South African construction companies can make a positive difference – and save money – by being smart about how they use resources.

Making your construction company more eco-friendly can be good for the environment, your reputation and your company’s bottom line. It could also give your business a competitive advantage.

1. Recycle or reuse demolition materials

With just a little planning and organisation, construction companies may find that they can recycle a range of demolition materials.

This means less waste in landfills. It may also involve cost savings.

For example, wood, drywall or concrete can be crushed to create new aggregate materials for future projects.

Consider these ways to recycle or reuse concrete.

It may also be possible to donate or reuse demolition materials such as carpets, wooden planks and tiles.

Other kinds of waste, like metal, plastic, cardboard and chipboard, can be taken to a waste recycling centre.

2. Investigate safer, more sustainable construction materials

Within cost, quality and time constraints, it may be possible to substitute certain building materials with safer, more sustainable alternatives.

For example, investigate the potential for using:

  • non-toxic insulation materials
    Depending on what’s available locally, non-toxic insulation materials range from sheep’s wool, bales of straw and wood fibre to recycled cotton. Some of these materials are cheaper than traditional insulation, which contains petrochemicals and toxic adhesives.
  • non-toxic paints, adhesives and solvents
  • natural materials such as hempcrete (concrete made from hemp), bamboo, recycled plastic and mycelium (material made from the root structure of fungi).

New eco-friendly building materials are being developed all the time. Some of these involve innovative technologies. In other cases, companies are “rediscovering” sustainable materials that worked in the past or using them in new ways.

For example, consider these eco-friendly options for building construction.

3. Source materials locally

Sourcing materials locally, rather than transporting them in from hundreds of kilometres away, reduces a project’s carbon footprint.

It can also have other benefits. These include:

  • greater control over your supply chain
  • better partnerships with suppliers
  • faster deliveries.

4. Watch the water

The construction industry is a major user of water – a precious commodity in water-scarce South Africa.

South Africa receives an average of 450 mm of rain a year. For comparison, the global average is 870 mm per year.

With global warming, serious droughts, like the one recently experienced in the Cape, are likely to get more common. The cost of water is certain to increase, too.

The Cape’s recent drought had one positive aspect. It led many companies to find innovative ways to reduce their water use.

Some strategies that South African construction companies can use to conserve water include:

  • using treated effluent water, or “grey water”, for construction
  • installing rainwater catchment tanks
  • collect condensation from HVAC units for on-site reuse
  • avoiding the use of high-capacity “rain guns” and hoses for dust suppression, and instead using misting or atomising systems
  • implementing low-water methods for cleaning construction equipment and vehicles (and washing vehicles less often)
  • installing no-flush toilets
  • where relevant, recommending the installation of grey water systems to clients.

5. Save energy

Small energy savings add up over time. When you need to buy tools or equipment, opt for the most energy-efficient options.

Use high-power LEDs for lighting, and turn off lights and equipment when they’re not in use. It may also be possible to draw on solar power for certain applications.

Construction companies may also play a role in advising clients on energy-efficient building features.

6. Learn and encourage eco-friendly habits

Globally, the environment is in a pickle! It’s time for all industries to build greater respect for the environment into their operations.

Teach yourself, and train staff.

For example, adjust practices to reduce the water wasted in ablution blocks. Organise lift clubs. Dispose properly of rubbish, and turn off lights not in use.

Even bringing lunch to work in reusable containers is a step in the right direction.

7. Lose the paper

Unfortunately, digital technology has not led to paperless offices. Every year, the world consumes several million tonnes of paper.

A lot of this paper just isn’t necessary.

A construction office can run without all the copier paper, computer printouts, notepads, stationary and business envelopes.

It’s estimated that roughly 45% of paper printed in offices ends up in waste bins anyway.

Creating paperless workflows and document management systems saves on stationery costs. It can also result in more efficient processes, better access to data and less risk of data loss.

8. Use reconditioned construction equipment

Last but not least, consider using second-hand or refurbished construction equipment, rather than forking out on new machinery.

Expertly reconditioned construction equipment can provide the same performance and reliability as a brand new machine, at a fraction of the price.

It’s also more environmentally friendly to source machinery in South Africa, rather than buying new equipment that’s shipped in from China or the United States.

Make your next construction project more efficient and eco-friendly by using a reliable motor grader from KH Plant. We supply high-quality, reconditioned Caterpillar graders to clients across Sub-Saharan Africa. Call +27 83 274 4882 or contact us online to discuss your needs.

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