As the green movement continues its forward momentum, numerous contractors are well ahead of the learning curve, thanks to a comprehensive qualification program, courtesy of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA).

The MSCA GreenSTAR qualification program, first implemented in May 2007, celebrates continued commitment to environmental stewardship and energy cost savings. The program was created to recognize contractors meeting or exceeding rigorous operating and training energy-efficiency standards and has grown to be recognized as one of the most sought-after HVACR contractor designations worldwide.

GreenSTAR contractors represent less than the top 1 percent of green contractors nationwide.

“Contractors that have shown the ability and expertise to step to the forefront and provide real cost-savings options through energy conservation measures to their customers are recognized as MSCA GreenSTAR members, and as proactive leaders in the energy solutions industry,” said Elinore Tibbetts, director of marketing and communications, MSCA. “Since HVAC equipment accounts for over 35 percent of all controllable operating costs in a building, and energy represents the single largest expense, GreenSTAR contractors can truly make a difference by providing real and substantial savings to their customers.”

Here three of these contractors share their experiences from the forefront of the green movement.

PSR Mechanical

PSR Mechanical, Seattle, one of MSCA’s first GreenSTAR qualified contractor members, has been involved with the LEED Existing Buildings (EB) program since it was first released.

The company said energy efficiency is one of the most important components of a sustainability program and has been a part of its repertoire for decades.

“As a service company, we wanted to integrate energy savings and sustainability into our service offerings. This was a move away from emphasizing energy projects, and towards making energy and sustainability a part of everything we do, not only projects, but service agreements, and even within our own facilities,” said Neil Bavins, director of business development, PSR Mechanical. “I think, in some ways, we tried to do too much, too soon — even in green Seattle there is still a broad range of attitudes in the marketplace toward sustainability. These days we focus on customizing what we offer to meet the individual needs of each customer.”

Acknowledging that the technical and service skills of their technicians is a key differentiator, the staff at PSR jumped at the opportunity to be one of MSCA’s first GreenSTAR contractors.

“We felt GreenSTAR was a great fit with our strategy of integrating energy and sustainability into our service offerings,” said Bavins. “Service technicians have a huge influence over the efficiency of our customers’ facilities, and we need to provide them with the training and support to champion the cause at a grassroots level.”

Bavins said green advancements elevate the value and importance of the HVAC industry.

“The HVAC contractor is in the best position to provide efficiency and sustainability services,” he said. “Adding value and being perceived as a subject matter expert keeps us from being perceived as a commodity.”

Crockett Facilities

Mark Crockett, vice president and owner, Crockett Facilities, Bowie, Md., said the company’s green principles have evolved over time.

“I’ve been managing facilities for more than 20 years and I don’t think we ever sat down and said in a board meeting, ‘We’re going green,’” he said. “We’ve been on the forefront of the efficiency movement for years.”

After building its client base, Crockett Facilities’ staff began offering an Energy Savings Solutions audit.

“This process allows us to benchmark each building. Using the data, we discuss building performance with the facility’s managers, showing them comparisons to buildings of similar sizes,” he said. “From there, we can address energy-saving concepts, return on investment, and help them craft a plan to reduce energy costs.”

Crockett said the process can be lengthy, but many managers have a hard time turning down a 30 to 40 percent energy savings, which, in a large building, could save as much as six figures annually.

“It’s a long sales cycle, but we try to approach consumers that we have already built a trusting relationship with,” he said. “It’ll often include numerous meetings with different executives, and the process will have to be explained several different ways, but once you reach an agreement, it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

In 2010, Crockett Facilities became involved with the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA). The staff then connected with MCAA’s sister organization, MSCA — earning the MSCA STAR designation in 2010, and eventually the GreenSTAR qualification in 2011.

“The GreenSTAR contractor title has helped us transition into more of an advising role. We are now able to help with capital planning, which is a totally different game than periodic maintenance,” said Crockett. “This program has certainly helped us further the relationship with our customers.”

MSCA offers numerous educational tools, which Crockett’s employees have utilized extensively over the last several years.

“If you are a service contractor in the HVAC world, and you want to learn more about the green sector and the HVAC industry, I’d suggest you connect with MSCA,” he said. “You can’t find a better organization for training and education purposes in this industry.”

J.C. Cannistraro

As construction projects in the Greater Boston area began adopting the LEED rating system, J.C. Cannistraro was involved from the very beginning, assisting with production at the Genzyme World Headquarters facility in Cambridge, Mass., and the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter in Boston.

“Our sustainable efforts are still evolving to this day. One facet of our business we see growing in the future is our participation in projects that call for energy conservation measures,” said Mike Cannistraro, vice president of service and engineering. “Our firm’s capabilities for both construction and service puts us in a position to really provide value to owners on these types of projects.”

