Contractors face constant challenges to their budgets and schedules on each and every project they are a part of. They make hundreds of decisions every day that contribute to the success of the job. When project owners seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications, those decisions become even more paramount as the consequences of any one of those decisions could affect the granting of LEED credits. Therefore it's important that the general contractor keeps the entire jobsite focused on both the project’s LEED goals and the overall philosophy of the LEED rating system. Just as an effective jobsite safety program will go beyond a list of safe work practices and cause individual workers to make daily decisions that are consistent with a “culture of safety,” so too will an effective jobsite LEED action plan cause individual workers to make daily decisions that are consistent with a “culture of sustainability.”
A qualified general contractor can make decisions towards the goal of LEED certification during three phases: 1) Pre-Construction, 2) Construction and 3) Close out. Make sure there’s someone on the design or construction team that has a good knowledge of the rating system. If you don't have that someone on your staff, consider hiring a sustainability manager that is LEED certified before becoming involved in these projects.
Proper planning is key to the success of a project and the earlier contractors can be brought in on a green building project that has a goal to achieve LEED certification, the better. The key times a contractor should be involved in the LEED process during pre-construction are during the budget review and the site visit before starting construction.
During a budget review, qualified contractors can develop “what-if” scenarios of cost implications of pursuing specific LEED credits. In addition, the contractor can also undertake life cycle cost analysis of materials and products to determine the optimum solution based on the owner’s requirements. Contractors should analyze the initial cost budget to know what materials the project can target for the LEED goals. The subcontractor or supplier will appreciate not having to fill out forms for materials that are not relevant, or that have so little cost value that it is a waste of time to use on the project.
The pre-construction site visit will be important to assess the existing site-specific conditions to identify features of the land. Understanding the features of the construction site will help you develop a better plan to reduce pollution from construction as required by the LEED Prerequisite 1 of the Sustainable Site section.
Contractors should have their LEED coordinator develop the site specific jobsite LEED plans. In addition, those coordinators should participate in the pre-bid meetings to assist the project team in clarifying the project LEED strategy and sustainable goals. The LEED consultant is there to support the contractor in the development of (but not limited to): - the Erosion and Sedimentation Control (ESC) Plans for all construction activity associated with the projects (SS Pr1); - the Construction Waste Management (CWM) Plans that identifies the materials to be diverted from disposal and to be sorted (MR Cr2); - the Indoor Air Quality Management (IAQM) Plans for the construction and pre-occupancy phases of the buildings (EQ CR3.1). In addition, the LEED consultant will help the contractor to draw up the LEED specifications to attach to bid requests and to contractual documentation.
The specifics of the LEED action plan for the construction phase must be presented and discussed before any work begins. Pre-construction meetings should be held with project managers and foremen to expose the LEED requirements of the Construction LEED Prerequisite and Credits. The orientation for subcontractors is very important so they can understand what will be expected for the jobsite and the building materials. At this meeting each subcontractor should appoint its own internal coordinator to manage and collect information required to demonstrate LEED compliance.
During a kick-off meeting pre-construction, your LEED coordinator should explain again to staff, workers and subcontractors the measures included in the LEED jobsite plans and the LEED requirements.
Subcontractors and laborers should be trained in the basics of erosion and sedimentation control, good housekeeping, pollution prevention, waste management, etc. Site specific checklists for inspections can be used to control the real installation and the efficiency of the measures included in the plans. After each inspection the onsite LEED operator completes an inspection report. The inspection reports are used to communicate to the contractor the need for maintenance or corrective actions. The contractor can then organize short formal and informal training sessions (onsite and in the offices) in order to train staff, subcontractors and suppliers on the implementation of the jobsite LEED requirements. During these meetings it is essential to explain the individual and company responsibilities of all parties involved in the LEED action plan during construction.
The LEED coordinator should make periodic visits to the jobsite to verify the ESC and CWM plans are being followed. They may even want to conduct a mid-project audit to verify that the LEED documentation is being collected consistently and appears to be complete and accurate.
During the close out phase, contractors need to be prepared for air quality testing and final documentation before they consider their part of the project complete.
When construction is concluded and final cleaning is complete, contractors should perform a building flush-out or test air contaminant levels in the building prior to occupancy. The contractor will prepare a complete and consistent final documentation for the Construction LEED prerequisite and credits. Your LEED professional will support you when filling in the LEED credits templates and to prepare the supporting documentation to submit to certification reviewers. An accurate and consistent final documentation can guard effectively against requests for clarification and denied credits.
The sustainable design process involves an active effort by all members of the design and construction teams to earn project certification. Efforts should be made by everyone on the team (owner, architects, engineers, contractors, commissioning agents, and subs) to ensure a project meets the design intent and goals of the LEED rating system and the credits that have been selected for the project.
In the entire scheme of a LEED project, contractors affect a relatively small percentage of the LEED credits. By knowing their impact on the project and how they can contribute, contractors can become a valuable resource to the design team in the process of achieving LEED certification.
Additional information for this article was provided by the International Journal for Housing Science