How to Get Serious About Environmental Compliance

Originally authored by Karen Strauss, Senior Editor
Recently, Kitchell’s very own environmental compliance authority Cameron Flower was invited to speak at a conference in Puerto Rico about Environmental Management Strategies for the Construction Industry. Flower provided instructive counsel, based on his own expertise, of how to start, and sustain, an environmental program at your own company.


He also shared a series of case studies, actually cautionary tales, about companies that neglected to take environmental protection seriously.

As a former environmental activist turned regulator turned consultant (and now chief steward of Kitchell Environmental Services), Flower brings a thoughtful and well-rounded perspective to the area of environmental compliance in the construction industry. He asserts that while companies have safety and quality assurance focuses, environmental protection efforts are often an afterthought. And that’s a risky place to be. Penalties for non-compliance can be astronomical (and with the advent of cell phone cameras being caught isn’t a matter of “if” but rather “when”) and related costs could be catastrophic (loss of work days, public relations headaches, etc.).  To give an idea of the scope of the problem, in the last five years alone Maricopa County’s Air Quality Department issued approximately 7,500 notices of violation and collected between $15 and $17 million in penalties.

Here is Flower’s checklist of considerations and issues that should be addressed to ensure your environmental program is a success, now and into the future:

  • Management buy-in at the top – company leaders must have a passion for it so it becomes part of the company culture.
  • Designate, or hire, an environmental compliance champion for the company. If you don’t have one person to monitor, train, promote, and revise, your program will fail.
  • This individual must be a strong communicator, adept at working with many different types of audiences: government/regulatory agencies, company executives, board members, vendors and field personnel.
  • Write down your company’s environmental policy. If it’s not written down, no one will commit to the effort. Once the policy is written, attach attainable goals, monitor progress against these goals and celebrate successes within the entire company.
  • Don’t try to do everything (dust, water, LEED, etc.) all at once. When starting your environmental effort, pick one area that’s important to you. Then, as you get more adept in this arena, add more areas of focus.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. Network with colleagues, brainstorm ideas, attend conferences. Everything you are planning to implement has been done before so nothing you do will have to be from scratch. Learn best practices and adapt them to your company.

Cameron then shared tales from his world, where owners fell far short of their due diligence:

  • In 2013, the geologist owner of a Santa Barbara-based company was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit grand theft and defrauding the state. The case was prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of the People of the State of California. The penalty: $1.6 million, 180 days in jail and three years of probation during which time he will have to surrender his professional licenses and discontinue environmental remediation work.
  • A home builder, one of the nation’s largest, had to pay $741,000 for storm water runoff violations – 600 violations in 23 States – and guarantee a consent decree requiring the company to implement a compliance program.
  • The government alleged that a national home improvement store violated the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Lead RRP Rule. It failed to provide documentation showing that the contractors it hires to perform renovation projects for customers had been certified by the EPA, had been properly trained, had used lead-safe work practices, or had correctly used EPA-approved lead test kits at renovation site. As a result, the company had to pay $500,000 within 30 days of when the Consent Decree was entered by the court.
  • It is incumbent upon construction companies to “do the right thing” as far as environmental compliance is concerned. It’s not a matter of seeing what you can get away with and hope you don’t get caught. We owe it to our children and future generations to do as little damage to the planet as possible. It’s a big responsibility but one that, given the consequences, is extremely easy to fulfill.

Please contact Cameron Flower at if you have any questions.


Construction Trends: Pediatric Healthcare

At a pediatric hospital, the healing process should begin as soon as Mom or Dad drives up the driveway to look for a parking space.

Odds are, in Arizona, that driveway leads to a hospital built by Kitchell: builder of Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, The University of Arizona Medical Center – Diamond Children’s in Tucson, and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Kitchell has helped put Arizona on the map as a hub of pediatric excellence.  All three were completed within two years. $702,200,000, 1,449,500 SF, 608 beds.

There many critical issues to consider when constructing or expanding a pediatric hospital. All involved need to minimize negative impacts to the recovering patients. “The patient comes first,” says Mike Wolfe, a Kitchell project director. “If you or a loved one had the misfortune to be in a hospital that was undergoing construction, would you want a construction crew to be jack-hammering concrete in the middle of the night? Working in and around children’s hospitals requires extra sensitivity and flexibility to work around patients’ needs.”

The No. 1 goal of designers and builders is to produce a stress-reducing, healing environment while guarding against infections and medical errors. Bringing all stakeholders–owners, architects, engineers, contractors and even young patients who may be “frequent fliers –into the pre-design phase has proven highly beneficial to construction outcomes.

Space Planning

At pediatric hospitals, space is needed to accommodate more than one family member. Often when one child is in the hospital, the entire family, siblings and extended family included. Ample space is available for fold-out beds and private guest showers in patient rooms. There are more “soft” spaces for siblings and other family members to spend time.

Some Spaces Unique to Pediatric Hospitals

– Expanded kitchens to fulfill children’s menu preferences (pizza, stir-fry, etc.)
– Treatment rooms on each floor so patient bedrooms are “pain-free” safe havens
– Interactive play/family spaces on each floor
– Teen activity rooms
– Lactation rooms
– Auditorium/stages for children to see performances, concerts, graduations, or have parties
– Meditation rooms
– Healing gardens
– Toy stores

Pods vs. Private Rooms

What is better for the youngest patient and family, a private room or a pod arrangement? This is actively being discussed right now. The benefits of private rooms seem obvious, but healthcare experts value the interactive nature of community-oriented pod set-ups, which are conducive to family-to-family interaction. After all, no one can relate to a family’s ordeal better than another family simultaneously going through the same challenges. Current designs have trended toward private rooms, but family areas, clinical programs and hospital-directed family support groups have promoted the “community” healing benefit for the young patients.

Engaging Environments

The most apparent differences between pediatric and traditional hospitals often lie in the visual cues. Bright colors and whimsical designs serve to create a restorative–and entertaining–atmosphere for patients and their families.


Theming to engage and entertain is certainly the most obvious defining characteristic of a pediatric hospital, but how to achieve the right tone, taking age-appropriateness into consideration, is far from obvious.  Cutting-edge technology is being utilized to bring “edutainment” and social media options directly into patient rooms. Multiple textures, varied artwork and soothing finishes reinforce the healing process. Highly durable, vibrantly colored terrazzo flooring is currently very popular. Natural elements, such as whimsical water features, are a dynamic way to bring the outside in (and engage the senses of hearing, smell and touch, as well as sight) to what has traditionally been a cold and sterile place.

Sensory Sensitivity

Lighting makes a huge difference. For example, natural lighting helps babies heal faster. The industry is coming up with creative ways to integrate natural lighting with state-of-the-art LED interior lighting that enables healthcare staff to perform their jobs effectively, but is also pleasing to the patients — a huge leap forward from the harsh cathode lighting of the past. On the sound front, a quiet environment may reduce recovery time. Rubber flooring with high STC acoustical ratings has replaced vinyl sheeting predominantly used in the past.