Sarah Mojzer wants the building community to look at the whole, not just the parts, when considering sustainable construction.
“It would be great if everyone involved in a green building project looked at the whole building concept, and understood their role as part of the whole, instead of just focusing on earning one or two specific LEED points,” she said.
Mojzer, a designer for SH Architecture in Las Vegas, was part of an expert panel that discussed concrete's expanding role in sustainable construction. Panelists answered questions from architects, engineers, and contractors who attended the 2009 GreenSite Luncheon and Forum. For the first time, World of Concrete attendees were invited to “shift their projects in a greener direction” at the event sponsored by Holcim and hosted by THE CONCRETE PRODUCER and CONCRETE CONSTRUCTION.
The panel included a contractor, architect, block producer, insulating concrete form manufacturer, admixture supplier, and cement producer. All agreed that contractors and producers must lead the way in setting goals, introducing new technology, and encouraging collaboration for concrete to be taken seriously as a green building material.
An audience member asked Tony Ewalt, project manager for Sletten Construction in Las Vegas, if contractors automatically raise their bid prices on sustainable construction jobs. Ewalt, who has worked on several LEED-certified jobs, said most of the cost differences on these projects have to do with high-tech materials. “The biggest change for us has been the teamwork,” he said. “On green projects, we work more closely with the designers, suppliers, and subcontractors to determine the best products and practices.”
David Loe, president of Vancouver, Wash.-based Lythic Solutions, discussed concrete's role in reducing material consumption. Loe makes a hardener and densiffer for polished concrete flooring that reduces waste disposal and construction debris issues. “You can polish concrete floors over and over again without having to use any new materials,” he said.
“Building owners are researching durability and how to build long-lasting structures,” said Brad Nesset, national sales manager for Thermomass Building Insulation Systems in Boone, Iowa. “They see buildings that still look good after more than 50 years and realize the benefits of building with concrete. Contractors in today's fierce market must become educated so they can differentiate themselves by providing better buildings.”
“Our resources are precious,” added John Porterfield, president of Porter Block in Whitefish, Mont., which designs concrete block using leftover mining rock. “We need to move to more heavyweight construction that will last. The public must understand that they're spending more and wasting more resources trying to save money in the short-term.”
Spending on a smaller carbon footprint could save in the long-run. The city of Tulsa, Okla., spent extra money on a concrete overlay in a downtown plaza in 1994 that is still in good shape. But the state replaces asphalt roads every two years. “Concrete's overall environmental impact is very competitive, if not lower than other materials,” said Ken Vallens, vice president, product development, for Rapid Set cement products (CTS Cement Mfg. Corp.), Cypress, Calif.
Hanley Wood's editors weighed in on sustainable construction, showcasing winners of their 2008 GreenSite Awards and Evergreen Awards. They also discussed the 2008 Holcim Award winners, illustrating future possibilities of building green with concrete.