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Focus - Green Building - Staying on top of green

image Scott Lee, Director of Operations, North Texas Joeris General Contractors, Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - The construction industry is generally healthy, especially in Texas. We continue to see a large volume of work and expect that to continue for the near term. This has helped to bring fees up from their unsustainable lows of a few years back, although they have not rebounded to pre-recession numbers. Challenges continue to be seen with labor shortages. This contributes to rising costs. But most of the vertical markets continue to build. The industry continues to see change in light of new technologies. This will continue, but the speed of change will increase.

 

    Joeris is fortunate to have experienced an increase in business. 2017 will be a record year for our firm. Vertical markets we build in – K12, Higher Ed, Healthcare, Retail and local Government have all seen steady backlogs.
    This reflects the robust Texas market, the business-friendly atmosphere and increasing state population. It also reflects Joeris’ ability to weather downturns through our diverse portfolio and strategic practices, including always hiring when the right person comes along.
    We sense a shift in focus in the green building industry. There is a move away from building certification to focus on design and construction using sustainable materials that truly make sense for the local environment. In the infancy of green building, it became a trend to design and build green. We have all moved beyond being trendsetters. It is about doing the right thing. Designing and building for efficiency and sustainability should be the standard. By not focusing on certification and paperwork, architects, engineers and constructors can focus on implementing sustainability that makes sense.
    Labor shortages and knowledge drain are significant issues facing our industry. As boomers retire, there are not enough people entering the industry to replace them. That is just the numbers side of the equation. The knowledge that boomers take with them is critical.
    There was a period when schools shifted from skills training to singular focus on college readiness. This hurt industries that rely on skilled trades. We have a gap because the younger workforce didn’t make their way up through the ‘hands on learning’ of years past. We are seeing a renewed focus on skills training through CTE and programs that focus on workforce training. We must fill the gap until these younger people enter the workforce. Industry training becomes critical, through associations or in-house programs.
    With green building, cost increases were seen in certification –hard costs of the process and soft costs of producing documentation. Without certification, costs increases are related to materials specified or additional time needed for implementation of sustainable elements. New codes being adopted by municipalities are beginning to require green building elements, so added costs are less visible. However, these are typically offset by lowered building operations costs and result in a better building environment. Additional costs directly related to contractors are minimal. These might include additional dumpsters for separation of materials and training of personnel.
    We find most clients for certified buildings understand costs associated and plan for it in project budgets. For clients building under new codes that require elements of green building, we are spending more time with the design team educating clients on codes and how they impact costs. Many of the green building elements result in a better building for their users.
    Adoption of green building practices as standard procedure is on the horizon, along with advances that make sustainable technology more affordable (i.e. changes in energy production, cheaper solar, hydro, wind); and tightening of codes related to energy/water usage as well as emissions – specifically at the local levels. This is a result of focus on quality of life as developers build new communities and we see more urban infill projects focused on live work play and the adoption of additional green elements in new building codes.
    The rewards of sustainable building are intrinsic. It’s a sense of doing the right thing and providing for a better environment – leaving something equal to or better than you found it. Doing no harm as you build.
    From a business perspective, it provides an opportunity to market your firm as one that cares about the community. This is important to clients and to potential employees!
     The key to being successful in green building is staying informed on current standards and building codes to help clients make informed decisions that make sense for their project. 
    Joeris is celebrating 50 years of building Texas, in markets ranging from K-12, Higher Education, Retail, Municipal, Religious, Medical and more from our offices in San Antonio, DFW, Austin and Houston.  -cmw


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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net