Creating a new home, not just a new office

To Scott Laughlin, the environment in which you work has a significant impact on how well you work. That’s why when LMO Advertising – the largest metro Washington, D.C., advertising agency – was looking to relocate its roughly 90-person headquarters, the firm took great care in finding and crafting its new space. LMO chose 1776 Wilson Boulevard, a 140,000-square-foot building that Skanska developed, built and recently sold. Laughlin – LMO’s co-owner – spoke with us about creating environments where people want to be.


LMO’s new space has a Ping-Pong table – how is your game?

My personal Ping-Pong game is bad. That’s somewhat by design because no one likes to work for someone who beats them in Ping-Pong. But maybe I should play it more because Ping-Pong is a great way to clear your mind. One of the hardest human acts is to be creative on demand. Ask any improv actor or comedian how hard it is to respond creatively on cue. What we find is you need space, time and distractions to allow the creative process to work behind the scenes. And then these great ideas seem to pop up out of nowhere, but what’s really happened is your mind has had the ability to run free for a while – until all the gears clicked into place. There is a method to the madness of having space and an environment that allows for such distractions. That’s sometimes what is necessary to break a new idea free.

How did LMO approach creating a new headquarters?

The creative services work that we do doesn’t require being in an office. So our goal was not to build an office space – it was to build a home. We wanted to build a place where people wanted to come, not a place where they had to come. That’s a profound distinction. Doing that meant having an environment that is both comfortable and collaborative. The LEED Platinum standards to which 1776 Wilson is certified contribute to having a high-energy environment. They helped each of our employees have an exterior view and natural light at their primary workspace. Even more, the roof deck with WiFi enables our employees to work outside on nice days. Our business is based on talented, energetic people having great ideas, and these features help make that possible. To foster collaboration, about 45 percent of our office is dedicated to public space. That includes seven conference rooms and nine open collaboration areas, along with a café having comfortable couches and that Ping-Pong table, and also an Xbox room. We were very deliberate in carving out so much public space: We want people from different practice areas and disciplines – people who might not otherwise regularly interact – to be bumping into one another.

LMO2_30We wanted to build a place where people wanted to come, not a place where they had to come,” said Laughlin. (Photo courtesy Davis Carter Scott)

We subscribe to the architectural collision theory that you have to have people having impromptu, unexpected moments to quickly generate novel ideas. In our industry, the digital world has become the norm: We can’t sit around and wait three months to launch our next marketing campaign. Sometimes, we’re responding to things overnight. Collaboration is key to doing high quality work faster. The bones and philosophy of 1776 Wilson provided us with about 75 percent of what we wanted in a space. That’s why we were so excited and committed to making this our home.

What is required to be innovative?

Anyone can have a good idea once. To be able to routinely generate new ideas of merit is really hard work. It requires a process of taking a promising idea, quickly and inexpensively testing that hypothesis, and doing that testing in very validatable ways, so you have data to help guide your decision. Then you know what truly works best, and you can use that to help your clients stay ahead of the curve.

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Building a career as a leader in sustainability

Today in Atlanta, Skanska USA’s Chief Sustainability Officer Beth Heider will be elevated to Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. The fellowship program honors those architects who have made a significant contribution to architecture and society and who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession. Out of a total AIA membership of more than 85,000, there are only roughly 3,200 members distinguished with this honor. Here, Beth reflects on her career as an advocate for sustainability.

When I was in architecture school in the ‘70s, the concept of green buildings was still in its infancy, green buildings looked like the architectural equivalent of a Birkenstock sandal and specifying vinyl asbestos tile was common practice. How many ways is that bad? But we did not know, we just didn’t know.

Before I joined Skanska, I was a consultant to the U.S. General Services Administration. This was back in 1996, when the GSA had the foresight to wrestle with the question of, “What should the cost commitment be to ‘green’ the federal workplace?” I helped design the methodology to put a price tag on that commitment several years before LEED. This study for GSA connected me to a group of green building thought leaders, many of whom remain collaborators and friends. So my entre to green building came through cost analysis – making the business case for green building. Based on this work, the federal government increased budgets for capital projects which impacted billions of dollars in federal work and supported the GSA’s commitment to green the federal workplace.  Thankfully, today that cost premium for most green building has all but disappeared.

