Triple Bottom Line

A modern balance sheet

There is no question that the "Green Revolution" has passed the watershed moment, and sustainability is certainly a critical component of this movement. With this recently attained momentum, the challenge becomes addressing the disparity in awareness and understanding.

While not a mature market in any sector, there are pockets which have been adopting these principles for decades. Take the "building" market, for example. When thought leaders gathered to form the USGBC (United States Green Building Council), they evaluated how best to make an impact on the environment. They identified that buildings represent the largest opportunity to reduce power consumption and increase energy efficiency. This decision led to today's benchmark for "green" construction of buildings—the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

Another tool that attempts to quantify this intangible concept is the Triple Bottom Line. It acknowledges the three stakeholders in any project: the economy, the environment, and the local community. This perspective creates a "modern balance sheet" that addresses impacts unaccounted for in yesterday's economy.

As a heavy industrial contractor, Bowen Engineering has incorporated sustainability into our methodology for years, we just used different names. Every project we build has a finite budget, finite resources, and our on-site employees performing the work. This is our triple bottom line, and to ignore it would be catastrophic.

We are currently building two water treatment plant projects—one new and one upgrade—and the owner is pursuing LEED certification for both facilities. The "building" components of these projects are minimal compared to the site and civil portion. In a traditional building project, the site and civil work is minimal, so even the most thorough steward of resources may only achieve the minimum LEED standard. But in these projects, management of the site and civil portions is where we make our difference.

To find a "building" project in design or construction today without addressing LEED certification would be a challenge. Yet, to find a heavy industrial project that discusses it would be equally challenging. This will be the next frontier to embrace the movement—but what will it look like? The USGBC has been very responsive to the marketplace by adding new rating systems regularly.

The question remains—is LEED the format for heavy industrial parameters? It is definitely recognized and understood, which could expedite market adoption. At Bowen, we recognize these are some of the challenges we face as we move our "modern balance sheet" forward.

However, it is critically important that we look at every project from a Triple Bottom Line perspective. The challenge in the 21st century will be for all sectors of the construction industry to collaborate to effectively move this "Green Revolution" together versus in fragmented parts.

-Robert Bowen (BSCE '62), Chairman and CEO, Bowen Engineering, Indianapolis