Green building education key to survival in the marketplace

Chicago According to the 2008 FMI U.S. Construction Overview, this year a projected $21.2 billion of new nonresidential construction will use green-building principles a 58% increase over 2006. Nationwide, legislation is also pushing green building. In the first five months of 2007, more than 100 green building bills were introduced at the state level. Across America, the demand for green building

Chicago — According to the 2008 FMI U.S. Construction Overview, this year a projected $21.2 billion of new nonresidential construction will use green-building principles — a 58% increase over 2006.

Nationwide, legislation is also pushing green building. In the first five months of 2007, more than 100 green building bills were introduced at the state level.

“Across America, the demand for green building is growing, with no sign of abatement,” said Stephen Lamb, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Chicago. “Meeting that demand is a challenge no construction concern can ignore if they expect to survive in today's marketplace.”

More and more cities nationwide are requiring their municipal buildings to meet the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for high-performance green buildings. In Chicago, new and renovated municipal buildings are required to meet the LEED Silver rating as a stipulation under the city's Chicago Standard.

To assure that member contractors can meet the growing demand for green building, MCA Chicago offers numerous educational opportunities to keep them up-to-date with the latest technology.

“We consider this a top educational initiative,” Lamb said. “Not only does it help our member contractors to maintain a competitive edge, but it also enhances the quality of their projects.”

The effective performance of any sustainable building depends strongly on its mechanical systems.

Education = expertise

MCA Chicago, in conjunction with its Construction Education Institute, will offer numerous green building courses in Spring 2008. These courses range from introductory to advanced in their scope, covering green concepts for both existing and new buildings. While most courses are presented in classroom settings, an online course is also available.

Maintenance for sustainable buildings is also covered in the green courses.

“Ample green building opportunities are available for service contractors,” said Dan Bulley, senior vice president of MCA Chicago. “Sustainable buildings need to be maintained through green practices, or else their effectiveness can be severely compromised. Even buildings that didn't start out as green are being upgraded by service contractors and other building service industry professionals.”

In addition to his duties with MCA, Bulley is also the secretary of the Chicago Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, volunteer chair for the Greenbuild conference and trade show, and a LEED Accredited Professional.

Green building is a regular topic at the MCA Chicago Executive Forum, a “boot camp” for construction administrators. This year, the association will offer more than 70 courses for chief executive officers and other executives in line for leadership roles.

“The Forum offers something for leaders at every level, whether they are new to the management side of the industry or are seasoned veterans,” said Lamb.

Dennis Finnegan, construction manager at American Combustion Services, found the Executive Forum especially helpful when he entered the management arena.

“I was a field man, a journeyman pipefitter,” he said. “As I moved from the field to the management side, I found that I was wearing both hats and there were subjects that I wasn't as familiar with. Executive Forum opened my eyes to so many things.”

Member contractors also receive green knowledge in the MCA Chicago newsletter, Pipeline News. A recent article offered advice on the risk management aspects of green building. According to authors Greg Field and Dan Buelow of insurance intermediary Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co., contractors need to receive an education in green building before they enter the market: “A rush to capture this segment of the market could spell disaster. Here, like in many new technologies, learning to walk before you run may be the best risk mitigation technique one can employ.”

A green milestone

MCA Chicago celebrates its 120th Anniversary in 2008, and this spring the association will mark the occasion, and set an example for the business community, by moving its headquarters into a sustainable building in Burr Ridge, Ill. Half of the new 9,000-sq.ft. facility will be offices, while the other half will be used for classes.

Since educational programming is a top function of the association, the availability of in-house classrooms, along with ample parking, was considered a top priority.

“We are doing more and more training on the Internet,” Lamb said, “but some of our courses do not lend themselves to Web-based training. Plus, it's hard to beat the effectiveness of face-to-face interaction between a good teacher and his pupils. Moving into this new green building represents an exciting new chapter in the history of our association.”

TAGS: Green