Bovis Lend Lease, a project management and construction company located at 821 Alexander Road, is in a fortunate position to be able to approach sustainability in two directions: internally, by greening up its own corporate operations, and externally, by improving its construction practices and convincing its clients to make environmentally sound choices.

About three years ago its parent company, Lend Lease, created a sustainability director at its Australian headquarters, a measurement and reporting team, and a sustainability executive in every business unit. Lend Lease is also part of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index, a stock index comprising about 200 to 300 global companies that measure their sustainability performance.

Paul King, who represents the company’s construction business here, suggests that the actions Lend Lease is taking to ensure sustainability look beyond short-term premiums to shareholders. “People know this is a long-term investment position,” he says. “Our board believes that the sustainability of an organization is going to be a long-term boost to our performance as a company.”

King, VP – sustainability executive at Bovis Lend Lease, is part of the panel, “Lead with Green,” itself the theme for this year’s Princeton Chamber Trade Fair. The panel kicks off the 27th annual Trade Fair and Culinary Showcase on Wednesday, September 24, at 8 a.m. at the Westin at Forrestal Village. Cost: $45 at the door ($35 for Chamber members; $25 for non profit leaders). For more information contact Cheri Durst at 609-924-1776, ext. 105 or cheri@princetonchamber.org. Register at www.princetonchamber.org.

Other panelists are Robert W. Frantz, vice president of environment, health, and safety for Tyco International; Martin Johnson, president and founder of Isles in Trenton; Steven Corneli, vice president of market and climate policy for NRG Energy; and David Becker, vice president, PNC Bank Product Management & Development.

The construction business has traditionally been a large contributor to landfills, and Bovis Lend Lease, with its large building programs — high-rise buildings at universities, corporate campuses, and laboratories; high-rise residences; entire communities; and military housing — has done its share. At the same time its size means that every step it makes toward sustainability can make a real difference.

Over the last decade its customers have pushed for green buildings, some in response to the green social movement and others just to save money on energy costs. As a company Bovis has to position itself differently, depending on the type of client.

In King’s experience the building industry has thus far been incredibly short sighted about energy use. In making those early decisions about heating, air conditioning, lighting, and appliances, owners have concentrated on keeping initial building costs minimal, usually at the expense of long-term performance. The result is that building owners have tended to invest in equipment that falls in the lower half of energy performance.

As people make decisions, four factors come into play:

Rising energy costs. King suggests that energy prices are likely to at least double in the short term as a result of shortages and the cap and trade system (where companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those that pollute less).

Technological risk. When purchasing equipment expected to last 10 to 15 years one risk is that technological change could render the equipment obsolete and overly expensive. This leaves the purchaser with expensive loans on junk equipment.

Lifespan of a building versus paybacks on existing technologies. Since a building’s lifespan might range from 30 to 100 years purchasers must weigh the paybacks on existing technologies. Those range from three to 40 years against the building’s lifespan.

Energy Star-rated appliances and equipment generally have a relatively quick payback, and over the past 15 years consumers have started to expect that appliances will have an Energy Star or an equivalent rating. Manufacturers, says King, are responding by dropping products in the doldrums of energy performance and making available green building equipment.

Governmental involvement. To encourage the purchase of high-performance equipment, King believes the government must assess the environmental realities and provide support to smooth out the risks.

“It is the responsibility of government to determine if there is an environmental crisis looming, and if we are in jeopardy of changing the climate of the planet,” says King. “Then we have to put plans in place to help people and businesses come to terms with the fact that we have $30 trillion invested in fossil fuels for electricity and transportation. We have to transition from fossil fuel to some kind of mix that includes renewables — wind, solar, and even nuclear.”

In areas where the government has mandated recycling for construction waste, for example, in Boston, a whole industry has developed to recycle waste and recycling is very inexpensive. “In areas where good regulations are in place, there is almost zero cost to getting above 75, maybe 85, percent,” says King.

But by and large King does not think the government has come to terms with the need to be involved. “Until it is done,” he says, “it is difficult for investors, business, and retail customers to know if they should make an investment and whether it will pay off.”

Fuel cells, high-efficiency air conditioning, and solar electricity all have very long paybacks (30 to 40 years), but the state government has taken steps. New Jersey seems to have moved from grants and rebates, which could bring the payback down to 10 years, to renewable energy credits. People who are generating clean energy and decreasing their use of fossil fuels receive credits of between $225 and $230 per megawatt. Plans like this can reduce the payback to 10 to 20 years.

In addition to encouraging environmentally responsible decisions by his customers, King has been guiding change within Bovis Lend Lease. A year and a half ago King’s department developed what started as a “green office guide.” Finding this was overly complicated, they boiled the guide down to an environmental checklist for office materials and energy usage. These were distributed to local office teams, who were asked to indicate what they could implement in the short, medium, and long-term. Each office was given flexibility in how to make changes.

One item on the list, “Target printer ratio of 12 people per printer,” resulted from environmental measurements. Bovis Lend Lease found that lots of printers encourage the unnecessary printing of E-mails, memos, specifications, and accounting documents. “One thing we found when we first started was that about 65 percent of the office waste stream was copy or printer paper from the last 24 hours,” says King.

In the offices with the least waste Bovis found that where more than 15 people shared a network people found printing more inconvenient and, thus, printing sharply decreased. “It was an incredible opportunity to save money,” says King, alluding to the millions of sheets of paper and their associated toner and printer cartridges, the extra printers required, and the associated energy use.

People who claimed they needed their own printers for security purposes were provided with a code enabling them to print a document while standing at the printer.

Another area where Bovis Lend Lease has helped is in reducing construction waste. “Two years ago it would have been uncommon to recycle any construction waste, at least deliberately,” says King. “Trash would leave sites with a waste hauler and be taken to a landfill or a waste transfer station.” The company’s board has required each project to implement a waste management plan to measure and report waste and then to increase recycling.

Bovis has also become more concerned with reducing the waste coming into the construction process. Often construction materials are packed in cardboard, for convenience and to improve shelf life, but this approach generates tons of waste. The company is asking producers to either reduce the cardboard or take it away themselves. “It gives people who generate waste some incentive to be involved in solving the problem,” says King.

King grew up in New Jersey, where his mother was a homemaker and his father a Marine who became a school principal. In 1984 King completed a professional certificate in construction, architectural, and engineering practices at the University of California, San Diego. Later he received a bachelor’s in applied science and technology at Thomas Edison State College. Two years ago he got an MBA jointly from University of California, Berkeley, and Columbia University.

For King, construction has been a life-long pursuit, starting at age 16 with a summer job building houses for a neighbor’s construction business. While in college he had worked for Craftsman Publishing Company in California. “I got to learn about all aspects of the construction industry and was paid to do it,” he says.

Tired of publishing — it was too removed from the real thing — King worked for several construction companies and became a cost estimator for Lehrer McGovern, which eventually morphed into Bovis Lend Lease. Now a vice president, King has worked at Bovis for 13 years.

His environmental work started in his spare time when he did some training internally with a colleague on green building and LEED accreditation. Slowly others in the company started requesting the classes and eventually King found himself with a full-time job on the environmental side.

King sees the move toward sustainability as a process that will take decades to be fully sorted out. In the construction industry people are trying out new technologies with products as basic as cement, masonry, steel, aluminum, and glass. Each one has to be tested, put into practice, and then people have to get comfortable with them.

“The ones that use less carbon and energy input, save money in the construction process, and have less impact on the environment will survive in the marketplace,” he says.

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