Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ten tips: building green for contractors on a budget

Ever-changing regulations surrounding environmental policy require contractors to re-examine business practices on a regular basis. Unfortunately, contractors are left to interpret a great deal of industry regulations on their own. Among these confounding regulations are those concerning environmental protection.

Guest blogger, Kirsten Bradleyworking to educate professionals and their lawyers about construction industry regulations in the USA has the following advice … and although USA focused, these tips make good sense elsewhere … 

Once contractors have worked their way through the legal jargon found in many environmental policies, they might feel overwhelmed about what exactly their responsibilities are. Fortunately, however, a number of services and products have been created to help eco-friendly contractors.

The National Association of Home Builders plans to roll out the first and only national ratings standard for remodeled homes this year. Contact them for more information on how green products will affect ratings. (In the UK we wait for the Green Deal installers’ Code of Practice and a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) for the retrofitting of energy efficiency measures in domestic and non-domestic buildings)

  • Taking advantage of tax credits and other applicable programs, contractors can offset some of the additional costs they might incur by using eco-efficient approaches to building.
  • Enroll in green building event, training seminars and/or certification programs. (For example, the U.S. Green Building Council backs the LEEDHomes Raters program Home Raters are qualified to assess the degree to which a home has been constructed according to accepted standards of environmental sustainability)
  • Educate yourselves. Sign up for REGREEN, a program that distributes information about how to build green on a smaller scale. The U.S. Green Building Council partnered with The American Society of Interior Designers Foundation to create REGREEN, the first countrywide green residential remodeling manual for existing homes
  • If you think your customers don’t know or care about green building initiatives, think again. A February 2011 poll of Angie’s List members found that 50% of respondents plan to include green building elements in their home this year, but first they want to learn more. Educate yourself so that you will be able to educate your customer and market your services better.
  • According to some estimates, existing homes account for 94% of buildings in the U.S. The average age of these homes is 30 years, which means they often have drafty doors and windows as well as poorly insulated walls, attics and crawl spaces. Additionally, these properties are responsible for 21% of the nation’s carbon emissions. Herein lies a huge profit opportunity for contractors who educate themselves on green remodeling and market themselves to the right crowd.
  • Look at purchasing a green performance bond for your projects in addition to required contractor license bonds . Clients prefer working with professional contractors who are licensed and bonded because they appreciate the extra layer of financial protection
  • For smaller projects, check out the Habitat for Humanity ReStore as a resource. ReStore resale outlets sell reusable and surplus building materials to the public at low costs. Merchandise at the restore is especially good for home remodeling projects
  • Draw up window plans that take full advantage of passive solar energy and help maintain proper indoor temperature. Contractors should always verify that all windows are strategically placed in beneficial locations. This is a great example of implementing inexpensive, eco-conscious design that has a real impact on sustainability.
  • The cost of renewable products like solar platforms decreases as the technology gains traction with the buying public. Installing new products in today’s construction projects will play a large role in increasing eco-friendly building and, in turn, drive down costs.
  • Consider that building a completely new structure using eco-friendly processes might be easier and cheaper than retro-fitting an existing structure that has inherent design flaws.

Contractors who take advantage of green building will not only save money over the long haul, but also promote health benefits from building structures without toxic, energy-wasting materials.

What do you do – do you have any tips for improving green build?

 Kirsten Bradley is working to educate professionals and their lawyers about construction industry regulations through SuretyBonds with a special interest in helping contractors access more green building resources. Follow Kirsten on twitter @suretybond

Advertisements

Sustainability in Built Environment dominates Guardian Sustainable Business Awards

Sustainability in the Built Environment dominates Guardian Sustainable Business Award winners:

At British Land – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business built environment award:

As the relationship with Camden council shows, British Land takes its corporate responsibility seriously and this is reflected in the goals for Regent’s Place. From design to construction, the project team has been expected to apply the highest standards of ISO 14001 certified sustainability brief for developments. As a consequence, all the new office buildings have Breeam “excellent” sustainability ratings.

