“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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