Headshot of Laura Soma

Laura Soma

Sustainability Manager

Meet Laura

There's fantastic competition in the built environment. Businesses compete for employees, architects compete to design buildings, and we contractors compete to build them. But in two areas we don't compete: safety and sustainability.

Every worker deserves to go home safely at the end of the day, and there's no Planet B. Both are urgent, unassailable needs. Therefore contractors must work together for the common good.

Aerial view of Seattle waterfront with piers.

Introducing Puget Sound Sustainable Construction Leaders

Puget Sound area contractors have worked together on sustainability for years, informally. Many of us are members of the national Sustainable Construction Leaders Group through BuildingGreen. Yet maximum progress needed more structure at the local level, to reduce our learning curves, share resources, gain buying power, and gauge our progress.

That's why we started Puget Sound Sustainable Construction Leaders, or the PS SCL. My counterparts at BNBuilders, Sellen Construction, and I set the plan in motion, starting with an initial meeting in January. The PS SCL is just getting started, but making real progress!

We're focusing on areas general contractors control—like reducing carbon emissions and construction waste via how we build projects and operate our businesses. As contractors, we often help architects and clients to select materials and systems as well, so we're adding to our knowledge of healthier and lower-carbon options. PS SCL members help each other improve processes, avoid pitfalls, and take on the hard conversations with our subcontractors and suppliers.

We're meeting each member where they are in their sustainability journey—whether they’ve been green since the first Earth Day in 1970 or building their first LEED project. With sustainability, we can all do more, learn more, and become better stewards.

To date, the PS SCL includes representatives from:

  • GLY Construction
  • BNBuilders
  • Sellen Construction
  • DPR Construction
  • Absher Construction
  • Skanska
  • SLI

This fiercely competitive group of contractors has come together to share strengths where it matters. We'd love for more to join, and are reaching out to sustainability advocates and other leaders throughout the industry.

Members of the Puget Sound Sustainable Construction Leaders meet in person for the first time in April 2022

Attacking Tough Challenges

We face an endless list of opportunities and hurdles. Each member brings ideas and enthusiasm in different areas of our mission. Some focus areas I’m personally hoping to aid through the PS SCL are:

  1. Embracing and encouraging a circular economy in construction materials. A great materials idea might face conflicts between specification writing, buyout, and delivery—most related to timing and storage. What if an architect finds a reclaimed material in January but the trade contractor purchasing the material isn't on board until June when the material may be gone? Or the contractor can purchase the material, but would need to store it for six months? The PS SCL is looking at potential solutions to these gaps.
  2. Working with manufacturers' take-back programs. Manufacturers usually take back excess or reusable materials, but there can be a multitude of requirements. One stipulates that a 53’ trailer be filled with 4’x4’ pallets of materials, strapped and wrapped for shipping. The labor required to hand-demo and secure this amount of material usually doesn’t pencil. And where are you going to store a 53’ trailer? PS SCL members are chasing down cooperative efficiency ideas that might prove fruitful with key suppliers.
  3. Reducing construction waste on smaller projects. We already strive to minimize waste and recycle everything we can, yet the typical solutions are easier with big jobs than with small ones. For starters, we'd like to find better recycling solutions for sites that don't have room for four separate waste stream containers.

Waste stream containers on a GLY jobsite.

Join Us!

There's one thing I’m sure of: By working together to improve construction sustainability, everyone will benefit—our clients, our workers, our neighbors, and our ecosystem will all be better off.

If you’re a general contractor in the Puget Sound region and would like to join the conversation, please message me at laura.soma@gly.com and I can fill you in on the details!