Unlikely partners in green building

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News broke yesterday that the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Chemistry Council will be working together to improve LEED, the foremost green building certification system. That’s a partnership that personally matters a lot to me.

Creating buildings that have minimal environmental impacts – and that even seek to improve the health of those living and working inside – requires more than just inspired clients, designers and builders. Doing so also requires manufacturers that are committed to producing harm-free building materials.

But as you may recall, for too long the chemistry council had been working against LEED, believing that material transparency requirements in the recent LEED version 4 might result in fewer chemicals used in buildings. Last year, a group affiliated with the ACC – and supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – proposed language that would effectively ban the use of LEED in federal buildings, unless certain chemical-related LEED provisions were removed.

What a difference a year makes. In this new partnership, LEED will benefit from the materials expertise of ACC and its member companies. We believe this has the potential to be transformational. And it’s much more than we hoped for last year, when Skanska publicly pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest its support of the chemistry council’s activities.

That powerful chemical companies with their sizeable research and development budgets are working for LEED, rather than against, is tremendous. When companies like those get behind green, it should really propel green building materials forward – and help others see that doing what’s good for a sustainable future is generally good business.

The USGBC refers to LEED as a big tent in which all are welcome. There’s no better example of that than this partnership.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Getting more in our industry to approach safety like this welder

This week, as part of Safety Week, I toured the Brookland Middle School that Skanska is constructing in Washington, D.C. Walking through the building with Superintendent Erik Henson, I was proud to see how our team has organized the project and sequenced the many trades. But what impressed me most was a chance encounter I had with a welder on the second floor.

I saw this welder as he was perched on the edge of a high landing, and from a distance I wasn’t sure that he was properly tied off to prevent a fall. As we approached, I asked him if he was secured. He turned around to show us his harness and connecting lifeline, and said: “I’d better be tied off – I have six kids to go home to.”

Wow. Upon hearing those words by Wendell Riley of American Iron Works, I immediately reached out and shook his hand, and thanked him for working safely. Wendell’s words capture the essence of the safety-first culture our industry is trying to create on all jobsites with Safety Week.

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Mike McNally addresses the work crews at Skanska’s Brookland Middle School project in Washington, D.C.

The construction industry is far from that point: in 2012 alone, 806 workers were killed on U.S. jobsites, a nine percent increase over the previous year. All of those workers should have gone home to their families, as nothing in construction is worth risking your health – no schedule is that important.

To help make sure that all workers understand that we need them to look out for themselves and those around them, Skanska has joined with 30 other construction firms in the first industry-wide Safety Week in the U.S. The idea is no one company can improve safety, but together we can make a major difference. Already, I’m encouraged by the feedback on Safety Week I’ve seen on the initiative’s LinkedIn and Twitter social media channels.

But organizations can only do so much to impact safety through their policies and processes and even words from senior leaders like me. Achieving an Injury-Free Environment® can only happen when workers personally commit to making safety their top priority. That’s why Wendell’s words mean so much to me.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Safety Week 2014: An industry’s pledge to protect each other

Every year, more than 90,000 individuals are injured on construction jobsites across the U.S. In 2012 alone, 806 workers were killed – a 9 percent increase over the previous year.

It’s easy to think about these numbers as just that – numbers. Numbers in a report, percentages in a pie chart, graph charts in a study.

But these numbers represent people: mothers, fathers, friends and colleagues. We, the construction industry, have mourned them like brothers and sisters. But for far too long we have stood by and allowed these incidents to occur and these statistics to grow. For too long we have watched as families mourned the losses of loved ones who never made it home safely, often because of mistakes that – with the right tools, information and communication – could have been avoided.

This week, that changes. This week, we’re joining forces to take a stand.

For the first time in history, construction companies across the country are banding together to create the first-ever industry-wide Safety Week. Thirty-one national and international construction firms – and many industry supporters – are putting aside their competitive differences this week and are coming together under one common theme: Building Safety Together.

We all have an obligation to protect both ourselves and everyone around us. If everyone in the pool is a lifeguard, then no one drowns. That’s the mentality all of us need to have. We must take care of ourselves and look out for one another. We need to watch each other’s backs and work together as a team.

