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Focus - Environmentally responsible building

image Matt McCaffrey, P.E., LEED AP, Project Executive, Skanska USA, San Antonio, TX

SAN ANTONIO - Matt McCaffrey, P.E., LEED AP, joined Skanska USA in 2003. A key team member on healthcare, high-rise office, and entertainment projects across Michigan and Texas, he is currently the project executive overseeing the construction of a renovation project in downtown San Antonio.





What is “green building?”
    In general, I think “Green Building” represents the design and construction of buildings that are environmentally responsible by limiting the impact the building will have on the surrounding environment in the short and long term. Skanska USA is on the leading edge of green building practices, supporting the evolution of existing standards. From office buildings and schools, to transit lines and highways, our team is well-versed in the green standards that are helping build resilient communities.

What is the history of green building in the U.S.?

    At some level, green building has always been a part of the design and construction fields, as energy and water use are large drivers of the cost of building operations and cost savings are always in demand by building owners and developers. However, the “green building” movement didn’t formally begin until the early 1990’s with the founding of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and several local and federal government initiatives (including the Energy Star program). With the establishment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), there is a formal rating system for buildings which owners, architects and contractors can use as a guide. Over the past 25 years, the LEED program has evolved, as has our understanding of how building affects the environment. While LEED is still the overwhelming standard, there are now other ratings systems and certifications (WELL, Living Building, etc.) which approach the concept from different perspectives.

How has the “going green” trend affected the construction industry?
    I think “going green” has affected the construction industry positively. There is now a focus not only on what we are building, but how we are building it. Every aspect of the construction process is now looked at through the lens of sustainability and it has also slowly impacted the supply chain. It is no longer sufficient to just make a product which meets codes and performs well. The product now needs to be efficient or renewable. With the number of projects either achieving green building certifications or designing to the standards, a product that is not compliant will be overlooked immediately. From Skanska USA’s perspective, it has forced us to look at ways to reduce waste. This includes more adoption of prefabrication and modular construction to reduce things like “packaging” and transportation costs. The focus on green building is having an effect on not just sustainability, but also productivity and safety by pushing us toward more efficient ways of construction.

What are the benefits of green building?
    Constructing a building that is efficient will result in lower cost of operation over the life of the building, which is often an easy sell to owners. However, “green building” is also related to the user experience and buildings that have embraced this are typically more favored by occupants.

How is green building related to smart growth and sustainable development?
    All of these go hand in hand. There has to be a commitment from all parties in order to truly produce a sustainable building. As more data becomes available, we are beginning to see more quantitative information about the benefits of sustainable buildings, and this will further inform decisions being made at the master planning and development stages of projects.

Is there federal or state legislation related to green building? Please explain.
    While building and energy codes are including more stringent standards for energy and water use, most local, state and federal projects now require some level of LEED (or other) certification.

What are the economic benefits of green or sustainable building and development?
    Costs associated with energy and water savings over the course of the project are obvious benefits. However, that can be eroded somewhat by the cost for additional equipment or more expensive products to achieve certification. Less obvious and quantifiable benefits are the impacts on the supply chain. The requirements for material certification are forcing companies to reduce shipping and transportation (and cost associated with both) and utilize more renewable materials to be competitive.

How are buildings certified as green in the U.S.?
    There are many rating systems, most of which use a point-based system which dictates a level of certification. Examples include LEED, Envision, Living Building Challenge and WELL Certifications. The selection of one or more of these certification systems is often driven by the experience of the owner or architect. Achievement is completed by documenting compliance with credits and submitting that documentation for review and approval. Upon completion, a number of credits or points are achieved indicating the level of certifca-tion. Skanska USA has constructed hundreds of LEED certified projects and is a platinum member of the USGBC.
    Skanska USA is a full-service general contractor specializing in building construction, civil infrastructure and developing self-financed commercial projects. - cmw

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Author Info
Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net