Green Building. You hear it everywhere, but what does it really mean, and how can it help your business?

Green is a broad concept that represents a design philosophy of constructing buildings that efficiently use resources. Efficient building and use of natural resources should lead to a healthier environment for us and to lower costs for our clients (owners, builders, and operators). It can include everything from manufacturing location to VOC content, and much more.

Heather Martin

Green building is a concept that is also continually evolving. Experts from architects and engineers, designers, contractors, construction managers and even agencies will find that the best way to seize the green opportunity is to keep track of the current information, and absorb changes to the LEED rating system and other applicable standards.

As an example, green roofs are often specified because of the environmental benefits that include a reduction of heat island effects and an increase in the retainage of storm water (reducing pollution). It requires a technically qualified architect to specify the correct waterproofing system and the appropriate plants for the application.

For the owner, the green roof system can offer the reduction of ambient temperatures near air conditioning units, which can lower costs and reduce sun exposure (that may increase the life span of the roof). The reduction of energy costs is a huge benefit that owners and builders can receive by building green instead of with traditional methods.

Both designers and contractors have been getting LEED certified in order to expand their knowledge base and become more useful to their clients. In addition, having LEED® certified staff can make you more marketable, by displaying your commitment to the needs of environmentally-friendly building and your expertise.

Small businesses may not have the resources to get staff LEED certified, but there are still options available to these businesses. With the appropriate project, small business can hire a green building consultant or expert to assist them.

But not everything green is a “high-innovation” product such as syndecrete. Much of the green building process is knowledge of products, how they meet green building standards, and what credits they provide to meet LEED® standards.

So you don’t have to be an expert in all LEED standards to be an asset to your clients in the building process. If you are a steel contractor, for example, you would be well served to know the manufacturing location of the steel you are supplying. Becoming an expert in your niche area of expertise should be your goal. There is a complexity to the LEED standards and green building that is real, however, for many companies becoming an expert with basics such as paperwork can make a big difference.

Simply knowing what paperwork to fill out for different agencies, as well as having backup documentation from suppliers or manufacturers, can make you knowledgeable and valuable to a project. For example, some agencies such as the NYCSCA have their own paperwork system that is different from the LEED system. Being well versed in this, again, can help you to become an asset to a project (not to mention your client).

The fact of the matter is that green is here to stay. While it seems to add to the paperwork trail, it is also a critical change in the way the industry views construction. So as businesspeople in the construction industry we have a choice. We can view this new wave as an impediment to growth and an unsolicited change in business practice, or we can seize this new wave as an opportunity to make our businesses more profitable.

If we take the time to learn enough about the green process, whether by becoming LEED certified or simply understanding the paperwork need of our clients, then we can utilize green to become more valuable to our clients and to market it as part of our service offerings.

By seizing the opportunity in this young and evolving field, we can become part of building a more environmentally friendly New York. But this environmental friendly construction will also mean increased energy efficiency for our clients, greater accolades and visibility for their projects, and hopefully more potential revenue for our bottom lines.

Heather Martin is currently the Vice President of Sales for EAI Inc, an environmental consulting and contracting company based in Jersey City. She has extensive experience with the installation of gas vapor barriers and other services related to brownfield redevelopment in the tri-state area.