As the leader at Skanska USA, I, along with my fellow industry counterparts, think about new ways to ensure the safe return home of my fellow colleagues every day. Safety is a value that has been embedded in Skanska’s culture since Day One, and we have pledged to reach zero accidents and keep everyone at our jobsites 100 percent safe.

FIU Safety Week

On Monday, the team at our Florida Polytechnic Innovation, Science and Technology Building project jobsite gathered to celebrate Safety Week 2014 and 1,420 days without a lost time incident.

Jobsites all over the country are putting schedules aside this week to make safety even more of a focus. Through training sessions, educational sessions and community partnerships, workers are coming together to share and hear ways to keep one another safe. Each day, we want those in construction to go home to their families more assured than the previous day that safety is the highest priority on their jobsite.

So far, the feedback has been truly inspiring. From CEOs to project executives, the construction workforce has answered a call to action, sharing best safety practices on jobsites, on our Safety Week 2014 website and through our LinkedIn and Twitter social media channels. It’s been incredibly encouraging to see the industry come together so enthusiastically and fuel the momentum of our safety crusade.

But, it is up to us as leaders to ensure that the discussion doesn’t stop at the end of Safety Week 2014. It must continue to remain at the forefront of our lives daily.

Now, more than ever, when we live in a world where we have the tools to communicate information effectively and the resources to protect each other on the jobsite, we need to unite in a way stronger than ever before.

Don’t let an accident be the reason you’re having the discussion about safety. Instead, let the discussion about safety be the reason you’re not having any accidents.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Safety Week 2014 – bigger and better!

If you open a USA Today this morning, you will find a full-page ad showing construction workers heading out of a changing room, with one set of protective gear left behind. As this ad explains, 90,000 hardworking men and women are injured on construction jobsites across the country every year – and 775 are killed. That’s wrong.  Hence the ad’s headline: “It’s work, not war.”

While Skanska has made Safety Week an annual tradition, this year it’s different – bigger and better. We have joined with 30 other national and global construction firms to form Safety Week 2014. This initiative is to raise awareness about the importance of safety in the workplace, and to share safety ideas and best practices that can save lives and prevent injuries. Safety Week occurs through various types of additional training, educational activities and safety-themed games and trivia – all intended to reinforce that safety needs to be fundamental to how construction is done.

These efforts are to achieve one goal: to inspire the entire construction workforce to make the commitment to be leaders in promoting a strong safety culture on every job site, every day. One accident is one too many.

Safey Week 2014

As seen in this morning’s USA Today.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Why Skanska dropped its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest proposed changes to LEED in government buildings

Today Skanska resigned as a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to protest the organization’s backing of a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for government buildings. The initiative, linked to the lobbying efforts related to the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill (S. 761), threatens to halt years of progress in energy-efficient and environmentally responsible construction.

Sustainability is one of Skanska’s core values. And we will not be a part of an organization that supports the American High-Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC), which harbors the American Chemistry Council and opposes the implementation of a new, stronger LEED certification program (LEEDv4). LEEDv4 encourages transparency in reporting the chemical composition of building materials, something we at Skanska think is essential for anyone wanting to build responsibly.

The LEED program is the most recognized and widely used green building program globally. It is maintained and implemented by the independent U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) through a public and transparent comment and balloting process engaging a diverse group of nearly 13,000 members, who voted last week in favor of LEEDv4.

We have asked the Chamber to reconsider its support of the chemical lobby, whose anti-LEED stance would:

– Significantly undermine the LEED program

– Impact more than 196,000 LEED Accredited Professionals

– Cripple the progress of environmentally responsible construction across the country.

The Chamber is on the wrong side of this issue, and its support of the AHPBC is misplaced as well as misguided. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was created to advocate for pro-business policies that create jobs and support our economy. The numbers prove that LEED and green building do just that. Because a few companies don’t like the current LEED program, they want to involve the government and create an entirely new system for government buildings. This is exactly the kind of redundancy and bureaucracy that we pay the Chamber to fight.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Three reasons why you should go Deep Green

Are you aware that our built environment accounts for a large portion of the strain on the planet? Whether we work in an office, a school or a hospital, live in a house or a condominium, travel by rail or by car, we are part of the problem. Even when we go to the gym, a concert or a sports event, we affect the environment.

