While your company may not have had the chance to participate in a LEED project yet, you may have given thought to how you would handle it. You might have heard colleagues talk about their experiences with LEED projects, which raised questions in your mind. This article may help clarify your understanding about how LEED can impact your company.

LEED Credits may often be worded with ambiguous language, but their criteria asks for specific materials to be used and measured in fairly defined ways. Custom woodworking businesses are both complex and diverse, which can make things more confusing — each company can be defined by a business model, and each business model will respond differently to credit requirements. So you might wonder, “Is LEED is right for me?”

What a woodwork company must do to be successful in LEED projects is different from what those outside, but connected, to our businesses need on their end. Knowing what other allied professionals want can help us make good proactive choices to prepare and start a LEED project on the right foot.

Let’s look at those “outside” professionals. Building designers, specification writers, interior professionals, general contractors and LEED APs will think of a woodworking company as a valuable resource they can rely on to help them earn LEED Credits when their needs are met. So, how can you position your firm to be the “Go-To-Guy?”

First, evaluate your ability to participate. Do your research. Get your company up-to-speed in understanding LEED and all the requirements of the credits. Have honest discussions with your office and plant staff about what will be involved in participating.
Also, assess the demand. You can see how many LEED projects are coming up (registered) in the area you serve by visiting the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Web site, www.USGBC.org. Ask a general contractor if you can look at some current contract documents that contain LEED specifications. Some will originate from CSI’s Green Format, some will be home-grown.
Implore your suppliers to get product information to you for the products they offer that help earn LEED Credits. A form letter from your company can inspire a supplier to let you know about the product data, technical information, lead time, availability, grades, pricing and how they compete with other materials not specific to LEED credits. If you realize that some products must be stored, documented, measured or applied with a method unfamiliar to you, you may decide not to participate in certain credits.
Once you decide which credits you can offer successfully, make sure your staff understands the responsibilities imposed by those new requirements. All the extra preparation and documentation add to your overhead when you work on a LEED project. Estimating, sales and project management all need to know how to adjust for LEED projects.
Raise the flag. Once you decide that you have the time and expertise to take on this additional responsibility correctly, let the general contractors in your area know that you welcome the opportunity to submit proposals for LEED projects. You may even want to designate specific types of projects that you compete well in.
Note: It is more important than ever that you fully disclose in which LEED Credits your company plans to participate. If your company has no plans to be involved in, say, “Low VOC/VOE Finishes” or “Certified Wood” credits, make sure the general contractor knows it, so his expectation of values needed to earn those credits is erased from you. This should be in writing, and be sure to include this information whenever you submit a bid or proposal.
Typically, between three and eight credits that are pursued do not get earned. But the total credits needed to achieve the building owner’s desired LEED level still must be earned somehow. Make sure ahead of time that your intentions are clear and consistent with their expectations. Then, make others’ jobs easier by being proactive. Anticipate their needs.
What do they want?
I asked some allied professionals who are veterans of LEED projects what woodworkers can do to make their jobs (and consequently their own) easier. Here is what they said:
• Rick Levin; FCSI, CCS, LEED AP; KahlerSlater; Madison and Milwaukee, WI — From the specifier’s perspective, the woodworker must be familiar with the applicable criteria in USGBC’s LEED Rating Systems, including the requirements in each credit. The woodworker must be able to prepare shop drawings and proposals showing how these criteria specifically meet or exceed the architect’s design intent. This should be dovetailed with adherence to AWI’s Quality Standards and Quality Certification Program to ensure quality control in materials, workmanship and installation.
• Joel Krueger; Associate Project Architect, CSI, Green Building Specialist; The Kubala Washatko Architects; Cedarburg, WI — We have had the pleasure of working with many excellent cabinetmakers and woodworkers over the years. But it seems that few are pushing hard to find and test earth-friendly finishes. Most find a product they like and trust, and tend not to experiment with new products. We need wood people to help us write better specifications, based on first-hand knowledge and testing.
• Amy Doyle; Resource Librarian, Associate AIA, Industry Member IIDA; Erdman; Madison, WI — Aesthetic concepts are translated into physical materials, so samples and their supporting literature are important. Provide samples of stock items to the resource librarian in a timely manner and replenish them frequently. For wood samples, 8-1/2- by 11-inch size is large enough to see a representation of grain and color, and it will store well on shelves and in drawer storage systems and can be mailed easily. Cumbersome, wasteful boxes and containers get discarded, so keep packaging to an absolute minimum.
It is important to clearly date and label samples, as designers know they can change color within a year or two. These types of samples should be replaced annually. If samples come with supporting literature, make sure it is clearly designated both on the sample and the literature that they go together.
Identifying which type of LEED Credit such materials will help earn is a plus; this can be indicated on labels or literature. While everyone uses Web sites to search for information about products, design professionals find that having high-quality print brochures is most effective in project meetings, especially meetings with building owners. Presenting a color copy from a Web page isn’t the same.
The photos of products should be fairly current. Photos of products used in installations from 20 years ago don’t go over well.
• Frank Falsetti; Education Coordinator, LEED AP; Sustainable Building Solutions; Brookfield, WI — Woodworkers should be familiar with the credits their products help earn and how those credits are calculated. If taking LEED training helps, do it; then become trained to work with all other parties involved in a project to work together to meet the owners’ project requirements.
Secondly, the documentation requirements for submittal of a LEED project are substantial. Our expectation for a woodworker is that he knows exactly what is needed to confirm USGBC requirements. Communications that are concise and specifically address how a woodwork company complies with the LEED requirements without “greenwashing” saves time and energy in the end, when the project is audited by USGBC.
Finally, the woodworker is responsible for driving the LEED requirements through any and all assembly of the products they are providing, including components that are bought out from another provider. Items will be rejected if the GC finds them not to be built within the rigorous USGBC Guidelines for LEED Certification.
Getting started
One way to get yourself started in gaining knowledge and making inroads with customers is to join
or attend meetings of local USGBC chapters. Make them aware that you can help by offering samples, literature, speaking or participating in monthly meetings. Greater understanding leads to greater partnerships and to positioning your company as a willing ally. e
Margaret Fisher is Market Development Manager of Saunders Wood Specialties in Park Falls, WI, and serves as the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) liaison to the USGBC.

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