March 16, 2005

Speakers present case studies

Greening operations can lead to greater success

CANCUN, Mexico

Canada’s construction industry increasingly is being required to consider issues surrounding environmentalism and sustainability in its business operations, says Newfoundland contractor Brad Greene.

“For many of us, greening our operations is something that we do on an as-required basis to meet contract requirements or government regulations,” he told contractors attending a session at the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) annual conference here.

“However, more and more businesses are discovering that by giving more pro-active consideration for environmental issues, they are creating a competitive advantage for themselves in the marketplace, which is leading to greater business success.

“And perhaps more importantly, these businesses are able to achieve these advantages by simply doing things in a smarter, more efficient manner.”

Greene, president of Project Management Services Inc. of St. John’s and a member of the CCA executive committee, was the moderator at a session called “It is Easy Being Green.”

“The goal of today’s session is to introduce some of the ways in which the building sector in Canada is responding to the shift towards greener building practices, and, of course, greener buildings,” he said.

Participants in the session were Murray MacKinnon, a senior project manager in the building division of Ledcor Ltd., and Vancouver developer Joe Van Belleghem, president of BuildGreen Developments Inc.

Murray MacKinnon

The speakers, who both are accredited Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) professionals, presented case studies showing how they incorporated environmental objectives in their business operations and the benefits that were realized.

Windmill currently has several projects under way that are aiming for LEED registration — including the one million-square-foot Dockside Green development in Victoria. The company hopes to achieve a LEED platinum rating on that project.

For its part, Ledcor is part of the team working on the $110-million University of British Columbia life sciences building, a medical teaching facility and research centre which MacKinnon said “is dancing between” a LEED silver and gold rating.

“One of the things that is important to know is that this (green building) game is not very old,” said MacKinnon, a University of Manitoba-educated architect who joined Ledcor in 1999 and who has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry.

“Many of you will have no experience (in this area). But very few engineering and architectural firms are up to speed either.”

MacKinnon told the contractor-dominated audience that it is in their best interests to get on board the green building movement because an increasing number of clients are asking for LEED registration of their projects.

“Your biggest clients are asking for it,” he said. “You do not want to get left behind.”

Ledcor, one of North America’s leading employee-owned diversified construction companies, was involved in production of an 80-page document introducing green buildings and LEED to contractors.

The guide is being distributed by BuildSmart, a sustainable design and construction information program developed by the Greater Vancouver Regional District.

“Our objective was to help make LEED a part of your normal business practice,” MacKinnon said. “Many of you will have heard rumours about LEED and thought: ‘God help us; not more paperwork.’

“The purpose is to provide you with an introductory guide and put the LEED game into perspective.”

While there is in fact more paperwork, MacKinnon said processing can become “as simple and repetitive as your monthly Workers’ Compensation Board form and your monthly progress claim once you get your staff focused.”

He underlined that it is important to understand that not all contractors and not all trades are always involved in achieving credits under the LEED program. Under this system, there are seven prerequisites and 69 elective credits, grouped into six credit categories.

“LEED is a team sport, but with an elective set of rules,” MacKinnon said.

He said every project is different because every site, client and design team is different and every project lends itself to a different LEED strategy.

At the general contractor level, MacKinnon said it is not always possible to know which LEED points will be chosen. Thus, the authors of the green construction document have made an effort to flag the most likely areas.

“At the building trade level, it is more predictable because there are fewer variables and therefore fewer choices,” he said.

The LEED scorecard shows possible involvement by all the players, not just contractors or trades.

MacKinnon suggested that contractors get involved by taking the LEED certification course, becoming LEED accredited professionals and by sending staff to these courses.

Van Belleghem, vice-chair and founding member of the Canada Green Building Council, whose mission is to accelerate the design and construction of green buildings across the country, said contractors currently constitute only five per cent of the membership.

“We want to increase that,” he said. “Contractors are key players.”

Founded in 2003, the council also administers the LEED rating system, a comprehensive program that measures the environmental performance of buildings.

LEED certification now is required for all new buildings owned by Public Works and Government Services Canada as well as a growing number of provinces and municipalities.

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