by Alison Kinn Bennett
January 2, 2007

While stormwater compliance might be the first federal environmental program that comes to mind in the construction industry, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) other half provides voluntary, "green" building tools and resources.

From ENERGY STAR  to Environmentally Preferable Purchasing to GreenScapes, EPA provides guidance to help the businesses go beyond compliance with regulations to enhance the environment and human health-all leading to a company's competitive advantage and an improved bottom-line.  For more information, visit www.epa.gov/greenbuilding.

If your company hasn't been asked to employ "green" building materials and methods on a project yet, chances are you will be soon. Environmentally preferable and healthy building practices for homes, offices, retail, hospitals, etc. are becoming mainstream due to rising energy costs and the public's increasing environmental awareness. And the market is responding to this demand with a mind-boggling number of building materials and rating schemes claiming their environmental superiority in as many ways.

The green building market is expected to become a $60 billion industry within the next five years.

While certain practices have become the norm for green projects, construction firms are increasingly finding not only new materials and methods specified, but new approaches to incorporating "green" in construction documents. A new model from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may set the benchmark for construction specs-helping to level the playing field among construction firms seeking to "go green."

Whose Role is It?

Think that green building is only the architect's role? Think again. Construction firms hold tremendous responsibility when it comes to the environmental performance of a building project. In fact, approximately thirty-nine points in U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) are dependent upon the contractor's actions. The following are just a sampling of the ways in which contractors can contribute to green building:

  • erosion and sediment control
  • construction waste management
  • building material selection
  • indoor air quality management during construction
  • construction equipment retrofits to control diesel emissions
  • oil spill prevention
  • noise and light pollution prevention
  • tree and stream preservation
  • building commissioning coordination

The Federal Government: Leading by Example

Owning approximately 445,000 buildings and leasing an additional 57,000 buildings-the largest real estate portfolio in the world-the federal government recognizes that its facilities have tremendous impact on the natural environment, the economy and the thousands of people that work in, live in and visit these buildings every day. Stepping up to this responsibility, the federal government has promulgated a number of policies, mandates and Executive Orders that establish "green minimums" and guide federal agencies in their decision-making during the design, specification and construction phases of a new building and/or renovation.

Many agencies are incorporating ENERGY STAR (a joint program of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy to promote savings plus protection of the environment) and the LEED® rating system into construction and renovation projects. In addition, several agencies have implemented their own green building programs and policies that raise the bar beyond compliance with the aforementioned green mandates and further address areas such as green power, healthy indoor environments, environmentally preferable construction products, low impact landscaping techniques and sustainable brownfield redevelopment.

And so, federal building construction projects are subject to countless environmental goals and mandates, including:

  • The Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings, www.wbdg.org
  • EPA's Final Guidance on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, www.epa.gov/oppt/epp
  • Greening of the Government Executive Orders, www.ofee.gov
  • EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for recovered content, www.epa.gov/cpg
  • USDA's Biobased Purchasing Program, www.biobased.oce.usda.gov
  • ENERGY STAR® and the Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) Product Efficiency Recommendations.
  • The Energy Policy Act of 2005
  • ASTM International standards, LEED®, Green GlobesTM and other rating systems and standards

 

The Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers

Despite these strong mandates, the federal government continues to face challenges in implementing green building. A key issue has been that, although a "Solicitation for Offers" may state an agency's general environmental goals for the project, there is often little guidance defining "green," and no means for agencies to ensure they get what they want in the end. To address this need for a comprehensive guide for procuring green construction and renovation services, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive and the multi-agency-sponsored Whole Building Design Guide, developed the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers http://fedgreenspecs.wbdg.org.

The Guide is a voluntary tool, including more than sixty sections, organized according to the Construction Specifications Institute's MasterFormat. Developed with the input of numerous federal agencies, like the General Services Administration and the Department of Defense, as well as key private sector stakeholders, such as the Associated General Contractors of America and other professional and trade associations, the guide assists in specifying environmental performance requirements of materials and installation methods. The sample language-intended to be inserted into project specifications as appropriate to the owner's environmental goals-also prescribes the quality standards of construction procedures to be executed on the project.  And key in building owners' efforts to demonstrate results, the guide lays out the contractors' submittal requirements. In addition, through a number of notes, the guide educates specifiers about life cycle impact issues, federal environmental mandates and helpful resources on green building.

What began as a Guide for federal agencies has grown into a practical tool for architects and specifiers working on public and private sector construction projects of all shapes, sizes and uses. The Guide reflects more than 100 public comments received from July 27, 2004, through January 14, 2005. The comments can be viewed at www.regulations.gov (Advanced Search: Document Search: EPAHQ-OPPT-2004-0092).

Near-term expansion plans for the guide include new sections covering: Commercial Kitchen Equipment; Stormwater Management with Compost; Rainwater Harvesting; Vegetative Roof Systems; Constructed Wetlands; Integrated Pest Management; Structural Steel; and Indoor Air Quality Management-Moisture Control. In addition, guidance for using environmental management systems in construction projects and for building on environmentally sensitive sites is being developed.

