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Monday, December 28, 2009

Catching The Green Express - AGC Article

Source: http://constructoragc.construction.com/mag/2009_11-12/features/0911-30_AGC.asp

Contractors embrace more sustainable building practices, whichever green benchmark is used

By Angelle Bergeron

The green building industry will soar to $60 billion by 2010, says the U.S. Green Building Council.
Nabholz Construction Services in October moved into its new office at West Little Rock, Ark., and currently is seeking LEED certification for the building.
Nabholz Construction Services in October moved into its new office at West Little Rock, Ark., and currently is seeking LEED certification for the building.
“Green is the new gold,” says Thomas Taylor, general manager of Vertegy, a sustainability consulting unit of Alberici Corp., St. Louis, a member of AGC of St. Louis. “It is a fast-moving market, and you have to stay on top of it.The public is demanding things be green.”

Half of New York City-based Turner Construction Co.’s sales so far this year were for buildings that will be certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, says Michael Deane, vice president and chief sustainability officer. “Last year, that number was 30%, and the year before it was 24%.”

Deane joined Turner five years ago because of the company’s commitment to green operations. “I knew I wanted to work for these guys, and I came specifically to help grow their green market,” he says.

Deane led Turner from having about 50 LEED-accredited professionals (APs) among 5,000 employees to more than 1,100 today. “We can’t force an owner to build green,” Deane says. “Mostly, we are good at putting information on the table and helping owners make a good decision.”
Turner is a leader in health care, office and school construction, identified by The McGraw-Hill Cos. as the three biggest sectors for green growth and building. Despite the ongoing recession, “there is still tremendous growth in green in absolute dollars and as a percentage of our total volume,” Deane says.

More LEED Professionals
Southfield, Mich.-based Barton Malow Co., a member of multiple AGC chapters, has seen its percentage of LEED projects grow “exponentially” since its first one in 2003, says Brian Larson, project manager on the University of Virginia’s first LEED-certified Silver building.
Brian Larson
Brian Larson
“The projects that want to go green are still going green,” Larson says. “The biggest problem with the economic situation is owners are canceling the whole project, not canceling the green. The percentage of projects we are going after is definitely increasing.”

Although Barton Malow’s greening was precipitated by owner demand, the company changed systems and resources to follow the trend. Barton Malow increased the number of LEED APs on staff and formed a corporate green team to guide practices and conduct internal education.
“Each project brings a new green strategy that we can then apply to future projects,” Larson says. For example, when Barton Malow completed Medlar Field at Pennsylvania State University in University Park as the country’s first LEED-certified ballpark, the contractor learned how to apply green building to stadiums.

McCarthy Building Cos., St. Louis, a member of multiple AGC chapters, began going green about eight years ago, says Dennis Tucker, executive vice president of the southwest region and chairman of the company’s green steering committee, which sets policies across the country.
“We began with a green team holding teleconferences to share efforts and what we were doing to support LEED and USGBC,” Tucker says. “That turned into a corporate initiative, and we officially established the Green Steering Committee two years ago.”

McCarthy also made a conscious education effort and pushed to have more employees become LEED APs. “We currently have 400 LEED APs in a company of 1,250 employees,” Tucker says.
McCarthy’s biggest focus is on health care, education, industrial and water, all sectors where owners are demanding green, Tucker says. “Of the roughly 200 active projects we have across the country, over 70 of them are LEED,” he adds.

Many Reasons To Go Green
Mary Laurie was hired in 2007 as director of sustainable initiatives for Nabholz Construction Services, Conway, Ark., a member of AGC’s Arkansas Chapter. Before that, a group of LEED APs in the firm had formed a green-construction roundtable.
The LEED-certified Gold Courtyard of Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Visitor’s Center project gave Barton Malow experience with a complex ground-source heating-and-cooling system.
The LEED-certified Gold Courtyard of Monticello/Thomas Jefferson Visitor’s Center project gave Barton Malow experience with a complex ground-source heating-and-cooling system. (Photo Courtesy of Debbie Franke Architectural Photography)

“The benefit for us in having a sustainability officer is, there is always someone watching, trying to keep ahead of things, having a champion here, urging people on,” Laurie says.

In addition to ensuring the company has adequately trained staff, Laurie is constantly looking at ways Nabholz can be more sustainable and communicate that capability to clients.

Vertegy’s Taylor says people build green for a variety of reasons. “Some do it because it is the right thing to do,” he says. “Others do it because of return on investment, energy savings or to demonstrate to employees they care.”
An increasing number of municipal, state and government mandates are specifying green construction, although some individuals and associations take issue with the Government Services Administration, military and state mandates that specify only LEED certification.

AGC of America has “concern over mandates that reference only one rating system,” says Melinda Tomaino, a LEED AP and director of AGC’s Green Construction division. “This practice could introduce additional risk to building green by tying important government incentives for green buildings [such as tax credits] to a program run by a private organization like the USGBC. Competitiveness in the marketplace drives improvement in individual programs.”

