Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Journal #3 - Environmental Practices in Construction

Next year I will hopefully be obtaining my master's degree in construction engineering/project management (which seems to have a different name at every school). Some of my potential future advisors have listed my possible research opportunities, and it looks like it is a strong possibility that the environmental impact of construction techniques/materials will be a likely one.

This got me thinking about what current measures (if any) are being taken to make construction more environmentally conscious. I am very aware of the movement for green design in buildings (LEED, Steinbrenner Institute, etc...), but have not heard of any specific practices in ensuring environmental practices in the actual construction process. My experiences this summer as a construction inspector/intern for C.E.C. didn't make me feel that there were any strict practices by contractors to ensure that they were eco-friendly during construction in any way.

So I googled "environmental practices construction" and the first hit was for AASHTO's Center for Environmental Excellence. It is a research organization founded by AASHTO, the safety enforcers of construction, that (from looking at the introduction and table of contents) has compiled all the environmental practices of all the state DOTs and has created suggestions and ways to incorporate them from the management level down in their Compendium.

The common theme in the introduction was that many organizations have already adopted "environmentally friendly" practices at the management level, but this has not trickled down to the actual construction site well enough. In one good summary of what the problem is:
Some DOTs have learned the hard way that having the environmental stewardship concept securely embraced among policy planners, senior managers and environmental staff does not guarantee that what happens in the field, on the jobsite, will be implementing the spirit or the letter of what was intended by policy or by planning and environmental commitments.
The Compendium hopes to start a trend where the construction workers at the lowest level are encouraged to be environmentally conscious in all aspects of their life, so that it becomes natural at the site. This is very noticeable on any construction site in the Pittsburgh area, as any worker or contractor could care less about how clean their site is, so long as any neighbors around the site do not complain to their superior. The ideas are good in the Compendium, and it appears that this organization has put in a lot of effort to make changes and continue to do so. Still, change will be slow, but hopefully with a new generation of workers things will improve on the site level.


Skizzler said...

This is a great post. Hypothetically speaking, if I were some sort of course instructor reading this blog for some sort of course requirement, I would definitely give you an A, Tommy.

Deanna said...

one issue is that the construction phase is so short compared to use phase, that it's impacts are technically really small.

one initiative in seattle is to provide a course at the community college for those training to be construction laborers to learn about LEED and their role.

perhaps a project idea for you?