More and more companies want to be recognized as being environmentally conscious. One way that they are demonstrating their commitment to a cleaner environment is through green construction. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System allows building owners to be openly recognized for their commitment to the environment. The criteria for becoming a LEED-certified project primarily impacts design. However, there are a number of requirements that can affect construction productivity and cost. The electrical contracting firm should be aware of these requirements and take them into account.

LEED certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) sponsors the LEED Green Building Rating System. This rating system is divided into six categories, and each category is broken down into a number of prerequisite requirements and credits. Based on the number of LEED points earned, the building may be certified by the USGBC as LEED-certified or receive progressively higher certifications as LEED Silver, Gold or Platinum.

Site protection

Protection of the project site is covered in Credit 5 of the Sustainable Sites’ (SS) category. This credit specifies construction boundaries so that the site is not unnecessarily disturbed by construction. These boundaries could adversely impact the electrical contracting firm’s ability to perform its work as intended in its bid if these restrictions were not considered.

In addition to construction, these boundaries could also impact the location of the electrical contracting firm’s trailer, lay down, waste disposal and recycling areas as well. If the electrical contracting firm disturbs the protected portion of the site, it could be subject to penalties as stated in the contract documents.

Building commissioning

Prerequisite 1 for the Energy & Atmosphere (EA) category requires that the owner hire an outside commissioning agent to verify that the building systems are installed and operate as intended. The electrical contracting firm needs to be aware of the commissioning requirements for the power, communication and control (PC2) systems that it installs.

The contract specifications may require the electrical contracting firm to prepare its own commissioning plan and submit it to the owner’s commissioning agent for approval, or it may require that the firm commission its PC2 systems in accordance with the procedures developed by the commissioning agent.

If the commissioning agent’s plan is not available at bid time or if the criteria for developing a commissioning plan are vague, then the electrical contracting firm may be put at risk.

Construction waste management

Credit 2 of the Materials & Resources (MR) category addresses minimizing the amount of demolition and construction waste that is sent to a landfill by recycling that waste. A specific area on the construction site will be set up for recycling by the general contractor and a percent goal based on weight or volume will be established in order to earn this credit.

This means the electrical contracting firm will need to track its waste, as well as move it to the project recycling area, and sort it as required. If the project involves electrical demolition, the electrical contracting firm should determine who owns the scrap that is removed if it plans to keep the proceeds.

Use of regional materials

The objective of this credit is to increase demand for materials manufactured within 500 miles of the project site, which will also reduce shipping energy and pollution.

MR Credit 5 defines manufacture as final assembly so the actual components that go into the material, device or equipment could be produced anywhere in the world. This credit could impact the electrical contracting firm’s procurement process, its final buyout cost, and delivery schedule if the specifications limit acceptable manufacturers to regional firms.

This article addressed some of the additional costs that the electrical contracting firm might encounter on a green construction project. Prior to bidding or negotiating a contract on a project that is working toward LEED certification, make sure that you know what the requirements are for the project including the increased record keeping that may be required to document that the requirements have been met. Make sure that you thoroughly understand the project specifications and the Green Building Rating System. The LEED rating system is available from the USGBC Web site at www.usgbc.org.     EC

GLAVINICH is an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at The University of Kansas and is a frequent instructor for NECA’s Management Education Institute. He can be reached at 785.864.3435 or tglavinich@ku.edu.