A science center being built for Eastern Connecticut State University demonstrates the challenges facing contractors today as they meet owners' increasing demands for "sustainable" or "green" buildings.
ECSU hopes to achieve a Silver Certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for its new $46-million Science Building now taking shape on the institution's Willimantic campus. Green or sustainable buildings are high-performance structures that meet LEED benchmarks for design, construction and operation. Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a group comprising 5,600 member companies and organizations with more than 20,000 accredited professionals, LEED rates buildings and grants Platinum, Gold or Silver Certification if they meet standards in five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
Located at the west side of the campus quadrangle, the Science Building is under construction by O&G Industries of Torrington, Conn., with Konover Construction Corporation of Farmington, Conn., serving as construction administrator and S/L/A/M Collaborative of Glastonbury, Conn., as architect.
The five-story, 173,000-square-foot structure will consolidate the university's Science and Math departments in one building and include Biology, Computer Sciences, Environmental Earth Science, Math, and Physical Sciences. It will house general purpose classrooms, laboratories, a large resource room, and a 150-seat lecture hall.
The Connecticut Department of Public Works is responsible for construction of the building, with Ken Fitzgerald serving as project manager. O&G's key personnel on the job include Eric Haaga, project manager, David Surprenant, project engineer, and Frank Rubino, project superintendent.
Every member of the design and construction team, plus all of the subcontractors on the project, are responsible for meeting certain requirements in order for the completed structure to achieve its LEED certification. Their responsibilities are spelled out in an eight-page checklist with more than 50 items, each assigned a numerical credit.
O&G Industries' Surprenant commented on this:
"As general contractor, we must oversee the tracking of material recycled content, manufacturing and extraction locations," he said. "Certain products manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the project can count toward a LEED point. We also have to create and enforce a waste management plan to reduce the amount of waste that enters landfills."
In line with waste management, 50 percent of all construction, demolition and land clearing waste must be recycled or salvaged. O&G has to dedicate dumpsters for such construction and demolition waste (C&D) as metal, drywall, wood, paper and cardboard, concrete, brick, and tree and shrubs clearing. If they succeed in recycling or salvaging 75 percent of materials, they earn an additional point.
What's more, a certain percentage of building materials must contain a specified percentage of recycled content. These values are calculated using a weighted average system, taking into account a number of factors. An additional point is granted if O&G exceeds the minimum percentages.
It gets even more complicated.
Twenty percent of building materials must be manufactured within a 500-mile radius of the project. O&G has to keep tabs on its subcontractors for compliance as well. Another carrot: for an additional point, 50 percent of the materials must be extracted, harvested or recovered within 500 miles.
These are just some of the musts for the contractor. There are also numerous mandates for Konover, S/L/A/M and other team members including R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, the electrical and mechanical engineers, Purcell Associates, the civil engineers, and ECSU itself.
The LEED standard has been adopted nationwide by federal agencies, state and local governments, and interested private companies as the guideline for sustainable building. USGBC has already certified more than 260 LEED projects, and over 2,100 have registered with the intent to certify.
What it all boils down to is this: The way things have to be built is changing rapidly, as the LEED concept takes hold. With its ultimate goal of making every building over its entire life cycle an environmentally responsible, profitable, and healthy place to live and work, LEED already has rating systems available for New Construction, Commercial Interiors and Existing Buildings. And rating systems for Core and Shell, Neighborhood Development and Homes are currently being developed by USGBC's coalition of corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
As demands by building owners for sustainable buildings intensify, contractors need to educate themselves to be able to meet these increasingly complex requirements.
It's either LEED or be left behind.