7 Sustainable Building Best Practices for Builders

Sustainable buildings made with recycled and renewable materials

By some estimates, the building industry accounts for 34% of all global greenhouse gas emissions

As the global push for zero emissions continues, the construction industry plays a pivotal role in embracing sustainable practices. 

Sustainable buildings made with recycled and renewable materials not only offer an opportomutity to reduce emissions during construction, but also post-construction. 

For contractors and builders, this also provides an opportunity to raise pricing, improve their reputation, and reach more customers. 

This guide will discuss the benefits of sustainable buildings for builders and provide seven best practices to help achieve more sustainable buildings. 

Benefits of Sustainable Buildings for Builders

Reduced carbon emissions and lower GHGs may be a benefit that we can all feel, but for builders trying to meet a bottom line, the benefits of sustainable buildings are numerous. 

  • Enhanced Reputation: Sustainable buildings are not only cleaner, but also made with better materials and more efficient. These perks will improve your reputation, which can be marketed to attract new customers.
  • Increased Sale Value: As demand outpaces supply, sustainable buildings will come with a more premium price tag that more and more customers are willing to meet. 
  • Cost Savings in the Long Run: While upfront costs for sustainable materials and practices may be higher, the long-term operational cost savings, including reduced energy and water bills, contribute to significant financial benefits.
  • Access to Incentives and Rebates: There are many federal and state incentives that builders can reach to offset costs, including the 45L tax credit
  • Meeting Regulatory Requirements: As states and local governments implement policies, such as energy benchmarking, the move to sustainable building practices will help builders meet these requirements. 
  • Reduced Liability: Sustainable building practices are often safer for workers and residents, reducing liability in the long run. 

With these benefits in mind, let’s discuss seven sustainable building best practices your firm can implement immediately. 

1. Energy-Efficient Design and Materials

Utilizing smart design principles that maximize natural light, optimize heating and cooling systems, and reduce overall energy consumption sets the stage for an eco-friendly building. Examples include south-facing windows, spray foam insulation, natural ventilation, and smart home technology.

Additionally, using energy-efficient building materials with low embodied energy and high recyclability reduces your environmental impact.

Implementing the Practice:

  • Conduct energy audits during the design phase.
  • Prioritize materials with eco-friendly certifications.
  • Explore innovative materials with low environmental impact.

2. Water Conservation Measures

Water scarcity is a growing concern globally, making water conservation a critical aspect of sustainable building practices. Construction companies can adopt measures to minimize water wastage, both during the construction process and in the operational phase of the building. Examples include rainwater harvesting systems, such as cisterns, rain gardens, and low-flow fixtures. 

Implementing the Practice:

  • Install water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
  • Incorporate rainwater harvesting systems.
  • Implement landscaping designs that require minimal irrigation.

3. Waste Reduction and Recycling

Construction projects often generate a substantial amount of waste that requires proper recycling. Furthermore, waste left out on a worksite can also lead to pollution via stormwater runoff.

 Implementing waste reduction and recycling initiatives ensures that materials are reused whenever possible, reducing the overall environmental footprint of a project.

Implementing the Practice:

  • Sort and recycle construction waste on-site.
  • Store waste materials properly in sealed containers.
  • Partner with recycling facilities for proper disposal.
  • Encourage the reuse of materials from demolition processes.

4. Green Roof and Sustainable Landscaping

Integrating green spaces into building design contributes to improved air quality, reduced urban heat island effects, and enhanced biodiversity. Green roofs and sustainable landscaping not only offer aesthetic benefits but also play a crucial role in creating environmentally responsible structures.

Implementing the Practice:

  • Design roofs with vegetation to improve insulation.
  • Use native plants that require minimal maintenance.
  • Incorporate permeable surfaces to reduce stormwater runoff.

5. Renewable Energy Integration

Transitioning to renewable energy sources is a key component of sustainable construction. Construction companies can explore options like solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal systems to generate on-site renewable energy, reducing reliance on traditional power sources. Renewable energy can be used for multiple applications, including general electricity use and water heating. 

Implementing the Practice:

  • Assess the feasibility of on-site renewable energy systems.
  • Integrate solar panels into the building’s design.
  • Explore partnerships with renewable energy providers.

6. LEED Certification and Other Green Building Standards

Seeking certification from reputable organizations such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or EnergyStar demonstrates a commitment to high environmental performance. Adhering to green building standards ensures that a construction project meets specific criteria for sustainability.

Implementing the Practice:

  • Familiarize teams with LEED certification requirements.
  • Integrate LEED criteria into project planning.
  • Celebrate and market LEED-certified projects to showcase commitment.

7. Employee Training and Community Engagement

Sustainable building practices go beyond construction sites; they involve the entire construction team and the communities in which projects are situated. Providing training for employees on sustainable practices and engaging with the local community fosters a culture of environmental responsibility.

Implementing the Practice:

  • Conduct regular training sessions on sustainable practices.
  • Collaborate with local communities on eco-friendly initiatives.
  • Educate clients on the benefits of sustainable construction.

Creating sustainable buildings confers several benefits to builders and their clients. Research these best practices to begin implementing them at your worksite and reach out to a certified consultant to assist you in implementation. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are sustainable building practices more expensive for construction companies?

While there may be initial costs associated with implementing sustainable practices, the long-term benefits, including reduced operational costs and enhanced market reputation, often outweigh the upfront expenses.

Can small construction companies adopt sustainable practices?

Absolutely. Sustainable building practices can be scaled to fit projects of all sizes. Small construction companies can start by incorporating energy-efficient design and gradually expand their sustainable initiatives.

How can construction companies encourage employee engagement in sustainability?

Providing regular training sessions, creating awareness programs, and involving employees in decision-making processes related to sustainability can foster a sense of responsibility and engagement.