Building a better planet

Jan 22, 2023

Sustainability doesn’t have to run counter to building projects on time and on budget.

When people think about sustainability in the building industry, it’s common for their focus to be on things like carbon neutrality, LEED certification, and other initiatives.

What’s often overlooked is just how those worthwhile initiatives will be managed throughout a project. How do you ensure sustainability benchmarks will be met while still keeping the overall project goals in mind?

The key is having a team in place, throughout a project, that has a rich background in sustainability coupled with strong project management skills.

Setting a sustainability agenda. Not every project starts out with sustainability goals on the punch list.

Many owners and developers believe that sustainability initiatives will make a project too expensive. A lot of times, this belief comes down to how sustainability initiatives are framed.

For example, if you were to ask an owner or developer whether they would like to reduce the carbon impact of their project, their first response will likely be that it is too expensive. But if you ask if they would like to create efficiency within their building systems and reduce their operational budget, the conversation quickly changes.

The goal of this reframing is not to trick an owner or developer into making their buildings more sustainable. It’s to point out that sustainability doesn’t have to run counter to building projects on time and on budget.

Having the right tools in the toolbox. Sustainability is just one component on a long list of things to consider when managing a construction project.

Working with a team that has in-depth experience in all aspects of project design and construction – including a background in guiding clients through sustainability initiatives that can result in cost efficiencies – often leads to better project outcomes.

Additionally, experienced management teams can find ways to make project delivery much more efficient, and that efficiency leads to positive outcomes when it comes to environmental impact.

Technologies that make designs as precise as possible before a build begins, for example, greatly reduce the time – and carbon expenditure – of breaking ground on a project. Similarly, utilizing data to source and track resources efficiently dramatically cuts down on waste.

Walking the talk. The point is, sustainability is about much more than reducing water and energy usage. Every step made in the design and construction process provides opportunities to reduce environmental impact – as long as sustainability is considered from the outset.

At OAC, sustainability is one of our priorities. Carbon benchmarking, committing to the climate pledge, embracing technologies that create greater and greater efficiencies – these are just some of our areas of focus.

We also have a sustainability task force that is made up of people who are passionate about staying up to date on advancements that reduce environmental impact. This task force is available as a resource to all our project teams and clients.

We’re doing all this because we think it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s smart business for clients.

Every owner and developer wants to create buildings that last. Collectively, we all need to work toward ensuring those buildings have a planet that also lasts. The more we and our clients look for ways to help reduce the environmental impact of our projects, the better off we all are.  

Evan Ponto is a project manager, Joshua Cloud is a program manager, and Alana Schutt is a senior project manager at OAC, a national design and construction performance management firm. To learn more about them, visit

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