Making an economic case for green building

Since joining Skanska, I’ve collaborated – most notably with my preconstruction colleague Steve Clem – on more than a dozen studies exploring the cost and benefits of building more sustainable buildings. This research, supported by the success of real projects, continuously reinforces my belief that building more sustainably means building better. The most elegant solutions come when the entire project team collaborates, when the initial and life-cycle costs of projects are in balance, and when we dare to look at the potential of new materials, new systems and new strategies that question commonly-held beliefs.

Heider and Ferguson 1

At Climate Week 2014, Beth joined George Ferguson, mayor of the city of Bristol, UK, a 2015 European Green Capital, to advocate for net zero buildings.

As an industry, we have come a long way in terms of connecting the dots between the bottom line and the impact of sustainability, but we can – and must – continue to do better. Just this past year, Skanska partnered with the World Green Building Council on a major global research effort to establish common ways of measuring health and productivity benefits arising from green buildings, and to provide best practice guidance on the types of green building features that enhance them. We found that a range of factors – from air quality and lighting, to views of nature and interior layout – can affect the health, satisfaction and job performance of office workers, and in turn, the bottom line of a business. It’s this kind of quantitative advocacy that has changed the conversation about not only what, but the way, we build.

1_Bi1399_rgb_Omslag_5Beth led the push for Skanska to pursue LEED Platinum certification at our offices in the Empire State Building, demonstrating that green retrofits can both save money and reduce a space’s environmental impact. 

In 2008, Skanska decided to refurbish our flagship offices in the Empire State Building to LEED Platinum. We wanted to show that environmentally responsible and energy efficient renovation is possible even in a historic skyscraper. Our 32nd-floor office is the first in the Empire State Building to obtain LEED Platinum certification. Skanska now benefits from a 58 percent reduction in electricity costs compared to our prior office, and we are on track to save over half a million dollars in operational costs over the life of our lease. We also tracked sick leave as an indicator of health and workplace productivity. In our first two years of occupancy, our sick leave dropped between 15 percent and 18 percent over our previous offices. This was by design.

Learning from other green leaders

One of the highlights of my career was serving as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Green Building Council. Two great chairwomen preceded me: Gail Vittori and Rebecca Flora, each with different skillsets. This was also the first time in my entire 30-plus-year career I worked with female leaders. Collaborating with the amazing and talented USGBC staff on a variety of committees and work groups during that first term I learned the power of USGBC’s engine and I saw that strength multiply under CEO Rick Fedrizzi and COO Mahesh Ramanujam. That preparation and collaboration emboldened me to lead according to my own compass.

Today, as chief sustainability officer, my job is to translate into action Skanska’s commitment to sustainability and constantly seek out pragmatic and useful ways to impact and measure the triple bottom line.

In talking about sustainability, it’s not just thinking about better buildings but how we build those buildings that matters. I was drawn to Skanska because of the company’s commitments to ethics, and because Skanska provided an opportunity to take the important green work I had done with the federal government into the field. This emphasis on ethics expanded to embrace the concept of the triple bottom line: maximizing positive effects on humans, the planet and the economy.

Looking ahead 

What’s the future look like? It is projects like the Bertschi School Science Classroom and the Brock Environmental Center that not only look to achieve net-zero energy or water but also serve as a model for living responsibly with nature and each other.

Beth’s insights helped the Chesapeake Bay Foundation position its Brock Environmental Center project in Virginia Beach, Va., for Living Building Challenge certification

The biggest challenge in my career as a green advocate has been confronting honestly held but incompletely informed beliefs and complacency. What a shame it would be if we saved billions of dollars in energy costs and health care costs and enhanced productivity, only to find out that human activity had less of an impact on global climate change than we had thought! Regardless of your position on climate change, enhancing energy and water efficiency and enhancing human wellness and productivity through better buildings represent one of the greatest economic opportunities of our lifetime. And if you believe the vast majority of the scientific community, we need to get busy and embrace this opportunity now. If climate change and unhealthy materials were perceived to be as much of a threat to humanity as World War II, I believe that we would find a way to address the threat and create economic prosperity. Population projections alone are reason enough to encourage conservation. If we are going to ensure that our planet can support a burgeoning population, sustainability must be our priority.


