In becoming a key component of mainstream industry practices, the green building sector stands on a foundation of holistic principles, focusing not only on environmental responsibility but also ‘best of’ industry practices.
Having already shone a light on sustainability, now the green building sector is placing a strong focus on safety following a spate of accidents on green building sites.
In one particular example from the US, six workers were killed in a spate of on-site accidents while working on the MGM Mirage’s CityCentre project, which then went on to receive a LEED Gold certification.
According to professor of civil and construction engineering and researcher at Oregon State University John Gambatese, in order for a development to be holistically sustainable, the human safety element must be held in the highest regard.
“If you’re going to create a LEED or sustainable building, there should be a difference, a positive difference, because safety and health is part of sustainability,” he said. “It’s the social part of sustainability.”
The mainstreaming of the green building sector means that while LEED platinum-rated buildings are quickly amassing in their conception and development, offering the best in terms of inhabitant health and well-being, the same added focus on technical safety is clearly not always considered.
The US-based National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is conducting further research into ways to assimilate safety as a major part of LEED rating credits. Gambatese and the US Green building Council are continuing to keep in touch as well in hopes of boosting safety on green sites.
“In addition to being good stewards of the environment, we need to be good stewards of our people resources too,” said Gambatese.
The focus of the industry discussion is not to denigrate developments that have experienced workplace accidents or to suggest that green buildings have more incidents in which workers are injured on site. It is, however, focused on delivering the principles of holistic sustainability in the most complete sense. As Gambatese notes, sustainable buildings encompass more than the environmental, stretching to include both economic and social elements.
In order to develop an industry that holds green building as a key component to mainstream works, it is important that a standard is set in the early days of conception so as to avoid the mistakes of practices past and truly deliver on the green building ideal.