customers to be one of these forward thinking industries by becoming more environmentally conscious.
According to the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) website, buildings account for 38% of all CO2 emissions, 13.6% of all portable water, and 73% of U.S. electricity consumption. LEED is the most widely used rating system in the world for providing verification of a building or neighborhood’s green features. If a building is LEED certified, it implies that the building is energy and resource efficient. LEED is scored based off of nine basic areas including integrative process, location and transportation, sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, innovation, and regional priority.
Who is using LEED
Many new projects are participating in LEED, amounting to more than 72,000 projects in more than 150 countries and territories, comprising over 13.8 billion square feet. Eighty-eight of the Fortune 100 companies are already using LEED and companies are continually following suit. LEED not only increases building value, influences higher lease rates, and decreases utility costs, but it also allows companies to stay ahead of the ever adapting market. The Reno community has started to see sustainable projects including the new building at the University of Nevada Reno, the Living Learning Community, which recently received the LEED Silver distinction. The Joe Crowley Student Union was designed and constructed to meet LEED Silver equivalent rating but certification was not requested. Other contractors are also starting to build more energy efficient homes, offices, and retail buildings.
It may be difficult for contractors to decide if LEED building is cost effective for their future projects. Although there are many benefits to LEED building, certification may be expensive and time consuming. Contractors should start thinking about building green if not fully committed to LEED standards. However, companies may also choose to build based off of LEED standards without immediately getting the certification, which may be more cost effective for them at this time in the market. Contractors can confer with LEED professionals in order to determine the costs and benefits of LEED building.
Contractors must be adaptive to the new generation of environmentally conscious consumers. If these contractors have not already done something to be more “Green,” they may be far behind in this fast-paced market. At this turning point in the industry, contractors may either decide to lead as a forward-thinking company, or be left behind.
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Photo Credit – Joe Crowley Student Union at the University of Nevada, Reno