Message From the President: Ever-changing Sustainability

Prez_LRKeith Robinson, FCSC, RSW, CCS, LEED AP
Recently, I was researching into volatile organic compound (VOC) levels for epoxy coatings to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Healthcare requirements. I was well aware of the different levels of familiarity with sustainable measures, and how challenging they are to incorporate into specifications. Why is there no guideline document to help write specifications for this? But then I remembered the planned CSC Green Tek-Aid… and why it never came to be.

It was a high-quality document with thousands of hours of development and review time. However, as the publication date drew near, the next cycle of LEED updates happened, which meant the Tek-Aid would have been outdated by the time CSC members received it. Therefore, executive council and the board decided not to publish it, instead focusing members’ valuable contributions to more tangible goals like French translation.

The five ever-evolving LEED programs, with their varying levels of reporting and performance requirements, along with competitors like Green Globes, have complicated specifiers’ efforts. Most of these rating systems are becoming more stringent, requiring time to research and gather sufficient information to provide to the constructor.

In the past, it was just a matter of determining which materials met the specification, and then having them installed. Now, the constructor’s job is complicated by trying to fulfil not only the technical performance requirements of the component products within the specification, but also the layer of documentation required for appropriate sourcing. Severe delays are typical when procurement does not begin early enough in the project.

Owners are also challenged, wanting to do the right thing, but faced with the consequences of decisions arising from the competing rating systems. Delays can be inconvenient, and may have financial consequences. Doing things differently to meet sustainable targets also means the building’s quality may not be what was expected, as the tradespeople learn to adjust to different product properties and implement new skillsets or technologies.

In a world of constant evolution with pressure to build more sustainable buildings, there are too many variables to consider in our decision-making requirements to rely on outdated documents. Nothing can replace appropriate research—falling back on a single guide document like the once-proposed Tek-Aid is often a misguided effort. We need to rely on multiple sources of information and verify project performance requirements more diligently than at any time in the history of specification writing.

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