Sustainable infrastructure refers to “green” or “smart” buildings. It encompasses developing roads, buildings, energy and water infrastructures with deep consideration of economic, social, and most importantly, environmental aspects. It also includes a wide range of initiatives that specifically focus on energy, water, and land management; smart and green technology, and using sustainable building materials. Sustainable infrastructure approaches are based on global and domestic sustainable development goals regarding social, financial, public health and wellbeing, political, and economic and environmental concerns.
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The Role of Sustainable Infrastructure:
— Enables sound economic development, job creation, and purchase of goods and services enhances the quality of life for citizens
— Increases positive impacts aka benefits
— Helps protect our vital natural resources and environment
— Use renewable and recyclable resources
— Reduce energy consumption and waste
— Promotes more effective and efficient use of financial resources
THE ROLE OF SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE NOT ONLY BENEFITS THE PLANET BUT INVESTOR’S PROFIT MARGINS TOO.
The primary financial goal of businesses is to make a profit. That being said, investing in sustainable technologies is a great start to creating profit. Builders who invest in modern sustainable technology can recoup those costs over time, which results in reduced building operational costs.
The construction industry has a massive impact on the environment because energy use is high. Building requires heavy machinery which relies heavily on fossil fuels, and sometimes inefficient electricity can result in the burning of fossil fuels further down the energy supply line. The construction industry accounts for approximately 36% of worldwide energy usage and 40% of C02 emissions.
The industry standard for sustainable construction is an effort called LEED. LEED is short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design; it promotes codes and standards for construction firms to follow during the construction process. LEED is not an immediate action; it is functional for today, and in the future. Construction firms need to recognize that sustainable construction is increasing in demand worldwide.
There are incentives given to companies that choose to build sustainably. The government legislates and creates mandates that require firms to develop sustainably. Currently, several states in the US offer tax incentives or exemptions to construction firms that participate in sustainable practices. For example, in Nevada, if a firm uses certified sustainable construction materials through LEED, the purchase of those materials can be purchased with a tax exemption. Another example in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers property tax exemptions on newly constructed buildings that meet LEED specifications. With exemptions, it allows construction firms to invest more in sustainable infrastructure and create a net benefit for stakeholders, the community, and the environment included.
— Reduced use of materials
— Improved pollution prevention
— Reduced carbon emissions
— Reduced payment for environmental services
— Better labor and community relations
— Improve prospects for project financing
— Increase in demand and expectation project integration of environmental sustainability
Construction Trends Helping Sustainable Infrastructure
There are construction trends that are eco-friendly and beneficial for construction firms to implement in their business processes. Prefabrication and BIM are two ways to participate in sustainable infrastructure.
Prefabrication is the process of making buildings, or components of buildings, in a different location than the job site itself. Construction companies will transport the completed units to the job site and assemble the major components. Compared to the traditional approach, the process of prefabrication is more eco-friendly because extra materials are recycled and reused. Whereas, on a traditional construction site, the extra materials go straight to the landfill.
BIM is short for Building Information Modeling, and it is a tool to help make the construction industry more economically and environmentally sustainable. BIM is an impacting trend in construction because of its ability to help contractors visualize the construction project throughout its lifecycle. With BIM technology, a subcontractor can visualize their part of the project, and estimate how much of a specific material is needed. The ability to visualize with BIM reduces the amount of labor, time, and materials on a construction project.
As the government is steering towards sustainability, the economic growth from the benefits associated with sustainable construction is fearing climate change scientists. It is crucial for the government to take steps to incentivize those who participate in sustainable infrastructure. Construction firms want to make a profit, and what a better way to grow profit in a socially responsible and environmentally friendly way.