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November 27, 2017

The New Definition of Sustainability

What is Sustainability?

It’s a word commonly associated with recycling programs and efforts to reduce energy and water usage. Sustainability trends like solar panels, bike racks and rain water reclamation systems come to mind.

The above efforts are great and as an industry, we must always work to reduce our environmental footprint. But here’s a way to think about sustainability that might not immediately come to mind. Let me throw a statistic at you.

According to the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, 70% of the buildings that will be occupied 30 years from now already exist today.

What does this mean for engineering and construction firms? At C1S, it is a statistic that has guided our focus as a company towards being the go-to in the renovation of existing buildings. When we think sustainability and sustainable construction, our greatest focus is considering what it is going to take to deliver projects that will last 50, 60, 70 years and beyond.

Technology and Sustainable Construction Materials are key to long lasting projects.

These days, engineers, designers, and maintenance professionals have a wealth of software and technology that makes it easier than ever to draw up designs that are more cost effective, stronger, and durable than ever before, and maintain them when problems arise.

For example, Revit and 3D Laser Scanners. These tools work together to gather information about a space down to an 1/8 of an inch and then designers and engineers can pull that information to create completely accurate 3D models to see how the building will perform before a hammer is ever swung. On the maintenance side, consider the fact that modern HVAC systems can now self-monitor and let maintenance workers know in advance when a repair will need to be made. In the past, maintenance was mostly reactive as workers were first alerted to problems when the breakdown had already occurred.

When it comes to materials, a minor example of how far we have come as an industry can be found with LED light bulbs. In the days when fluorescent bulbs illuminated warehouses across the country, maintenance required taking out a lift and hoisting someone 35 feet in the air, potentially multiple times a year.  Furthermore, entire closets dedicated simply to light bulbs had to be kept due to the need for frequent changes. LED bulbs have essentially eliminated this headache as they last 2-4 times longer, operate on far less electricity, and shine brighter than ever before.

Today, construction materials are getting lighter and stronger.  Foam insulation is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Heck, even paint is better. Ten years ago, many clients didn’t know there was paint that didn’t include dangerous VOC solvents. Today, it’s standard.

The industry must continue to educate itself on the latest technology and the most durable materials to reduce maintenance costs for building owners and extend the life of their investments.

For C1S, New Technology Will Continue to Shape How We Deliver Long-Lasting Projects

Technology will continue to drive the way we renovate buildings and help them last longer for our clients. The consensus is that technology like augmented reality will become industry standard, which would allow construction professionals to scan a job site with a few clicks on their smart phones to make sure standards of work are being met and identify issues that could arise in the future.

Sustainability is a popular word in the industry, but one that tends to take on a different definition depending on who you ask.