What IS "Green Building?"
What IS "Green Building?" It's a question that's
asked frequently throughout the architecture, engineering
and construction industry during the last few years, and our
goal at Southwest Contractor is to answer the question in
a detailed, contractor-focused manner.
This article is the first in a series about Green Building,
the design process, the products involved, and the construction
means and methods used to produce a high-quality Green Building.
Throughout the series I will highlight the United States Green
Building Council's (USGBC) Green Building Rating System called
"LEED," an acronym for "Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design." The LEED system is the Green
Building standard most commonly used today in the building
industry. LEED has organized and condensed into one program
all of the information required to design and construct an
environmentally stable building. Designers have been using
the LEED system to create green buildings since the inception
of LEED in 1998, but contractors, engineers, construction
managers and subcontractors must become educated on Green
Building to compete in this growing market. I will explore
the nuts and bolts of the program and present solid, business-based
solutions and suggestions for incorporating Green Building
into your business.
The progress of Green Building:
Green Building is growing in an exponential manner because
it makes sense. It is not rocket science or brain surgery.
In fact, most of us have used various Green Building products
and techniques throughout our careers without even knowing
it. As we progress through this series, you'll realize that
you've already been doing things on your jobsite that are
required by LEED, like implementing an erosion and sedimentation
control plan, construction waste management program, or installing
building materials that were acquired locally.
LEED currently accounts for over 3 percent of the commercial
building market, and is expected to be at least 8 percent
by 2005. Green Building is a growing market that will continue
its phenomenal growth well into the future.
Green Building does not cost more!
A green building is a quality building. The up-front costs
associated with a high-quality building are often attributed
to Green Building in error. Green construction may cost different
than traditional construction, but with good reason. Long-term
or life-cycle costs are the true costs of a building over
its lifetime. In fact, operating and maintenance costs account
for over 80 percent of the "cost" of a typical building
over its useful life. A Green Building can drastically reduce
operating and maintenance costs!.
Just as alternative project delivery methods such as Construction
Manager at Risk, Design-Build, and Job Order Contracting require
a different, collaborative approach, so does Green Building.
The misconception that Green Building is more expensive is
an issue that must be addressed. How about now? My experience
has been that there are five reasons why a Green Building
project would not be successful, including:
Lack of Education
Ignorance leads to misconceptions, misunderstanding, and unnecessarily
inflated costs. People are intimidated by things they don't
understand. In the construction business, this can lead to
poor quality and increased costs. My mission is to educate
the industry on Green Building issues and practices with the
goal of creating high-performance, energy, water and material-efficient
Improper planning / starting too late
Failure to implement a proper LEED credit strategy in the
early stages of design will lead to poor coordination and
increased costs. The best Green Building project is one that
combines the proper delivery method (preferably Design-Build
or CM @ Risk) with educated, experienced personnel following
a specific plan.
If an owner chooses to implement the LEED standard at the
Construction Document phase it is probably too late. There
will most likely be additional design and preconstruction
costs involved. The most successful Green Building projects
start with a firm commitment from the owner and proper planning
from conceptual design.
Hiring the wrong Design or Construction
firmWhat is your commitment level to Green Building and the
This can be alleviated at the interview. The proper questions
must be asked-and answered effectively in order to build the
right green team for your projects. Some questions that may
Examples of prior work?
Do you have any LEED Accredited Professionals on staff?
How many? How long have they been accredited?
What is their experience level with LEED projects?
Not requiring your Design or Construction
firm to make a commitment.
Since Green Building and the LEED program are relatively
new, not all firms have LEED experience. Does this mean
that they can't perform satisfactorily on your project-certainly
not! There are many competent firms that can easily make
the transition to Green Building, but they must be willing
to learn and make a commitment to the owner that they will.
I have experienced firms that have chosen to "muddle
along" with their Green Building program even though
they have a LEED project in hand. This lack of understanding
can only lead to increased costs.
Not all firms are suited for Green Building. If the principals
do not see a business value in Green Building, they probably
won't have the desire to see the project succeed. They will
be too concerned with proving the system to be wrong, and
will be eager to get back to business as usual.
I will explore all of these topics in greater detail in
future articles, and outline ways for you to incorporate
Green Building into your business. In the meantime, some
things that you can do NOW!Educate your people on the subject of Green Building
Implement a Green Building program as soon as possible
Hire experienced professionals for guidance