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Shifting Toward Sustainability: the Construction Industry  

Shifting Toward Sustainability: the Construction Industry  

By Luke Carothers

As environmental and climate change concerns continue to grow, there is also a growing recognition of the impact that industries like construction have had on environmental issues. Along with this recognition is progress from within to adopt new standards, practices, and materials that will lessen the construction industry’s impact on the environment. John Meibers, vice president and general manager for Deltek ComputerEase, believes that construction companies will put more emphasis on sustainability in the bidding process, and they will be prepared to use the appropriate materials and processes efficiently, even at a higher initial cost, through careful and intentional software-based project management tools. With over 35 years of experience in the construction industry, Meibers has previously worked as a controller for a larger mechanical contractor for over a decade before spending the last 25 years as the leader of ComputerEase. He focuses on equipping contractors with the tools they need to manage profitability, drive growth, and meet construction requirements. 

Meibers believes that there are a number of reasons construction firms will place an increased emphasis on sustainability with the first being growing environmental and climate change concerns. When it comes to resource depletion, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, the construction industry has had a significant impact on the environment, and Meibers points out that increasing awareness of environmental issues will cause construction companies to recognize the need to reduce their environmental footprint as much as possible. Along with an increasing awareness of environmental issues comes regulatory requirements that have already been implemented and will continue to be implemented. These regulations often require construction projects to meet specific environmental standards, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction. 

Meibers believes that construction companies need to incorporate sustainable practices in their projects from the bidding stage itself to remain both competitive and compliant. Within the bidding stage, sustainability initiatives can be viewed as a “long-term cost-saving tactic for the end user.” Sustainable construction practices often result in reduced operational costs over the long-term. For example, energy-efficient buildings can do this by lowering energy consumption, and sustainable construction practices such as using recycled materials and implementing efficient waste management systems can also reduce material costs and disposal expenses. Furthermore, Meibers also believes that, because construction firms heavily rely on market demand and reputation, construction firms will increasingly prioritize sustainability in their decision making processes as their clients and stakeholders do the same. Clients and stakeholders—including governments, businesses, and consumers—are more likely to choose construction companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices. Thus, according to Meibers, emphasizing sustainability during the bidding process will allow construction companies to enhance their reputation, attract environmentally-conscious clients, and gain a competitive edge in the market. Additionally, demonstrating environmental stewardship and sustainable construction practices will allow construction companies to use their corporate social responsibility platform to help recruit talent, enhance their public image, strengthen community relationships, and align with broader societal expectations. 

As construction companies work to become better prepared to use these sustainable practices and materials, they are turning to a variety of tools they can use to help the process toward sustainability. Meibers notes that, to manage these new ways of completing projects, contractors need to rely on flexible, construction-specific software that proactively manages jobs, inventory, finances, and people with real-time data from any location. Furthermore, Meibers points out that other tools—such as sustainability assessment tools, BIM software, Green Building Certification Systems, and material selection databases—will help guide the construction industry into new sustainable practices. 

However, as the construction industry works to adopt sustainable practices, the process is not without its challenges. As public awareness grows, the market demand, standards, and regulations around sustainability will continue to evolve. Meibers believes that construction companies will have to work to stay ahead of and keep up with sustainable construction practices, which means anticipating shifting expectations from stakeholders and the general public. This also means staying updated on evolving regulations and building codes to ensure their jobs comply with new requirements. Meibers also suggests that, without flexible software to manage requirements, keeping up with these changes will be difficult. In addition to these evolving requirements and market demand, construction companies will also face challenges when it comes to the availability and cost of sustainable materials. Increasing demand for environmentally-friendly materials means that finding a reliable supply can be a challenge, and the availability and accessibility of such products may still be limited in some regions, according to Meibers. 

Construction companies may face difficulties in sourcing sustainable materials in the quantities and quality needed, and, once contractors find the supply needed, sustainable materials sometimes involve higher upfront costs compared to traditional methods. To overcome these challenges, Meibers believes that construction companies will need to navigate the financial implications and balance the initial costs with potential long-term savings and benefits. A further challenge in moving toward more sustainable construction practices stems from the current labor shortage, which is only exacerbated by the fact that integrating sustainable practices often requires specialized knowledge and skills. To overcome this challenge, Meibers believes construction firms need to quickly hire and retain more workers and provide the adequate training so they become skilled laborers. In turn, construction companies will need to create training and education programs so workers understand sustainable practices and encourage the adoption of these methods. 

As new sustainability goals are laid out, and new regulations are introduced, the construction industry is continually changing, and evidence indicates that this change is trending toward sustainability and the adoption of sustainable practices and materials. To stay ahead of this coming change, construction companies will need to invest in software and business practices that promote the adoption and deployment of sustainable building practices and materials.