New technology is leading many contractors, builders and architects into the next phase of the green building revolution. At the same time, others aren’t so sure this green trend is here to stay or can’t figure out how to make money from it.
Here are five common beliefs about green building and the HVAC industry that are flat-out wrong.
Myth No. 1: Green is just a fad.Oh yeah? The U.S. Green Building Council, which administers the popular Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, cites more than 16,000 LEED-registered projects, up from just 573 in 2000.
And cities and states are encouraging the trend through tax deductions or credits for energy efficiency and sometimes making it easier for projects to be certified sustainable.
“Environmental stewardship represents a trend, not a fad. Just ask your kids,” said Larry Kozak, engineering manager for Hart & Cooley Inc.’s Commercial Products Group, which includes the Ampco, Roof Product Systems, Ward, Portals Plus and Milcor brands.
Myth No. 2: I'm too small to be "green."It may be easier than you think. LEED certification rewards all sorts of sustainable activities including the use of recycled content. The sheet metal used in Milcor internal access doors and roof access hatches, for example, comes from sources using 90 percent recycled-content steel and aluminum.
“We operate with corporate guidance to be heavily involved in meeting LEED requirements,” said Hart & Cooley product manager Don Fessenden. “We’ve introduced white-painted smoke vents and roof hatches which reflect solar heat and increase energy savings inside of the building.”
Cooler sheet metal contributes to a more efficient use of air conditioning - and white paint is an easy choice for green-minded specifiers.
“Extruded polystyrene (EPS) that we use to insulate our hatch covers has a higher ‘R’ value, and is more stable over time than isocyanurate board insulation,” Fessenden said. “EPS has load ratings that are better than competing fiberglass, too. Ours can take 70 pounds per square foot versus 40 pounds per square foot for fiberglass.”
Development of a paint primer that is compatible with LEED-compliant paints for access doors provides another way for customers to get into green building by carefully specifying products that aid environmental goals. No business is too small to be green, and the entry barriers are low.
Myth No. 3: Customers won't pay for it.Perhaps, but somebody else’s customers will. Commercial contractors who are hoping to ride the next wave of green building need to choose their customers as carefully as they choose a vendor. The lowest price does not guarantee the best job. Custom work can offer a ready pathway to better margins for contractors who are willing to research options and manage the details.
Ampco and RPS Product Manager Tom Sauer points out that his two brands offer 100 percent custom prefabricated products that carry an added value for his customers to pass along to builders and building owners.
“We can make our custom roof curbs taller than the standard 14 inches to clear the growth medium and soil depth on green roofs, for example,” he said.
Building owners are already affording the installation of hundreds of thousands of square feet of rooftop gardens and photovoltaic cells in cities across America every year. Custom elements that are specified by architects and engineers to fit these purposes carry a premium that builders will pay for, too. The message for contractors is clear: Offer extra value by meeting the regional, aesthetic, or environmental preferences of specifiers, and make money.
“We’ll work with an architect and offer custom products that will adapt to a specific building design or solve a particular problem in the environment where the building is going,” Sauer said.
Custom roof curbs, custom mounting rails, duct and pipe supports, pipe flashings - all of these products carry a premium that customers will pay for, because they ask for them.
Myth No. 4: I can't make money in green building.It’s possible if you use the right products. Ideas can pay off.
“We see ourselves as a think tank,” said Matt Meyer, product manager for Portals Plus at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Hart & Cooley. “We offer energy-saving ideas to general contractors and position them where specifiers and architects can find them and use them to obtain ‘green’ jobs in commercial construction.”
These include recycled steel and flashings made from recycled aluminum.
“Roofing distributors and contractors can position themselves to make money with the knowledge that ‘green’ roofing products are readily available, affordable and already being specified,” Meyer said. “Roofing and sheet metal contractors can profit by working with distributors who stock certain products because their jobs may now include a richer mix of LEED-certified projects that require higher standards of recycled content, quality features and environmental performance.”
Myth No. 5: I'm already as "green" as I'll ever be.No way.
“The whole economy is going toward green building,” said Justin Johnston, product specialist for the Ward duct system components product line.
According to Johnston, today’s goal of sustainability extends well beyond recycled content and packaging to product design and how an order is consolidated and transported.
“We go out of our way to call customers in other regions to help fill a truck with order add-ons,” he said. “A full shipment will produce fewer emissions and use less gas.”
Product selection makes a difference, too.
“The decision was made years ago (by Ward) to create energy-saving products,” Johnston explained. “Long before there was any ‘green,’ Ward had turning vanes and a rail system that reduces air friction inside of corner ducts.”
Less friction means that lighter fans and smaller motors can be specified to push the same volume of air. Fans shut off faster, too, because of accelerated air movement to heat or cool a room at the thermostat control.
Green building is not a fad. It is a real trend, and a growing one. All commercial businesses - big and small - will be affected by the rising need to save energy. Customers will pay for “green” if they can receive reduced gas and electric bills in return.
That’s why Hart & Cooley is so invested in it, said Commercial Products Group Vice President Sean Steimle.
“The trend is long term, and our company’s stake within the green initiative is considerable,” he said. “Our goal is to partner with distributors, wholesalers and specifiers as we stake our claim in the future. There are both business and emotional issues at play in the ‘green’ building trend. The values that people hold high can prove beneficial for business,” he said.
The trail into green has already been well established by those who left their reduced carbon footprints to follow. The question for contractors now is: Will you leave a size-16 footprint, or something smaller?
This article and its images were supplied by Hart & Cooley Inc.