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Contractor gets a homegrown lesson in LEED

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by Ian Harvey

Dan Bulley, executive director of the green construction institute, was unprepared for coordinating the construction of the LEED certified headquarters of the Chicago Mechanical Contractors Association. Bulley's experience prompted him to write a booklet offering tips on working with LEED from an owner’s perspective.
The Chicago Mechanical Contractors Association’s new headquarters inspired Dan Bulley to write a booklet offering tips on working with LEED from an owner’s perspective.
The Chicago Mechanical Contractors Association’s new headquarters inspired Dan Bulley to write a booklet offering tips on working with LEED from an owner’s perspective.

Green Building

When Dan Bulley rolled up his sleeves to get to work on the Chicago Mechanical Contractors Association’s new headquarters, he didn’t sweat over the prospect of a LEED certification.

After all, it seems simple enough and since the project was for the association of which he was senior vice-president and being executive director of the green construction institute, he figured he’d be well within his element.

Or so he thought.

“I really found how much I didn’t know,” says Bulley who now is what you might describe as a born-again evangelist for the green cause and in particular LEED. “And I considered myself educated and experienced about LEED.”

“The building was a shell and in the process I learned a lot of things from the owners’ standpoint,” he says. “I really didn’t have as good a handle on the process as I thought and so we sat down and created a booklet to help people and know what’s coming.”

“Thinking About Building LEED” is intended to be a heads-up guide about what should happen before the shovels hit the dirt for contractors and owners alike.

While it’s written from an American point of view, many of the lessons contained are applicable to Canada since the Green Building Council LEED standard has been adopted here.

The key process, says Bulley, is to pay more attention to planning, to work closely with the designers, engineers and architects to ensure everyone is on the same page and to make sure the required LEED commissioning happens early in the process.

“LEED has proven itself as the premier — if not the only — legitimate rating system for commercial green buildings,” says Bulley. “Even so, some owners and even designers don’t feel that LEED certification is necessary. But they should consider the merits.”

He says LEED will increase the value of the building in terms of resale and leasing, allow major savings in operations through reduced consumption of materials and energy. It will also keep tenants happy because they’ll have less sick days and may even qualify for tax rebates or fee waivers.

“It’s possible to create a green building without LEED certification,” Bulley says, “but you’d have no criteria for gauging the building’s effectiveness. It would be like buying an automobile without a mileage rating, or food without a list of ingredients.”

Emma Hickey, a Quantity Surveyor, LEED Accredited Professional and senior cost consultant at cm2r, a Toronto based business providing cost control and cost-management services, says about 75 per cent of the buildings coming across her desk now are LEED projects.

Despite the additional costs — usually offset over the building life cycle — and the extra cost of having it commissioned and audited, there’s a growing recognition of it as the de facto standard, especially for public sector construction.

There’s also a growing recognition that it entails a lot of more details and a lot more planning, she says.

“Failing to plan and getting the right people involved in the process early are probably the biggest mistakes,” she says. “The buzz going around the industry now is about the Integrated Design Process (IDP) which gets everyone around the table —the consultant, the owner, the designers — even occupants to talk through the process of what they want to achieve.

It’s important to do it early on because you don’t want to be scrambling at the end in a LEED project.”

The Chicago MCA building is awaiting its LEED Gold certification and the end result is a showcase, says Bulley, and well worth it.

Landscaping is designed to eliminate the need for power mowers and take advantage of natural rainfall for irrigation.

The entrance way is three contained vestibules which control contaminants entering the building while the energy-efficient lighting uses 30 percent less electricity.

Nearly ten thousand aluminum cans were used in the manufacture of cabinet countertops, perimeter walls were filled with foam insulation and the roof is a reflective white to cut down on sun load. Room occupancy sensors, water-saving fixtures and low-flush toilets and low-emission paints, sealants and epoxies were also used.

It’s that attention to detail which really tell the story of every LEED building, even in areas you can’t see, says Hickey’s colleague, David Lai, a professional quantity surveyor at cm2r who specializes in electrical.

And while LEED produces massive amounts of documentation, it’s ever more critical as building techniques and operating technologies get ever more complex — and a good reason alone to have a third party review.

“We’re not architects or engineers so we have to be careful when reviewing but because of our connection with suppliers we can suggest new or alternative products to the designers,” says Lai.

“We can suggest new window products with the same R values which may be cheaper, or get involved in the discussion around LED lighting — which not everyone is sold on yet.”

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