This year at Greenbuild, we’re championing green

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Are you a green champion? That’s the question we’ll be asking this year at Greenbuild. It’s not enough to build green, but it’s our responsibility as an industry to stand up for sustainability.

We’ve seen firsthand how important advocacy is to advancing green building. In 2013, our CEO Mike McNally led Skanska in resigning 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 threatened to halt years of progress in energy-efficient and environmentally responsible construction. As a result of this effort, in 2013 the U.S. Green Building Council recognized Mike McNally “for being an unwavering and bold champion for USGBC and LEED in the face of continued attacks by special interest groups.”

Advocacy brings about change. In August of this year, the USGBC and the American Chemistry Council announced that they will work together to use ACC’s materials expertise to better ensure the use of sustainable and environmentally friendly products in buildings. This was a huge win for green building advocates, and a reminder that doing what’s good for a sustainable future is good for business.

This year, we’ve continued to champion green building by helping advance research that helps make the case for sustainability. Recently, the District of Columbia’s Department of Environment wanted to understand the costs and benefits associated with buildings featuring net zero energy and net zero water consumption, as well as those pursuing Living Building challenge certification. To help, Skanska joined the New Buildings Institute and the International Living Future Institute to conceptually transform three LEED v3 Platinum-designed buildings in the District to conform to those criteria.  Our findings, published in Net Zero and Living Building Challenge Financial Study: A Cost Comparison Report for Buildings in the District of Columbia, revealed that after factoring current tax and renewable energy credits, the return on investment in net zero building is approximately 30 percent!

This year we’ve also partnered with the World Green Building Council on a major global research effort to understand the impact of green building in offices on staff health and productivity. The report, Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices: The Next Chapter for Green Building, found that that design features in green buildings can enable healthy and productive environments for their occupants, which in turn improves the bottom line. New standards, like WELL Building, which take into account the holistic impacts of the built environment on human wellness, build on this understanding that what is good for the environment is ultimately good for people and for business.

These are just a few of the ways we’re working to champion sustainability. If you want to join us, stop by the Skanska USA booth at Greenbuild – #2023 –  pick up your “Champion” badge and found out how you too can be an advocate for green building and energy efficiency.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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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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Sustainability as a core value: Why Skanska is a finalist for USGBC’s inaugural Best of Building Awards

At Skanska, we’re proud of our commitment to sustainability. It’s one of our core values, and because of this, we not only build environmentally-friendly buildings but do so while practicing sustainability at the highest levels: from mitigating our environmental impacts, to being an ethical and fair employer, to working with small- and minority-owned businesses, and otherwise actively engaging with our communities. Sustainability is so important to us that all parts of Skanska USA meet the stringent standards of ISO 14001, an internationally-recognized environmental management standard.

As a result of this sustainability mindset, we’re honored to be a finalist in the U.S. Green Building Council’s inaugural Best of Building Awards in the “Best Contractor/Builder – Large” category. Nominees and winners are selected by employees of USGBC member companies registered on USGBC.org. That’s where you may come in. If you’re a USGBC member, please consider voting for Skanska by visiting http://www.usgbc.org/best-of-building.

Here are just a few reasons why we hope you will vote for us:

Because we create some of the greenest buildings around

Bertshi School - World's Fourth Living Building

Inside Seattle’s Bertschi School, the world’s fourth Living Building.

From building America’s first LEED Gold hospital (Providence Newberg Medical Center in Newberg, Ore.) and first LEED-certified airline terminal (Terminal A at Boston Logan International Airport) to the world’s fourth (and West Coast’s first) Living Building (the Bertschi School Science Classroom addition), we’re at the forefront of green building and design. Even more, we strive to push the boundaries of green in our own company offices and development projects, for which we have more control over the outcomes. Take our 129,000-square-foot Stone34 LEED Platinum-targeted development (Brooks Sports’ new headquarters) for which we designed the building to reduce water and energy use by 75 percent of comparable buildings. In Houston, our 750,000-square-foot Capitol Tower office development has been pre-certified as Platinum under LEED v4’s beta program. We live green building in our Empire State Building flagship office too, where we proved that environmentally responsible renovation is possible even 330 feet up in a 75-year-old skyscraper.

Because we believe you can build anything green

Our concrete chute wash-out system at Elizabeth River Tunnels works to capture, retain and re-use water.

Our concrete chute wash-out system at Elizabeth River Tunnels in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va. works to capture, retain and re-use water.

Our joint venture’s Elizabeth River Tunnels project demonstrates our commitment to prioritizing sustainable outcomes when building infrastructure. This is something that more and more infrastructure clients are seeking, and the benefits through resource and money savings are clear. For example, our ERT team used a concrete chute wash-out system that allowed for the recycling of wash water in the chute washing process – it saved approximately $72,700 for every 100 pours while reducing potable water usage. In May, ERT became the first construction project approved for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Environmental Excellence Program, and it was approved at the highest level – Extraordinary Environmental Enterprise. We continue to look for new ways to apply green standards to our work. For instance, we applaud the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure for putting together a meaningful standard for civil projects with their Envision program. Two of our projects are already using Envision, which we see as raising the bar of green construction with infrastructure.

