The industry is moving toward sustainable construction. General contracting businesses that are eco-friendly and practice sustainability are realizing real benefits including new customers including sales growth.
If you are a General Contractor, it’s important you provide sustainable construction and renovation options to your customers. Attracting new customers has become more complicated since consumers often consider how eco-friendly and green a business is before making a purchase decision. They also consider how knowledgeable the business is as it relates to providing sustainable and eco-friendly products, services and options.
This article is a guide on how a general contracting business can become more environmentally friendly, offer eco-friendly options and reap the benefits of being a sustainable business.
WHY ECO FRIENDLY HOMES MATTER
Now more than ever consumers are using their purchasing power to push companies to be more sustainable. Based on recent surveys, it is estimated that around 3 out of 4 consumers will direct their purchases to businesses that are environmentally sustainable. General contracting businesses are not insulated from these new preferences from consumers. In fact, they are likely at a heightened risk exposure, based on the fact that the number of millennial homeowners is rapidly increasing, a group which cares more about sustainability than their baby boomer and gen-x predecessors. Now is the time for general contracting companies to make the necessary changes in order to keep up with the demands of the next generation of consumers.
The great thing about a shift to more sustainable practices is that it is actually beneficial for general contractors, making the change easier to swallow. Becoming a sustainable business will allow companies to elevate their brand and reputation, and open a door to make new connections with customers and employees. Bottom line, transforming to a sustainable business is not that difficult and it will likely lead to greater profits and sales growth.
HOW TO BUILD and RENOVATE A HOME TO BE MORE SUSTAINABLE
Let’s look at the major areas that determine how sustainable and eco-friendly a home is:
- Building Design & Materials
- Energy Usage and Electricity
- Plumbing and Water Usage
Sustainable Home Design and Sustainable Construction Materials
The first thing you need to do is get the right, eco friendly materials to start your project.
1. Recycled Steel
Steel is one of the most common, and easiest materials to recycle in the world. While it is energy intensive to make, it is far less energy intensive to recycle. Steel is extremely durable and able to last for decades which makes it more sustainable than wood for many uses like support beams.
Bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials because of its fast growing nature, as it only takes bamboo four years to mature, while some trees used as lumber can take almost a hundred years to mature. Bamboo is most commonly used in the form of plywood where it is considered more durable than traditional plywood.
Straw is an organic, plant based material that is a great alternative to fiberglass insulation. Fiberglass insulation contains lots of air contaminants that can be bad for health and the environment. Straw is both a cheap and durable way to insulate a home. One downside to straw is that if it gets wet, it will rot and need to be replaced.
Composite is a combination of wood waste and recycled plastic, giving it the appearance of wood but with some of the properties of plastic. It is extremely durable and a great way to keep materials out of landfills and find a practical use for them.
Cork is a material that is harvested by stripping the outer layer from trees. These trees can still remain alive after the process and therefore it is more sustainable than cutting down trees for wood. Cork is most commonly used for flooring, as flooring itself or a flooring underlayment, but it is also used for insulation.
Linoleum is a floor material made from natural materials such as linseed oil, sawdust, and pine resin. Linoleum has been largely replaced by PVC, but this material is unsustainable as it is made from petroleum and is not biodegradable.
7. Low VOC or VOC Free Paint
VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, but essentially they are human made chemicals that are commonly used in paints. These chemicals can have adverse effects on humans and are pollutants of waterways. Check out this list for alternative options The 9 Best Zero VOC Paints of 2022 (treehugger.com)
For additional materials not on this list check out: Sustainable Construction Materials: 5 Eco-Friendly Options Revolutionizing The Industry – Green Business Bureau
Energy Efficiency and Electricity
One of the most important things to make a home more environmentally friendly is to have sustainable energy usage. The most popular approach and trend is to “electrify” everything, giving homeowners the flexibility to choose their energy source. Let’s look at some of the energy Decisions that are more eco friendly.
1. Solar Power
Solar power is the most practical way for a home or business to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and help the planet. It is also a lucrative business for general contractors to boost their revenue and increase the volume of their projects. Installing solar panels will save the planet, save the homeowner money in the long run on energy costs, and create additional jobs for contractors.
