By M. Vasanth Kumar

The construction industry is often criticised for neglecting environmental issues in favour of profit.

While the industry as a whole is actively pursuing the building of green building projects, the flip side is that not all companies who are accredited to Green Building Council membership nor all LEED-accredited professionals follow or encourage others to follow eco-friendly practices in their day-to-day tasks.

If we do not collectively change our thinking and how we operate, critics of the sector’s overall environmental performance may be proved right.

With World Expo 2020 and the FIFA 2022 World Cup on the horizon, and as the GCC construction industry prepares for another construction extravaganza, there could not be a better time for all stakeholders to start seriously practicing sustainability in everything that they do.

One such issue is heavy usage of paper in the construction industry.

It’s a fact that tonnes of paper and several thousands of printer cartridges are being used by all stakeholders for communicating by means of circulating multiple hard copies of drawings, reports, submittals, schedules, manuals, purchase orders, invoices, delivery notes, timesheets, letters and faxes, without realising the adverse effect we leave on the environment.

Due to this uncontrolled use of paper, paper mills produce tonnes of extra supplies. However, such paper production and usage takes a toll on the beautiful planet we live in.

Paper is the third-largest industrial polluter of air, water and land, releasing well over 100m kg of toxic pollutants
each year.

The worldwide pulp and paper industry is the the fifth-largest consumer of electrical energy.

The paper industry also consumes more water in production per ton of product than any other industry. In addition, the carbon dioxide emitted during paper production is a greenhouse gas responsible for acid rain.

And wastewater from paper mills contains solids that affect ecological characteristics and results in the death of several living organisms in water.

Discarded paper is another significant issue. Even in recycling processes, sludge produced during de-inking is a major source of pollution.

We in the construction industry have a collective responsibility and should set an example for other industries to follow. This includes reducing or eliminating paper usage by going digital by means of electronic transmittal, communication, storage and data management.

Such an approach gives better control over projects and identifies potential issues early as electronic documents allow a company to capture cost and information on a real-time basis.

Also, it is a more secure way of doing business against loss of information and other fire-associated risks. Staffing and overheads also reduce considerably and the speed and efficiency of communications, document filing and retrieval all increase.

By digitising paper-based documents, the industry will gain from a multitude of benefits that not only help to create a better planet to live in but also increase our efficiency and create a healthier bottom line for business.

 

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