Because LEED was the first certification system, it is synonymous to building green for many people. “Currently, the majority of our clients are pursuing LEED because it is what most people know about,” says Taylor, who chairs the AGC Environmental Network Steering committees. He is a LEED AP and also on the board of the Green Building Initiative, which owns the rights to a different rating system called Green Globes.
The University of Virginia’s South Lawn in Charlottesville, Va., is LEED-registered and will seek Silver certification. Being built by Barton Malow Co., it is one the university’s first two LEED projects.
The University of Virginia’s South Lawn in Charlottesville, Va., is LEED-registered and will seek Silver certification. Being built by Barton Malow Co., it is one the university’s first two LEED projects.
The University of Virginia’s South Lawn in Charlottesville, Va., is LEED-registered and will seek Silver certification. Being built by Barton Malow Co., it is one the university’s first two LEED projects. (Photo by Dan Grogan)

Although LEED is “definitely the recognized brand leader,” there are actually “50 or 60 individual rating systems used by different organizations and geographic areas,” Taylor says.

Only Game in Town?
The Earth and Planetary Sciences Building at Washington University in St. Louis was Tarlton Corp.’s first LEED-certified project.
The Earth and Planetary Sciences Building at Washington University in St. Louis was Tarlton Corp.’s first LEED-certified project. (Photo by Dan Grogan)
USGBC was started in the early 1990s and launched LEED in 1998. Before that, “someone would have recycled content in the carpet and called [the building] a green building,” says Scot Horst, USGBC senior vice president for LEED. “There was no way to define collectively what green is.”
LEED, developed through a voluntary consensus organization, defined what constitutes a green building, Horst says. “Now that we have been influential in helping to raise these issues, people are saying, ‘How come LEED is the only game in town?’ The way I see it, the more the merrier. We are only touching a portion of the market. We need to totally change how buildings are built and operated.”

Most green contractors say they will build green at whatever price point and under whatever certification system owners prefer. “These projects are client-driven,” says McCarthy’s Tucker.
Jeff Freese, senior project manager with Tarlton Corp., St. Louis, an AGC of St. Louis member, agrees but adds, “LEED is the only [certification system] we have been asked to build to so far.”
Tarlton became involved in green building in 2002 with construction of the LEED-certified Earth and Planetary Science Building at Washington University. “Right after that, we constructed a new main-office headquarters for Tarlton that is LEED Silver,” Freese says. “We wanted to be on the forefront, and now we know how to do it. Like many building owners, we agree with the idea that we all need to be responsible for what we do with the environment.”

Critics say the 2009 LEED Version 3 changes will make building LEED onerous for contractors and prompt the rise of competing certification systems, but Tarlton’s Freese does not see a problem. “I would hope the overall intent is to be more sustainable in construction and operation of your building, whether you get a plaque or not,” he says. “I hope the certification doesn’t hold the same importance as the overall goal of being more sustainable.”

Tackling LEED Version 3
In April 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council came out with Version 3 of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design cer. V3 and future changes also represent USGBC’s constant weighing of sustainability goals with market capability, Horst explains. “We can’t get too far ahead of the market,” he says. “People won’t follow us.”

For example, the LEED V3 requirement that owners provide data tification program.
Many changes were welcomed and lauded as improvements, including more emphasis on “life-cycle assessment and regional concerns,” says Melinda Tomaino, a LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and director of AGC’s Green Construction division. “USGBC sought and achieved acceptance as a standards developer under the American National Standards Institute to bring further credibility to its program,” Tomaino says. “USGBC also recently turned over the administration of its credentialing and certification programs to the Green Building Certification Institute to promote objectivity and credibility.”

The changes prompted some criticism. Beyond the typical moans and groans that accompany any change, the chief complaints about LEED V3 surround the tracking and reporting of energy usage in LEED-certified buildings for five years and the continuing-education requirements for LEED APs.

Some changes, including the energy requirements, respond to industry criticism of LEED 2.2, says Scot Horst, USGBC’s senior vice president of LEED for energy efficiency for five years is a step toward associating that data with certification. “Currently, you do not have to have a certain level of performance in order to be certified,” Horst says. “You just have to give us the information. When the market is ready, that is where we have to go. But the market is not ready right now.”

That particular requirement will prompt owners and contractors to demand alternate third-party certification products, says Thomas Taylor, general manager of Vertegy, a sustainability consulting unit of Alberici Corp., St. Louis. “Will this be the death of LEED? I don’t think so,” Taylor says. But he says it has some contractors asking, Why would anyone do this?
Before LEED V3, “if you passed the exam to be a LEED AP, you were one forever,” says Michael Deane, vice president and chief sustainability officer of Turner Construction Co., New York City. Now, in order to maintain accreditation, LEED APs will have to take 30 annual hours of continuing education in the sustainability field.

USGBC “also said that if you are a LEED AP from the old days, you can opt to be a legacy AP,” Deane says. “USGBC is assuming that, over time, that will be perceived to be not as good or as current as the new LEED AP+.”

LEED has always been intended to be a living document, Horst says, “but at the same time, it cannot just be constantly changing. What we are doing is very similar to what other standards do to improve themselves.”

The next LEED update is scheduled for 2012.


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