From fit-out to property maintenance the developer has worked with occupiers and on-site teams to use natural resources efficiently, with a waste guide and sustainability brief for management – leading to 8% less like-for-like energy use since April 2010.

When the masterplan is complete, the Regent’s Place estate will double in size, providing 2m sq ft of office, retail and residential space for 14,000 workers and residents. What an opportunity, then, for a showcase site with sustainability at its core.

At Sainsbury’s – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business energy award:

Crayford Sainsbury’s biggest UK store … is a breakthrough project – the first time a UK supermarket has used the so-called geo-exchange system to tap natural geo-thermal energy trapped deep under the ground.

At the heart of the system is an advanced ground-source heat pump that is linked to boreholes that capture and store waste heat from the store. This is released, when needed, to provide heat and hot water for the store and on-demand cooling for refrigeration.

Most importantly, it has allowed the supermarket group to increase the size of the store with no increase in either energy use or carbon emissions. The expanded store has exactly the same footprint as the smaller store it replaces.

As such, Crayford provides a blueprint for the UK’s second biggest grocer as it plots its future store development. The system will be used on several new and redeveloped stores now being planned.

At Tescos: winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business carbon award:

An all-timber new look store in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, is meanwhile creating a zero-carbon template for future store development at home and abroad.

A range of new technologies is being tested, including sun-pipe lighting, renewable combined heat and power (CHP), harvested rainwater to flush toilets and run carwashes, the first ever LED car park lighting system and on-site renewable energy production. Similar stores in the Czech Republic and Thailand will be built in the coming months.

Some 614 UK stores have also been fitted with electronic energy boards showing staff at all levels, and in real time, if their store is operating in an energy efficient way and suggesting ways to improve the results.

The Livingston distribution centre in Scotland will soon be equipped with a six megawatt CHP plant, while the California distribution centre has one of the largest roof-mounted solar installations in North America.

And

at InterfaceFLOR – winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business waste and recycling award:

In 1995 InterfaceFLOR, a carpet tile and commercial flooring company, launched mission zero, a promise to eliminate all of its negative environmental impacts by 2020.

Born from an “epiphany” that founder and chairman Ray Anderson had on reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce, the mission moved the company away from the “take, make, waste” cycle of manufacturing towards a more sustainable business model.

The path to mission zero is made up of seven clear and ambitious goals, ranging from eliminating waste and using wholly renewable energy to maximising recycling and using resource-efficient transport.

For InterfaceFLOR, eliminating waste meant eliminating the concept of waste, not just incrementally reducing it. Recycling is seen as a last resort and only considered in cases where waste cannot be prevented or reused in any way. It’s an approach the judges thought eminently replicable.

At Capgemini – short-listed for the Guardian Sustainable Business built environment award.

Capgemini has established a new approach for building energy efficient data centres. Rather than build from scratch, it has used an existing building ‘shell’ and populated it with prefabricated modules, similar to those used as mobile hospitals by the British army in Afghanistan.

This in itself minimises the environmental impact that would come with a new-build project and cuts development time from 18 months to just 22 weeks.

Merlin aims to achieve a step-change in every aspect – from the smart engineering of the building to the use of many innovative features, such as fresh-air cooling, battery-free uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and use of recyclable or reusable materials.

The key feature is the cooling system, which combines fresh air and pre-evaporative cooling. It is set up to ensure the tightest possible real-time control of temperature, humidity and air-flow at minimum energy cost.

Merlin includes new “flywheel technology” in its UPS system, with kinetic energy replacing high-carbon batteries.

Natural Mossland Carbon Capture Scheme – putting a ‘natural’ cost to carbon?

Not to be confused with carbon offsetting.

If we are serious about moving to low and zero carbon construction then this Mosslands conservation project looks like a good approach to capturing all those tricky CO2 emissions from your site or building that cannot be eliminated through good carbon reduction and energy management.

