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Sustainability Myths Dispelled

Skanska USA has a blog Constructive Thinking that examines some of the leading-edge construction practices and also examines current trends in the marketplace.

In a recent post titled Busting the myths: What the “S-word” can mean for construction and development in the online magazine Building Design and Construction (subscription required), Stacy Smedley, Director of Sustainability at Skanska, examined some of the myths surrounding the concept of “sustainability” for construction.

She starts by refuting the use of “Green Construction” as being the same as “Sustainable Construction.” Today many in the AEC community use them interchangeably, but they are not the same.

She clarifies the definition by saying,“Sustainability is simply the ability of something to endure over time.”

She continues,

“At Skanska, we are committed to our purpose, 'we build for a better society.' This captures our belief that our work comes with a responsibility to help our local communities thrive for generations to come. Certainly, things that help conserve the natural environment play a large role in contributing to sustainability; so too do economic and social factors. As a contractor and developer, we have an outsized ability to affect sustainability through green building practices, working safely and ethically, promoting diversity and inclusion where we work and giving back to the communities where we work.”

Those points are important to understanding the various factors included in sustainability.

Smedley goes on to dispel those myths from the Skanska viewpoint.

“Myth 1: Sustainability is all about the environment” – Much more than that.

“Myth 2: Applying sustainability initiatives into a project plan is expensive”- Not if those criteria are introduced and embraced by the entire team.

“Myth 3: Sustainability measures will delay a project” – Introduce sustainability at pre-design and preconstruction stages to avoid additional cost.

“Myth 4: Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) departments handle sustainability initiatives for all projects” – All members of the owner, design, engineering and construction team must participate in the process in order to achieve maximum benefit for the long-term life of the project not just the EHS team.

Smedley also stresses the importance of certification programs to help achieve the owner’s long- term goals. She specifically notes that the LEED classification programs and the Envision Rating System for sustainable infrastructure projects are both used by Skanska USA, whether Skanska is developing for its own portfolio or for clients around the world.

Sustainability in construction is fast becoming a key measure for the long-term viability of construction projects and a critical factor in the health of the users of those projects over the 30, 50 or longer project life.

Skanska has incorporated sustainability in their projects as another tool to achieve their goal of “Five Zeros: zero loss making projects, zero environmental incidents, zero accidents, zero ethical breaches and zero defects.” 

Watch for more discussion of sustainability of construction as we enter 2018.