2. Energy Efficient Appliances
Energy efficient appliances are a great indication that technological advancements are helping fight against climate change. Check out these articles for some of the best energy saving appliances in order to lower the carbon footprint of homes and businesses 7 Sustainable & Eco Friendly Appliances to Cool, Cook & Clean (sustainablejungle.com) ——10 Eco-Friendly Appliances to Make Your Kitchen Green | EcoMENA
3. Biomass or Pellet Stove for Heating
Biomass or pellet stoves are a great way to heat a home without the use of fossil fuels. Burning organic materials is considered carbon neutral, as it is not adding any additional carbon to the carbon cycle. These stoves burn much more efficiently than a typical wood stove, and the pellets are usually made from scrap wood and sawdust. These stoves are a great way to save money on the energy bill and are worth the cost of installing.
4. Backup Battery System
Battery backups are a much better alternative than propane or gasoline powered generators for power outages. These batteries can charge from a regular utility or from a solar panel. They are better for the environment because they are not guaranteed to run on fossil fuels. These systems are worth installing if your area has frequent power outages or if one wants to be less reliant on the energy grid.
5. Charging Station
A charging station for an electric vehicle will probably be in the majority of homes by 2030, so it is important for general contractors to learn how to install these devices. Charging stations are good for the environment because they help in the transition away from combustion engines which are energy inefficient in comparison to battery powered vehicles. This can be a lucrative business for contractors to increase their revenue.
6. Double Pane Windows
Double pane windows are a great way to improve the insulation of a house or business. By adding a second layer of glass less air is able to slip out, causing the energy bill to increase whether someone is heating or cooling the home.
Sustainable construction must include sustainable plumbing design and implementations. Eco friendly plumbing practices are important because they help to lower water usage and the energy needed to heat water. Here are some of the plumbing options to consider for a more eco-friendly home.
1. Dual Flushing Toilet
A dual flushing toilet can save considerable amounts of water that is wasted by the regular toilet. It has two different flushing settings, one for liquid waste and one for solid waste. This will save considerable amounts of water in the long run as not as much water is required for liquid waste.
2. Low Flow Toilet
A low flow toilet is defined as a toilet which uses no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, while a typical toilet can use anywhere from 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush. Low flow toilets work by using gravity or pressure to remove waste with less water than a standard toilet. These toilets will save money on utility bills and conserve a precious resource.
3. Low Flow Showerhead
A low flow shower head is one which dispenses water at a rate of not more than 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM). This is in comparison to a typical showerhead which runs at a rate of around 8 GPM. The vast difference between these two numbers indicates that typical showeheads are unnecessarily using excess amounts of water, which is wasting a precious resource, and raising utility bills. Two types of low flow showerheads are aerating and laminar flow. An Aerating showerhead adds air to the water as it comes out the nozzle, which increases the intensity and efficiency of the water. On the other hand, laminar flow showerheads work by producing individual streams of water.
4. Tankless Water Heater
A tankless water heater is a mechanism that heats water without the need for a storage tank. A tankless water heater is much more cost effective, and energy efficient than a storage system. As long as copious amounts of hot water are not needed, a tankless system should be sufficient. It is also important to install a heating mechanism that relies on electricity rather than natural gas in order to reduce fossil fuel consumption.
5. Water Leak Detectors
A water leak detection system can save clients from spending large amounts of money on the water bill for water they are not even using. Water leaks can also cause damage to the home that can cost even larger amounts in repairs. A water leak detection system is important because it will help save a precious natural resource and clients money.
6. Steel pipes
A lot of steel piping has been replaced with PVC, but this material is unsustainable as it is made from petroleum and is not biodegradable. Steel pipes on the other hand are easily recyclable and far more durable. In the long run steel pipes will be cost effective, and will protect the environment.
For more information about eco friendly plumbing check out Eco-Friendly Plumbing Products – Green Business Bureau
DEMONSTRATE YOUR COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION
It is clear that being a sustainable construction or general contracting company is both attainable and affordable. Going green will increase your revenue and give you a competitive advantage over your competition. It will also tap a new emerging home buyer that prefers eco-friendly homes, the millennials.
The last piece of the puzzle is getting recognition for it. Prove to your customers that you are in fact eco-friendly and not simply greenwashing by getting verified by a third party. The Green Business Bureau can help you make these changes and help you market your business as environmentally friendly.
About the Author
GBB Green Ambassador
Marcus Permatteo is a content creator as well as a financial analyst with a focus on environmental and social governance for the Green Business Bureau. He is a graduate from the University of Connecticut’s School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Outside his professional life, Marcus enjoys spending time outdoors and reading.