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Elizabeth Heider

posted by Elizabeth Heider

Chief Sustainability Officer, Skanska USA

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Learning about safety from those to whom it matters most

Last week was Safety Week, one of my favorite times of the year. There is nothing more important to me, to Skanska and to the rest of the construction industry than safety, so that’s why seven days filled with extra efforts to create awareness about safety and to increase the focus on eliminating accidents is so meaningful to me.

I definitely hope you took every opportunity to participate in Safety Week events in your area, either on jobsites or at offices. I was happy to get out to some of our projects to talk about safety – and more importantly, to learn how we can improve at being safe. At each site, I made sure to talk with not just our project team, but also with many craft workers. Skanska is emphasizing the need for proper safety planning for each day’s activities, so that people approach their work with a fresh set of eyes and don’t get complacent. Craft workers are on the front lines, so it’s critical that they understand the importance of pre-task plans.


Those conversations will stick with me. Pre-task planning involves paperwork, and I wasn’t sure if crews were feeling overwhelmed by the paper. But nearly all the workers I spoke with told me they weren’t. One of our electricians at one of our New York University projects said it best: “Pre-task planning is a necessary part of the job. It’s good – it makes you aware of what you’re supposed to be doing.” A few years ago, crews were telling me the opposite, that the paperwork was a hassle. It’s great that craft workers are now champions of the need for these checks and balances, and are seeing the benefits.

Crews also told me how important it is that pre-task plans are communicated:  not just throughout the crew doing that particular activity, but to crews doing adjacent work as well. If everyone understands what is going on, they can keep themselves out of harm’s way. I also heard about the effectiveness of programs – like that at our Bayonne Bridge project – that regularly bring together project management and craft workers to discuss what those workers need to do their jobs as safely and as efficiently as possible. That’s the kind of teamwork and understanding that leads to successful projects.

Additionally, craft workers spoke of how helpful it is to have images that aid in understanding upcoming project activities. We’re doing some of that already, and will soon be doing more through a safety platform we plan to roll out later this year, as well as through greater use of virtual design and construction models. Such images are particularly beneficial to those who speak English as a second language.


I left these Safety Week visits inspired. Again and again, I met people who were enthused and engaged about safety. People like Lee McPhie, a carpenter with Local 926, who said: “I try to set an example with how I work. We all keep each other safe.” That’s the kind of mindset everyone needs to have for the construction industry to stop hurting people.

There’s no reason our industry can’t be safer. There’s no reason everyone can’t go home the same way they went to work in the morning. And the lesson I ask everyone to take away from this Safety Week is that proper pre-task planning is the tool we need to be injury free, every day and everywhere.

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Richard Cavallaro

posted by Richard Cavallaro

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Improved safety, greater efficiency and more – What’s not to like about ergonomics?

A Skanska vice president of environment, health and safety, Jennifer McMullen is also a certified professional ergonomist. For this third day of Safety Week – over which Skanska is focusing on how safety must be central both on and off the job – we spoke with her about how ergonomics ties in with safety and productivity.

What’s something key that people don’t understand about ergonomics?

Jennifer McMullenMuch of ergonomics deals with awareness of body positioning and posture. In many situations, we tend to place our bodies in awkward positions while performing tasks without challenging the need to do so: We accept the manner in which materials, work surfaces and tools are presented to us and tend to work around these versus questioning if we are able to go about it in a better way.

The general reason people behave this way is that we value time, and this value tends to drive our behavior. The quandary is even though you may be saving a few minutes your body will become fatigued much more quickly if you are requiring it to do more work than is necessary. Or worse, you could be injured while taking a shortcut.

The key is to be aware of which postures are conducive to the least amount of work for your body. When presented with a task, take the time to think about how to maintain a neutral posture while doing so. The construction industry has an opportunity to educate our workforce on what good body positioning looks like, and to embed ergonomics-related hazards into the pre-task planning process, just as we would any other potential workplace hazard.

