GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted
Green Building Curmudgeon

If Your Company is New to Green Building, You’ll Need a New Way to Run Your Jobs

BUILDING A NEW WAY REQUIRES INCONTESTABLE COMMUNICATION. If you're going to build green, it's important that everyone involved in the project knows exactly what is expected of them. In systems building, if someone resorts to their old way of doing things, it could negate the careful work of others.
Image Credit: Fine Homebuilding

How to Manage a Green Building Team

Don’t let the little things bite you in the assets.

Project management, while not rocket science, requires skills that range from technical to interpersonal to creative. Project management for green building adds layers to this already complex process.

Green-building certification programs typically exceed the building code, require extra documentation, and frequently involve the incorporation of materials and methods unfamiliar to many trade contractors. As a project manager of a green job, your challenge is to: (1) clearly understand how the job’s requirements differ from your normal process, (2) communicate those differences to the job site, and (3) confirm that the requirements are met throughout the process.

It’s all about the variances from the norm, and their side effects. As project managers, we need to watch out for variances and how they affect the rest of the project. The stuff we do the same way is easy; it’s the variances that cause problems. Identifying those variances and managing them throughout the process is the key to successful project management.

Start by reviewing the checklist for your green building program. First, identify any of the required or prerequisite items that differ from your standard procedures. Next, check off each item that you intend to include in your project, again, noting anything that differs from your standards. From these you create your list of variances.

Assign each variance item to a specific trade or employee, based on their skill set or work scope. After this assignment process, there may be some leftover items that you haven’t found anyone to take responsibility for—these are the most important variances, the ones that will get you in real trouble if you don’t manage them carefully.

One area that requires careful attention is air sealing and insulation. If you are used to having a trade contractor price up insulation and fire caulking that just meets the code and lets you move to drywall, you should be prepared to change the scope of work on your projects.

Start by reading the Energy Star Thermal Bypass Checklist Guide
  to review the difference between the various grades of insulation work and how to seal the entire building envelope. Get an expert to walk you through your project and point out all the places that require solid blocking or spray foam to seal up the air leaks. Then get your insulation contractor to give you a quote for the work the way you want it, and inspect everything at the end to make sure it is all complete and correct. Sometimes the insulation contractor can’t or won’t do all the air sealing or blocking work you need—that is when you must assign those tasks to another team member to ensure that the work is completed.

The “house as a system” concept also is key—understanding how each part of the house affects the others will help you avoid unintended consequences. For example, if your HVAC contractor does not take into account the decreased load on the house provided by high-performance insulation and air sealing, oversize HVAC equipment will be installed. That can cause short cycling, humidity issues, and high energy bills—problems for you and your homeowners.


  1. Annette Stelmack | | #1

    Project Collaboration
    As a project manager, Carl’s perspective is spot on, a great place to start regardless if you are at the jobsite or in the design office. As designers we have a remarkable opportunity coupled with profound responsibility to serve our clients needs at the highest level possible. To me that means embracing green design and building solutions at every turn and corner – research, decisions, specifications, site coordination through installation. The choices we make in our daily and professional lives have broad reaching effects on our health and the health of the planet. Take a moment to pause, on all projects whether big or small, and get together with your project team – client, architect, designer, sub-consultants, contractor, trades – to develop and champion your projects mission, vision and goals. This is important through-out the design, construction and installation phases of the project and as a follow-up with your clients down the road 1 to 2 to 3 to 5 years after the project is completed. Without exception, I’ve found that when the project team agrees upon the direction, objectives and strategies that success is a certainty and a joyful, supportive journey! Inviting everyone to the table through an integrated design and construction process is essential and the synergies from the teams collective wisdom delivers a project at the highest level of sustainability for that client.
    Annette Stelmack – Sustainable Interior Designer & Consultant

  2. Mike Guertin | | #2

    Integrated Project Delivery
    Environmental Building News had a great cover article on Integrated Project Delivery in the November Issue

    It seems the most practical methodology to conduct a green building project from inception through finish. It's well worth a read and goes beyond Carl's supervision points.

  3. Lynn Underwood | | #3

    Standards for meeting Green Building Programs
    Carl's got it right. It takes a lot of work and coordination for a Project manager to fully develop any project that is also green. A P.M. supervising a green construction project, becomes, more than anything, a teacher. Most subcontractors will deny their ignorance of green building materials or methods and instead, portray themselves as fully knowledgable. Usually this is innocent. However, in all cases, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and all other trades will need to be introduced to the nuances of an energy efficient measure before and during their work. Doing otherwise may result in a slipshod installation, negating the value added by green principles. I speak from professional experience during code change cycles where contractors and subcontractors are slow to accept and implement a new requirement.

    Using Energy Star Thermal Bypass checklist is absolutely of value. However, be sure and check if the jurisdiction has implemented a green building program. A program such as this will have specific requirements that may be different than the Energy Star guidelines. In a program such as this, there will be a similar checklist of items that must be verified to meet compliance with such a program.

Log in or create an account to post a comment.



Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |