- Alluding to the increased focus on climate policy under President Joe Biden’s administration, the Associated General Contractors of America unveiled a new climate initiative to pour building as part of the solution for a lower carbon future.
- Launched by 18 member firms since this spring, the initiative focuses on advocating policies that lead to lower emissions from the built environment, construction site practices to reduce the carbon footprint of contractors during construction, and incentives for contractors to indicate their owner-customers to more climate-friendly buildings. Representatives from companies such as Lane Construction, Clark Construction, Whitaker Construction, Swinerton and McCarthy Holdings are among the members of the task force.
- “How we build is far less of a problem than what we build,” said Les Snyder, president of Pittsburgh-based infrastructure company Shikun & Binui America and chairman of the AGC’s Climate Change Working Group, which shaped the initiative, during a virtual message Conference Tuesday. “While the construction industry has traditionally had little to say about what our public and private customers want in terms of construction, it is time that changed.”
In a 16-page roadmap of the initiative, AGC pointed out that while construction accounts for only 1% to 2% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions in the US, buildings themselves use nearly 40% of the country’s energy and are the source of 31 % of its emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Finding ways to make the construction industry more efficient will at best have a marginal impact on total domestic greenhouse gas emissions,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of AGC. “Finding a way to ensure that what our members build is more efficient will have a significant impact on climate change. That is why our new initiative includes a number of measures that have an impact on what is being built. “
The initiative goes beyond buildings to include freeways and transportation, federal markets and utility infrastructure, and comes with a $ 3.5 trillion follow-up bill focused on social security as the Senate debates a $ 1 trillion infrastructure package. and environmental programs that are in the starting blocks.
From a political perspective, AGC’s initiative aims to expand the 179D energy-saving tax deduction, which allows owners, designers, and builders to write off $ 1.80 per foot for reducing building emissions by 50%, thereby reducing carbon-reducing projects in the Authorization and approval process can be tracked more quickly and encouragement of policymakers to prioritize the modernization of federal buildings among other measures.
The federal government alone, referred to by the AGC as “the landlord of the nation,” has an unmet maintenance and modernization need worth $ 3.9 billion, according to the General Services Administration, which is included in the roadmap.
Changes to the construction site
On the construction sites themselves, the initiative highlighted measures to avoid idle equipment and building materials recycling programs, as well as the use of solar-powered construction vehicles and energy-efficient lighting, as key areas where contractors can reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the AGC’s roadmap pointed to a member company that saved $ 800,000 on a project after implementing an anti-idle policy.
“Given how much fuel is being bought for $ 800,000, that’s a pretty good indication of the importance,” Sandherr said.
To urge their owner-customers to specify more climate-conscious buildings, Sandherr said many owners and developers are already adopting the concept, despite higher up-front costs only exacerbated by material price increases and bottlenecks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Owners, especially private owners, want to show their support for reducing greenhouse gases and are looking for innovations as well as contractors and designers to help them achieve these goals,” said Sandherr. “I think we have a good story to tell about how we can get them to invest in structures that are more energy efficient in the long run through efficient operations that reduce their capital costs.”