How can ergonomics improve health and productivity?

Ergonomics is essentially the study of work, and is the ultimate continuous process improvement tool. The thought is, if we make the task easier for people to perform, they will be more efficient and make fewer mistakes while doing the task. Here is an example: Why don’t we enjoy taking out the garbage? For one thing, it smells! But also, it’s often difficult to pull the liner bag out of the trash can in our house and carry the bag to the bigger trash can that we often have outside.

How would ergonomics play into this seemingly mundane task? Did you know if you make a breather hole on the side of the trash can, this allows the liner to be removed easier when full? This helps to minimize the difficult lift. Now let’s talk about the carry portion of the task: If you live in an area with a lot of rain, it’s a good idea to stage your larger container in a covered area and in close proximity to the smaller can, in order to minimize the carry distance.

My point is: transform a task you are required to perform every week – or even more frequently – into something that takes less of your time, is easier to do, and is less of a burden on you to perform.

How does ergonomics impact safety, especially in the office where risks may appear to be low?

Few risks may be apparent in an office environment, but ergonomics-related injuries such as tendonitis and muscle strain are prevalent with computer use. The primary reason for that is office workers have the tendency to ignore symptoms and assume they will go away without changing the major factors contributing to those injuries, or they assign the discomfort to something other than what they do at work every day. Ergonomics-related discomfort in the office is typically caused by:

- Improper wrist posture while using mouse (using a wrist-dominant motion versus a whole arm motion)
- Resting on the elbow or planting the elbow on a hard surface while working
- A mismatch between work surface and seated work height, which creates awkward body posture
- Prolonged static loading of muscles such as over-reaching for commonly used devices, such as the keyboard and mouse
- Sustained awkward posture of the spine due to inadequate chair adjustment

Keep in mind that office workers generally experience these types of injuries due to the sustained nature of their work.

What are some best practices of ergonomics in construction?

SkanskaPre-83 SM

The factory-like indoor conditions used to prefabricate building systems and components provide more ergonomically friendly and safer working conditions.

We need to focus more on ergonomics in construction. The construction industry as a whole is lacking on the application of ergonomics in the field, although a large majority of our more impactful injuries continue to occur during material handling – lifting, pushing, pulling and carrying material – and tool use. This is a huge opportunity in the construction industry, not only for reducing injuries, but also to improve process efficiency and work quality.

There are some bright spots, however. By embracing prefabrication and modular construction – as Skanska is doing – benefits to workers include operating in factory-like environments that offer improved safety and more comfortable working positions: less work at heights or on the ground is required.

Another good example is that power tool manufacturers continue to add features and adjust designs in ways that reduce vibration. So many tools vibrate in some way, and over time this can have negative impacts on their operators. Growing recognition of the health impacts of vibration will continue to drive such improvements.

In general though, it can seem like the construction industry tends to turn a blind eye to this issue, even though the data is compelling and would suggest otherwise.

How much potential does ergonomics have for construction?

Ergonomics can help construction eliminate double handling of materials, minimize travel distances, reduce lifting and eliminate non-value add manual processes: all of these aspects will not only reduce injuries, but also make us more efficient as an industry. With so many important benefits, what’s not to like about ergonomics?


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How technology is improving project safety

It may not be something the average person thinks about on a daily basis, but technology plays an important role in making our lives safer. For instance, Volvo – the Swedish-based company and leader in automotive safety – recently stated that its goal for 2020 is “that no one is killed or injured in a Volvo.” This may seem like a lofty goal, but the development of crash avoidance and predictive technologies – along with other innovative safety features – make this a realistic target. Skanska believes that technology is critical to eliminating deaths and injuries on construction projects too.

One technology that we see as key to achieving our Injury-Free Environment® goal is building information modeling. Multi-dimensional BIM models clearly convey what is to be built: this improves design and construction efficiency, but more importantly BIM helps enable safer construction processes and provide for safer operation and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure. These latter two aspects are part of a far-reaching approach called “Safety by Design,” which focuses on considering safety impacts when making design selections.

