42 of 69 LEED points directly related to mechanical systems or mechanical construction
New ‘green’ Web site unveiled

MCAA President David Kruse speaks to attendees of the group's first green building conference.


Mechanical contractors looking to break into the green construction market couldn’t hope for a better client than Gary Saulson.

Just as his company, PNC Financial Services Group, was beginning to build a 475,000-square-foot operations center in Pittsburgh, Saulson decided to make the building green.

“And I used to think that a green building had to have dirt floors and straw walls,” said PNC’s director of corporate real estate to a crowd of 250 contractors attending the Mechanical Contractors Association of America’s Green Opportunities Conference, Sept. 24-26, Milwaukee.

Thanks to changes in part to the new building’s mechanical systems, the structure costs one quarter less on utility bills than one of the company’s comparable buildings constructed in the usual way.

Saulson has since gone on to oversee construction of other green buildings for PNC, including 40 “Green Branches” in six states. The service-marked branches use 45 percent less energy than the PNC’s traditional bank branches.

Saulson presented a strong case for building green and underscored the potential green construction market for mechanical contractors

“This may be the next industrial revolution,” said another conference speaker, David Allen, McKinstry Co., a day before Saulson’s presentation, “and we are in a great position to offer help.”

Getting in on any revolution may be one reason the MCAA presented its first-ever green conference and packed it, as the association usually does, with one great speech after another over the course of two and a half days. The event also attracted 30 manufacturers who took part in a special Green Product Showcase at the end of the first day. As an added benefit, attendees also got the chance to tour Johnson Controls’ headquarters, a retrofitted building that earned LEED Gold status.

LEED status, whether Gold, Silver or Platinum, didn’t mean much until recently. In fact, the program only started nationally seven years ago. But LEED status, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, has quickly become a recognized brand name for green buildings of many types, new or rebuilt.

Since then, Tom Hicks, USGBC, told attendees that green construction has grown from 2 percent of building starts in 2005 and is expected to account for 10 percent in three years, representing a $60 billion market. The USGBC has certified more than 1,000 projects and another 8,000 projects have registered for LEED status.

To obtain LEED status, builders must follow a variety of steps to earn points - up to 69 in all. Tim Wentz, University of Nebraska, pointed out that 42 of those points were “directly related to either mechanical systems or mechanical construction.”

Turning Green? Conference moderator Wentz outlined a few basic resources to prepare your company to go green.

  • MCAA: The trade group unveiled a new green Web site, www.greencontractors.us. In addition, Wentz personally leads several Green 101 sessions throughout the country. To prepare its members for LEED certification, the MCAA held its first LEED prep workshop, Aug. 27-28, in Denver. This year, the MCAA will hold other prep courses, Dec 3-4, in Colorado Springs, Colo., and on the same dates in Baltimore.

     

  • LEED: Getting accredited by the USGBC in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is fast becoming a “brand” that shows your staff are experts in LEED-related requirements and processes.

     

  • ASHRAE: The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers is currently working with the USGBC on its own certification program specifically for the HVAC industry. The association plans to roll out the program next June.