Ripple Effect: How Sustainability in The Construction Industry Benefits Manufacturers and Beyond

Kasim Korkmaz
January 23, 2023
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With an unprecedented amount of construction projects related to the onshoring of manufacturing in progress, U.S. manufacturers with sustainability goals should recognize lasting change starts with building green.

As the backbone of the U.S. economy, the construction and manufacturing industries are intrinsically tied together. Both are adopting new technologies to build better products, and both are renewing their focus on sustainability. With the construction industry recently seeing the most significant investment in automotive factory projects in decades at $37 billion, long term sustainability in manufacturing starts with sustainability in construction.

Sustainability and green practices have become one of the most important topics in the construction industry aligning with increasing awareness of environmental issues and technological development. In both vertical and horizontal constructions, there are various sustainable and green applications taking place. From single residential houses to high-rise buildings, a palette of collective practices has been available. On the other hand, roads and highways are designed and constructed with improved sustainable applications.

As well-known, nonrenewable resources in the world are very limited, and the required land, labor, and capital are not enough to satisfy the needs. Therefore, it is critical to use the resources properly and be eco-friendly. Most of the sustainability and green practices in the construction industry are related to the use of construction materials and equipment. The industry has its own enduring characteristics. The use of construction materials is influenced by technology and trends in the industry. Additionally, authorities have a big impact on the public and they may play an important role in advancing the effectiveness of sustainable and green practices. Increasing awareness of public plays an important role in societies. All over the world, there are various trends that are becoming popular. One of the major trends is to achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050. This action has become more and more popular every day with the observed climate change effects on the earth.

This topic brings some questions to answer by the construction industry:

• What emission targets and scopes should be set as a net-zero-goal in the construction industry?

• What is the appropriate level of emission reductions to be set for the construction industry to counteract the industrial effects on the world?

• What are the timeline and action items on the way to reaching the goals of the construction industry?

To answer these questions, targets to be achieved over the years should be defined and supportive investments should be made. The industry should follow a path in the defined direction to get some results over the years. If the targets, scopes, and timelines are set well, it would be possible to get the targets achieved by 2050. One of the important achievements would be creating Energy-efficient buildings. With improved energy efficiency, buildings become more energy conservative and environmentally friendly which can help sustainable development in a wider spectrum in society.

The construction of the Ericsson Plant in Lewisville, TX is an example of what sustainable development can achieve in construction and manufacturing. Designated as a “Global Lighthouse” factory by the World Economic Forum, the building’s smart construction utilizes high-efficiency HVAC systems, two rainwater recycling tanks with a combined 40,000-gallon capacity and a solar panel array to cut down on its carbon footprint. The facility was found to use 75% less water in comparison to a baseline factory and is powered solely off renewable energy.  

Energy-Efficient Buildings have become more and more popular in the construction industry over the years. These buildings are equipped with a variety of tools and equipment of high technology for reducing energy consumption and even supplying their energy needs. From the consumer perspective, the attractive part of this transformation is to lower energy bills via energy reduction and conservation. Long-term and environmental rewards are secondary to the consumer because it would be difficult to understand the importance of it. With sustainable practices becoming a norm in construction over the years, it has been more common to have such buildings with multi-layered concepts. We see various practices in buildings including smart devices that create smart house ideas. Recently developed technological products for smart houses such as smart water heaters, glasses, furnaces, fireplaces, showers, and smoke detectors become necessities to complete the energy-efficient smart house concept. This adoption also benefits manufacturers, providing demand for goods with greater complexity and many parts. In this concept, we see solar systems, upgraded insulations, double or triple glazings, reuse of building materials, underfloor heating, improved thermostats, and heating controls, rainwater harvesting systems, energy-efficient light bulbs, and tankless water heaters. The growing prevalence of solar panels bodes well for solar panel manufacturers. The market is projected to grow 21% annually from 2023-2027.

In addition to new construction, converting existing buildings into energy-efficient smart ones also become very popular to make them competitive with the new ones in the market. The transformation process of such existing houses into smart and energy-efficient houses involves installing smart devices with futuristic technology and also an eco-friendly mindset. Eliminating energy waste lowers energy expenditures and also saves the environment. With the building’s energy-efficient upgrade, carbon dioxide emissions decrease. Constructional improvements help the houses become energy-efficient and even self-sufficient and less dependent on non-renewable forms of energy such as coal and oil. It should be kept in mind that an older house may be considered a sustainable unit in a variety of ways. Usually, the ideal initial procedures are insulating and airflow tightness in such houses. Energy efficiency improvement in older houses would increase the market value of the houses in addition to reducing energy bills. For instance, installing solar panels and harvesting systems will increase the house price, and it will make it more competitive in the market.

A team of researchers at Eastern Michigan University’s GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology is formed to conduct research that helps bring products that support a sustainable and healthy future for all.

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Kasim Korkmaz
Kasim Korkmaz

Dr. Kasim Korkmaz is the Interim Associate Dean of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology at Eastern Michigan University, and an Associate Professor of Construction Management and Civil Engineering Programs. Dr. Korkmaz has an extensive research background and conducted several research projects on sustainability and green practices of buildings, bridges, highways, and infrastructures. He is also an expert on transit power cables, and historical buildings. In his academic journey of over 25 years, he has been in charge of all facets of all of the projects including overall experiment design, data collection, and implementation of analysis results. He is currently working on various funded research projects. His research interests include monitoring, evaluating, and assessing existing highways and bridges through various applications and methods for sustainable development. He is also interested in a research program aligned with the global need for sustainable development, exploring ways to achieve a sustainable construction environment on a larger scale and facilitating its implementation in the design, construction, and maintenance processes.

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