At £30 a tonne/CO2, to capture construction activity CO2 would mean, that for each £million construction spend we would be paying £30,000. (Based on the constructco2 CO2 indicator)

A natural cost on carbon?

The brochure contains some very interesting facts and figures as why peatland and mossland are essential as carbon sinks, more so than trees, and why we need to stop extraction.

NaturalCarbonCaptureBrochure.pdf Download this file     Or view on my posterous blog 

Cost of Carbon: “What was a carrot will now become a stick”

So are we prepared yet for the tranistion to a low carbon economy in the built environment?

Accouncements this week from the UK Government regarding targets for carbon reduction will affect all aspects of energy use, conservation and management. With the built environment contributing to 40% of CO2 emissions the imapct on design, material production, tranport construction and more will be very significant.

Facilities Management and the way we use buildings will most likely be the sector of the built environment to be profoundly affected. Whether the FM sector can rise to the occasion is another question, and one now being debated in FM forums, circles and events. See my thoughts on CSR Wire Talkback   

Indications from the recent Facilities Show in Birmingham (my own questioning of the exhibitors) suggests carbon measurement is just not on many FM providers agenda as yet

Can we be ready for such a dramatic tranistion, which as Derek Deighton explained is a 13 times reduction – a huge undertaking. And its not as if we havent had time to prepare in the last decade or so. Indeed as John Elkington highlighted ‘since Brundtland in 1987 we are still jollying along and still delighting in green or sustainable innovations’ 

What lies ahead in relation to the tranistion for businesses to a low carbon economy has been wonderfully summed up and explained in the May edition of  the Director in the Green Path to Growth article by Alison Coleman:

The UK has pledged to make deep cuts in carbon emissions by 2050. But as new sustainability rules bite, what are the duties of businesses? …

Britain is committed to massive carbon cuts, and whether businesses subscribe to green principles or not, they will be expected to play a key role. The Climate Change Act 2008 set a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, which assumes energy efficiency savings of around two per cent per annum for the next 40 years. That’s a big ask.

Although many companies are implementing green operating policies and achieving environmental management standards, the business contribution to the target is being driven by myriad carbon-related sustainability rules. Yet many organisations have yet to understand the cost of compliance

and as to the cost of carbon? …

Tony Rooke, sustainability practice leader at IT services provider Logica, says: “What was a carrot will now become a stick, and with the carbon price set at £12 per tonne of carbon emitted, it could add up to eight per cent to an organisation’s energy costs. What it will do is encourage them to minimise that impact by monitoring energy consumption more closely, and redoubling their efforts to reduce it and avoid waste.

it of course makes good sense:

Alan McGill, a partner in the environmental reporting practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Forget the green agenda and just apply the commercial principles. There are lots of companies looking at operational opportunities to take carbon out and bring benefits to the business.”

People get ready, there’s a CO2  train a comin’ You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board”  With apologies to Curtis Mayfield

I have often said the built environment is a fascinating and great sector to be involved with – and now as we realise the carbon train is a-coming and we see its time to get on board, the journey could get a lot more interesting!

Thoughts?

Living lightly on the earth: #LCBPC BREEAM Outstanding and Sustainability event.

Last Wednesday evening (18th May) saw the Lancashire Construction Best Practice Programme (@lcbpc) meet at the recently opened, BREEAM Outstanding Brockholes Visitor Center (@visitBrockholes)for a programme of speakers on a sustainability in the built environment theme.

Martin Brown, (@fairsnape) as chair of the club, welcomed delegates and introduced the speakers, pointing out the evening would touch on the three key elements of sustainability -ie the triple bottom line of environmental, economical and social, or fit for planet, purpose and people. 

