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The secret to success in the green building industry is simple: Ask as many questions as you possibly can. Cultivating a “go-to” list of experts of whom you can ask these questions is a corollary to that tip. These folks may often have a specific and narrow area of expertise. Others may have something special — experience.
The late Hall of Fame baseball legend Yogi Berra said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Often, the most expensive lessons are those that result from what you didn’t know. Another, sage piece of advice comes from Admiral Hyman G. Rickover: “Learn from the mistakes of others, since you will not live long enough to make them all yourself.”
What follows is a list of 14 tips, tricks of the trade, and hidden traps to avoid when working on green buildings, energy efficiency, and facility management in general.
1. Green buildings are like a chain. The first link is the source of raw ingredients followed by manufacturing or construction, operations, and end of life. Your project is only as green as the weakest link in this chain. Ask for full transparency. This includes Environmental Product Disclosures (EPDs), and Health Product Declarations (HPDs). If your request isn’t met, ask why.
2. Follow the leaders. Geisinger Health System has been able to “bend the cost curve” to lower utility costs consistently, and improve the bottom line. The Geisinger Medical Center has earned a perfect score of 100 from the EPA’s Energy Star program. This has lowered operating costs over $10 million a year, and costs are forecast to decline even further. Despite adding more square footage, here’s how:
a. Choose low-risk energy conservation projects first.
b. Always install the most efficient system available.
c. Carry out some sort of energy project every year to show progress in creating additional savings.
d. Invest in modernizing oldest systems first.
3. Hold the construction and design chain accountable for the operating results of a facility by re-writing their contracts. If you are not part of the process of setting the standards and requirements for your new building, you are at the mercy of the general contractor and others trying to squeeze dollars out of the construction process. Ensure that those technologies that can reduce your facility’s operating costs do not get “value engineered” out of the bids.
4. Evaluate the person as thoroughly as the product or service. A job title doesn’t fully describe knowledge, skills, and ability. Take, for example, a person whose title is director, healthcare market development. After a little digging, you learn he was responsible for facilities at one of the nation’s largest healthcare providers. Dig deeper and you discover that before being involved in the design, construction, and operations of healthcare facilities, he was a doctor and a combat medic. This is a person worth listening to.
5. Master the art of explaining the financial consequences of facility decisions to C-Suite level executives. Often, the reason projects do not get approved is the failure to tell senior management the negative economic consequences of not approving them. If you lack this skill, invest the time to learn from a peer with a track record of getting projects funded, or enroll in a class taught by an experienced practitioner.
14 Tips for Success in Green Building
Green Strategies Include Early Use of Safety Experts, Installation Troubleshooting
Other Green Strategies Include Inventory Management, Good Roof Maintenance
U.S. Green Building Council Perspective: High-Performance Green Buildings as a Keystone of a Low-Carbon Economy