Gain a competitive advantage with sustainable building methods and materials.

Green is no longer just a buzzword. It has become a way of life for many industries, including construction. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s Green Outlook 2011, the green building market is expected to more than double in the next five years to $135 billion by 2015.

The report attributes green building’s rapid expansion to the owner’s desire for market differentiation, growing public awareness and an increase in local and federal government regulations. Supporting this surge in sustainability can be the competitive edge you need to win more bids.

Win the Bid

General contractors and subcontractors who specialize in sustainable design and construction practices have created a competitive advantage that allows them to charge more for their expertise and deliver a project owner’s sustainable goals. The same is true for every level of the supply chain that conscientiously contributes to sustainable value, transparency and accountability.

Along with increased energy efficiency and environmental benefits, the growth in sustainable construction has quickly reversed the mentality of “lowest-bid wins.” With sustainable projects, the lowest bidder most likely will not provide enough sustainable value to win the bid unless his suppliers contribute significantly along the way.

To win the bid on sustainable projects, you must know where your materials come from and where your suppliers extract the materials to make them. If all of your suppliers accept new levels of transparency, specifications, products, technologies and construction practices, you will gain the upper hand when bidding on a project because you will have the documentation needed to complete a sustainable project.

Apply It to Your Projects

Your bid for a LEED project could be chosen over lower bids if your approach fits the project’s sustainability goals. Follow these examples to improve your chances of winning a LEED project bid:

  1. Use concrete produced at a Green-Star certified concrete plant. This will show you get materials from suppliers who work hard to reduce their impact on the environment.
  2. Work with equipment that meets Tier IV requirements and other emission standards. This will reduce a project’s overall carbon footprint.
  3. Use building materials or products that have been extracted, recovered or manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. This supports the use of indigenous resources and reduces the environmental impacts caused from transporting products.
  4. Recycle and/or salvage nonhazardous construction and demolition debris.
  5. Use materials with recycled content. This reduces impacts resulting from the extraction and processing of virgin materials.

Taking a sustainable approach to materials selection and a building’s construction can add significant value to a project. Every part of a project’s supply chain must contribute to the sustainability goals.

Today, sustainability-driven projects demand full disclosure and accountability throughout the supply chain—this means all suppliers must know the sustainable value that their suppliers bring to the table. As project requirements increase, you will also need to know what percentage of each supplier’s product, equipment or technology has been locally sourced.

Avoid Greenwashing

Many manufacturers and suppliers promote their equipment and products as environmentally friendly when they actually do not have a direct, positive environmental impact. This is known as greenwashing. For instance, if one of your suppliers sells equipment coated with low-VOC (volatile organic compound) emitting paint, the equipment would not be considered environmentally friendly even though the paint provides environmental benefits. More than just the paint used on the equipment needs to contribute sustainably to make it a viable green product.

Be aware of potential greenwashing when choosing your suppliers. Many will try to ride the green wave to gain the upper hand and win your business. You must work with suppliers that truly contribute to sustainability to win the bid.

Examine your business inside and out to determine how you can add value to sustainability—environmentally, socially and economically. Research your opportunities, and define your values and competitive advantage, then genuinely determine a strategic direction. Also, connect with the appropriate market segment associations and independent programs, and communicate with them.

Sustainable Programs Drive Growth

Across most construction industry segments within North America and other parts of the world, the sustainability movement has produced many detailed and effective sustainable construction programs and rating systems. Several exist today, and many more are underway on local, state and federal levels as well as independently through industry segment associations and private enterprises. Here are a few of the major programs affecting you and your suppliers today:

The U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System is an internationally accepted benchmark that provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.


The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association’s (NRMCA) Green-Star Program certifies individual concrete plants that use Environmental Management Systems (EMS) as a tool for environmental benchmarking and continual improvement. Two hundred concrete plants are currently certified in the U.S., and that number continues to grow.

The Greenroads rating system developed by the University of Washington is a voluntary, third-party rating system that seeks to recognize and reward road projects that exceed public expectations for environmental, economic and social performance. Several state programs are available—including the Illinois - Livable and Sustainable Transportation (I-LAST) Rating System—that establish methods for evaluating transportation projects regarding livability, sustainability and their effect on the natural environment within a specific state.

Socially and Environmentally Responsible Aggregate (SERA) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to create, administer and promote widespread support for certification of responsibly sourced construction materials, with an initial focus on responsibly sourced aggregates.


Construction Business Owner, December 2011