Sustainable construction is an emergent trend that has begun to make real inroads in projects across the market spectrum. But while many owners are interested in the long-term economic and environmental aspect of green building, they are often scared away by the perceived upfront costs. However, a recent study conducted by the Urban Green Council in one of the most expensive cities in the world found that while it may have been the case in the past, the fundamental perception that it costs more to go green is simply no longer the case.
In the Urban Green Council report in 2008, data was gathered on 107 projects throughout the five boroughs of New York, 63 of which were either pursuing or had achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Surveys were conducted for buildings with and without sustainability goals. Data points included construction costs, design fees, LEED design fees, LEED additional fees, and commissioning fees. The average square-foot construction cost for a high-rise residential building without LEED certification was $436 while the average cost with certification was $440. 
The best way to realize these savings is by using an integrated, collaborative process from the beginning. Lean and green only works when it is an integral part of the process, and not something viewed as an add on or supplement to the project.
1. Pre-Construction Planning and BIM
Relying on comprehensive pre-construction services is the best way to ensure a smooth and predictable construction process and a high-quality project that opens on schedule and within budget. Beginning with this kind of collaborative design process helps you to develop a roadmap that accurately depicts the project requirements and improves your ability to put real numbers to the design. It is at this point where you can also effectively examine cost-saving alternatives.
Areas to consider and analyze include:
• Creating opportunities to save money and build efficient, green facilities
• Drawing reviews to reduce errors and omissions
• Collaborating with in-house estimators on pricing and procurement strategies
• Estimating and comparing the life-cycle costs of systems
• Pre-purchasing equipment to expedite delivery
• Verifying system requirements
• Incorporating sustainable building practices
• Instituting cost controls
An exciting way to supplement this kind of collaboration is through the use of advanced technologies, like Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is a 3D, electronic modeling method that all users can utilize to compare drawings and elements early on in the planning and pre-construction. BIM also affords the ability to examine things like time, cost, and supply chain – to assist in delivering project data in an efficient and actionable manner. This gives owners, architects, construction managers, and subcontractors the ability to avert problems and make project planning and scheduling decisions that save time, money and materials.
2. Schedule Management
Through promoting efficiency in the design-build process, it is possible to simultaneously maximize quality, performance, sustainability and ultimately the overall value of your project. Reducing waste also means eliminating time-wasting activities and keeping your project on time and on budget. Time is money, especially in construction, but time also has a cost in its expenditure of energy and resources. Streamlining each phase of the design-build process helps make the best use of the time, money and resources allocated for your project. In order to accomplish this, it is essential to work with a construction firm that has a solid record of scheduling dependability and keeping all involved parties on a tight and firm schedule. Utilizing a Master Project Schedule which notes and highlights pre-construction milestones for key deliverables and other critical path activities is vital.
Categories typically in a Master Project Schedule include:
• Design deliverables
• Estimating deliverables
• Pre-construction decision dates
• Building permits and approvals
• Procurement and early release design packages
• Critical path construction activities
• Start-up and commissioning actions
• Owner move-in activities
The project schedule is updated and refined throughout pre-construction to reflect the latest decisions and information. During construction, your project superintendent should supplement this schedule with Three-Week Look-Ahead Schedules, which can be sent to your project team, as well as the design team, key subcontractors, and other consultants on a weekly basis. These specialized schedules provide a more detailed picture of the work to be performed over the coming weeks and ensure all trades understand their weekly deadlines and the interrelationship between scope of work and other trades.
Another way to keep a project lean and operating at peak efficiency is though the use of just-in-time construction principals. Using this method, materials are sourced and delivered on a tight and exacting schedule, both reducing overhead and storage costs and maximizing efficiency. The end result is a construction plan that is useful during every stage of building and which requires less space on site for materials – making for a greener job site with lower overhead costs and reduced waste.
3. Material Selection and Sourcing
While in the past owners and architects had to make choices between adhering to brand standards and using sustainable materials, as green building grows in popularity and demand, more and more materials are being produced that meet both aesthetic and sustainability standards.
Consider working with a construction firm with national experience and local contacts that help them to procure locally-sourced supplies and materials wherever possible. But not all materials can be sourced locally. Sometimes it is necessary to use materials from other regions our countries, and working with a national firm makes this a painless process as well. Our experience in sourcing supplies from national and international providers affords us the unique ability to get the exact materials your project requires, while still meeting all scheduling and budgetary goals, and usually in as efficient and eco-friendly way possible.
4. A Comprehensive Plan For Reducing Waste
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 130 million tons of debris from construction sites is dumped in U.S. landfills annually- more than half coming from commercial construction and renovation. Not only is this wasteful and environmentally unsustainable but it is an expensive problem for all parties involved. 
While job-site disposal may not currently be on top of your list of budget items, it is an item that needs serious consideration. More state and federal regulations are on the horizon which will restrict the use of landfills and impose tariffs for those who do. This makes the subject of reducing and recycling job-site waste a mission critical part of any building project plan. Accounting for the disposal and recycling of waste early in the process will save time, money, and help to make your project more resource-efficient.
Here are three simple actions to consider:
• Track Your Trash – From the standpoint of efficiency and liability, taking a look at what and how much material ends up in your job-site dumpster can tell you a lot about your crews and your trade contractors. Having a team that routinely tracks your job-site waste stream is a great way to evaluate efficient use of materials.
• Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – While many discussions begin with recycling, the best way to consider the process of construction waste is reduce, reuse, recycle – in that order. The largest waste components on most job sites: cardboard, wood, and drywall make up 75% of all job-site waste, yet they are fully recyclable. Other ways to reduce and save money include salvaging existing materials which can be resold or donated resulting in less waste and tax savings. In many cities, non-profit building materials resource centers have been established to receive and then redistribute this scrapped material.
• Local Resources are Vital – Builders represent just one group that needs to be involved in construction waste reduction. Others include waste haulers, recyclers, local building product manufacturers, and landfill operators. Using local companies not only helps area trades and reduces your carbon footprint, it also allows you to get the best information on local and regional rules and regulations from people that know them inside and out.
5. Safe Jobs Save Money
Maintaining a safe job site is not only essential to reducing waste and the overall environmental impact of your project, but is vital in helping to protect your business and your bottom line. Strong safety programs prevent injuries, save lives, reduce liability and the risk of litigation. Establishing guidelines, training programs, and a corporate culture around safety is essential and every person involved in your project from field personnel, to office staff, to executive leadership need to be on board and committed to creating safe and injury-free environments and going above and beyond industry standards in all aspects of safety. Ensuring that every person returns home safely should be your number one goal, every day, on every job.