Solar photovoltaic panels. Liquid-applied air barriers. Drain water heat recovery. In just 20 years, green design technology has brought energy-efficient construction into the mainstream.
But even the most advanced green designs—those targeting U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification—are only as effective as the contractors who build them. From New York to Shanghai, commercial builders are turning green concepts into energy-efficient hospitals, factories, schools, and residential buildings. They’re creating healthier cities and suburbs, workplaces and homes. And they’re facing age-old challenges as well as unfamiliar hurdles.
To better navigate the journey from green designs to green outcomes, USGBC recently launched the LEED User Group: Commercial Contractors. The group brings together 19 of the nation’s leading commercial contractors, providing a forum to share best practices, address project management and product issues, discuss changes in LEED certification guidelines, and provide vital feedback to USGBC.
“We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the product, and now we can focus on the process,” says Michael Deane, one of the group’s members and vice president and chief sustainability officer at the New York–based Turner Construction Company. “That to me is the opportunity for this group and for contractors everywhere to tackle. Builders have a real role to play [in the success of green designs].”
Commercial Contractors is USGBC’s fifth LEED User Group, an initiative that began in 2012 with the LEED User Group on Industrial Facilities. The program’s launch coincided with an influx of industrial and manufacturing projects, along with feedback from sector leaders who needed additional guidance and support.
“We were definitely seeing some struggles,” says Rhiannon Jacobsen, USGBC’s vice president of strategic relationships. “But we were also seeing larger numbers of public-facing companies [embracing LEED], so we saw an opportunity to partner with them.”
The first LEED User Group became a trusted resource for industrial leaders who wanted to effectively implement LEED and learn best practices from each other. It also became a resource for USGBC, providing insights into the successes and challenges of implementing LEED in the field.
In the years since, green design projects have spread across market sectors, and USGBC has responded with a new class of LEED User Groups. Today, 137 leaders from 84 companies participate in groups for Industrial Facilities, Retail and Restaurants, Hospitality and Venues (for hotels, convention centers, stadiums, and entertainment facilities), and Commercial Real Estate. USGBC will soon launch the LEED User Group:Higher Education, providing a collaborative forum for bringing LEED and green design to campuses across the nation.