Leaders of a construction industry association and their workforce are so committed to a more sustainable future, they are offering advanced green building education to contractors and workers alike.

“Green building is a topic of special concern to mechanical contractors,” saidStephen Lamb, executive vice president of theMechanical Contractors Association(MCA) of Chicago, “since they work with the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, which account for most of the energy usage in residential and commercial buildings.”

Lamb noted that the association has been working with their United Association workforce, Pipe Fitters Local Union (LU) 597, for more than 90 years without a strike. “The success of our alliance has always depended on cooperation,” he said. “Green training at multiple levels in the construction industry is our latest collaborative effort.”

“The efficiency and operational savings of today’s green buildings have established sustainable technology as a construction industry necessity,” saidDan Bulley, executive director of the Green Construction Institute and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP).

As a prime example of the energy efficiency that a green building can achieve, Bulley cited theRichard J. Klarchek Information Commons on Chicago’s Loyola University campus. “This four-story, 70,000-sq.-ft. green facility currently is saving more than 50 percent annually in operational costs,” he said. “It’s a great example of peak efficiency. The University spent more upfront than usual, since it will be using significantly less energy over a long period of time. It’s all about having a timeframe in mind and knowing what you want to achieve.”

Bulley noted that green buildings are becoming more energy efficient with the advancement of sustainable technology. “New green buildings are much more efficient than those built according to the very first LEED rating system, which has been upgraded many times,” he said. “That first LEED version started it all, so while it needed improvement, it should still be honored as a pioneering development.”

To further their green education efforts, MCA of Chicago has established aGreen Construction Institute, located in their Burr Ridge, IL headquarters, which is a green building itself.

“We try to instruct our member contractors and our workforce in every applicable aspect of green building,” Bulley said. He added that he is the instructor for a ‘Green 101’ class for contractor executives entitled, “So You Want to Be a Green Contractor?” which is available as an online course.

For executives pursuing advancement through green accreditation, Bulley also teaches several LEED-related courses. “In addition to the LEED Green Associate accreditation, there are also other new LEED AP accreditations, now classified as LEED AP+,” he said. “These accreditations are specific to different types of projects, such as operations and maintenance, or building design and construction.”

Bulley also recently created a class for contractors on typical challenges a mechanical contractor might encounter with LEED. The MCA of Chicago also has prepared a booklet which offers key information for owners who are considering building a green project.

Hands-On Geothermal Training

Geothermal energy is a method of heating and cooling buildings which works in conjunction with the stable subsurface temperatures found underground and in large bodies of water. Geothermal energy is a clean form of energy since it creates no waste products.

To keep its members educated in clean sustainable technology, LU 597 installed a geothermal system in its training Center in Mokena, IL. The system is both functional and tutorial.

Their system is comprised of three geothermal wells inside the building. The system also uses a functional, interior geothermal pond: a large fiberglass tank with a window in it, so that students can see how it functions. Ken Ruesken, the LU 597 Business Agent for Service Technicians, designed the system.

This unique combination-system is being used to instruct apprentices on the different types of geothermal systems, while it helps take care of the training center’s heating and cooling needs.

“We teach green to HVAC apprentices and also to journeymen in evening classes as part of their continuing education,” saidJohn Leen, training director at LU 597. “In many ways, we had been observing green practices over the years without even realizing it.”

Leen added that the geothermal project exemplifies their continuing efforts to forward our green programs. “We welcome any advancement that helps the environment and saves energy,” he said. “This new system will allow contractors and customers insight into the geothermal world. The special design will help our apprentices and journeymen in their training - there’s nothing better than having a working model on-hand.”

For more information, visit LU 597 online atwww.pf597.organd MCA of Chicago atwww.mca.org.

Source: MCA of Chicago