As sustainability standards are heightened across the country, your firm has likely already been awarded a sustainable project that incorporates a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification level requirement, or you are in the process of bidding on one.
Participation in LEED projects reflects positively on your firm's commitment to supporting the environment and undoubtedly opens doors for future green construction opportunities.
While the benefits to the environment, community, owner, contractor and designer are undisputed, there are significant bidding and negotiating risk exposures lurking just beneath the green surface.
Get a Road Map
Before your construction firm gets behind the wheel of a LEED-certified project, insist on a LEED Charette - a collaborative session during which designers, owner and contractors discuss solutions to design problems. It will be your road map to ensure seamless collaboration between owner, designer and contractor so performance goals are achieved efficiently.
"When you receive bid documents and there is no LEED Charette included-that's a major red flag that you absolutely must heed," advises David L. Gehringer, LEED AP, preconstruction manager at Nason Construction. Nason's LEED projects have included a vegetative roof at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Newark, DE, and the geothermal heating/cooling system at the North Dorchester Middle School in Hurlock, MD. "The Charette is critical to identifying the sustainable concepts and strategies as well as aligning the owner, designer and contractor-without it, you are blindly bidding."
If the bid documents don't include a Charette, you must immediately facilitate a meeting with the owner and design professional so that all parties agree on expectations.
"Overall, LEED requirements do bring out the best in integrating the owner, designer and contractor-however you must be diligent in initiating such collaboration early on in the bid process to adequately manage expectations and insure your responsibilities," added Mark Purcell, CCM, AIA, LEED AP, a project executive for Nason.
Be Wary of Low Bids
When it comes to increasing profits in a LEED-registered project, there are many unforeseen costs not associated with traditional building that are often overlooked by inexperienced subcontractors.
"The lowest subcontractor bid can look tempting, but a savvy general contractor must conduct a comprehensive assessment of all the non-traditional costs before accepting such a bid," warns Gehringer. "If your subcontractor has not accounted for these costs, you must not accept it, as it would later become a burden to your profitability."
In addition to accounting for such costs, you must insure that your subcontractors have the necessary experience to meet the demands of the LEED checklist. "The last thing you want is an inexperienced subcontractor laying down carpet without first following the appropriate off-gas procedures; an oversight like that could cost you air quality credits that would have been earned otherwise," said Purcell.