Identifying trip hazards virtually

Building information models can help identify safety risks during design, so they can be eliminated instead of just mitigated. Here, a trip hazard has been identified virtually.

“Safety should be considered from the beginning of design – safety as it relates to occupants of the building and for those who operate and maintain the building, as well as safety for those who construct the building,” said David Korman, environment, health and safety director.

Added Albert Zulps, virtual design and construction regional director: “We can help plan for a safer project even before we break ground.”

The benefits of focusing on safety in design can be tremendous, as at that early project phase risks can be eliminated, instead of having to be mitigated. For instance, designing an exterior facade that can be fully installed from inside the building – rather than via exterior scaffolding or aerial lifts – reduces the potential for an accident. Likewise, making the choice early on that if a valve must be located high in the ceiling, that it’s provided with a chain wheel to allow operation from the ground – rather than requiring a facilities professional to reach it while high on a ladder – also reduces accident risk. BIM is an important part of testing such design options with safety in mind.

Such virtual models continue to deliver benefits into construction. For instance, a model can help ensure that a structural frame is properly braced all throughout the erection process. And by using a 4-D animation of construction sequencing, the location of cranes can be optimized to minimize overhead risk and conflicts with such hazards as overhead high tension wires. Additional ways BIM can enhance construction safety include creating virtual safety tours; enhanced site planning for egress, emergency routing and first aid; project-wide safety planning; pre-task planning; and investigating accidents when they do happen.

Other types of project technologies are also evolving rapidly. Before too long, safety will be improved by the wide use of everything from augmented reality to wearable technology. For example, safety information and hazard notification may be overlaid on safety goggles in real time, along with 3-D model information and analytics. With this, a worker walking through a space will quickly know key aspects of the surroundings, both now and in the future. Also, as wearable technologies become more prevalent, GPS location devices may link to 3-D site models to alert both the worker and the site safety team of potential dangers, and to track activity for continual optimization of construction site safety.

In June, Dave and Albert will present at the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Safety 2015 conference in Dallas on “Virtual Design and Construction for Safer Construction Projects.” Their presentation will overview how models and data can be used to enhance safety on construction projects and during operations. They will highlight examples from Skanska projects, and discuss what is on the horizon to improve construction safety using current and future technology.

We hope to see you there!

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Safety isn’t just for construction sites

Safety should be a way of life for us all. The tenets of our Injury-Free® Environment mindset mean bringing safety with you wherever you go. Here, we illustrate the ways that everyone can live a safer life:


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What can we learn about risks from pro cyclist Danny MacAskill?

It’s mesmerizing to watch Danny MacAskill defy gravity on his bike. Danny, for those who don’t already know, is a fellow Scot who is a professional trials cyclist – he completes extremely high-risk obstacle courses on his bike. And what obstacles he overcomes: On videos that have attracted tens of millions of views on YouTube, you can watch Danny jump boulders on his way down a rocky mountain side; hop his bike from one abandoned railroad track to another, spinning to change direction in mid-air; and do a front flip on his bike over a barbed-wire fence.


Danny MacAskill thoroughly prepares for the high-risk obstacle courses he undertakes. Similarly, in construction we must relentlessly identify and mitigate the risks faced by project teams.

Photo Credit:

There’s a great deal of risk in what Danny does – that’s why so many people watch him ride. It’s worth understanding how he recognizes and prepares for those risks, as there are key parallels in risk identification and mitigation between Danny’s riding and what we do every day in construction – and in everyday life. In all cases, not being vigilant to the risks that surround us all too often lead to serious consequences.

Seeing risks

Here’s what Danny has to say about planning for his tricks: “When I’m first thinking about doing a line, you’re actually thinking about the worst-case scenario that’s going to happen. You think about the different crashes and possibilities. You’re constantly assessing what you’re doing – your mind can definitely play games with you.”

Construction should be approached in the same way. Every possible risk needs to be identified, analyzed and with detailed plans put in place and responsibilities assigned to mitigate the risk. Look-ahead meetings, daily briefings and construction work plans are key parts of this on our job sites. Tasks at home must be given the same consideration.

Sometimes, confidence can blind people to risks. Each day’s activities must be approached as distinct undertakings requiring comprehensive risk evaluations.

