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Lean Thinking for a #NetZero Building Industry

Lean Thinking is needed if we are going to fix the inefficiency and bad behavior that is predominant in the building industry so we can get on with delivering a truly sustainable product, #NetZero buildings . The Lean delivers Green recipe has been tested and proves without a doubt that we can deliver high performance GREEN buildings at no additional cost. The math is simple; Lean Project Delivery can deliver capital cost saving of 20% to 40% which is considerably more that the 10% premium needed to deliver a NetZero building.

The goal of this Lean to be Green initiative is to raise awareness about the opportunity to create a truly lean and green building industry with a NetZero energy target for all new building by the year 2020. The potential impact is huge as the building industry currently wastes at least $120 Billion per year in North America alone [1] and is the source for 35% of all green house gas emissions. The building industry needs to be held accountable for the eminent catastrophic climate change disaster that will occur if we don’t significantly ramp up efforts to solve this problem.

Every year, the energy used by buildings in North America causes more than 2,200 megatons of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere, about 35 percent of the continent’s total. Recent studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), indicate that improved building practices are some of the quickest and cheapest ways to reduce significantly greenhouse gas emissions, often with net economic benefit.

In short, green building represents some of the ripest “low-hanging fruit” for achieving significant reductions in climate change emissions.

In this report (Green Building in North America), the Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) recommends that North American leaders make green building a foundational driver for environmental, social, and economic improvement in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. [2]

By making green buildings a foundational driver to do battle with climate change we can address 35% of the climate change problem. Early adopters of Lean Project Delivery as supported by the Lean Construction Institute have already proven that with the widespread adoption of lean and more integrated project delivery practices, we can deliver economically viable green building.

A Lean to be Green strategy was adopted by the owner Dennis Cuku and team for the Mosaic Center. This Living Building Challenge NetZero Office Building was built for the same cost as a traditional build. [3] This project was transformational as it helped raise awareness about the huge potential of Lean Project Delivery. It was a catalyst for creating the Integrated Project Delivery Alliance, a group established to build awareness and lean project capabilities.

A Lean to be Green strategy was also used on the Living Building Challenge NetZero Okanagan College Project. [4] This project targeted NetZero energy at NetZero additional cost using Lean Project Delivery with a Construction Management contracting approach. The team from this project that included Kathleen Lausman, Gary McEwan and Murray Guy went on to help found Lean Construction Institute – Canada a group that is now in it’s third year of operation with the mandate to build Lean Communities of Practice across Canada and build lean construction capabilities.

The take away from these two projects was that Lean Project Delivery can be used to build NetZero energy buildings at no additional cost. The teams from these two projects were so impressed with the results that they went on to form industry associations and are working hard to build a Lean Construction Industry.

Lean to be Green is a strategy that could shift the building industry to a NetZero energy standard!

In next weeks article we will answer the question Lean to be Green, What’s in it for Me?

Murray Guy, Lean Project Facilitator,

Integrated Designs, EcoSmart Developments & Shift2Lean


1] Broken Buildings Busted Budgets, Lepatner

[2] CEC. 2015. Improving Green Building Construction in North America: Guide to Integrated. Design and Delivery. Montreal, Canada:

[3] Mosaic Case Study, Guy

[4] Okanagan College Case Study, Guy

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