It is the contractor who is in the driver’s seat during all phases of sustainable construction projects, including predesign and design, construction and closeout. The contractor is involved before the race starts and continues driving sustainability through to operational training.
As the second part in our “Contractor’s Role in Sustainability” series, this article focuses on the importance of the contractor during the predesign and design phases of a commercial construction project. The contractor’s role during these two critical phases sets the stage for a commercial project’s success.
On any LEED project, both the predesign and design phases are viewed as opportunities to incorporate sustainability features into the design and optimize the design for maximum efficiency to achieve the desired LEED certification level. The addition of the Integrative Process credit to LEED v4 provides an excellent insight into the direction LEED is taking. The proposed wording in the third public comment draft of LEED v4 for Building Design & Construction states, “Starting in predesign, and continuing throughout the design phases, identify and execute synergistic opportunities for high-performance outcomes across different disciplines and building systems.”
The importance of a design charrette
During the predesign stage, the contractor will participate in a design charrette. The purpose of the charrette is to hold a preschematic design collaborative session during which a project team and other building stakeholders brainstorm ideas, develop project strategies, and identify major project goals and issues all in terms of sustainable integrated building design. The key word is “integrated” because sustainable ideas and strategies should be developed across the entire design process. Think of a design charrette as a meeting where professionals can discuss creative ideas, concerns and innovative solutions.
The contractor provides the necessary input on the feasibility of implementing proposed design ideas. A successful design charrette will lead to a project conceptual design identifying proposed LEED credits. This will determine the LEED certification level based on points assigned to credits.
One of the important products of the design charrette is the meeting report which outlines team ideas, identifies goals and strategies, and determines who will participate on the project team and what their roles and responsibilities will be for the duration of the project. A proposed completion schedule is included in the report along with a conceptual design.
A project team leader, who is most likely a LEED AP, should be chosen. The team leader or the project manager is the primary project driver who facilitates communication among project stakeholders including the owner, architects, landscape architects, interior designers, mechanical and electrical engineers, equipment planners, environmental professionals, land planner and the cost estimator — all of whom are needed for successful project completion. The LEED AP team leader simultaneously functions as the primary contact with the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). GBCI is the certification arm of USGBC that certifies LEED projects and accredits LEED professionals.
Entering the design phase
Once the design charrette report and conceptual design are accepted by the project owner, the project enters the design phase. The Owner’s Project Requirements (OPR), Basis of Design (BOD) and Design Documents are prepared for use by the project team and for LEED submission. The schematics include the detailed design and design analysis along with the “sustainable” specifications. The sustainable specifications included in a report are:
- LEED requirements
- Intended level of certification
- Identification of specifications for credits, i.e., sustainable sites, indoor environmental quality
- Registration of project with USGBC