Managing risk

Danny only moves ahead with a trick when he’s fully ready. Here’s what he had to say about that in another interview: “I tend not to do things that I’m scared of. I try to have things completely sorted in my head beforehand. I have to be 100 percent clear that I’m going to do the trick I’m going to do.”

Beyond mental awareness, Danny prepares in other ways. He lays out the stunts he wants to do sometimes months ahead of time. Then he practices his moves, sometimes using practice ramps and setting up mats to cushion his falls. He always has the proper equipment, including a helmet and gloves.

To mitigate jobsite risks on a daily basis, Skanska uses the construction work plans that we – in partnership with crew leaders – develop for each activity and review every day. We manage the risks identified in these plans through any of the large collection of tried and tested controls we’ve developed over many years for jobsite- and activity-specific hazards: everything from critical crane lifts to working at extreme heights to simply wearing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the task at hand. If we disrespect these risk mitigation tools, then we’re disrespecting the risk they’re designed to control. That risk doesn’t go away, and when not controlled it comes back with consequence.

I’ve seen high-risk projects achieve superior safety performance because the project team is constantly aware of and fully respects the inherent risk at all times. When the right level of respect is given, the team watches out for the risk every waking minute.

Genuine care

While processes and strategies are essential for dealing with risks and hazards, what’s also key is genuine care: When the construction industry reaches the point at which each person on a jobsite genuinely cares for their own well-being and that of the people around them, then it will be possible to eliminate worker injury. We’re getting closer to that point, as demonstrated by the more than 40 companies sponsoring this year’s industry Safety Week. These firms – including Skanska – are putting competition aside to work together to improve safety, demonstrating the type of big-hearted approach we all need as individuals.

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Paul Haining

posted by Paul Haining

Vice president of environment, health and safety

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This Safety Week, make safety part of your entire life

Last year, in the first industry-wide Safety Week, the construction community made it clear that jobsite safety must be everyone’s priority. It’s not about a top-down declaration that “safety matters.” It’s about every individual taking the responsibility for themselves and their teams, understanding that everyone can – and must – be a leader in safety. That theme of “Many Roles, One Goal – Building Safety Together” continues again for this year’s industry Safety Week.

At Skanska, we’re committed to achieving zero accidents in an Injury-Free Environment®. The reality of jobsites – and our lives – is that no day or task is ever 100 percent the same. Variables change: conditions, tools, mechanics, people … even you. Some days you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle any task. Other days, you’re tired, you’re distracted by something at home… you’re human. Every day, each of us must be aware of our environment, adapting and thinking ahead for the tasks, activities and danger zones that lie ahead.


On jobsites and in our offices, through our Stretch and Flex physical activities and morning meetings, we begin the process of planning for each day. Pre-task planning helps us prepare for and analyze the job at hand and its inherent risks. But properly planning for each day requires thinking beyond each task: you must also recognize the external forces that make every day, every task and every job a little bit different than the last time you may have done it.

The reality is that safety starts the minute you get out of bed. Maybe you check the weather and realize it’s going to be a really hot day on the jobsite, so you grab your sun screen and make plans to hydrate. Or maybe it’s raining, so you leave a little early to avoid rushing on wet roads. You know your team has a complex concrete pour to tackle that day, so you eat a good, healthy breakfast to make sure you’re alert, energized and focused throughout the morning. All these things may seem small, but ingraining this forward-thinking mentality into your thoughts and actions can have a huge impact on the job.

None of us can afford to make assumptions, to go on auto-pilot, to say “this is the way this is always done.” That’s how near-misses — those close calls in which no damages or injuries occur, but very easily could have – happen. Skanska takes near-misses seriously because the behaviors and actions that cause a near-miss can very easily result in an accident.

During Safety Week, we take extra time to reflect on our safety priorities. This isn’t just about being vigilant from May 3 to May 9 – it’s about an always-on commitment to an Injury-Free Environment. Plan for today, 365 days a year.

