One of the problems in coming to grips with the GHG situation has been the confusion not only in the interpretation of climate data by various experts, but also, often, in the data themselves. Lulled by such uncertainties, many of us have adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude, thinking perhaps that this too will go the way of most doomsday pronouncements. But forget that. The carbon train has left the station, and already we’re hearing the rumblings of increased regulatory activity and the promise of expensive mitigation programs to tax our already depleted larders.
In February 2009, the EPA released its Potential for Reducing Greehnouse Gas Emissions in the Construction Sector, which can be found at www.epa.gov/opispdwb/pdf/construction-sector-report.pdf…a worthwhile primer on the contribution of construction activities to the overall situation, and what you might consider to be a reliable roadmap to where regulatory activities are headed. Among the many points the report makes, the following are particularly worth considering:
* The construction sector has the third highest GHG emissions among the industrial sectors, contributing roughly 6% of the total…three-fourths of which are from fossil fuel combustion.
* Although construction practices typically do not produce large quantities of GHGs compared to the operations of many other sectors, the sheer number of construction projects results in significant aggregate emissions for the sector.
* The greatest reduction in GHG production comes from increased fuel efficiency
* Often, the steps taken to improve fuel efficiency also result in other benefits, including increased equipment life and reduced emissions of other air pollutants such as particulate matter.
Using 2007 national average diesel costs, the EPA study determined that a 5% improvement in fuel economy would save an owner $2,800 per year in fuel costs. There are a number of ways to curb fuel use and thus GHG emissions, but none so obvious as by cutting equipment idling time.
A 2005 study of California construction equipment shows that an average heavy-heavy duty diesel truck (Class 7) idles 29.4% of its operational time. An analysis by one construction firm of all its construction equipment (over 300 pieces) estimated that an idling reduction equal to 10% of the total operating time would save almost 524,660 pounds (238 metric tons) carbon dioxide per year, using the assumption that idling consumes 1.2 gallons fuel per hour.
Idling time is what government folks are eager to call “low-hanging fruit,” but there are other practices and strategies just in the fuel-use arena that can make a sizeable difference as well…tighter scheduling, advanced machine control equipment, and even such seemingly inconsequential activities as van-pooling for your workers and more energy efficient HVAC systems in your offices.
The point is, GHG reduction is going to become a religious affirmation for those of us who plan to be around for the next decade or two, so it’s time to head for the amen corner.