Sustainable Construction: Green Practices and Green Standards | Construction Podcast

To what degree are contractors impacted by green standards and green practices? Listen to “A Podcast That Builds” host Ben Johnson and Dodge’s Donna Laquidara-Carr discuss the findings from the 2019 Q2 CCI Report, which focuses on sustainable construction. Learn from industry experts about green construction and how green building has changed over the past few years. Below is a transcript of this construction podcast.

Ben Johnson:                      

Hello, and welcome to a podcast that builds. I'm your host Ben Johnson. And on this episode, we're going to be covering sustainable construction as studied in the second quarter 2019 CCI (Commercial Construction Index) spotlight article. And joining us again today to talk about the CCI is Donna Laquidara-Carr. Welcome, Donna. 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Hello Ben. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

So, this quarter, the Commercial Construction Index report spotlight article is on sustainability and green construction. Why did you choose to look at that issue now? 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Well, one of the nice things about doing sustainable construction specifically this quarter is that we've done it in the second quarter for the previous two years. So, we have a nice pool of data to pull from. And that, you know, when you, when you start doing research, that's always a nice thing to have. Also, we really think it's important to keep an eye on sustainability, especially when it comes to contractors because I think that there's a lot more focus in the industry about owners, architects, designers, how they're impacting sustainability. And sometimes I think that there's not enough attention given to what contractors can do to make projects so much more sustainable. You know, they're really key to the delivery of a green building. So, with that in mind, we asked about a few green practices that are under the control of the contractors specifically, not things that are, you know about the design of the building but things that contractors do on site. We also asked about the degree to which contractors are impacted by green standards and incentives and the influence of green construction on the products and materials that they buy, both the attributes that they're actually looking for when they're purchasing products and the factors that prevent them from necessarily selecting a green product. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

That sounds great. So, what did you find out? 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Well, first of all, we did see a dip in the average percentage of green projects that contractors reported on being involved in compared to the 2017 version of this study. Now this is very surprising in some ways. We do a lot of other green studies. We keep an eye on what's going on in green projects and reported by others in the industry. And we have seen no drop in the number of green projects. In fact, you know, we typically do see steady increases. They're certainly not the size of the increases that you had five to 10 years ago, but we still typically, are tracking that green building is increasing across the industry. And we don't see this as a contradiction to that. We think perhaps it may indicate that the green work is more concentrated among certain contractors. So, and there's also that ongoing question and I think the rest of this study kind of supports this as a way to look at this data that green practices are increasingly becoming commonplace in the industry. So, something someone pointed out, you know, three, four years ago or even two years ago as this is a green project, they might just think of it as their normal practice now. So, and you know, what we did find is that contractors are doing a lot of specific green practices on their projects. We found that they say they implement erosion and sedimentation control plans on 79% of their projects. So, you know, nearly all the projects that they're working on have at least that going on, they divert at least 50% of the waste stream for recycling on 45% of their projects. And they train their workforce on sustainable construction practices on 39% of their projects. Given the fact that they only claimed that 30% of their overall projects are green building, this, again, certainly suggests that sustainable construction is moving more into the mainstream for contractors. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

So, what about green standards and incentives? What role do they play? 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Well, we see contractors are being far more influenced by standards than by incentives. Nearly half of the contractors, 43%, don't even use incentives at all. And most of the ones who do only report doing so on a pretty small percentage of their projects. This is despite the fact that there really is a wide variety of incentives available at the federal level, but especially at the state and local levels. And you know, there's a lot of reasons why this could be taking place. Certainly, from our perspective and all of the work we've done tracking the workforce shortages over the last quarters. It is not surprising to find that contractors are not dedicating a very precious resource to tracking down specific green building incentives. With so few workers, they have to really focus on just getting the job done. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

So, you mentioned that you looked on how green building influences material and equipment purchases. What did you learn in that regard? 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Well, the only negative factor we saw when we asked them, well, why are you not selecting green products, was product cost. You know, most of them, that was the only one that was selected by more than half. And, you know, it was significantly more than the people who said, well, it's just that green products don't perform as well. That was closer to a third. So, you know, we know that it is that idea that cost is higher for green still does have a big influence. However, when we looked at green attributes and said, well, to what degree did these influence your decisions to purchase? It's clear that they do have a big influence. Energy efficiency has a positive influence on whether 80% of contractors purchase a product or a piece of equipment. 65% say they're influenced by the desire to avoid harmful chemicals. You know, there's always that high concern about safety among contractors. 64% are influenced by water efficiency. 60%, which actually is a really high number. A water efficiency doesn't always perform that well. The U.S. has a better rating on water efficiency, about really caring about water efficiency than a lot of other countries. And, 61% by looking for increased building resiliency as a factor when they're buying products. 52% look for recycled or renewable materials. So, when you look at all this together, it does reinforce, again, this idea that green is a bit mainstream now that this isn't just something that they tack on when they're doing green construction. This is something that influences their fundamental buying decisions. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

Oh, really fascinating look at the state of sustainable construction, things are no longer just black and white, I guess it would be green and white. They're sort of melding together and becoming a bit more mainstream, which is good for everybody, I think. 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

I agree. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

So, what do you have planned for next quarters topic? 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Well, it's interesting. We're actually kind of taking something that's often falls under this green and sustainability category, but we really thought deserved its own separate look, which is resiliency. You know, when we look at the continuing impact of severe weather on buildings and the cost of it to the, you know, to the country and the cost of it in live sometimes, we really, you know, it becomes clear that this is an area that needs attention. And if you do a search, you'll discover very quickly that contractors are not often included in the conversations that get published about this. So, we're looking forward to seeing the contractors' perspectives on this really important topic. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

Looking forward to talking about that next quarter, Donna. Thanks again for joining us. 

 

Donna Laquidara-Carr:                 

Thank you. 

 

Ben Johnson:                      

Thanks for listening to this short episode of A Podcast That Builds. The report on which today's show is based, the Q2 2019 CCI Report, is available for free at Construction.com, or there's a link in the show notes. Thanks again for joining, we'll see you next time. 

 

Episode Links:

Q2 2019 Commercial Construction Index