EPA intends the guide to be a living document-expanding into new sections and raising the bar as the green building industry matures. To review and comment on the Guide, go to http://fedgreenspecs.wbdg.org and click on the "comments" button at the bottom of each page.

 

Alison Kinn Bennett is co-chair of the U.S. EPA's Green Building Workgroup. She can be reached by phone at 202.564.8859 or by e-mail at kinn.alison@epa.gov.

The July 2006 quarterly release of the Unified Facilities Guide Specifications (UFGS)-used by the Navy, Army, NASA and other federal agencies to develop their project-specific construction specifications-includes updates of more than fifty specifications based on the sustainability approaches in the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers. To view the new, "greener"UFGS visit www.wbdg.org/ccb/browse_org.php?o=70.

Sections for which Model Green Guide Spec Language has been Developed:

DIVISION 01              GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

01 10 00                      Summary

01 30 00                      Administrative Requirements

01 74 19                      Construction Waste Management

01 57 19.11                 Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management

01 57 19.12                 Noise And Acoustic Management

01 57 19.13                 Environmental Management

01 40 00                      Quality Requirements

01 41 00                      Regulatory Requirements

01 42 00                      References

01 50 00                      Temporary Facilities and Controls

01 67 00                      Environmental Product Requirements

01 74 13                      Progress Cleaning

01 78 53                      Sustainable Design Close-Out Documentation

01 91 00                      Commissioning

01 79 11                      Environmental Demonstration and Training

01 78 23                      Operation and Maintenance Data

01 81 30                      Green Power Requirements

 

DIVISION 02              SITE CONSTRUCTON

02 41 13                      Selective Site Demolition

 

DIVISION 03              CONCRETE

03 30 00                      Cast-In-Place Concrete

03 40 00                      Precast Concrete

 

DIVISION 04              MASONRY

04 20 00                      Unit Masonry

 

DIVISION 05              METALS

05 05 00                      Common Work Results For Metals

05 10 00                      Structural Metal Framing

 

DIVISION 06              WOOD, PLASTICS, AND COMPOSITES

06 05 73                      Wood Treatment

06 10 00                      Rough Carpentry

06 16 00                      Sheathing

06 20 00                      Finish Carpentry

06 60 00                      Plastic Fabrications

06 90 00                      Alternative Agricultural Products

 

DIVISION 07              THERMAL AND MOISTURE PROTECTION

07 10 00                      Dampproofing and Waterproofing

07 20 00                      Thermal Protection

07 30 00                      Steep Slope Roofing

07 33 63                      Vegetated Roof Covering

07 50 00                      Membrane Roofing

07 55 63                      Vegetated-Protected Membrane Roofing

07 92 00                      Joint Sealants

 

DIVISION 08              OPENINGS

08 14 00                      Wood Doors

08 50 00                      Windows

 

DIVISION 09              FINISHES

09 29 00                      Gypsum Board

09 30 00                      Tiling

09 51 00                      Acoustical Ceilings

09 65 00                      Resilient Flooring

09 65 16.13                 Linoleum Flooring

09 68 00                      Carpeting

09 72 00                      Wall Coverings

09 90 00                      Painting and Coating

 

DIVISION 10             SPECIALTIES

10 21 13.19                 Plastic Toilet Compartments

10 14 00                      Signage

10 81 16.13                 Bat Houses

 

DIVISION 11             EQUIPMENT

11 13 00                      Loading Dock Equipment

11 30 00                      Residential Equipment

11 28 00                      Office Equipment

 

DIVISION 12             FURNISHINGS

12 10 00                      Art

12 48 13                      Entrance Floor Mats and Frames

12 59 00                      Systems Furniture

 

DIVISION 14             CONVEYING EQUIPMENT

14 20 00                      Elevators

 

DIVISION 22              PLUMBING

22 40 00                      Plumbing Fixtures

 

DIVISION 23              HEATING, VENTILATING AND AIR CONDITIONING

23 70 00                      Central HVAC Equipment

23 30 00                      HVAC Air Distribution

 

DIVISION 26              ELECTRICAL

26 50 00                      Lighting

 

DIVISIONS 31-33      EARTHWORK, EXTERIOR IMPROVEMENTS AND UTILITIES

31 10 00                      Site Clearing

31 31 00                      Soil Treatment

31 25 73                      Stormwater Management by Compost

32 71 00                      Constructed Wetlands

32 10 00                      Bases, Ballasts and Paving

32 12 43                      Porous Paving

33 16 20                      Rainwater Harvesting

32 90 00                      Planting

 

DIVISION 48              ELECTRICAL POWER GENERATION

48 14 00                      Solar Energy Electrical Power Generation Equipment

48 15 00                      Wind Energy Electrical Power Generation Equipment

48 30 00                      Biomass Energy Electrical Power Generation Equipment

 

Construction Business Owner, January 2007