Green buildings are moving into the mainstream of the U.S. construction industry. Increasingly, private and public owners are requiring that their building projects be designed and constructed in an environmentally responsible manner and be recognized as a green building. This typically is accomplished by requiring that the project achieve certification as a green building, using a third-party rating system such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED).

LEED and other green building rating systems usually require that projects earn a certain number of points to be certified to a given level. The various criteria that must be met cover everything from site selection to incorporating renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics.

These requirements impact not only the building design but also the construction. Electrical contracting firms need to be aware of these green requirements and the impact they have on their work when bidding a green building project.

Where are the green requirements?

A project’s green requirements can be found just about anywhere in the bid documents. Ideally, requirements that specifically impact the power, communications and control (PC2) systems will be incorporated into the applicable drawings and specification sections that make up the electrical contracting firm’s scope of work. In addition, requirements that impact everyone on-site, such as construction waste management, should be included in Division 01/General Requirements of the project specifications and pointed out by the prime contractor in its request for bid.

However, green requirements are not always explicitly called out in the PC2 drawings and specifications or highlighted in the prime contractor’s request for subcontractor bids. If green building requirements are not explicitly included in the EC’s scope of work, then where are they? They can be incorporated in a variety of ways. For example, they could be included in Division 01 and simply require that the building be certified or certifiable to a particular level, using a given third-party green building rating system. For example, for a project to be certified to the Silver level using the LEED Green Building Rating System for New Construction & Major Renovations, the building would need to earn at least 33 out of 69 possible points plus meet the requirements of category prerequisites.

The owner could specify the criteria and associated points that it already has met through design and the additional criteria it expects to be met during construction. Alternatively, the owner could leave part or all of the criteria needed to achieve certification up to the prime contractor. In either case, the EC must understand its responsibilities for achieving certification before submitting its bid because green requirements can impact material costs, labor productivity, scheduling, commissioning activities and project closeout requirements.

When bidding a green project, the EC needs to determine if there are green requirements that impact its scope of work and what those are. If the owner’s bid documents are vague, the prime contractor should either determine the owner’s specific green requirements through a pre-bid request for clarification or develop a plan detailing how the owner’s requirements will be met. In either case, the EC must determine what its responsibilities are as a subcontractor so it can bid the project. Additionally, the electrical contracting firm needs to determine if any testing should be performed or documentation needs to be submitted to verify its green requirements have been met.

Understand green requirements

The electrical contracting firm needs to understand green building requirements and its responsibilities for achieving them. This includes not only the project managers and estimators, but also the foremen and electricians in the field. During bidding, it is very important that estimators know and understand green building requirements. Where these requirements impact the electrical contracting firm’s scope of work, they need to be incorporated into the bid price.

Additionally, during construction, it is very important that everyone understand the project’s green requirements and their own responsibilities.

For example, if the electrical contractor is involved in a renovation project that involves recycling materials such as conductor and raceways, he may be responsible for tracking the amount of material removed and recycled to help the project achieve its recycling goal.

Similarly, if a sealant or adhesive is used that does not use low-emitting materials that meet specified volatile organic compound concentration limits, the project could lose credit, or the EC could be required to replace the material, resulting in additional rework that impacts both its schedule and costs. EC

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at the University of Kansas. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or tglavinich@ku.edu.