Words: Chris Rodermond
Photos: Green Badger
According to recent statistics, the size of the Green Building Market in the United States is now $81B, and “The number of LEED-certified projects in the United States rose from 296 certifications in 2006 up to over 67,200 in 2018.” This rapidly expanding industry has undoubtedly gained significant market share. Furthermore, with the pandemic there is more scrutiny than ever by people and employers in evaluating the health and safety of the buildings where they work, go to school, and live.
Just as 30 or 40 years ago the spreadsheet brought revolutionary changes to the business world, we are now seeing tracking software help further streamline and organize business processes across all industries. One such example of this kind of software is called Green Badger, developed to reorganize and redefine the management of green construction certification. We got the scoop on the software and what it attempts to solve from Tommy Linstroth, Founder of Green Badger.
Mr. Linstroth told us that Green Badger is a software platform built to try and streamline and automate green construction compliance. The tool is really built for the contractor and only focuses on your construction side of things, none of the design side of building a LEED-compliant building.
“This is a platform I built after slogging through over 100 LEED projects myself the manual way. I was trying to figure out a way to automate it and to save everyone a lot of time and effort, myself included, and that is how Green Badger was born.”
Tommy explained that he originally worked on the owner’s side, with a developer in Georgia as a director of sustainability, and was committed to making sure their entire portfolio was LEED certified. This was about 15 years ago in the early days of LEED before it was as widespread as it is today.
In fact, back then, he worked on the first LEED Shopping Center in Savannah, Georgia in which they ended up building the first LEED-certified McDonald’s restaurant in the world. He told us that there had been an older McDonald’s that was demolished as part of the shopping center redevelopment.
“As we were rebuilding the center for the franchisee, we said, “Hey, why not rebuild the McDonald’s!” Since the shopping center was going to be certified we wanted to make sure that the restaurant was certified as well.”
They worked with the corporate McDonald’s team so they could incorporate all their design guidelines and ramped up what they thought was necessary, like using LEDs in a time before LED lights had become popular. They focused on a great fitting envelope and on using high-efficiency fittings and fixtures. The entire driveway was porous pavement to manage stormwater onsite.
It had a highly reflective yellow roof that helped. This was an interesting process as we worked through navigating the corporate design landscape, and trying to convince stakeholders why we were doing things the way we were doing them, but it ended up resulting in the first LEED McDonald’s, which was a really cool project to be involved in, according to Linstroth.
After working with that organization for a while Linstroth launched a consulting company and solely worked on helping projects design and construct their building to manage the building certification process. During that time when he was juggling a dozen different projects and had a 100 spreadsheets to do, he recalls banging his head against the wall thinking there had to be a better way to make this process easier on everyone out there in the field and in the office who were trying to track everything down. This is when he turned to building software, instead of working as a consulting business.
The app is primarily a web-based platform, but it also has a companion mobile app component for submitting updates from the field. The web application is used to manage all product submittals and approvals and to track and record all of the environmental attributes of the products that are being used, as well as the waste management and diversions are also tracked on the website.
The mobile app is for anyone that is out in the field and allows one to document that they are using certain practices or maintaining the site in a certain way. As part of your LEED certification, one must be able to show reports and photos that document exactly what they are doing.
The app allows the project teams to have their phone on the jobsite to say, yes this is what we are doing and to document if things are not right and take corrective action. Typically, if people are not using the app then they are doing a lot of this by hand. Which means they are taking a bunch of pictures, writing notes, importing and dragging pictures into reports, and scanning handwritten documents. The app lets them take the photos and put in their comments, hit save and then generates the PDF document for them.
Regarding cross-platform compatibility, Green Badger recently rolled out their first integration, which is within Autodesk BIM360. That is the high end of their dash and models, but this is an example of where a user can have their LEED project dashboard within their BIM360 dashboard. They recognize the value of integration and understand that people don’t want to open five different apps and want to have everything on one dashboard. They are trying to expand those Integrations to other platforms as well, so they can work with other integration partners to further enhance what they can do.
For Linstroth, the challenge of adapting their product is changing hearts and minds. For the past 20 years, people have been doing this with spreadsheets, logging everything on paper, and spending many hours trying to update everything to meet every change of LEED.
“A lot of people would say, why would I need software to do this, I can do it, I just need to spend time to get it done. It is really that mental transition where they need to say, there is a software that can help me do this, save me time and I don’t have to go chasing things down.”
Instead, a user can simply pick their products and everything will be pre-calculated and entered into the system, so a lot of it is changing people’s habits. The misconception is people thinking that there isn’t another way to do it or understanding the value in a different way of doing something. Tommy mentions his customer base can strongly attest to the time-saving aspect, and it is less of a headache when it comes to the LEED information compared to the old way of doing it.
Linstroth thinks, in general, the advantages of trying to get a project LEED certified outweigh the challenges. The disadvantage being that the process itself is a pain, but it needs to be challenging because it is a strict third-party certification. Like filing taxes, one must prepare everything, it is time-consuming, often written in archaic terms, which are hard to interpret, and that is why you need consultants and people doing it. It is challenging to do, it is not easy, but nothing worth doing is easy. The benefits that one will get from LEED or any third-party verification is proof of the integrity of the project
Linstroth noted, “There have been a number of projects that were originally going for LEED and then they said no, we are actually going to design it LEED and not certify it. Then what you see is a lot of the green features getting cut out and not implemented.”
With the certification, it keeps the design, and the construction team fully accountable. A developer will know that they are getting a greener building when it has been verified, tested, commissioned, and that the materials used are meeting green specifications to keep things healthier.
Tommy told us that mason contractors can find up-to-date information on LEED certification requirements in the United States from the Green Building Council website at https://www.usgbc.org/. There is a wealth of resources, online education platforms, information on LEED, and various rating systems available. He also added that Green Badger has a lot of information on their website as well, but with a focus on breaking down the information for everyone to understand since it can be filled with a lot of jargon and regulations and that can turn people away from reading. For example, on their website you can find a lot of information; in terms of making the information manageable from USGBC, free webinars, free product guides, and blog postings. These are two great starting points for people to brush up on their LEED information.