Keep the Lights On

With building green comes the ongoing task of maintaining a green building. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was an early proponent of building green, and it remains an influence on the movement today. Because of Pennsylvania’s early involvement, it created a maintenance manual used by green builders throughout the country.

As a joint effort between Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services (DGS) and Green Seal, the Pennsylvania Green Building Maintenance Manual helped answer many of the questions associated with maintaining and operating a green building and is available as a free download from the state’s Web site.

Green Seal, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve environmental conditions by promoting the selection and use of environmentally friendly products, routinely works with private and public entities to aid in the operations and maintenance of sustainable and green buildings.

Lighting maintenance

Some of the key issues of green building maintenance have little to do with electrical contractors, as many of the recommendations do not directly deal with the systems for which ECs are responsible. Tasks such as roofing maintenance, cleaning product selection, landscaping and snow removal do not fall under most contractors’ realm of duties.

However, contractors at least need to be familiar with a couple items of concern. This is especially true for contractors who have a service side to their business. As more ECs are offering maintenance contracts to their customers, understanding that maintaining a green building may prove challenging is important.

One of the areas where electrical contractors become key players is in lighting maintenance. In the traditional building world, many might not be overly concerned about maintaining lighting systems beyond their ability to turn off and on. But, the green building marketplace is unique in that operations and maintenance of lighting systems contained within a green building have a significant impact on that building’s ability to remain energy efficient.

This is in addition to the sustainable building theory of enhancing occupant productivity and overall well-being. But that is an entirely different subject, which also is outside an electrical contractor’s scope of concern.

In a green building, lighting system maintenance extends beyond the traditional elements of cleaning fixtures and replacing faulty and nonoperational bulbs. One recommendation for lighting maintenance in a green building is the usage of energy audits. This is an additional area of work at existing and potential customer sites.

Energy audits assess the benefits associated with various efficiency measures, should they be incorporated into the existing facility. Firms that routinely perform such audits include utility companies, architects and engineers. Since many contractors maintain a staff inclusive of engineers, this audit could essentially become a function of the contractor as well. Energy audits have proven quite beneficial with regard to lighting systems, as those systems have some relatively easy fixes available that most contractors can quickly perform.

Once again, even the most efficient, state-of-the-art and properly designed and installed systems need to be continually monitored and maintained in order to perform at their anticipated levels of efficiency.

As more contractors come across green building projects and enjoy the revenue stream associated with maintenance arrangements, it only makes sense that associating these two niche areas together is a smart business move. EC

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

About the Author

Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas

Freelance Writer
Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas is a freelance writer who lives in central Pennsylvania.

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.