The good thing is that we are also part of the solution – we can make a positive difference. Buildings and infrastructure can be designed and built to reduce the impact on the environment. We already have the means and methods. If we’re seriously going to overcome the challenges facing the planet, it is time to act. At Skanska, we carry out green construction and development so we can make a notable contribution to reduce environmental impacts. But also, we do it because it’s good business, for our customers and for us. We want to do our part – we call it Skanska’s Green Initiative. Our ultimate goal is a Deep Green society.

Deep Green Society

photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video via photopin cc

Here are three reasons why you should consider Deep Green construction, which is striving to achieve the highest levels of environmental management and building performance, ideally net-zero waste, water and energy.

1. The technology already exists. We already have the necessary technology for Deep Green construction. We don’t need to wait for a technological revolution. A house in Seattle has an exterior wall system made of recycled paper. In Misteröd, Sweden, buildings are now so energy-efficient that they don’t need a conventional heating system. In Bristol, UK, schools collect rainwater and use it to flush toilets. These are not visions – they are here, right now. Technology is not a barrier. Naturally, technology will become more refined, efficient, cheaper and easier to use. But there is no reason to wait. We’d better start doing what needs to be done.

2. Don’t assume it’s more expensive. Can we afford it? Many people assume that green construction is more expensive. But it doesn’t have to be and, frankly, we can’t afford not to go green. In fact, the solutions can lead to substantial cost savings. Green construction is simply good business: a slightly larger investment today will yield even larger cost savings over time. In addition, savings will increase as the cost of energy, water and waste treatment rise. Awareness is also rising. More and more, investors are prepared to pay slightly more for green offices because of their reduced lifecycle costs, and because they are easier to lease and represent a higher value on the property market. A recent report from the World Green Building Council highlights the value provided by green buildings.

3. Don’t wait for mandates.  You are the driving force of change. There is no need to wait for international agreements and national mandates. If you look behind many of the most advanced green initiatives, you will find visionary and passionate people. In many cities in the markets where we operate, forward-looking mayors and urban planners, companies and organizations – including the Clinton Foundation and We Build Green Cities – have achieved amazing results in the environmental field without waiting for the mandate of federal laws and regulations. All over the world, there are forerunners creating buildings and facilities that surpass national requirements by far. We are facing great challenges, and we all need to recognize our personal responsibility to act – to do what we can, in ways both large and small. Today, we need to continue thinking innovatively to move forward. Together, we can make a big difference and create a society that minimizes its impact on the environment, a society less dependent on nonrenewable resources. A Deep Green society.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Introducing Our Core Values

Skanska Core Values

photo credit: Skanska USA

At Skanska, our beliefs and actions are guided by our Five Zeros, our Code of Conduct and our commitment to diversity and sustainability. We take pride in holding ourselves and our projects to the highest standards, and our values provide benchmarks to evaluate our successes and opportunities for improvement.

Our Code of Conduct ensures that we do business in the same fair and principled way all over the world. On top of that, we have our Five Zeros, which guide our goal setting and decision making, including how we’re achieving an Injury-Free Environment for ourselves and our clients. The pursuit of sustainability is a cornerstone of Skanska’s guiding principles. From the projects we tackle, to the materials we utilize, to our construction techniques, sustainability is a holistic part of our processes. Skanska embraces diversity as a key business strategy and strives to ensure our culture is inclusive and respectful. We know that a diverse team is a better team and is essential for creating an open and high-achieving environment.

As this blog develops, we will explore some of the lessons learned in the pursuit of our core values. From frank discussions about ethics, to explorations of our latest green projects, to spotlights of our project teams, we will share what our core values mean and how they continue to shape the world we’re building.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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Introducing the Skanska USA Blog

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Welcome to the Skanska USA Blog! Skanska has seen tremendous growth since Rudolf Fredrik Berg founded “AB Skanska Cementgjuteriet” in Sweden in 1887. Much of that growth and success can be attributed to Skanska’s adherence to the Five Zeros, our values expressed as five targets: zero loss-making projects, zero environmental incidents, zero accidents, zero ethical breaches and zero defects. The Skanska USA blog will help bring to light these Five Zeros through insights from Skanska leaders, stories and images from our project sites, and examples of best practices in both construction and development. From safety best practices to innovations in construction to the latest in green technologies, this blog will dig into Skanska’s true foundation—our people. We encourage you to read, share and comment on all that you find here.

Michael McNally

Michael McNally

President and CEO, Skanska USA

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