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Sustainability in Construction: Eco-Friendly Construction Practices

Two hands holding little trees

Energy costs are increasing, companies are looking for ways to highlight their sustainability commitments to customers, and consumers care more than ever about their favorite brands’ eco-friendly policies. In a world where commercial buildings account for more than 60% of carbon emissions, today’s California retail builders are adopting new approaches to green construction to contribute to positive change.

How can today’s builders best serve their clients and the environment?

In this guide, we’re exploring three main tactics builders and designers should consider on the path to sustainability.

#1 Consult the Professionals

In most cases, design and construction experts aren’t climate experts or environmental scientists—and that’s okay. But when they need pointers on sustainable building, their first step should be turning to the experts.

Green Building Certification Organizations

Today’s construction companies can find quality sustainability guidance and up-to-date information from green building certification organizations—groups at the forefront of eco-friendly construction.

There are a number of these organizations, but some of the most widely recognized include:

  • LEED – The LEED rating system is the most widely used green building certification system in the US. It assigns ratings according to a points-based system.

  • Energy Star – Energy Star offers green building certifications in tandem with the US Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Green Globes – The Green Globes certification system doesn’t just evaluate a building’s sustainability metrics—it also rates buildings based on health and wellness and overall resilience characteristics.

Even if you don’t pursue certification on your next project, these organizations can still provide guidance on how to run a greener project. They’re an invaluable construction industry resource.

Green Building Advocacy Groups and Nonprofits

Groups that advocate and lobby for sustainable construction can also provide builders with expert knowledge.

For instance, the Northern California chapter of the US Green Building Council offers:

  • Informational articles about green building

  • Educational events

  • Professional development courses

Organizations like these are deeply engaged with sustainable construction, and builders can turn to them for expert advice on upcoming projects or green company policy adjustments.

Local Sustainability Regulators

In addition to certification agencies and nonprofit organizations, builders looking to go green can turn to a third industry expert: sustainability regulators. Depending on your market, you may have a local, county, or state agency that directly oversees eco-friendly policies and business practices.

These departments or representatives may serve under your local:

  • Building department or permitting authority

  • Public works department

  • Chamber of commerce

  • Planning and zoning board

  • City commission

  • County commission

While they’re unlikely to offer construction companies advice, regulators can:

  • Explain any relevant laws that apply to local building projects

  • Connect companies with publicly-funded resources (like professional development)

  • Help companies find and apply for financial incentive programs for green businesses

Keep in mind that not every municipality will have a sustainability-related department, but it doesn’t hurt to look.

#2 Be Mindful of Materials

Consulting experts can help builders find project-specific or general information about sustainable construction practices. But in terms of project-based efforts, builders can make great strides toward sustainability by zooming in on their materials approaches.

Consider Your Supply Chain

The supply chain for your next project could be a significant contributor to its carbon footprint.

Your supply chain represents one of three major emissions sources to consider:

  • Scope 1 emissions are produced directly by your company during operations—the emissions you produce when you drive from the office to the job site, for instance.

  • Scope 2 emissions are associated with the purchase of energy resources—the emissions the energy company produced to make the electricity that powers your office is one example.

  • Scope 3 emissions are produced by your suppliers—the emissions your lumber supplier uses to process and deliver your framing materials, for example.

Your business has a degree of control over Scopes 1 and 2. You can’t, however, control your vendors’ sustainability practices (or lack thereof). The best you can do to make your supply chain more eco-friendly is to choose vendors that are equally committed to positive change. This might look like:

  • Hiring subcontractors with LEED or Green Globes certification projects on their resumes

  • Opting for local suppliers to cut down on delivery-related emissions

  • Choosing project partners with proven track records of sustainable building practices

Seek Sustainable Alternatives

In addition to modifying your supply chain, consider how your specific materials selections on projects can support sustainable goals.

During the conceptual phases of your project, ask your client if they’re open to considering eco-friendly alternatives to common materials, fixtures, and finishes. In addition, ask them how much they’re willing to spend on these—they might fetch a higher price than traditional products.

Even a few sustainable product swaps on a large project can make a difference. A few examples include:

  • Installing bamboo flooring (a fast-growing wood) instead of engineered hardwood (made from slow-growing species like oak)

  • Opting for composites made from recycled materials—composite boards instead of pressure-treated pine for outdoor decking, for instance

  • Choosing LED light fixtures instead of incandescent products

#3 Leverage Energy-Conscious Design

The construction and design industries are inextricably linked. Thus, construction companies can make a positive impact by pressuring design professionals to draft greener structures.

Design builders have an advantage when it comes to energy-conscious design: builders can be in direct conversation with architects and engineers about sustainability throughout the design process, making their project-specific sustainability goals known from concept to close.

Let’s explore just a few green design tactics builders can pursue on their next projects.


Daylighting is the process of optimizing natural light in a design to reduce the need for artificial light during the day. But daylighting strategies must also account for the heat produced by natural light. If there’s too much natural light in a space, the building’s HVAC system will have to compensate for the increased heat, negating daylighting’s energy-saving effects.

Some daylighting approaches to consider on your next project include:

  • Incorporating skylights – Skylights can either supplement artificial light or serve as primary light sources during daylight hours.

  • Strategically placing windows – Depending on your site characteristics, consider how additional windows could let in more natural light. It’s easiest to achieve the perfect light and heat balance on sites with ample shade.

  • Experimenting with blinds and tints – Tinting the windows after installation or adding adjustable blinds can help you refine the light and heat balance in a space (and, in the case of blinds, give your clients more control over their daylighting configuration).

Site Placement

We briefly mentioned site considerations in relation to daylighting, but choosing the perfect position and orientation for a building on a site can help you accomplish numerous sustainability goals:

  • HVAC efficiency – Positioning your site in a shaded or partially shaded spot can help cut down on cooling costs in warm climates. In cooler climates, placing a building in a sunnier position could help decrease heating costs.

  • Solar energy collection – Depending on your available site space, you could set aside a portion of the site for a detached bank of solar panels. If your building footprint is already close to easements and other boundaries, you could place solar panels on the building’s roof—but you’d have to consider which roof area will get the most sunlight.

Site placement can be complex, especially when you’re trying to optimize natural light, ensure HVAC efficiency, or harvest solar energy. It’s critical that designers and builders work closely to create a site layout that’s both sustainable and practical.

Pacific Wide Builders: A Sustainability-Focused California Retail Builder

In the face of rising public awareness about sustainability, designers and builders must consider eco-friendly construction practices to remain competitive in their local markets. California retail builders are no exception.

If you’re looking for a general contractor for an upcoming project, and sustainability is a top priority, consider Pacific Wide Builders. We don’t just build remarkable client experiences—we also build high-quality, sustainable spaces that exceed our clients’ expectations every time. With diligent project management using industry-renowned software, Procure, we ensure every aspect of the construction process is meticulously executed, staying on schedule and delivering exceptional results.

Explore our portfolio of luxury retail, restaurant, and office projects to get a feel for our competencies. And, when you’re ready to get started on your next endeavor, reach out to our team.

Let’s build new possibilities together.



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