Contractors Strive to Achieve Accreditation

June 30, 2008
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LEED AP for EB. If that sounds like a lot of alphabet soup, its definition is “certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design as an Accredited Professional in Existing Buildings.”

That is a mouthful, yet it is something that contractors are working hard to achieve. According to the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), this accreditation means that a person has distinguished himself as a building professional “with the knowledge and skills to successfully steward the LEED Certification process” and has “demonstrated a thorough understanding of green building practices and principles and the LEED Green Building Rating System.

The LEED AP credential represents knowledge of the LEED Rating System and its application in practice. LEED APs facilitate the integrated design process and streamline the LEED certification process.”

The Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), a contractor organization, recently created “GreenStar,” an accreditation that is only available to MSCA STAR contractors. STAR is an achievement designation for service excellence awarded to an elite group of MSCA contractors.

According to MSCA, GreenStar accreditation “is proof to customers that you are a recognized leader in the green building movement.” It is endorsed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

To attain this accreditation, contractors need to meet specific requirements:

• Be an MSCA STAR Qualified Contractor.

• Employ at least one LEED Accredited Professional (AP).

• Be a member of the USGBC, either with a local chapter or the national organization.

• Verify that at least 25 percent of the contractor’s total employees have participated in a green training or education program.

• Demonstrate that the company promotes environmental responsibility by offering specific sustainable services and recommending green procedures and equipment.

• Establish internal commitment to being green by attaining LEED certification, of any type, for the contractor’s own building, or by developing an internal green policy.

• Participate as part of a project team with a LEED EB (Existing Buildings) or LEED NC (New Construction) registered project within the past three years.

Dick Starr, Enterprise HVAC Sales & Service, stands next to a poster representing Project Home Again® in which he and sponsoring organization MSCA, take great pride. Through the program, participating MSCA members place magnetic signs of local missing children on their service vehicles. As the vehicles travel throughout the community, awareness for the missing child is raised and those with information are prompted to contact the appropriate authorities.

AN MSCA STAR IS BORN

No puns intended, no kidding. Dick Starr’s company is an MSCA STAR contractor that recently gained the MSCA GreenStar accreditation. Starr is the owner of Enterprise HVAC Service & Control, Twinsburg, Ohio, which is also a National Environmental Balancing Bureau (NEBB) certified air/water balance agency.

Starr is one contractor who truly knows the value of green - both in the monetary sense and in the ecologic/efficiency sense. He recently made a decision that will have a great impact on his company’s profitability and reputation, both of which are already healthy. Starr has become an accredited LEED AP for EB, and he credits MSCA in his quest for green education.

In a nutshell, Starr said, “It is phenomenal to achieve AP status. You are recognized for promoting green technology. I’m the first one in Northeast Ohio who is AP for EB. Being a LEED AP gets you more respect from your peers. People appreciate your educational knowledge because they know it is fresh.”

What makes Starr’s accreditation special is the hard work he put into studying for the LEED AP exam, which included “knowing the 500-word study guide like the back of my hand,” he said. The two-hour, 80-question multiple-choice exam was designed with only a 35 percent pass rate, according to Starr. That meant people had to be very serious about becoming an accredited LEED AP. “You have to believe in green and have a passion to work with green,” he said.

MSCA GETTING GREENER

“We just rolled it out in Chicago,” said Russell Borst, referring to GreenStar. Borst is MSCA chairman and service vice president for Hurst Mechanical, Belmont, Mich. “There was excitement right from the time we rolled it out. It’s the best thing for our environment; it’s our business, it’s our industry.”

According to Borst, the new program helps mechanical contractors in all areas of the business. “When you’re looking at the green movement, you’re looking at growing market share and customer base,” he said. “Every market segment can benefit from it - controls, energy audits, retrofits, retrocommissioning - there is so much to benefit from the contractor’s point of view.”

A key benefit for these green contractors, he said, is growth of market share. “It’s really a shift in how we do business. We’re going green in our own office,” Borst continued. “We set up a recycling center and evaluated how we do our cleaning projects. We’re retrocommissioning our own building. It’s definitely a shift in how we do business.”

In addition to its new GreenStar initiative, the association is creating green preventive maintenance contracts for its members to help specifically with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). “They’re pretty stringent on the monitoring and reporting side,” said Borst. “We’re updating the LEED for Existing Buildings operations and maintenance for MSCA. We’re putting together a manual for retrocommissioning and energy audits.

“We’re championing LEED for Existing Buildings,” he continued. “About 70 percent of that work is the mechanical contractor’s.” Now Hurst Mechanical is hot on the trail of its GreenStar accreditation. “We need 25 percent green-awareness training; by the end of June we’ll be ready to submit our application.”

Starr said MSCA has proven that it is “far ahead of the curve” when it comes to leadership in green building technologies. “I applaud the MSCA for taking a huge leadership in this whole area,” he said. “They saw that there is a flood of interest in the green topic. As soon as they throw these training modules on LEED technology out to their people, they are sold out right away.”

GreenStar accreditation is a distinct business advantage for MSCA members, according to Starr, because of several reasons:

• Proof that the contractor is a recognized leader in the green building movement;

• Shows the contractor’s commitment to ongoing green building training and education;

• Demonstrates LEED experience;

• Displays an understanding of equipment upgrades and energy-efficiency issues;

• Endorsed by the USGBC, a third party known and respected by building owners.

On the last point, Starr talked about the importance that LEED certification is for building owners. “LEED certification for buildings means that owners have demonstrated their commitment to green technology,” he said. “In many cases, the owners can get more money for rent if their buildings are LEED certified.”

PART OF THE OVERALL BUSINESS PLAN

Starr noted that Enterprise HVAC Service & Control has strengthened its competitive position in this market by its commitment to green technology. And although the fraternity of GreenStar contractors is limited to those who have achieved service excellence as a MSCA contractor, there are many reasons for other HVAC contractors to pursue LEED training.

For one, Starr likes the challenge of working in existing buildings - as do many mechanical service contractors, especially today when new construction is almost at a standstill.

“It is one thing to design a building from the ground floor up but if you walk into a hospital that is 50 years old you are liable to find a little bit of everything,” he said.

The challenge is to provide a design that will bring existing buildings into the green age where efficiency and environmental friendliness are intertwined. Starr added that retro-commissioning, which is supported by the NEBB, is becoming more of a buzzword today as existing building owners are seeking ways to operate their facilities more efficiently and to hopefully earn LEED certification, something that Starr said is difficult to achieve. “If someone is getting certified with an existing building, they are doing damn good,” he said.

And that is just what Starr hopes will happen now that he is an accredited LEED AP for EB: working to improve the HVAC operating systems in existing systems to meet the need for an increasing need to go green.

Starr threw out more letters for the alphabet soup, too: the three ‘P’s. “It’s all about people, planet, and profit,” he said.

Visit www.mscastar.org/greenstar for more information on MSCA and GreenStar. Visit www.usgbc.org for more information on the USGBC and LEED education. If you’d like to know more about Enterprise HVAC Service & Control, visit www.enterprisehvac.com.

Publication date: 06/30/2008

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