Green building is quickly becoming the "norm" across America, and those who are not familiar with it could be missing important opportunities in today’s construction climate. The United States Green Building Council ("USGBC") is a non-profit community of leaders working to make green buildings available to everyone. USGBC developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ("LEED") process for green building. LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed or built using strategies aimed at improving performance across metrics for green building: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental air quality, and stewardship.
Before considering whether to "go green" on a given project or to bid a public job that is required to be LEED certified, owners/developers, architects, and contractors alike should conduct a "cost-benefit" analysis. Many projects "pay for themselves" through tax credits and cost-savings throughout the life of the green building, but it is a delicate, niche process with slim margins. Perhaps the most prominent difference between conventional construction and green building is the integrative approach, which is required for LEED certification. Conventional construction is a linear process: first, there is an owner/developer with an idea, the architect then designs the idea, and the contractors follow the architect’s plans to construct the idea. With green building’s integrative approach, all major players get together during the pre-design phase of a project to discuss the level of LEED certification they can achieve (LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold, or LEED Platinum) and how they can best work with one-another to achieve or surpass that goal. The integrative approach to green building is a special process that poses its own considerations. These considerations can be spelled-out in AIA contracts with special provisions requiring "green meetings." Although every green project is different, "green meetings" are excellent starting blocks for obtaining LEED certification. For more information on green building, go to www.usgbc.org; for more information regarding "green meetings," go to http://www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab082635.pdf.