Don’t Bury the LEED
Conversation with Mike Sully, Director of Operations
For several years, the concept of sustainability has been strategic in different industries. For some it has meant creating recycling programs, for others it means eliminating paper cups and embracing glass mugs or steel tumblers. In the construction industry, sustainability is best demonstrated in the way builders, choose to build, the supplies and methods they employ. This practice has largely been influenced by what is known as LEED principles.
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a system that rates the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of ‘green’ structures. LEED principles take the ideas behind reducing waste and optimizing the use of resources into a format that makes sense for contractors and providers in the construction industry. In order to earn a LEED certification, projects must meet certain criteria during various phases of the project or during operations. In planning for the future, some cities have even committed to the sustainability requirement, by establishing a target for new construction projects to achieve various-level LEED certifications.
For a deeper look into how LEED principles are applied in the real world, Mike Sully, GCC’s Director of Operations, sheds some light on how GCC has embraced LEED and what challenges they face to grow across building projects.
Discussion with Mike Sully, Director of Operations
Owners may rely on GCs for input on projects but at times, GCs are engaged after major decisions are made. “Unless the GC is involved at the start, prior to design, it is difficult to get LEED certification as there are design requirements in the LEED process. However, there are parts of LEED that the GC can enact and get the owner involved in, even if the project is not working towards LEED certification.”
Sometimes the investment costs of ‘environmentally friendly’ or sustainable materials make the decision to pursue a LEED certification difficult for Owners, but ultimately, if it’s in the strategy, the budget should reflect it. “The pricing doesn’t matter as much as you would think at the construction level. LEED Decisions are made by the owner with the A/E during the design phase. If the Owner decides to proceed with LEED certification, then the A/E will require the products in the specifications, and the pricing of the products will have been planned.”
GCC’s experience on projects with LEED targets led to several ways to implement the principles and improve sustainability. “The Denton Army Reserve Center– 33,000+ sq. ft multi – had a LEED Silver Qualification target. LEED principles and planned points were designed into the project and GCC ensured that all construction points were achieved. We chose suppliers for points based on location near the site, and we ensured the waste sorting requirements were met. GCC also ensured the use of low VOC products. We achieved all of the points for the construction side and the building achieved its target, LEED Silver. The project was awarded the USACE LEEN Green Construction Award,” said Mike.
Even though this is a trend in construction, the decision to build sustainable structures is up to the Owner. Mike remarked, “The GC rarely has a say in what percentage of the projects they complete are pursuing LEED certification. The size and scope of LEED projects we have already completed show that we have the ability to complete any LEED project, but we choose projects based on size and our capabilities. We will never not pursue a project because of a LEED requirement, but we would also not turn down a job because it was not looking for LEED certification.”
LEED principles will have long-term benefits for the environment and for the bottom line and while some major cities are making this a priority, others are behind the curve. Mike said, “Our experience so far is that some owners place value on LEED, and are willing to pay for the extra costs for certification, while others prefer to not expend the extra costs. Our work with Municipalities and Government entities so far shows the same level of interest. Some are and some aren’t willing to spend the extra money. It is a short-sighted point of view because a LEED certified building may have a minor up-front cost in excess of non-LEED, however the benefits to LEED are in the long term reduced costs and sustainability of the end result.”
While using LEED principles in the Texas market continues to pick up steam, GCC Enterprises is a willing and capable provider of construction management services that will continue to grow its capabilities to deliver valuable results for our clients.
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