BY MIKE TOUSLEY, Executive Vice President & General Manager, The Weitz Company
Every business seeks efficiencies to maximize its return on investment for both the company and its customers. At Weitz, we work diligently to do the best thing for our customers and continually look for ways we can be more effective and efficient. One of the ways we do this is through sustainable building practices, which encompass environmental impacts as well as business impacts. This month, Vince Ward, one of our Business Development Directors, and Justine Bangert, one of our Marketing and Communications Managers, will talk with me about sustainability in construction projects and why it’s the right thing, not only for the environment but also for the people we serve. Both Vince and Justine are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professionals (LEED AP).
Sustainability correlates to efficiency
Often, the first thing that comes to mind with the term “sustainability” is protecting the environment, or finding ways to reduce negative environmental impacts. While that is one thing to look for when considering a construction firm, there are other aspects of sustainability to consider.
For Weitz, in addition to green building and reducing waste on job sites, sustainability also means creating efficiencies in the way we work. As we discussed in our first two blog posts, this includes tools such as 3-D Virtual Design and Construction models, building component prefabrication off-site, application of Lean construction processes and enhanced communication. The ultimate goal is to reduce construction time and save money for our customers.
Vince Ward: “We continually improve the way we coordinate our work so that it generates less waste while also minimizing the amount of work in the field. It helps with scheduling, pricing and quality control.
Coordination through electronic documentation reduces the amount of paper that is printed and used for projects. Our electronic document management system lets us efficiently update our documents through a central file that then is accessed by our trade partners, consultants and customers to view immediately. When every foreman on our job site has the most up-to-date document at their fingertips, it reduces time and paper waste.
Ward: “Customers expect a certain level of sustainability for all construction projects. It becomes a matter of how the project is delivered to find the most areas where there can be a savings to the environment and the pocketbook while meeting the project’s goals.”
Justine Bangert: “This may mean a specific certification, such as LEED from the U.S. Green Building Council, Well Building or Green Globes. However, the design and construction methods that gain these certifications can, and should, be considered for incorporation into a project, even if a customer chooses not to go through an official certification process. “The upfront costs can be higher with sustainable projects, but in the long term, these projects typically save customers money, in addition to the benefits of environmental and social responsibility.”
Sustainability has become ingrained in what we do, from procuring materials to continually improving our construction processes. We have a responsibility to design and to build in a way that is environmentally friendly, and as long as cost permits, we make every effort to provide the best sustainable materials and methods for our customers.
Bangert: “We can also be sustainable if we are smart about selecting the right project sites. Rebuild on brownfields or areas damaged by natural disaster, when possible. The Birdland Neighborhood of Des Moines is an example of an area that was ravaged by flooding but is being rebuilt with the help of Habitat for Humanity and others. This past summer, Weitz was able to help rehabilitate this area by supplying materials and volunteers to build one of the houses on the block that Habitat was rebuilding.”
Ward: “Sustainability efforts are not just important to the client but also to the construction company itself and its ability to survive long term. “We want our company and our clients to prosper beyond what’s here and leave the place better than when we started.”