Contractors throughout West Michigan could now track construction debris, manage commissioning processes, ensure low/no VOC (volatile organic compound) products were used, and check air particulates during construction, using indoor air quality testing methods. Along with best practices implementation in the field, an emphasis on the “team approach” to pursue LEED certification encouraged the growth of the construction management delivery method.
In the traditional design, bid, build (general contract) approach the LEED system is difficult, if not impossible to fully achieve. The construction manager was now asked to engage with designers and engineers during the document development process to contribute ideas and methods to achieve certain credits. It was also understood that all three parties, (A/E firms, contractors and clients) needed to be on the same page throughout the design-construct process. Each had to manage their assigned points, which ultimately meant that all had responsibility for success.
For West Michigan contractors, working together to achieve a more responsible end product was an exciting challenge. In less than two decades construction, one of the slowest industries to change, shifted its delivery methods, understood the impacts its activities had on the environment, and evolved.
Contractors embraced the new rating system and building methods understanding that if they did not, their businesses would be dramatically impacted. Large property owners and developers understood the importance of the LEED rating system to their operating costs. They recognized that purchasing a LEED certified building equaled better work environments.
From a marketing standpoint, they saw that a LEED certified building offered a real estate advantage over those buildings not subjected to the process. In the public sector Gov. Granholm mandated that, going forward, all state owned and funded buildings including universities, colleges, K-12 schools and governmental buildings are built to LEED standards. Major building owners now had to meet a new requirement. If the contractor wasn’t willing to change, others would be.
Today, the contractor has a different view of LEED: It’s not a competitive advantage — it’s simply the way we do business. Although not perfect and often scrutinized, LEED is the only industry standard that has a logical method of collecting data, analyzing it, reporting it and monitoring it. The LEED system can be cumbersome and does not fit the needs of all building owners; however it offers a fantastic base for evaluating building performances, even when not pursuing the plaque.
From the contractor’s perspective, the future of the U.S. Green Building Council appears to be a continuation of refining the baseline requirements, as well as increasing the performance criteria of newly designed and built buildings.
The USGBC has changed the design and construction industries and is now shifting focus and requiring building users to be responsible with their investment. Owners are now required to ensure the building is functioning per the design and commissioned effort well after occupancy. This requirement will complete the circle of environmentally responsible design, construction and operation. In the decades to come, much like the architectural and engineering communities and building owners, the construction industry will be ready to meet the challenges set forth. The slow changing, “way we have always done it” industry has become extremely flexible and responsive.
Mission: To transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, in a way that improves the quality of life in West Michigan.