Insights from industry

Sustainability in Construction

In this interview, AZoCleanTech talks to Geoff Boraston, Director of Environmental Affairs, about Granite Construction’s dedication to sustainability and their recent involvement in the Sustainability Infrastructure Advisory Board at Harvard.

But first, Cara Douglas, Manager of Marketing and Communications, gives us an insight into Granite’s background and its 90 years serving America.

Could you please give a brief overview of Granite Construction?

Through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Granite is one of the nation’s largest diversified heavy civil contractors and construction materials producers serving public- and private- sector clients nationwide. In addition, Granite has one of the oldest and most robust ethics and compliance programs in the industry and has been recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for three consecutive years. Granite is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol GVA.

Granite Construction is currently celebrating 90 years of building America. Could you give your thoughts on how the company and the industry have evolved through this time?

Since being incorporated in 1922, Granite has grown to become a $2 billion company specializing in building roads, tunnels, bridges, airports and other infrastructure-related projects. Over the company’s 90-year history, it has been involved in constructing some of the nation’s most treasured landmarks including the original road to Yosemite National Park, the California Aqueduct, Highway 101, and more recently Houston’s Rapid Transit Light Rail project and portions of the World Trade Center in New York.

Granite Construction repaving Main St.

Granite Construction repaving Main St. Image Source: Cara Douglas

Our Code of Conduct, established nine decades ago by our founding president Walter J. “Pop” Wilkinson, is the cornerstone of our Core Values and the thread that’s held us together through the Great Depression, World Wars, national catastrophes like 9-11, and recessions that shake us to the core. From that Code, our Core Values have defined who we are and what we do. These values foster trust between our company, our employees and our customers and serve as a guide for how we treat one another. And although Pop’s passing in 1958 marked the end of an era, Granite remains committed to keeping these values alive for another 90 years.

Granite has been named one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 3rd year in a row. What are the criteria for this and how does Granite fulfil these?

Granite made the coveted list again this year by setting the industry standard for its commitment to bettering the communities in which it works, promoting sustainable business practices and setting the highest levels of ethical behaviour in the workplace.

“Receiving the designation as one of Ethisphere’s 2012 World’s Most Ethical Companies is a tremendous honour for us and is a testament to our culture, where employees are committed to the highest ethical standards,” said James H. Roberts, president and chief executive officer of Granite Construction Incorporated. “Our Code of Conduct has guided our actions for generations and is embedded in our everyday decisions as a trusted employer, partner and corporate citizen.”

How do you feel Granite is unique in terms of sustainability?

We are one of the first US based heavy civil engineering contractors to have a sustainability plan. Our focus on sustainability supports the sustainability goals of our customer and infrastructure project. This helps to make the country a better place to live.

GEMS is the centrepiece of Granite’s environmental management efforts-could you explain a little about what this is and how it achieves its goals?

The Granite Environmental Management System (GEMS) is a set of business processes that we have implemented to support meeting our environmental responsibilities and company objectives. It is based on the International Standard for Environmental Management Systems ISO 14001, which is the environmental equivalent to the quality standard, ISO 9001.

Our environmental professionals that work out of our regional and area offices are a key aspect of GEMS. They coordinate the programs and ensure that the system works and perform checks to confirm that we are on track.

Granite currently maintains an sustainability plan, which is fairly pioneering. Could you explain briefly the term ‘sustainability’ and how other companies can start to integrate this into their own companies?

We have a responsibility to build a sustainable business that looks not just to the current generation, but to future generations as well. Although sustainability is a long-term vision, we believe that by taking steps today, we can support the coming generations in furthering the vision of sustainability.

Our vision of sustainability for the company is to safely and responsibly operate our business while advancing the interests of future generations. It is not just living for today, but thinking about the future as well. There are many aspects to consider in doing this and our main focus areas are Infrastructure Investment, Safety & Health, Environment, Quality, Compliance & Ethics and Community.

Granite Construction Incorporated recently joined the Sustainability Infrastructure Advisory Board (SIAB) at Harvard-what does this aim to achieve and why is this important?

Leaders in large scale sustainability have come together under the Zofnass Program at Harvard University to identify the metrics necessary to develop a measurement of sustainable infrastructure. This collaboration of leading firms and their representatives is critical to the development and implementation of a system that can be accepted industry-wide and have fruitful contributions to increasing infrastructure sustainability on an effective scale.

How is the sustainability rating system devised?

This system is envisioned as a set of guidelines to aid in optimizing the sustainability of a given infrastructure project during the planning and preliminary design phases, as well as a means to quantify the relative sustainability of the project.

Are there plans for this to become a standardised system employed across the entire industry?

The rating system is relatively new; however, it has support from influential organizations American Society of Civil Engineers, American Council of Engineering Companies and American Public Works Association.

How do you see Granite progressing in terms of sustainability over the next 10 years? And how will sustainability be viewed in the construction industry as a whole in the near future?

Over the next several years, we will make progress in meeting our sustainability objectives and deepen sustainability concepts into the culture of the company. Our sustainability plan will also evolve as our knowledge and experience advances.

Image Credit: Cara Douglas

The industry will increase its sustainability focus over the next several years - that has already started to happen. The infrastructure we build today will be in service for many years to come. That will drive industry to be more forward looking and take changing social, economic and environmental consideration into the planning and construction of infrastructure.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


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