As anyone in the construction industry knows, being “green” is no longer a “nice to have” but an expectation. Manufacturers have a critically important role as we create the building materials used every day that are built into the very fabric of our structures and society. Those products can play a vital role in reducing waste and aiding in the planet’s recovery. We also should determine to provide essential components that are safer and cleaner for the environment, protecting both our planet and the people we employ.
Social responsibility and sustainability are more important now than ever before and manufacturers must do their part to ensure the construction industry has the tools and resources they need to tackle a bigger environmental problem. As awareness and education about our planet’s health have magnified in recent years, our priority should be maximizing resources and offering more environmentally friendly solutions.
Everything’s on the table – from implementing sustainable packaging and innovative technology to launching paper alternatives that reduce waste, manufacturers are taking a variety of measures to contribute to the solution. For example, Laticrete recently unveiled the industry’s first-ever eco-friendly alternative to the plastic grout channels currently utilized in the market for grout color sampling. The Laticrete Eco Grout Color Selector is an innovation that will help prevent millions of plastic channel pieces from being discarded into landfills per year and provides a color-matched deposit of paint and a textured profile with an accurate representation of physical grout.
Another effective way of reducing waste is purchasing building products that are made from locally sourced raw materials. There are many advantages to buying local, including easier access, lower shipping costs and stimulating the domestic economy. Because this process cuts down on our reliance on international freight, which uses a tremendous amount of resources, it also produces lower amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, with today’s uncertain supply chain and increased delays, the value of finding alternatives that are faster and more efficient cannot be overstated.
Safer and Cleaner Materials
Sustainable business practices should never be just a corporate positioning statement, but should inform how a company operates on a daily basis. For instance, Laticrete recently unveiled its Brand Promises, a company-wide initiative that builds upon its commitment to the research and development of revolutionary installation products. Among the pledges, Laticrete has committed to sustainability as a cornerstone of its product development strategy, aiming to improve the lives of installers while formulating the next tier of green innovations.
One area of paramount importance is the creation and implementation of building products that are safer to use, not only for the workforce that interacts with them every day, but also for the environment. One example of this is the development of solutions that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are found in many carbon-based materials, including paints, adhesives, coatings, sealers and many commonly used products. VOC is measured both in content and in emissions, and, when emitted into the air, the VOCs interact with light and/or air to form ground-level ozone, which is a precursor to the formation of smog. Because many construction materials already contain VOCs, manufacturers are working on producing options that are low-VOC to reduce any added risk to workers and inhabitants of the buildings where they are installed.
Safeguarding the Workforce
Any discussion about sustainability in the construction industry should not be without mentioning the impact this type of labor has on our most important resource, the people. When employers take active measures to protect their employees, they are also ensuring that their workers don’t have to risk their health and wellness on the jobsite and can continue the important work they do. Rather than only focusing on the industry’s ongoing labor shortage, we need to be doing everything we can to be good stewards of the current and future workforce.
We must also evaluate how our building solutions impact the health and safety of the workers who install our products every day. For manufacturers, making high-performance installations that are easier on the installer is a core focus of new product design and innovation. One important facet of this initiative is the deployment of more products with zero respirable crystalline silica – or below levels deemed by OSHA as harmful. As a common hazard in many job sites, respirable silica can have long-term health effects when inhaled, especially on a regular basis.
Because the future of sustainability must include safeguarding our workers, we need to consistently take an active role in educating and training about jobsite safety and ergonomics. Ergonomics refers to the study of people in their working environment and has become a growing concern to major manufacturers. The physical strain that installers’ bodies go through regularly puts them at a continually higher risk of injury and musculoskeletal disorders. Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their workers, but our efforts don’t have to stop there and should focus on further helping lower the staggering injury and ailment statistics associated with the industry.
To help combat this, flooring material manufacturers are developing lightweight products that deliver the same properties and functions at sometimes half the weight of the previous formula. These solutions have grown in demand because they are less of a hazard for workers and lessen the strain on tile installation systems that are typically quite heavy. This shift in the industry has been evident across the board and includes lighter-weight alternatives for adhesives, board materials, shower systems and many other product categories. In addition to benefiting the installer, these innovations can improve effectiveness at the worksite and result in quicker installation times.
From reducing our impact on the environment to providing the essential building materials that make up our society, the initiatives made by manufacturers play a crucial role in sustainability. Hand-in-hand with protecting the environment, safeguarding our workforce is likewise critical as we ensure the safety and efficacy of our current and future laborers. All that being said, we know there is always more work to be done but only when we come together can we see truly meaningful change.