The importance of going green just became even more important for small construction companies, as President Joe Biden signed three executive orders on June 6, 2022 aimed at boosting clean energy construction projects and the use of domestically manufactured clean energy technology.
What the Orders Entail
Specifically, the orders require the US Dept. of Energy to deploy the use of the Defense Production Act of 1950 to expand American manufacturing of solar panel parts, environmentally friendly building insulation, heat pumps, equipment for making clean power-generating fuels, and critical power grid infrastructure. Federal construction contracts will also require local contractors to use eco-friendly materials.
According to an announcement from the White House, the order will encourage the use of project labor agreements that offer wages “above and beyond the prevailing rate and include local hire provisions.” The order will also encourage clean construction projects in low-income areas burdened by legacy pollution.
The orders also place a two-year moratorium on tariffs being placed on imported solar panels that the US imports from countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, from which the US gets 80% of its solar panels. The new orders aim to help achieve the Administration’s ambitious goal of eliminating carbon from the nation’s power supply by 2035.
Why it Matters
Aside from, well, protecting the environment, the orders emphasize the urgency of contractors and subcontractors to demonstrate that they can handle green projects. This will be especially important as the federal government begins to search for contractors to handle a bevy of upcoming construction contracts as a result of the passage of the $1.2 Trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed late last year.
Put simply, it would behoove small construction companies to show that they have expertise in government-led clean energy construction projects. Aside from the executive orders, the construction industry – one of the least green industries in the US – needs to start making a push toward becoming green to survive going forward. This has become more than just a trend – currently, the building industry uses nearly half of all electricity used in the US, according to Research Gate, and more than 28% is used by the transportation industry. ComfyLiving.net estimates that green construction projects will reach nearly $100 billion by 2023 in the US.
Actions to Take
There are several ways small construction companies can certify themselves as being proficient in green technologies.
- Get Green Certified. Construction companies can receive their “green certification” through either the Green Building Initiative (GBI), which assists the National Association of Home Builders to promote sustainable energy building guidelines for residential structures, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which is a rating system for construction eco-performance. The two programs use performance-based codes to ensure that construction companies use design, construction, tools, and processes that are up to state and local green codes. The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) often sets these requirements as well and is followed by both LEED and GBI. This certification is a quick way to let government agencies and private clients know that you are environmentally conscious, as well as an excellent construction company.
- Use Recycled Construction Materials. Using recycled materials to construct a home or
building will go a long way in letting your clients know that your company is serious about being green. These materials can include recycled concrete, wood and steel, and involves the use of eco-friendly materials such as plastic composite lumber, wool bricks and polyurethane rigid foam.
- Offer Green Solutions. Your company can make a lasting impression on customers by offering various green solutions when building a home or office building. Nearly half of the power used by homes and office buildings is for heating and cooling, so giving them greener and cheaper options for electricity and insulation will show that your construction company is environmentally conscious. Installing solar panels would probably be the most obvious way of making a home or office building more energy efficient. You can also use eco-friendly insulation so as not to waste hot or cold air through a structure’s HVAC system. Other options include offering to install programmable thermostats, water-conserving plumbing, green HVAC systems and offering to install low emissivity (Low-E) windows.
- Use Energy-Efficient Construction Vehicles. It may be time to replace and update your equipment with environmentally friendly machinery. Construction equipment manufacturers such as Bobcat, Volvo, John Deere and Caterpillar already produce construction equipment such as backhoes and bulldozers that have economy modes and on-demand throttles installed in them to reduce their carbon footprint. These companies are also in the process of developing electric (instead of gas-powered equipment) to become more eco-friendly.
- Show Concern for Your Customers’ Health. Present manufacturers’ reports on the materials you are using to your customers to inform them that you are using materials that will benefit their health and wellness, especially when it comes to the air quality in their homes or buildings. Such reports are produced by the Health Products Declaration Page site run by SCS Global Services, and the Environmental Product Declaration site.
- Use Energy-Efficient Processes. Using 3D printing to show models of your projects to customers and blockchain technology to centralize data from contractors, subcontractors and customers to prevent wasting hundreds of pages of paper. You can also use construction software produced by such companies as ProCore and Worksuite to make projects more efficient by managing material procurement to cut down on waste and save time, money and resources.
Market Yourself as Green
Making your construction company green won’t mean much if customers and potential contractors don’t know it. It’s important to make the necessary changes to your marketing strategy to inform future customers and government contractors that you meet eco-friendly standards.
Make changes to your website and advertisements to let the world know that you’re eco-friendly. Also, make sure that one of your pre-qualifications is that your company adheres to environmentally friendly standards. This could very well mean the difference between landing and losing a client.
Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard
It’s obvious that more state and federal agencies will require contractors and subcontractors to follow eco-friendly standards, especially with the passage of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act. It’s crucial that your construction company takes the necessary steps to let the world know that, in addition to being an excellent construction company, that you’re also environmentally conscious.