Because we stand up for what’s right

When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year backed a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED for federal buildings, we resigned our membership in the Chamber. We refused to be a part of an organization that opposes the stronger LEED v4 standard. LEED v4 encourages transparency in reporting the chemical composition of building materials, something we think is essential for anyone wanting to build responsibly.

As an industry, we’re taking major strides implementing green building techniques. Because Skanska is looking to expand our efforts even further, we’re exploring new ways to incorporate the WELL Building Standard – a new protocol that focuses on human wellness within the built environment – into future projects.

Because we’re committed to getting better

3009 Post Oak Boulevard

Houston’s 3009 Post Oak Boulevard, among the projects for which we’ve been tracking carbon emissions.

At Skanska, we want to understand how every facet of the design and building process impacts the Earth and how that facility will perform over its lifecycle. Research plays an important part in this process. Recently, we’ve 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 – such as increased daylighting and ventilation – that enhance them.

We’ve also worked with the New Buildings Institute and the International Living Future Institute to help the District of Columbia’s Department of Environment investigate the costs associated with upgrading existing buildings from LEED. We conceptually transformed three LEED v3 Platinum-designed buildings in the District to net zero energy, net zero water and Living Buildings. Our findings are published in: Net Zero and Living Building Challenge Financial Study: A Cost Comparison Report for Buildings in the District of Columbia.

On our commercial development projects, for which we control both the design and construction of the buildings, we require our teams to implement a new sustainable feature or strategy that has not been tried before. For example, we worked in partnership with the University of Houston to track carbon emissions at 3009 Post Oak Boulevard in Houston, which helped us understand the need for more carbon-efficient concrete mixes.

Though sustainable building practices have been an integral part of Skanska’s business for years, we’re seeking to expand beyond standard measurements of green building and pursue a holistic approach to sustainability within construction and development. With each project, Skanska aims to meet the needs of the world today without jeopardizing the needs of the world tomorrow.

Skanska USA

Skanska USA

Skanska USA is one of the largest, most financially sound construction and development companies in the U.S., serving a broad range of clients in the public and private sectors, including those in transportation, power, industrial, water/wastewater, healthcare, life science, education, sports & entertainment, data centers, government, aviation and commercial industries.

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“You can build anything green”

At the Elizabeth River Tunnels project in Virginia, our SKW Constructors joint venture is inspired to build green by the beautiful river that’s the basis of our project, and how that waterway impacts our lives. Some of my colleagues fish in these waters, others enjoy different water-based activities, and we all enjoy the river views. So it’s important to us on a personal level to find environmentally friendly ways to build our project. And we’re honored that outside groups are starting to recognize our efforts.

You can build anything green, but our industry hasn’t prioritized sustainability on civil projects the way it has with buildings. For more than a decade, the U.S. Green Building Council has been advocating LEED to improve buildings’ environmental performance. Yet it’s only recently that the Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system was introduced to provide a similar type of focus for civil projects. Still, with civil construction, if you dig a little bit, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to make a difference environmentally.

Midtown Tunnel, second tunnel construction. Portsmouth side.

Our joint venture’s Elizabeth River Tunnels project in Virginia has prioritized building green.

On this project, among the greener ways of working being utilized by the Skanska, Kiewit and Weeks Marine team is a self-contained, concrete chute wash-out system.  Following a concrete pour, these units allow concrete trucks to wash their chutes in a system that contains all the concrete waste and wash water. The units then filter the wash water, allowing it to be recycled and reused in the chute washing process. This system can save approximately $72,700 for every 100 pours. As another example of how going green often saves money, we’ve found that the environmentally friendly aerosol can puncturing system we’ve employed not only reduces the amount of hazardous waste shipped offsite, but also saves more than $30,000 for every 4,200 cans punctured. And rather than paying high fees to haul lead-contaminated soil offsite to dispose of it as hazardous waste, we’re safely remediating that soil onsite.

Just for fun, our team does team-building activities like planting wildlife gardens, celebrating Earth Day and participating annually in the Clean the Bay Day.

Last month, the SKW team was thrilled to learn that our above-and-beyond environmental approach enabled Elizabeth River Tunnels to become the first construction project approved for the Virginia Environmental Excellence Program. Even more significantly, we were approved at the highest level – Extraordinary Environmental Enterprise (E-4). The 14-year-old program drives environmental excellence through a partnership approach between the Commonwealth and private organizations. It’s based on ISO 14001 environmental management standards, to which Skanska is certified; ISO 14001 provides us with a roadmap to take all projects to a higher level of environmental conservation

Our team hopes that our legacy from this project only starts with improved transportation. We’re also building the local workforce, supporting local businesses, and we hope to leave the environment in better condition than it was when we got here.  And finally, we want our work at the Elizabeth River Tunnels project to set the standard as the first of many construction projects recognized by this environmental program.

Carissa Agnese

Carissa Agnese

Skanska USA Environmental Manager

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