September 2009: Legal Issues


September 2009

Legal Issues

Ted LungerThe Effects of LEED on Mason Contractors

The expansion of green building funding and proliferation of green building requirements has already translated into pressure on parties at all levels of construction projects to change how they do things. The ratio of green construction projects in your project portfolio is only going grow. All levels of government are beginning to mandate higher and higher standards for green building design. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is not going to lower the bar any time soon to make it easier to obtain green building ratings. Many commercial developers and public entities in urban localities are now seeking some level of certification or higher rating for Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED) for their projects. The USGBC is always looking for ways to raise standards to achieve more efficient buildings. Contractors need to evolve and educate themselves, or they will lose work to their more evolved competitors.

This is not all bad news. The LEED credit system offers some interesting opportunities to mason contractors who are savvy enough to recognize them. It is not a stretch to understand that a developer will be trying to achieve all the LEED credits it can for the least amount of money. A developer, therefore, needs contractors who can reliably and competitively deliver work that will help them achieve the LEED credits they need to achieve. That means if you are a mason contractor in the commercial development or public contracting game, you are now in the LEED credit sales business, whether you know it or not.

How can you help a client achieve its USGBC rating as its mason contractor? It is probably easier than you realize, and it will not necessarily cost you a lot of money. There are certain LEED credits that are natural fits for mason contractors to help deliver. For instance, for Material Reuse credits, if you can help a client determine how to reuse portions of an existing structure, such as structural flooring, building envelope, and/or interior nonstructural elements, you can help that developer achieve points the developer may not even have realized it could achieve. Concrete and masonry products can also lend themselves well to satisfying points targeted at reducing demand for virgin materials by using salvaged, refurbished or reused materials constituting the requisite proportion of the total materials for a project. This is also true for both post- and pre-consumer recycled content, which includes masonry products.

Having an established relationship with a reliable source for masonry materials that are extracted and manufactured regionally also can add significant value to a project. The use of regional materials can help a project earn specific credit points and, thus, help achieve the desired USGBC rating. Additionally, you should explore available options for use of low-emitting adhesives, sealants, paints and coatings, and flooring systems for your masonry products. These products can help achieve Indoor Environmental Quality credits.

Learn the ins and outs of the LEED credit requirements, and you may be able to find a way to add value to a project. With a little imagination and an understanding of the various credit requirements, there are many ways to make you more competitive in the sales and bidding game.

Just as important, a competitive mason contractor will need to understand the rating goals and requirements of his client and must be able to effectively oversee his employees, trades and/or subcontractors. This ensures the necessary technical requirements are achieved and processes observed. You also should become familiar with the evolving green building provisions likely to be found in your contract that could pass significant liabilities and risks on to you if not properly understood. The developer, public entity or general contractor will appreciate your knowledge and contributions in this area, as will all of those other parties involved in the construction process, like the architects, civil and structural engineers, etc. – some of your best references!

Tad Lunger is a LEED-Accredited Professional and an attorney with Bean, Kinney & Korman in Arlington County, Va. Lunger specializes in land use, zoning, construction and development, public/private partnerships, and capital projescts. He can be reached at 703-525-4000 or

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