by Ryan Binedell

Construction industry needs to be enviro-conscious

Construction

Construction industry needs to be enviro-conscious
Construction industry

Recent amendments to the country’s National Building Regulations, the SANS 10400 part XA, outline the minimum standards and requirements for environmental sustainability in new and refurbished buildings. At present, the focus of these regulations is purely on energy efficiency in the design and construction of buildings.

To date, emphasis has been placed on design and architecture; however, there is very little governance over contractors who have a major impact on the environment. Not only do we change the immediate environment of a building site, but also introduce hazardous chemicals to the area and generate scrap – all of which have an effect. We also utilise products and materials that can have an impact on the building, its occupants and the environment over the course of the structure’s lifespan.

While the SANS 10400 part XA regulations and requirements will certainly help to improve the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of these structures post-build, more can be done during the construction phase to protect the environment.

Green building practices are not required by law, which is why not many companies have adopted them  particularly those in the painting and renovation spheres of our industry. The group’s systems and processes have been developed in line with international SHEQ (safety, health, environmental and quality) standards. In addition, selected key staff have concluded the professional course offered by the Green Building Council of South Africa.

The Gordon Verhoef and Krause group of companies is currently working toward attaining its ISO 14001 environmental management accreditation, which addresses various aspects of environmental management and provides practical tools for organisations looking to identify and control their environmental impact and improve their environmental performance. These include establishing an environmental policy, determining environmental impacts of products, activities and services as well as planning and implementing programmes to meet environmental objectives and targets.

Of the company’s environmental systems and processes, SHEQ manager Ryan Binedell says: “We have to employ a cradle-to-grave mentality whereby we assess our potential impact on the environment before, during and after construction. Among our various other processes and procedures, we also recommend green products and service options to clients, research and purchase products that are better for the environment, segregate waste on site and dispose of it in a responsible manner. We also apply practices to control hazardous chemicals on site, from storage and use to disposal. These systems are understood and implemented by our employees at all levels of the organisation and across all areas in which we operate.

"Unlike normal renovations where a contractor will come in, demolish everything and put new items in their place, we see a green building retrofit as an opportunity to recycle materials that come from the site and dispose of what we can’t use in an environmentally responsible manner.

"By becoming more environmentally conscious and proactive, I believe that we have opened ourselves up to opportunities for work with clients (both local and international) who place a high premium on earth-friendly operations. By adopting these practices, not only do we ensure that we, as contractors, are more responsible, but also assist our clients to meet their own environmental objectives."

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