As children, we’re taught the famous phrase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’. We know deforestation, landfills, and burning fossil fuels contributes to the global atmospheric decline; but what about an industry that is also global- construction? Unfortunately, construction plays a large role in Earth’s atmospheric health, but luckily there are many ways we can improve. Even better news, we’ve already started! Every year, construction and demolition contributes 11% to global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as 40% of global CO2 emissions. In 2018, 600 million tons of demolition debris was accumulated just in the United States, and 145 million tons of that was sent to landfills. One of the biggest causes for debris is building completely new infrastructure, which simultaneously affects the wildlife and vegetation around the area. So how can we apply our childhood motto in an industry with almost one million employers?
Construction has many ways in which we can be reducing our gas emissions and waste. The biggest factor in causing emissions is the use of heavy machinery, which is a necessity in many projects. In the last few years, heavy equipment companies have been creating protypes and trial runs of electric machinery. British manufacturer, JCB, created a small excavator that is completely electric, and can withstand a full day’s work on a single charge. Not only does this machine reduce harmful emissions, but also noise! Reducing noise would allow companies to start work earlier and end later as it wouldn’t bother neighboring businesses or residents like a diesel machine would. Here at Laux Construction, we may not have electrical heavy machinery, but we do act on reducing especially within the office and field staff. We have moved in-house documents to digital organizers such as Procore for project information and are currently launching GoCo for resources and employee self-service. Our field staff members are all equipped with an iPad that also eliminates paper waste. Any paper that we may use is 100% recycled thanks to our friends at Shred It.
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Reusing is a trickier area as reusing building materials after demolition can be dangerous regarding structural integrity and toxins. However, we can upgrade and renovate the existing building which is a process known as Adaptive Reuse. This is commonly seen in historic buildings where the community wants to maintain the historic significance, while also keeping up with the current business trends. Adaptive Reuse is most common in heavily populated areas like Chicago or New York, as real-estate and commercial space is limited. Laux Construction is currently working on a project that is applying Adaptive Reuse in Lansing! In 1921, the Strand Theatre was a lively space full of entertainment and could seat 1,750 people who would come watch performers such as Harry Houdini and Bing Crosby. The theater was closed in 1980 where it has sat vacant. Now in 2022, we are renovating the space into new and modern offices that will be home base for many businesses and entrepreneurs! We’ve also done detailed work to maintain the historic cathedral ceilings and will post this completed project next month to our social media platforms!
There are many ways the industry can recycle throughout their entire company! From recycling paper at headquarters to helping clients create LEED certified buildings, known as ‘Green buildings’. To be a green building, the structure must be certified by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). These buildings have efficiency in all phases of design, construction, and post-construction usage. They focus on carbon reduction by using less energy and water by recycling, considering the life cycle of building materials used, and ways the building can limit their landfill contribution. Green buildings are also focused on providing better air quality and increasing comfortability for those working or living inside while limiting the energy usage.
In a study led by Harvard and SUNY University, they compared workers from 10 green office buildings to those not working in a green office building. Surprisingly, they found that those working in the green building had improvements in many areas!
Laux Construction has begun improving our credentials by obtaining LEED certifications for Site Superintendents to work on Green Projects, and we hope to work on more green projects in the coming years. We also have experience with projects that are focused on sustainability, such as the Fenner Nature Center in Lansing, Michigan. In 2020, we constructed the Susan and Jack Davis Nature Pavilion and installed the Wastewater Treatment and Reuse System that allows unpotable water to be recycled. It’s also possible to use Adaptive Reuse to create a green building, which is the ultimate recycling project!
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Fenner Nature Center
Shown is the installation of the fiberglass circulation tank. The system was designed by Larry Stephens, who designed the first water recycling system in the state of Michigan for a carpet store!
Sustainability is an area that this industry, and our own company, is continually improving on. Eliminating paper waste, detailed planning for demolition debris or using Adaptive Reuse, and obtaining LEED certifications are all small steps; but they’re small steps in the right direction. If you liked this blog, please share it with your friend, family, or colleagues via the icons below. Also feel free to leave a comment with ideas for future blogs, or ways you participate in improving our planet!
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