In the early days of green building, some contractors differentiated their companies with marketing claims that highlighted the number of LEED Accredited Professionals on staff. Although many of them had little or no actual experience with LEED-certified projects, a phrase added to a statement of qualifications document — such as, “We have 30 LEED APs on our team” — was enough to help win projects. That is no longer the case.
Many contractors now have multiple LEED APs on staff, so it is no longer a differentiator. Owners are now more sophisticated and informed about what green building really means. In the future, this fundamental strategy will become harder to keep in effect as continuing education requirements are introduced that require ongoing education in order to keep an individual’s LEED accreditation current.
In order to secure green building projects in the future, contractors will have to get creative in demonstrating their commitment to sustainability in more specific and credible terms. There are two key strategies that successful market-ready contractors should implement in order to remain competitive.
Green Building Manual
Creating a simple green building manual is an easy way for a contractor to show prospective clients that they have thought through the green building process. It can also be an effective way to demonstrate the specifics of how the contractor will go about constructing a green building if done properly. Effective green building manuals should include, at a minimum:
* Sustainable office operations document.
* An environmental impact statement and policy.
* Construction activity pollution prevention program.
* Construction waste management policy.
* Indoor air quality — during construction policy.
* Material sourcing and purchasing policy.
Environmental Management System
Over the last decade the Associated General Contractors of America has actively promoted and encouraged its members to develop a comprehensive Environmental Management System (EMS), but relatively few have actually developed an EMS or even an effective alternative way to manage their regulatory responsibilities. In its basic form, an effective EMS for a contractor or construction manager would include the following elements:
* Incorporate appropriate measurements for various site practices.
* Establish a template for EMS reporting (measurement and accounting) on all projects.
* Provide employees on all projects with access to federal, state and local standards, and regulations pertaining to each project.
* Incorporate the desired green building or LEED standard credits into each project.
* Provide the necessary tools to efficiently supply clients with a comprehensive list of project-specific environmental accomplishments and EMS performance data.
* Provide data for use in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report.
Of course, every Environmental Management System will be different as business, marketing, financial and environmental goals vary from company to company. However, the end result of the EMS for all firms should be:
* Reduction of fines and penalties.
* Compliance with environmental regulations.
* Establishment of the contractor as a premier environmental contractor.
* Capability to populate reports with project-specific environmental documentation.
* A satisfied client that will hire your company again.
An effective EMS program should also be accompanied by a communications program, in order to demonstrate to the world the company’s commitment to the EMS program and corresponding results to the business community. Marketing a company’s core competencies is integral to securing future work, so the communications program should differentiate the firm from competitors, show example CSR Reports and communicate competence to deliver LEED projects.
Additionally, the federal government (GSA) is beginning to require contractors to have an EMS in place in order to qualify for government work, and many states are beginning to do the same.
In order to secure more green building projects in the future — whether they are LEED, Green Globes or some other certification — construction managers, general contractors and specialty contractors will need to be proactive in order to demonstrate their understanding and commitment to sustainability. A comprehensive EMS program that contains sustainable construction means and methods elements is a sure way to show prospective clients how the company can help achieve green building goals on time, within budget and in a manner that is truly sustainable.