Climate change is on everyone’s minds in 2022. Nearly every country has passed legislation designed to help reduce global carbon emissions enough to prevent significant planetary warming. One of the biggest tools in our collective arsenal is the introduction of green and renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies.
The construction industry is one of the most significant contributors to global carbon emissions, but it is also one of the slowest industries to adopt new technologies. Thankfully, there are several ways to create an energy-efficient construction site. Here are some techniques companies can focus on.
Reduce Idle Time
The average construction site has many moving parts, and all of them need to work together in harmony to reach the finish line. Unfortunately, humans aren’t perfect. There is a lot of overlap while one team waits for another to complete a necessary task before starting their work. Sitting behind the wheel of a heavy piece of equipment, letting the engine idle while you wait to begin your job, is one of the least energy-efficient things you can do on a construction site.
Take steps to reduce the amount of time operators spend sitting idle. There will always be some overlap, but managers and workers should take all possible steps to minimize that downtime. Something as simple as shutting the engine off if the operator is waiting for more than 10-15 minutes can help reduce fuel waste and help make the entire job site more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.
Offer Energy-Efficiency Training
Creating an energy-efficient worksite isn’t a job for one person. It will require all workers on-site to collaborate, reduce energy usage and make the most of what you do use. The easiest way to make it everyone’s job is to offer energy-efficiency training as part of your onboarding schedule.
There are two options. The first is to create an energy-efficiency training program that caters to your company’s individual needs. This is often the best way to create a curriculum that perfectly fits your company, but it isn’t always achievable.
Those who don’t have time or inclination to develop their own training curriculum have various energy efficiency training programs to choose from. Many of these offer information about making construction more efficient and creating green and eco-friendly structures as your final product.
Choose Energy-Efficient Equipment
It isn’t just the heavy equipment that uses excessive fuel or energy. Anything that needs to be refueled or plugged into a wall can potentially burn through more energy than it might otherwise need. Old or poorly maintained machinery may use more power trying to accomplish the same task, driving up fuel or utility costs and increasing the size of the project’s carbon footprint.
In addition to reducing energy costs, opting for green and efficient equipment helps improve the quality of the finished product. It may also help reduce ambient noise levels on-site, which can be valuable if you’re working in a suburban area with stricter noise regulations. It also makes it easier to comply with existing local, state, or governmental standards and regulations.
Record and Calculate Energy Usage
Sometimes, the best tool in your arsenal isn’t a new piece of equipment or a fancy gadget — it’s information. Figuring out where you’re bleeding energy or fuel on a construction site can be nearly impossible when there are dozens or even hundreds of players on the board at any given time. Instead of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, take the time to carefully monitor and record energy and fuel usage throughout the job site.
This can be a daunting task, but you can make it easier by adopting a networked Internet of Things-based approach. Attaching a sensor to each piece of equipment allows you to collect all the data remotely. Pair that with a machine learning algorithm programmed to look for energy use patterns and you’ve suddenly got the best tool for keeping track of a project’s overall energy efficiency.
Opt for Renewable Energy
Gasoline, diesel and fossil-fuel-powered electricity aren’t the only options for running your construction site anymore. Choose a more renewable energy source instead of stocking up on these selections. A few examples might include:
- Portable solar panel and battery systems to electrical power equipment
- Hydrogen fuel cells for generators
- Equipment powered by hydrogen fuel cells
- Local green energy co-ops to power your site
- Hybrid or fully electric equipment instead of diesel or gasoline-powered
This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. There are many good options out there. As the focus continues to shift toward green and renewable energy, these technologies will become more affordable and accessible for the average construction company.
Choose Materials Carefully
Even the materials you choose have the potential to impact how energy efficient your site can be — and we’re not just talking about the finished product. Each building material has its carbon footprint and energy expenditure, from lumber to concrete to steel to glass. Up to 30% of the building materials delivered to a new construction site can end up as waste. Instead of sending them to the landfill, you may be able to reclaim these unused materials for a fraction of the cost of buying them new.
Recycled materials will have a smaller carbon footprint and better overall energy efficiency than new items. For example, virgin steel has a carbon footprint up to five times higher than recycled steel, requiring more energy to smelt and generating more overall greenhouse gas emissions. Choose your materials and sources carefully if energy efficiency is your goal.
Making the Future More Energy-Efficient
The construction industry requires a lot of energy and fuel to turn an empty plot of land into a functional home or business. This is an undeniable fact. We can change how we use that power and where it comes from. Stop relying on fossil fuels whenever possible. Green energy options do exist for building and other industrial applications. Energy efficiency needs to be everyone’s responsibility on a construction site.