Martin posed a challenge to the delegates – who at a senior / director role in your organisation is really driving sustainability and your transition to a low carbon economy? (See Carbon Diet for Boards)

Ian Selby (LWT) opened the first of three short talks from LWT with an overview of the Brockholes Center development, making the interesting comment that the Lancashire Wildlife Trust is now one of the leading environmental developers in the North West. The low impact design and the pursut of BREEAM Outstanding was key, aligned to the Trusts vision of ‘living lightly on the earth’

Clare Kenny (LWT) described the work of the LWT going forward, the need for fund raising, and the LWT Mosslands carbon capture scheme for business (naturalcarboncapture).  David Atherton (LWT) talked in more detail the steps necessary to gain the BREEAM Outstanding standard, suggesting that BREEAM Outsanding has added value but in itself is not value, citing a number of tick box items only necessary to get the standard, including the lit cycle track that when it met the unlit public track in a field plunges cyclists into darkness.

Leadership, committment and buy in are essential for success in sustainability was Joe Moxham (Carefoot) of Carefoot’s message in his overview of their three year road map, focusing on the measurement and reduction targets for construction carbon, water and energy use, through the use of constructco2

David Inman (@DIEMLtd) (Diem Ltd) highlighted the need for effective management of waste, from a legal and business and cost benefit perspective, and following the theme set by Joe, on the reduction of carbon achievable through waste reduction.

Successful sustainability management needs diverse thinking, was the theme for Chrissi McCarthy (@CChrissi)(Constructing Equality) who outlined the construction sectors rather poor performance on diversity issues and the benefits of profits and growth being seen in other sectors that have a higher level of diversity.

Martin summed up, thanking the speakers and returning to the LWT vision of ‘living lightly on the earth’, remarking at the similarlity with other organisations such as Patagonia  ‘do no harm’ (which, like LWT they also apply to their construction activities), wondering how built environment organisations in the UK could embrace and live with such visions. 

The event was video recorded by Dave Severns Jones (@severnsjones) (it was hoped to stream live but connectivity was not available), The recording, along with the slides will be available very soon.

The nest Lancashire Construction Best Practice Club event is on June 23rd with a focus on meet the bidder. 

Cautionary and Costly BIM Tale: Designers did not tell Contractors

This story in ENR would appear to have gone  viral across US BIM blogs and twitter in the last 24hrs, but there lessons here for the UK as we read yesterday in Building that BIM will be mandatory on Government projects within 5 years.

If ever there was a case to demonstrate how BIM is a people and communication tool, not solely a design, technical or digital one, this could be it. Collaborative working with all must be key to BIM. 

It also illustrates the need for the contractor to be aware of and more involved in BIM, and as has been suggested elsewhere – by Paul Morrell and others, perhaps contractors should drive the BIM process. (I think it should be driven by FM but thats another tale)

A lawsuit over construction of a life-sciences building at a major university stands as the first known claim related to the use of building information modeling by an architect. Furthermore, the claim and its settlement serve as a cautionary tale to others using BIM, says the insurer.

“The creators of BIM claim its use reduces risk, and indeed it can—like any other tool, if it is used right,” says Randy Lewis, vice president of loss prevention and client education at the Denver office of XL Insurance, which provides professional liability insurance to licensed design professionals. “If you don’t use BIM correctly, you can get into trouble.”

For the life-sciences building, the architect and its mechanical-electrical-plumbing engineer used BIM to fit the building’s MEP systems into the ceiling plenum. But the design team did not tell the contractor that the extremely tight fit, coordinated in the BIM, depended on a very specific installation sequence.

When the contractor was about 70% through assembly, it ran out of space in the plenum. “Everything fit in the model but not in reality,” says Lewis.

The contractor sued the owner, the owner sued the architect, and XL brought in the MEP engineer. “It was a very costly claim to negotiate,” says Lewis. XL did not litigate the claim because it would be difficult for any jury to comprehend.

Lewis declines to offer specifics on the project, other than to say the building is open. He also declines to name the players. As far as the settlement goes, he will only say there was a “pretty significant cost,” totaling millions of dollars, which was shared by the architect, the MEP engineer and the contractor.

The problem was poor communication. “The design team never discussed the installation sequence with the contractor, and the contractor wasn’t sophisticated enough” to understand the importance of assembling the components in a certain order, says Lewis.

Read More