The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has released a report intended to help construction firms identify strategies and actions that can reduce carbon emissions from the built environment.

Although construction activity itself accounts for less than 2% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., construction firms often possess the practical expertise and knowledge about how to reduce emissions in the built environment, including which types of projects can be built cost effectively and meet climate goals, said AGC’s CEO Stephen Sandherr at an Aug. 3 online press briefing.

The report is the culmination of a series of biweekly meetings held between March through June of a new 18-member task force established to identify opportunities and challenges related to climate change policy. The report is part of the association’s strategy to ensure construction firms have the support and resources they need to play a positive role in shaping a less-carbon intensive economy, Sandherr said.  The strategy intends to help firms operate in a way that reduces carbon emissions, through things such as reducing idling of trucks and machinery on jobsites and give them the knowledge to help identify how to build a project that is more resilient and energy efficient.

The report calls for a national strategy to invest in infrastructure to make communities more resilient, expedited permitting for projects that would reduce carbon emissions, continued modernization of federal buildings and more incentives to encourage the private sector to build more energy-efficient buildings. 

“How we build is less of the problem than what we build,” Les Snyder, president of Shikun & Binui America in Pittsburgh and chair of AGC’s climate change task force said during the briefing. While many construction firms have traditionally been reticent about suggesting improvements or changes on public and private projects, “It’s time for that to change,” he said.

In the report, the task force notes that construction firms “have an opportunity to engage with owners, manufacturers, insurance and other professional partners …. on advancements in equipment, materials and technologies … and also to be able to hold frank discussion on what roadblocks may hinder investment in the infrastructure of the future.”

Sandherr added, “AGC is fortunate in that we have solid and long-lasting relationships with federal agencies, and at the state and chapter levels with state [officials.] That generally gives us the opportunity to have conversations with them – without discussing specific projects — about some of the things to help them achieve their climate objectives in a way that is not burdensome, that can be cost-effective and that provide resiliency.”

The AGC officials said the report outlines in broad brushstrokes ideas and strategies that will be fleshed out at a later date. Future plans include working closely with engineering and design groups such as the American Institute of Architects to develop some of the actions outlined in the task force report.