The Comcast Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was designed as a sustainable building worthy of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certificationan impressive accomplishment but an extra wrinkle in an already complex project. Shawn Pressley, vice president of project management systems and development at Hill International, talked to Profit about how going green affects project management.
Profit: Is preparing for a LEED or green building project more difficult?
Pressley: It’s not necessarily harder, but you do need to think ahead from the bidding process forward. For example, there are extra factors you need to consider when compiling a bid on a LEED or green building project, such as the availability and replacement cost of green construction materials. Limited availability and costly materials will affect the bid’s bottom line. You also need to take into consideration the financial impact of the different processes used on a LEED project, like proper storage of materials that will be reused, as these tend to increase overhead costs.
Profit: How about processes? Do these differ?
Pressley: Yes, and you need to build these processes into the actual performance of work at the project, making sure that not only the project team but your subcontractors use best practices around sustainable building. For example, you want to ensure that all project managers have reviewed the asbestos, lead-based paint, PCB, and hazardous materials plans before undertaking demolition activities. You must also be familiar with the soil conditions of the site in order to implement erosion control measures prior to and during construction. Don’t forget to develop a plan to minimize dust and other contaminants during the construction, and be certain to educate all subtrades concerning the plan. During the construction process you need to make sure that all building materials slated for reuse are properly stored in a covered structure and protected from the water. Finally, you must maintain recycling bins onsite for all materials to be recycled.
Profit: Does managing a green project add extra administrative tasks to the contract management process?
Pressley: It does add a couple different streams of paperwork, both within the project and related to the LEED certification process. For example, within the project you need to implement a detailed waste management plan for the demolition and construction phases, keep accurate records of the amount of waste diverted from the local landfills in order to generate documentation for LEED points, link progress payment milestones to LEED paperwork submittals, and document the origin and supplier of all materials to get LEED credits for using local materials.
Profit: What is involved in the LEED application process itself?
Pressley: In conjunction with the design and delivery process, you have to deal with the LEED paperwork process, which involves several different steps. The first is registering the project with the U.S. Green Building Council [USGBC], which may be done during the general design or construction phase. Early registration during the design phase ensures that the council reviews potential credit goals and whether credit points can be anticipated. Then you need to track the project and document achievement during construction to make sure that you’ve obtained the proper measurements and documentation for submittals. Finally, you apply for certification. After the construction phase, all the documents and submittals are sent in. USGBC then officially awards or denies credits, and LEED certification thresholds are assigned. It sounds like a lot, but if you have the proper processes in place, it becomes part of the overall project management task.