Talk about “green” is all around us. Every day, in some form or another, someone is talking about green. Most of us know what green is — at least we think we do. Green is saving energy and having a positive impact on the environment, right? To most people, it is. To an HVAC sheet metal contractor, though, it is so much more.
Understanding programs such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) opens up an opportunity to bid on a growing number of high-dollar projects, and an opportunity to win these bids.
At the Sheet Metal and Air conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) convention is Las Vegas this past October, Thomas E. Glavinich, D.R., P.E., associate professor of civil, environmental, and architectural engineering at the University of Kansas presented the HVAC Contractors’ Guide to Bidding Green Building Projects. The purpose of the guide is to introduce HVAC contractors to this growing market trend, as well as provide useful information for contractors who are bidding green building projects.
“The HVAC system is a key element in any green building project, because it has a significant impact on the building’s energy usage and operating costs, as well as the well being of the building occupants on a daily basis,” the guide states. “When bidding a green building project, the HVAC contracting firm needs to be aware of the additional requirements that it will be subject to during design.”
What is Green?
The term “green building” is defined in ASTM Standard E2114-06a as a building that provides the specified building performance requirements while minimizing disturbance to and improving the functioning of local, regional, and global ecosystems both during and after its construction and specified service life.
Demand by building owners and regulatory agencies for environmentally sensitive projects “has put the construction industry in a reactive mode as it adjusts to the requirements imposed by project contract documents and third-party certification requirements,” Glavinich says. “Green construction doesn’t have to be just another contract requirement that the HVAC contracting firm must address.
“Instead, the HVAC contracting firm can embrace the principles of green construction and become proactive, which is not only good for the environment but also good for business.”
According to the HVAC Contractor’s Guide, HVAC systems are a key element of any green building, both from an energy standpoint and an indoor air quality (IAQ) standpoint. For example, IAQ is addressed in LEED new construction requirement both during construction and following occupancy. During construction, this category includes credits for having a construction IAQ management plan and implementing this plan to provide a healthy environment for workers and any people occupying the building during construction.
The construction IAQ management plan references Chapter 3 of SMACNA’s IAQ Guidelines for Occupied Buildings Under Construction.
Advantages to Green
Aside from improved productivity and reduced costs at the jobsite, there are many benefits for the HVAC contractor that is green. According to the Guide, by focusing on green construction every day, the HVAC contractor’s personnel will become more knowledgeable about the possibilities and, when a green construction project comes along, they’ll have a good understanding of the actual work and costs involved.
Also, customers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and are looking for the same commitment in the firms they work with.
Because more and more government and municipal building are requiring LEED certifications for projects, it’s important for contractors to be green, as well as develop partnerships with green product manufacturers.
Section 3 of the Guide is devoted to answering the question, “What green building requirements will affect my business?”
This is most likely one of the first — if not the first — question every business owner asks when they start to study green building requirements.
First, you must understand that green building rating systems exist due to the growing number of public and private building owners who want their building certified as “green” by an objective third-party rating system.
An HVAC contractor needs to be aware of rating systems requirements, as they can impact material and equipment procurement, as well as construction requirements and costs.
LEED certification of a building starts with the owner’s decision that the project will be a “green” project, according to the Guide. The owner must register their intent to have the project LEED certified with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Throughout design and construction, the owner, designers, and contractors document how they’re meeting both the category prerequisites and credits for points toward certification. It’s important to note that not every credit with the LEED rating system needs to be addressed in the building design and construction. The number of credits earned by the project will, however, determine the level of LEED certification.
Within the many green requirements, there are some common ones with which HVAC contractors should be familiar. One such requirement pertains to ductwork and air handling equipment deliver and on-site storage.
According to the Guide, this includes protecting ductwork and other air handling equipment from contamination by dust and moisture prior to installation. This could restrict the HVAC contracting firm from delivering and storing ductwork on site in advance of installation. It may also require that ductwork and equipment be delivered with openings protected.
Green building projects, the Guide states, may require increased coordination with the HVAC contracting firm’s fabrication shop and suppliers to allow just-in-time delivery of ductwork and air handling equipment to avoid storage on site and possible contamination.
This all may sound like a lot to take in, and in case you were wondering, Glavinich contends that, “it appears that green building rating systems will continue to grow in popularity with both public and private building owners.”
The more people at your company who understand green building requirements, the better. This means everyone from project managers to estimators, to foremen, to the craftworkers in the field and in the shop.
One of the biggest problems encountered by HVAC contractors on green building projects has been in not understanding the requirements and how those requirements can impact both direct construction costs and project overhead, the Guide states. Having knowledgeable office and field personnel will help the contractor avoid the mistake of overlooking green-related requirements when putting together its project bid and making on-the-job errors.
The LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP) credentialing process remains a valuable professional designation and one that is likely to continue to grow more valuable. As interest in green design grows, so does the demand for LEED AP participation.
The LEED AP exam tests knowledge of the principles of sustainable design and the LEED process. On the USGBC’s website, you can purchase LEED publications, including the LEED Reference Guide, which is the main manual for implementing the LEED process.
One benefit of having a LEED AP on a project is that it provides an automatic point toward the certification of a LEED building.
This year, administration of the Professional Accreditation program transitioned to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). The GBCI, established with the support of the USGBC, handles exam development and delivery to allow for objective, balanced management of the credentialing program.
Tapping in to this new market is all about education and shared information. It’s important for contractors to understand the nature of the mandates necessary for green certification and to actively pursue the work.
It’s not too late to establish yourself as a green contractor now, while it can still give you a competitive advantage. When today’s voluntary standards become tomorrow’s mandates, you’ll have the experience to keep you head and shoulders above your competition.