In these days of “going green” in construction, general contractors are service providers. They will build what the owner tells them to build.

More leadership roles are emerging for sustainable construction solutions. The industry is already moving beyond LEED to net-zero. Taking that into consideration, some aspects of a project need to be part of the design from day one – the earlier the better. Stakeholders need to work together to determine what can be done to make the building more sustainable or lower in energy consumption or lower in embodied carbon.

It is important to get the right people to the table early – owners, designers, constructors. Sometimes things that make sense on the design side don’t make sense in the real world of the construction jobsite. This is particularly true for designs that have been sitting for a few years awaiting funding. Technology is changing rapidly. The world is a different place than it was five years ago.

Getting to the table earlier can reduce rework and extras that will increase the cost of a project. In addition, early collaboration can greatly promote sustainability efforts. To achieve change, we can’t keep doing business as normal. If we want to achieve sustainable buildings, there is significant room for improvement in the design-bid-build process.

What’s limiting the widespread adoption of sustainable practices? Sustainable buildings are more complex, so there is a belief that sustainable practices are more expensive. However, if the planning and collaboration are done early enough, sustainable construction can end up being cost-neutral. Deciding later in the process to add sustainable features is bound to result in retrofits and more expensive measures to achieve sustainability goals.

Overcoming the obstacles to sustainable construction really needs to be an owner-driven process. If the “way we’ve always done it” can be shifted, the industry can meet its sustainability goals.

There is substantial pressure for sustainability coming from publicly-funded projects and Fortune 500 companies. There may be a “carrot” (tax incentives) or a “stick” (regulations) approach to sustainable construction. The bar for green construction has already been set in a number of major US cities.

One way to help achieve sustainable construction is through the use of automation, which can save companies time and money. Automation can transform manual processes and make them faster, less expensive, more accurate, more transparent, with less risk. The mere chore of staying informed of industry changes is a good reason to automate processes. For example, the LEED rating system is updated every four months. Managing the changing requirements manually is time-consuming.

The misconceptions about sustainability and automation need to be overcome. For companies that are comfortable with the way they have been doing things, it’s important for them to see the benefits of change. It’s tough to change old habits. Streamlining and automating the construction process not only saves companies time and money, they are part of the path to sustainability.

Bridging the Gap Podcast, episode 209 with guest Tommy Linstroth “Sustainability Is A Business Strategy”

Tune in to episode 209 of Bridging the Gap Podcast with guest Tommy Linstroth to hear more about how owner preference can help build a sustainability process that is practical.

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