Just a decade ago green building was still on the fringes of the A/E/C communities. Some had bought into it, but, for the most part, “sustainability” and all of its surrounding buzzwords had yet to enter the industry’s regional lexicon.

Now as it moves further and further into the mainstream, green building has markedly changed the industry as a whole and is forcing most firms to reconsider how they do business.

“In only a very few years green building has gone from a new concept that was seen as difficult and expensive to become standard and best practice,” says Michael Deane, chief sustainability officer, Turner Construction, New York. “We forget because things have changed so quickly and we have come so far as an industry.”

Clients no longer need to be sold on LEED. “Now on every RFP clients say either the project is going to be LEED or they want some components of sustainability,” says Robert Leon, vice president, Structure Tone, New York.

“We have moved through the learning curve over the last 10 years,” says Peter Gardner, sustainability manager at Torcon, Red Bank, N.J. “LEED is no longer an afterthought but an integral part of the process from the beginning.”

Turner does not start a project without at least referring to a LEED check list, Deane says. Whether a project is seeking LEED certification or not the project team discusses site impacts, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly material sourcing and ways to increase natural light and fresh air into the space. “Those were radical ideas 10 years ago,” he says.

“LEED is pushing a more integrated design process,” says Thomas Rogér, vice president, Gilbane Building Company, Providence, R.I. Architects, engineers, contractors, owners and users now start talking about green building features early in the design process to determine the best menu of options for the design team.

Rogér credits integrated design for helping project teams meet energy efficiency goals on projects such as his firm’s $1.05 billion effort to rebuild New Haven’s public schools. “We are driving the process and providing important services to help the process work well, such as energy modeling and lifecycle costs analysis.”

Design goals require buildings to operate as efficiently as it makes sense to do economically and achieve energy star ratings. This translates into buildings that consume about 55-kBTU/sq-ft per year, Rogér says. ASHRAE 90.1 2004 requires 90-kBTU/sq-ft, annually.

Gilbane’s recent project, the 78,000-sq.-ft., 4-story Metropolitan Business Academy in downtown New Haven, consumes just 45-kBTU/sq-ft per year. Incremental costs of energy efficient HVAC and lighting systems and improved insulation were $190,000, with payback in less than four years.

At 200 Fifth Avenue, a 300,000-sq.-ft. interior construction project fitting out new offices for Grey Group initially...