CHICAGO - Once considered a passing fad, green building has driven its roots deep into the American landscape. City halls in Chicago and Atlanta have green rooftops, and green building initiatives are thriving in Seattle, Denver, Dallas, and other major cities nationwide. Even the United Nations headquarters in New York will be renovated with green principles in mind. Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of Chicago administrators understand the vital importance of green building.

“Through educational initiatives, we are making sure MCA member contractors are ready to meet present as well as future green building needs,” said Dan Bulley, secretary of the Chicago chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, volunteer chair for Greenbuild 2007, and senior vice president, MCA Chicago.

Mechanical contractors install and service HVACR systems, as well as fire sprinklers, plumbing, and process piping.

“Green buildings are quickly becoming a marketplace requirement,” said Jeff Grossberg, executive director of SkySite Property LLC, a Chicago-based company working to increase property values through fiscally sound green initiatives and investment strategies. “This inevitability is being driven by consumer demand and municipal pressure and incentives.

“Mechanical contractors deal with the heart and soul of any building project. It is in their area of responsibility that any project will see the greatest percentage of energy savings and positive environmental impact. Their contribution to sustainable design is the difference between creating green buildings or creating a green wash practice.”

According to Grossberg, Chicago provides an exemplary regional example of the significance of the green initiatives and the fiscal benefits of incorporating sustainable systems.

“The success of our green initiatives provides solid evidence that sustainability will quickly become a requirement of any future building projects,” he said.

Green buildings are quickly becoming required by most municipalities across the country, Grossberg added.

“The greatest percentage of savings, the best protection from impending legal penalties, such as carbon tax, and the greatest return on investment lie in the sound implementation of green building practices,” he said.

“Mechanical contractors’ contributions to this bottom-line reality are indispensable.”

Critics of green building often balk at the perceived expense - but according to the Davis Langdon report (“Cost of Green Revisited: Reexamining the Feasibility and Cost Impact of Sustainable Design in the Light of Increased Market Adoption,” July 2007) “... there is no significant difference in average cost for green buildings as compared to nongreen buildings. Many project teams are building green buildings with little or no added cost, and with budgets well within the cost range of nongreen buildings with similar programs.”


To further the cause of green building, MCA Chicago offered member contractors two educational opportunities last year. The first was a green building Webinar, “LEED® and Sustainable Design,” which featured a presentation by Lincoln Pearce, P.E., LEED® AP, associate and mechanical department assistant supervisor, KJWW Engineering Consultants, Rock Island, Ill.

Last fall, it held the Fall 2007 Business Conference of MCA Chicago and the Piping Education Council. It featured educational sessions focusing on green building. The conference’s Energy 2015 panel of experts discussed alternative energy sources, sustainable design, new technologies, and other green concepts. Panelists included Jeff Grossberg; Dr. Jonathon Koomey, consulting professor at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif; and author and lecturer Dan Holohan.

The Piping Education Council provides educational opportunities for participating mechanical contractors and journeymen pipe fitters belonging to United Association Local Union 597.

“Green building is definitely the wave of the future,” stated Bulley, “and having access to the Local 597 workforce, with its high degree of training and expertise, gives our contractors a definite edge.

“It’s important for everyone in the business community to stay informed about green building. The decisions we make today will affect the environment for years to come.”

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Sidebar: Green I.Q. Test

How much do you know about green building? Take the following quiz and find out. The answers to this quiz came from the MCA Chicago green building Webinar, “LEED® and Sustainable Design.”

1.Lighting consumes a negligible amount of energy in most buildings.
True or false?

2.Unchecked consumption of the finite__________reserve drives more exploration and extraction at a higher economic cost, and displaces more natural resources at a higher environmental cost.
a. solar energy
b. fossil fuel
c. nuclear power
d. grain ethanol

3.Energy-recovery ventilators can recover _____ percent of the energy that would be lost in conditioning air.
a. 40
b. 60
c. 80
d. 100

4.Green roofs reduce run-off and the need for greater sewage capacity.
True or false?

5.What does USGBC stand for?
a. United States Green Beautification Committee
b. Uniform Standards for Green Buildings and Commissioning
c. United States Green Building Council
d. United Society of Green Builders and Craftspeople

6.Underfloor ventilation can have advantages over overhead airflow systems because warm air rises.
True or false?

7.The four certification levels in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) are:
a. Certified, Yellow, Blue, Green
b. Silver, Gold, Platinum, Green
c. Approved, Enhanced, Upgraded, Certified
d. Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum

8.When it comes to LEED® credentials, buildings and projects are certified and people are_____.
a. graduated
b. honored
c. accredited
d. approved

9.Equipment in a green building cannot use CFC-based_____.
a. refrigerants
b. lubricants
c. fuels
d. illumination

10.Rainwater can be harvested and used for which of the following purposes?
a. Watering lawns
b. Eye-wash stations
c. Flushing toilets
d. A and C
e. All of the above

1. False; 2. b. fossil fuel; 3. c. 80; 4. True; 5. c. United States Green Building Council; 6. True; 7. d. Certified, Silver, Gold, Platinum; 8. c. accredited; 9. a. refrigerants; 10. d. A and C.
NOTE: If you scored seven or more correct answers, consider yourself green-friendly.

Publication date:03/03/2008