By Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP
Let’s say you are starting a weight loss plan, and you could quickly find out how many pounds you could potentially lose if you switched your morning pancakes and syrup to a bowl of oatmeal. That would be quite a useful tool for many looking to slim up.
Unfortunately, we don’t have such a resource to offer; however, for those precast concrete manufacturers who want to see how changes in raw material procurement, energy use and water use affect your bottom dollar – and the impact on the environment – you’re in luck.
For example, let’s say you find a new supplier of aggregates who is 30 miles away rather than 55 miles away. Depending on your fuel costs, that could save $.30 per ton of precast manufactured. If you produce 15,000 tons in a year, you’d find an extra $4,500 in your pocket. And, you reduce your Global Warming Potential by 1.4% or 50 tons of CO2. These figures are based on very specific fuel prices. However, NPCA’s Sustainable Plant Tool can help you calculate impacts and likely cut costs, and it is completely free for NPCA members.
The Microsoft Excel-based data-collecting and benchmarking tool was created by the Athena Institute and financed by NPCA, the Canadian Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute.
Much of the work involved in using this spreadsheet is the initial data entry. Information on raw material use, including how many tons of cement, gallons of admixtures and tons of rebar must be compiled and entered for a specific time period. Along with this information, the distance the material travels from the source to the plant and by what means also needs to be entered. Additional inputs include energy use, fuel consumption, water use and waste disposal. The intuitive spreadsheet contains instructions on the different required data points. Also, members wanting a tutorial on how to use the spreadsheet can watch a free, recorded webinar presented by one of the creators of the software program.
Once the initial information is entered, updates can be made monthly, quarterly or annually to see seasonal effects. It also helps to see or predict how changes in material usage, transportation and energy use can impact the three environmental impact measures: global warming potential, primary energy consumption and water use.
The scope of the tool spans from resource extraction to when products leave the plant to be transported to the job site.
Is sustainable construction still relevant?
While there may be some economic incentives to reducing energy, waste and water use at the plant, these are also strategies to secure work in a growing green building market. The latest 2018 Dodge Report, titled “World Green Building Trends 2018”1 states that green building activity is expected to grow dramatically in 20 countries, including the U.S. between now and 2021. Client demand is cited as driving this market in the U.S. Here are examples from 3 of the largest U.S.-based construction companies:
- Turner Construction Company, a North America-based, international construction services company that is consistently in the top 10 largest construction companies in the United States (based on total annual revenues), announced earlier this year it is targeting a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions and water use from construction activities by 2030.2
- Bechtel Group, Inc. the largest construction firm based in the U.S., pledges to use sustainable alternatives to reduce its environmental footprint on 100% of their key projects and non-project facilities by 2030.3
- In its 2018-2020 Sustainability Report, Jacobs Engineering Group has implemented a program called “PlanBeyond” which outlines its commitment to sustainability that includes “partnering with … suppliers to influence and drive progress through the provision of more sustainable options across products and services.”4
Sustainability is becoming increasingly relevant, and it can be a powerful competitive advantage when one of these or many other green building-oriented customers come calling.
The first step
Say what you’re going to do, do what you said you would do and prove it. These are the three basic elements of a quality assurance system. First, you set your goals and how you will reach them. Then you execute based on that plan. And finally, you test the results and document throughout to prove that it worked. This can be applied to a sustainability initiative.
Pick one thing you want to improve. Perhaps it’s enhancing energy efficiency in the plant by replacing light fixtures, using natural lighting or using lighting zones that only activate when someone is present. Perhaps it’s reducing the amount of waste that is being hauled from your facility.
Once this decision is made, designate someone to obtain this software program and fill in the blanks. Once this initial data entry is completed, execute the initiative and update the numbers next month, next quarter or next year to determine the impact your operations had.
The software allows the user to print out specific metrics in the form of pie charts to effectively convey the before and after of the changes made. This is the first step that can be used as documentation and marketing material to support your support of green building practices. It can also be the first step to many more enhancements to your facility that will save you money and potentially open up new business opportunities.
To request this software or to learn more, please reach out to Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, at NPCA. He can be reached at [email protected] or directly at 317-582-2328.
Claude Goguen, P.E., LEED AP, is NPCA’s director of technical education and outreach.
- Dodge Data & Analytics – World Green Building Trends 2018 https://www.worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/World%20Green%20Building%20Trends%202018%20SMR%20FINAL%2010-11.pdf
- Turner Construction News Release – April 22, 2019 – Turner Construction Company Announces Sustainability Program to Achieve Higher Level of Environmental Efficiency and Resiliency https://www.turnerconstruction.com/news/item/9e22/Turner-Construction-Company-Announces-Sustainability-Program-to-Achieve-Higher-Level-of-Environmental-Efficiency-and-Resiliency
- Bechtel – 2030 Targets – https://www.bechtel.com/sustainability/2030-goals-targets/
- Jacobs Engineering Group – 2018-2020 Sustainability Strategy – https://www.jacobs.com/sites/default/files/2019-04/Jacobs-2018-2020-Sustainability-Strategy.pdf