Join the conversation:

-          Join the Safety Week discussion on Safety Week’s LinkedIn forum

-          Follow @SkanskaUSA, @SafetyWeek_2015, #SafetyWeek


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Hendrik van Brenk

posted by Hendrik van Brenk

Skanska USA chief environment, health and safety officer

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If you don’t think heavy civil construction projects can be green, think again

By its nature, heavy construction certainly impacts the environment. After all, our industry involves creating big things, including highways, bridges, transit lines and water treatment plants. Without such projects, our way of life would be drastically different. But delivering them has traditionally involved moving a lot of earth and bringing much materials and equipment to the jobsite, generating waste and often pollution in the process. Does civil construction have to be like this?

That’s the question with which I challenged our joint venture team at Virginia’s Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) project. This public-private partnership project’s centerpiece is a new tunnel tube under the Elizabeth River, a key tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, the largest U.S. estuary. Beyond designing a greener project, if there was ever a project to build in a greener way, this was it. Our construction team has risen to the challenge.

Among their outcomes and activities are:

- Realizing a recycling/reuse rate of 99 percent: We proactively identify materials we can reuse on site, or we find off-site needs for it.

- Implementing onsite treatment of lead-contaminated soil: Through this environmental-safe method that allows the soil to be handled as treated waste – instead of hazardous waste – the project saved more than $100,000 in disposal costs.

- Adopting environmentally-friendly oil for all marine equipment: This reduces the risk to the river’s marine life.

- Using waste concrete to make oyster habitats: We worked with the Elizabeth River Project – a local non-profit – and the Lafayette Wetlands Partnership to develop an innovative way to make use of waste concrete while enhancing the local ecosystem.

- Generating Environmental Excellence Reports: Through these concise reports that provide a cost analysis and description of benefits from the project’s environmental activities, we hope to educate other construction companies on how to produce quality projects while still improving the environment and saving money.


Our Elizabeth River Tunnels team is using waste concrete to make oyster boxes for the Elizabeth River.

Building a green culture

But, perhaps more importantly than what our joint venture did to reduce the project’s environmental impact is how we did it. Here are some key lessons we learned about building a culture of environmental excellence:

- Start small: Maybe that’s establishing a construction waste recycling program or searching for opportunities to maximize the use of recycled or re-used materials. Also, local environmental groups might help identify other environmental opportunities, as well as provide great opportunities for community outreach. 

- Engage your staff and crews early: Everyone has a desire to do better, but sometimes they don’t know what opportunities are available.  As the environmental manager, it’s my responsibility to talk to everyone on the project – from the top executive to craft workers – not only about environmental compliance but also about ways we could excel environmentally.  I’ve found that most people either have kids and/or enjoy outdoor activities, and once they understand their choices could affect their families or recreational activities, most people are eager to help and change their habits. Many of the most impactful ideas at ERT came from suggestions from craft crews and staff members.

- Secure top-level support: Having great management support has been key to driving the project’s environmental performance. ERT’s management has always been encouraging and supportive in all aspects of environmental initiatives. As a company, our ISO 14001 certification means our project leaders are looking at environmental aspects of our projects before a shovel ever hits the ground so that we make sure to leave the local environment at least as good as the way we found it.

- Recognize that one green often leads to another: Most of ERT’s environmental programs have a cost savings benefit to them, including the on-site treatment of lead-contaminated soil. ERT’s environmental efforts to date have saved more than $250,000 – and we’re not done yet!

Even more, Skanska’s certification to the ISO 14001 international environmental management standard means we’re looking at environmental aspects of our projects before a shovel hits the ground, so we’re sure to leave the local environment at least as good as the way we found it.

ERT chute washing

These self-contained concrete chute wash-out systems that our Elizabeth River Tunnels team is using recycle leftover concrete, and filter and reuse the water.

Efforts being recognized

We’re certainly proud of the recognition that these efforts have received: most recently, SKW Constructors (Skanska/Kiewit/Weeks) received a silver medal in the 2015 Virginia Governor’s Environmental Excellence Awards. This award included a proclamation from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and a congratulatory letter from Senator Mark Warner. That our construction team won this award shows the significance of the ideas and actions from the men and women of our team. And last year, ERT received the top designation in the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program – the first construction project to do so.

