General contractors discuss sustainability beyond the specs—GreenerBuilder 2019 | U.S. Green Building Council
Please upgrade your browser. This site requires a newer version to work correctly. Read more
Published on
Written by
Posted in Community
Published on
Written by
Posted in Community

See tips from general contractors who presented at GreenerBuilder.

This year’s GreenerBuilder in San Francisco, California, saw professionals in architecture, engineering and construction gather to discuss the important role general contractors have in building sustainably.

As contractors, it’s vital that we have the conversation on what we can do outside of the specifications of the project. To borrow a quote from Turner Construction’s general manager Lisa Ballantyne, "It’s important that we can speak to not just how we can build green buildings, but how we can build buildings greener."

Four women, myself included, from Turner Construction Company, along with colleagues from Webcor, Skanska and Hensel Phelps, led the “General Contractors Breaking Barriers” session at GreenerBuilder 2019.

The speakers shared best practices and tips on incorporating sustainability into modern construction. Over the course of the hour-long, Jeopardy-style discussion, we spoke on topics ranging from materials and waste to innovative tools and preconstruction. Of particular interest to many attendees was the Sustainable Construction Leaders group, which consists of five major general contractors from the Bay Area and gathers once a month to discuss green construction strategies, especially those pertaining to waste.

“We see [sustainability] a lot like safety,” said Jenelle Shapiro, Sustainability Director for Webcor. “In safety, the protocol is do things better because it should be done that way, not necessarily because it’s more competitive.”

Collectively, the group emphasized the importance of implementing innovative, sustainable approaches to construction outside of what is outlined in the specifications and drawings. An example given by Vandita Mudgal, Sustainability Manager for Hensel Phelps, was their use of Autocase, which their team leveraged to create a triple-bottom-line analysis for the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 project at San Francisco International Airport.

“We were using this tool to help guide what sustainable strategies have the biggest return on investment,” said Mudgal, “…and to understand how to use that information to guide our specifications and interactions with manufacturers.”

The key point the group wanted to drive home was that contractors have a big role to play in building greener buildings, especially in regard to coordinating between partners and driving innovation.

“Please don’t discount your construction and subcontractor partners when looking at unique pilot or innovation credits—they may be able to help or have great ideas on how to [achieve project goals],” said Kimberly Loscher, Sustainability Director at Skanska. “The first step to driving innovation is to build a culture that accepts new ideas and better was of working.”

The group hopes that this message of contractor involvement gets carried on not only to other contractors, but to design partners, manufacturers and developers, as well.

For more information on GreenerBuilder or to get in touch with the speakers, please contact Melanie Colburn, Director, USGBC Northern California.