JOC ARCHIVES

July 7, 2008

DEREK LEPPER

The Gulf Islands Operations Centre by Larry McFarland Architects Ltd. (LMAL) is one of a growing number of sustainable buildings in the province.

Vancouver Regional Construction Association

Contractors need to be up to speed on LEED, says expert

So you think “green buildings” are something only architects and engineers have to really understand?

You’re wrong.

Contractors, both general and trade contractors, are involved right up to their chins.

If they are not familiar with the challenges and methods of sustainability, they are likely headed for trouble.

There are a number of ratings systems for sustainable buildings, but likely the best known is the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system.

It originated in the United States and has now been adapted to Canada.

Dan Roberts recently gave an intensive four-hour introductory course to a sold-out crowd at the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.

After an engineering career working for others, Roberts recently launched his own firm, Kane Consulting Limited in North Vancouver. Roberts has become an expert in the field.

He was the first person to write and pass the LEED Canada Exam, becoming the first Canadian LEED Accredited Professional in the country.

Roberts has been an active participant in an array of LEED Projects such as Dockside Green in Victoria and the Olympic Athletes’ Village under construction in Vancouver.

Paper work, paper work and more paper work is the first key to understanding LEED, he said.

It is a points-based system and each point a project claims must be backed up by documentation. No documentation equals no credits and contractors are responsible for gathering and providing this documentation.

“Never, never get behind in it because you will likely never catch up,” Roberts said.

There are four areas of a LEED project where contractors are primarily involved.

They are erosion and sedimentation control; construction waste management; material selection and indoor air quality management.

None of these is as simple as it may look on the surface.

For example, construction waste management is quite complex. It’s not just keeping all the different types of waste – wood, metals, etc. – in separate bins, but it means understanding and being able to prove what happens to them.

If the person hired to haul the waste away gives assurances that he is recycling, don’t necessarily believe him. His idea of recycling may not be the LEED idea of recycling.

For example, burning or using wood waste as a fuel doesn’t count. Neither does using waste for landfill topping.

Roberts warned contractors to have their own waste management program in place right from day one. For materials procurement, the rules are equally firm.

Local manufacturing counts as it cuts down the carbon emissions caused by hauling materials long distances. LEED standards require between 10 and 20 per cent of materials to be extracted and manufactured regionally.

In the LEED world, regional means within an 800 kilometre range if moved by truck or 2,400 kilometre radius if moved by rail or sea. In reality, it means material from Vancouver can be shipped by truck to Calgary, but Edmonton is a bit too far.

Shipping to Edmonton would have to be by rail.

For other aspects – re-using is not the same as recycling. Taking down a door, refinishing it and putting it back where it came from is not recycling. However, finding a source of used doors from a supplier and refurbishing them likely would be.

Roberts warned that many suppliers don’t understand the finer points of LEED requirements and that they may think the items they are supplying are compliant even if they aren’t.

He again advised contractors to do their own investigation and not take the word of others.

It is critical, he pointed out, for a contractor to have a LEED co-ordinator on the job.

This is a person who has studied the LEED rules and regulations, and understands them thoroughly.

This, he said, is something that must be centralized in a single person – not scattered across a company.

A recurring theme throughout his talk was the need for continual documentation, which sometimes includes photography.

Interestingly, a show of hands indicated that about 50 per cent of the contractors at the meeting had already been involved in a LEED project.

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