And yet, what will make me even more proud is earning these honors isn’t the exception for heavy construction projects, but the norm.

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Carissa Agnese

posted by Carissa Agnese

Skanska USA Environmental Manager

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Trends driving airport construction

American airports remain some of the busiest in the world, with nearly half of the world’s 30 busiest airports within the U.S. and domestic air travel at an all-time high of 743 million passengers taking flight in 2013. However, upgrades to aviation infrastructure have not kept pace with the increase in airport traffic or even at a level sufficient to accommodate the life cycle of our many dated terminal facilities. Until now.

At Philadelphia International Airport, we recently erected a baggage conveyor bridge over a main airport road at night so as not to disturb airport operations.


While funding challenges remain (especially as a consequence of the cap on PFCs),  as competition heats up between newly consolidated air carriers and as airports seek new revenue sources to upgrade or replace outdated facilities, the need for efficiency, flexibility and improved customer experience is generating a wave of terminal projects that are transforming America’s air travel gateways. Renovations include turning away from multiple security checkpoints and centralizing infrastructure to allow for greater scalability, and can be seen across the industry, from the smallest regional facilities to large hubs. Current estimates project that the industry will spend more than $14 billion per year between now and 2017 on airport upgrades in the U.S. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the nature of this work requires that much of it will be highly invasive, with projects located right in the heart of the airport, and construction firms will need to work with and among airport authorities, air carriers, concessionaires, the TSA and FAA, and passengers to minimize any impacts, carefully coordinating those renovations and expansions. By aligning best practices with those needs, contractors can best support all stakeholders affected by construction work.


To deliver a replacement terminal at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, we developed a multi-phase approach centered on taking as few of the existing aircraft gates out of service as possible

For example, next generation airports are maximizing efficiencies both on and off the tarmac, which means larger aircrafts with additional seats. The fuel-efficient Boeing 737-900ERs have a 25 percent bigger wing area, a 16-foot longer wingspan and 25 percent more seats than the Boeing 737-400s being retired. With more seats available, airports are accommodating more travelers, meaning the airport needs to be upsized. These re-gauging renovations require careful planning in order to make the process go smoothly while existing facilities are expanded with surgical precision. Bigger planes and bigger waiting areas mean there is a need for additional amenities, from restaurants to rest rooms. Contractors must carefully communicate and coordinate with all stakeholders.


1. Communicate early and often, beginning with design review. Mock-ups are an important tool, allowing stakeholders to touch and feel new counters and other elements that will be installed.

2. Work out the phasing. Contractors must consider how passengers use airport infrastructure, phasing a job properly or working overnight in order to minimize impacts to passengers and other stakeholders. Our team experienced this first-hand at Philadelphia International Airport, where we were tasked with erecting a baggage conveyor bridge over the main airport departure road. In order to minimize impacts to the departure roadway, we prefabricated the bridge on site and erected it in a single eight-hour pick, rather than building it piecemeal over the roadway, which would have taken longer and required frequent closures. Additionally, Building Information Modelling (BIM) is increasingly useful as a tool for communicating construction plans and the phasing of the work to stakeholders.  By rendering the projects electronically, we can show those stakeholders more clearly where and when the work will take place.

3. Safety and security is central to everything. These complex renovations often require an extensive system of temporary walls, clear way finding and a rigorous badging program to keep the construction sites inside the terminal carefully insulated from nearby passengers. Coordinating with all parties prior to execution – especially the TSA – ensures timely and efficient project delivery. We have also developed tools like the inSite Monitor to enhance safety during construction. This tool remotely monitors the environmental conditions on a project, measuring noise, dust, vibration and other environmental factors and notifies our team immediately if conditions on the site go over acceptable levels.

The need to upgrade our outdated aviation facilities is clear, and airports and airlines are driving many of these changes in response to new customer expectations. Contractors can do their part to deliver efficient, flexible solutions that put the customer experience first and foremost. These trends in aviation construction reflect the interests of the modern traveler, which will continue to impact the way we will design and build airports.

This post originally was originally published on Aviation Pros.


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MacAdam Glinn

posted by MacAdam Glinn

Skanska USA Vice President - Aviation Center of Excellence National Director

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