Some people are getting on with the business of sustainability without need for ratings or certification.

6 March 2014 — Sometimes a shovel is a paradigm shifter, sometimes it is a spade. Used properly, they both work.

Over the past five years of speaking with people across every aspect of the construction industry, there has been a clear and observable momentum towards adopting and even improving on green practice.

And the ever-growing number of tools and systems and approaches is on many levels very encouraging, because if everyone wants their own piece of green, that means we’re on the right path in pushing the sustainability wheelbarrow. At the same time, I often hope we reach a point where there is no need for a “special” label for green, because it is entirely normal – just as we generally don’t need an “all natural” label for a tree to distinguish it from the “not natural” kind.

No matter how many tools, rating systems and standards we might have, the bottom line for achieving true sustainability rests with individuals.

While some of the construction sector businesses engaging with green practices, tools and ratings systems are obviously being driven by standards set from above, such as the subcontractor’s subcontractor who is working on their first ever Green Star project, others are embedding the concept of sustainability as a fundamental part of how their business operates.

Some seek the ISO 14001 to officially endorse it, others are simply getting on with business – the unsung heroes of the ESD cause – because they are genuinely motivated by a personal concern for the future of the planet. It’s not just the “usual suspects” of forward thinking engineers, architects and major tier one builders with designated sustainability managers.

It’s guys who make precast who uses 100 per cent recycled steel. It’s the guy who pumped the portaloos at the Adelaide desal site who said he made his business a green one because he was worried about the world his children will inherit. It’s the joinery firm that only uses FSC-certified or recycled timber, and the steel fabricator who only uses Bluescope.  There are painters who won’t use anything but low-VOC paints, and there are plumbers who push the envelope with rainwater harvesting and reuse.

For these companies, whether the client has set a sustainability benchmark or not, they will do their part sustainably because it is now the only way they do it.

The bottom line is, no matter how many ways people find to say it, such as, “a collaborative instrument for achieving CSR and ESD benchmarks” or “a hand-crafted paradigm shifter tailored to the specific needs of end-users”, this old-fashioned metaphorical shovel approach also works  – that is, honest efforts directed at the goal of digging a six foot trench for unsustainable practices.