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Taking a Sustainable Approach to Construction in 2021


There’s no doubt 2020 was a tough year for many business owners and individuals, but in the midst of the global pandemic and economic crisis, there was also a notable shift toward reversing decades of damage and a renewed focus on addressing climate change. An analysis from 2000 in the United Kingdom indicates that the development industry accounts for nearly 35% of total greenhouse gas emissions. With this in mind, builders are being placed under a microscope for their sustainability practices and will need to prove to customers – and investors – that they are taking the future of our planet into consideration. To remain competitive in the construction market, owners must adapt. From material use to operational practices, here are a few ways your team can work toward utilizing environmentally friendly practices in 2021 and beyond. 


As uneven weather patterns and increased temperatures continue to become more frequent due to climate change, builders are seeking to erect new projects with climate resilience in mind. As engineering improves, construction companies should continue staying up to date on methods to build for the long-term that will withstand extreme weather conditions. This will reduce the number of repairs needed on a project and, in turn, the fuel consumption and waste that comes with these fixes. 

To minimize emissions and decrease your carbon footprint, using high-quality products that are specifically tailored for each project can also eliminate the need for unnecessary repairs in the short-term. When an asphalt job is done well, it will decrease the need for larger, more expensive repairs in the future. With this approach, excess emissions from unneeded jobs are virtually eliminated, not to mention client satisfaction is improved. 


For paving, prioritize sustainable materials, such as high-quality asphalt, additives, crack fillers, and pavement sealers versus materials that may be cheaper but are worse for the environment, like coal tar. This choice not only protects employees, it is better for the environment. 

Additionally, pavers can use additives in their projects that promote sustainable paving. Porous pavement is one option that helps to eliminate water drainage issues, allowing water to naturally flow into the soil below. This method has greatly improved since its creation thanks to advancements in engineering. Bio-based sealings are another asphalt sealant option that are produced from soy as opposed to petroleum that contain low VOC and are PAH free. 

There are many ways to obtain greener materials as well. Start by speaking directly with your suppliers to figure out how and from where they’re sourcing their products. If you’re ordering in large quantities or know other businesses who buy products from the same supplier, you may be able to convince your supplier to work with more sustainable partners. Working with local suppliers will also reduce emissions since they won’t be transporting your materials across long distances. 


Construction managers not only need to manage their site operations in a sustainable manner, but also need to ensure their crews are knowledgeable when it comes to working sustainably. 

Ridesharing is one practice that managers can recommend to staff in order to reduce transportation emissions of workers getting to and from work sites. Additionally, while most construction sites simply keep equipment running at all times to reduce downtime between tasks, green construction sites reduce equipment usage time to save energy. Building on this, you could also help organize a ridesharing system for your employees to reduce transportation carbon emissions while getting to and from a worksite. 

As construction managers know, sites often contain a large build-up of waste. One way to ensure the project is more environmentally friendly is to dispose of waste properly. Many materials that might be considered waste can actually be recycled or reused in future projects, saving your business money and time down the road. Consulting with a waste removal service can also aid in ensuring your site is removing waste in the most efficient way possible. 

In the long-term, sustainability practices will continue changing due to regulation and innovation, but construction companies that adapt early on will attract customers who want to work with partners who have a proven track record. By kickstarting your company’s sustainable construction methods in 2021, you’ll gain a competitive edge for years to come. 

Bob Lester is president and CEO of Columbus, Ohio based Dura-Seal, a sealcoatingasphalt, and concrete services company. He has worked in the paving industry for over 20 years, leading two buyouts, an acquisition, and the sale of an equipment manufacturing company at Dura-Seal.