Prateek Jain

40 green building professionals engaged in peer-to-peer knowledge sharing.

On June 26, in San Francisco, we shifted the attention away from design and operation for a moment and put contractors in the sustainability spotlight. How can they proactively contribute to green building movement? To answer this question, USGBC Northern California's Rising Leaders Committee hosted a group of 40 green building professionals, about half of which came from general contractors (GCs) in the Bay Area.

The sustainability workshop was designed to enable collective brainstorming and peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. To get started, I moderated a discussion about why contractors are stakeholders. Then, sustainability managers from three GCs who are already making strides in this direction spoke about their company initiatives:

  • Jenelle Shapiro, from Webcor, spoke about employee training, engagement through events, benefits to incentivize eco-friendly behavior and organizational vision.
  • Emi LaFountain, from Turner Construction, spoke about job site metering and on-site emissions reduction targets, idling policy, LED temp lighting and green trailers.
  • Kena David, from BCCI Builders, spoke about a path to zero waste on the job site, challenges to recycling and water conservation initiatives.

Sustainability workshop for contractors hosted by USGBC Northern California.

Participants at the workshop brainstorm solutions.

The ball was thus set rolling, and we broke out into five groups—each discussing a sustainability theme on which to come up with ideas and discuss challenges. After 30 minutes of brainstorming, each group presented their findings to the rest, and some very interesting points were brought up.

In summary, the general contractors felt that incentives and mandates more specifically directed toward them would get them more invested in the process than they currently are. Training programs, research and technological availability were also identified as key enhancers. View the takeaways.

We all went back assured that environmental consciousness among contractors is on the rise, and a focused push from the rest of the community will bolster their efforts.

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