Cannistraro said it’s a privilege to be lumped together among the elite GreenSTAR contractors across the nation.

“Becoming qualified to be a GreenSTAR contractor took time, but it was well worth the effort,” he said. “The program has continued to support our status as a thought leader in the industry and a premier mechanical service provider.”

The desire to be green has spurred a wealth of development across the company’s workforce.

“At the end of the day, we are ultimately in the real estate business,” said Cannistraro. “People want to live and work in green buildings; therefore we only see the demand for green development increasing.”

Creating a Green Machine

For those interested in breaking into the green world, PSR Mechanical’s Bavin suggests enrolling in as many LEED courses as possible.

“It’s imperative that you get involved in LEED. I’d also suggest having one or more certified energy managers on staff,” he said. “Then, green up your own facility, so you’ll understand firsthand what customers will be dealing with.”

Crockett suggests that contractors dipping their toes in the green stream for the first time find a niche area, and stick with it.

“You could really go broke trying to be the all-green everything to all people,” said Crockett. “I suggest finding a green product or service that works well with a function you already have in place. Then, become an expert in that particular field.

“Develop a strategic plan that maps out your ultimate green goals and reference your plan regularly. It’s also important that you network with organizations and like-minded people, as they’ll help you reach your goal much more efficiently than you can on your own.”

Mike Cannistraro said his company has embraced its MSCA GreenSTAR membership, using its philosophies to help save customers more than $100,000 in energy costs in 2010, alone.

“Our affiliation with MCAA and MSCA has given us the opportunity to elevate our firm to one of the most sustainable, energy-savvy contractors in the U.S.,” said Cannistraro.

The company’s experience on the Genzyme World Headquarters — Boston’s first LEED Platinum project — opened the door for continued green building opportunities.

“After our work at Genzyme, we began to see multiple opportunities to implement the lessons learned from our early successes,” said Cannistraro. “Some of these initial steps included utilizing energy benchmarking, building performance assessments, green retrofits, and mechanical-based utility rebate programs, which all spurred new business opportunities.”

Sidebar: GreenSTAR Criteria

GreenSTAR contractors are recognized as leaders in energy-conservation solutions and measures, including energy benchmarking services, energy audits, retrofits, building operations, and retro-commissioning. A GreenSTAR company is recognized as an Energy Star partner and must employ LEED-certified, energy or sustainability specialists. Technicians must complete a stringent five-year training program and pass a comprehensive exam.

A companywide service safety and health program must be in place, an inventory control system must be established, and customer service must meet the highest MSCA standards.

Additionally, employees must participate in ongoing energy-specific training programs to ensure the proper state-of-the-art solutions meeting federal and local standards are implemented.

Since its inception, more than 60 contractors nationwide have joined the group, with more applications arriving daily.

“By attaining MSCA GreenSTAR status, contractors demonstrate their dedication to environmental issues by promoting sustainability throughout their entire organization and delivering the very best environmental solutions to their customers,” said Barbara Dolim, executive director, MSCA. “With increasing pressures on building owners and operators to tighten budgets and implement sustainable initiatives, market conditions have never been more favorable for contractors to step to the forefront and provide real cost-savings options through energy conservation measures to customers.”

Sidebar: MSCA GreenSTAR Website

MSCA recently unveiled a brand new website,, specifically designed for GreenSTAR contractors and companies considering applying for the qualification.

The site also provides a list of information for property managers and owners looking to hire a GreenSTAR contractor for their HVACR and plumbing business. With the launch of the site, GreenSTAR companies now have access to a variety of qualified members-only resources to help them promote and enhance their GreenSTAR status including:

• A marketing library includes logos to add to emails, websites, and more; a sample press release to announce their GreenSTAR status; a customizable marketing brochure; and much more. The GreenSTAR Store is where GreenSTAR contractors can order uniform patches, bumper stickers, and a customizable DVD they can post on their website or take on the road with them when they are on sales calls.

• A “Contractor Resources” page includes news and articles about providing energy-saving services.

• A portal to the MSCA’s exclusive Energy Solutions Profile (ESP) software allows GreenSTAR companies to import data from Energy Star Portfolio Manager to create a report for current and prospective customers.

Also on the site is information about the GreenSTAR program and the requirements to be met in order to meet the qualification. Companies considering applying will find forms and instructions to walk them through the process, plus they have access to the contractor resources page with news and articles about how to provide energy-saving services. Lastly, the new GreenSTAR website’s “Find a GreenSTAR Contractor” page allows companies looking to hire an energy solutions provider for their HVACR and plumbing business to find a company by specialty or state. Each GreenSTAR profile includes a company description, link to the company website, contact details, and other important information.

In addition, the “For Building Managers” page includes a host of stories, written by representatives of the GreenSTAR companies themselves, about how energy-saving services can benefit them.

Publication date: 11/12/2012