Can construction embrace sustainability? Jim Lammie, director emeritus of Parsons Brinckerhoff, has charged the Construction Industry Institute to "develop best practices and innovative ideas" in the field. Sustainable development requires a change in ethical values and company culture, which he defined as "what you do and what your company does when no one is looking."

CII’s annual members event drew 500 major owners and contractors to Vancouver, B.C., July 27-29. Conference chairman J. Norman Lockington, technology vice president for Canadian steel maker Dofasco, Hamilton, Ontario, introduced sustainability as "the interdependence of economic success, social well-being and environmental protection, or the triple bottom line." He said leading businesses now report annually on social and environmental performance as well as their financial performance because "they know it provides a more complete measure of long-term value creation and strategic opportunity."


Lammie noted advances in sustainability such as the development of standards by the U.S. Green Building Council and the U.K.’s strategy for more sustainable construction. He said 77% of construction companies in the U.K. have a sustainable development policy, citing reasons such as regulation, competitive edge, client policy, enhanced reputation, reducing legal risks and investing in the future. "But they don’t mention the most important reason of all," Lammie said, which is that this "is the ethical and right thing to do."


CII is a research group that brings together major owners and contractors to improve the life-cycle cost-effectiveness of capital projects in areas such as safety, schedule, cost and security. CII Chairman Lester L. Sturgeon, division vice president for global facilities engineering at Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Ill., said the group will accept Lammie’s pitch. CII considers sustainability a "key area of focus" and will be funding research on the subject next year. Projects approved for the fall 2004 funding cycle include "Leading Indicators to Project Outcomes."

Lammie also questioned why U.S. contractors say "green" projects cost 30% more than traditional projects. He said the real added costs are about 2% in the U.K. and 4% in the U.S.


Ed Feiner, chief architect for the General Services Administration, said his agency, the "landlord for the federal government," has made it an objective for all new and rehabbed buildings to be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. "The question is how green should you be?" Feiner asked. "We have found that a 2.5% bump in first costs can achieve a certified or silver rating under LEED."

In some cases, the payback on energy savings may be guaranteed by the contractor. In renovating its four buildings in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Society achieved a 10% savings in energy costs and a $300,000 annual savings in operating costs. The buildings, which ranged from 20 to 100 years old, had lower water consumption and lower waste disposal costs. Michael Arny, president of the Leonardo Academy and chairman of the council’s LEED for Existing Buildings...