Construction firms need to really be thinking about sustainability and how they are investing in ESG (environmental, social, and governance), energy, and training workers to understand it as well. They also need to consider how technology fits into the equation.
First, a primer and then an example. At its core, ESG is a foundational set of principles that guide various areas of the business. For some companies ESG efforts are led by investors. For others, it is led by other corporate objectives that a business may be looking to achieve. For many, good ESG practices lead to happier workers and happier clients—which ultimately translates into a better bottomline.
Technology can help construction companies improve these ESG efforts. As I always say, data, data, data. Information can help provide the knowledge on how an ESG goal is performing, in turn helping to improve environmental, social, and governance. It can also help track and report performance of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), employee health and safety, data privacy, and human rights, just to name a few.
A Case Study in Energy
Taking this a step further, we know construction companies are responsible for their own ESG goals, but they can also be responsible for helping other organizations meet theirs. Case in point: school construction projects.
Many schools’ systems often have energy goals they are aiming to achieve. Building new, more sustainable buildings can help reach such goals. The challenge is only 30% of district leaders and principals currently have a plan put in place to address climate change, according to The Aspen Institute. The good news is construction companies can help reimagine the role school infrastructure can have on the environment.
Consider Skanska. The company has helped lead sustainable school projects around the country. As a point a reference, the Douglas McArthur Elementary school in Alexandria, Va., is a net-zero building that has been modernized with a geothermal system, a passive design system to maximize natural daylight and ventilation, low- and no-VOC paint, carpets, and tile, and upgraded bathrooms with low flush toilets and low water use sinks.
As another example, Belmont Middle and High School in Massachusetts is designed and constructed net-zero ready and to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The project includes 283 geothermal wells and a roof-top photovoltaic system with more than 75,000 panels.
Finally, we see a case from Kissimmee, Fla. The NeoCity Academy is being expanded to include 26 new classrooms, collaborative learning spaces, laboratories, and surface parking in alignment with the original net-zero campus. The development has high performance building principles and includes solar photovoltaic panels.
These are just a few interesting examples of projects that had environmental goals in mind and created a plan for how to implement technologies to help reach these objectives. The benefits of such projects are vast, including lower energy cost and a better design that has an improved impact on student development, as it provides greater wellbeing for everyone who uses the facilities.
The time is now to move forward on ESG goals. How will you proceed in today’s new era of innovation and collaboration? You can’t measure what you don’t monitor, and what you don’t understand. The real challenge for every building executive is how to establish solid ESG targets and create a strategy to reach the desired goals. Ultimately, despite all the unknowns, the result might prove to be worth running into a few brick walls.
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