As the standards to garner green building certifications grow stricter, it is more important than ever that the process involve a complete team of professionals, experts and vendors who understand the procedures, communicate regularly and work together to achieve established goals. 

The architect’s important role in leading the design effort can be supported and enhanced with the right team, which includes builders, contractors and construction material supply companies. The role of the building material supply company has become even more important in recent years due to more stringent requirements for the tracking and verification of where materials originate and how they are manufactured. 

More than two decades after the U.S. Green Building Council was formed, over 54,000 buildings have earned LEED certification. The number will only accelerate with the group finding that 40 to 48 percent of new nonresidential construction will be green, with up to $145 billion spent annually on the projects. The percentage of residential green projects is expected to spike in 2018 to 84 percent of the total from the current 15 percent. The USGBC says the investment in retrofitting existing buildings for going green will reach $960 billion over the next eight years.

According to USGBC reports, the two significant drivers of the green revolution are client and market demand, each named by about a third of business owners as the top reason to pursue that course. In addition, those seeking to sell a property are finding their buildings are in greater demand if they have earned a LEED certification.

The Green Construction Outlook and Trends market report by explains why property owners are demanding green building methods: 60 percent cited energy efficiency as the top reason. While higher initial costs were a challenge for many (69 percent), nearly half (48 percent) said revenues rose 10 percent in the 12 months after green construction was completed.

Maximizing a building’s green “score” or rating, thereby reducing energy bills, water usage and even improving employee productivity by creating a healthier work environment, can be accomplished by applying green design to nearly every aspect of a project. Recent advances have made green roofing a growing category, allowing ongoing savings in energy and water costs. The array of roofing products available is rapidly expanding.

With the LEEDv4 certification standards, the need for transparency in product sourcing has become central to the design and building process. Moving a green building concept from blueprint to construction requires coordination between architects, building suppliers, contractors, crews and clients. 

Once an architect’s plans are approved, the building material supplier is often a linchpin in the process. The supplier must find green and energy efficient materials from manufacturers and now ensure – unlike in the past – the provenance of all materials. Today the supplier is in a more vital position and this requires that it spend its time doing its homework as well as stays current and up-to-date on new materials, manufacturing processes and locations of production facilities. Gone are the days of simply ordering materials and waiting for delivery.  The ordering and tracking process has become complex and requires record keeping and validation.  

Details must be gathered on how products are made and how raw materials for those products are extracted. Where raw materials come from and how far they have to travel is also examined. Because manufacturers often closely guard such proprietary information it can be a challenge to secure this critical data. This requires the supply company to be an “investigator” and “researcher,” taking on the important responsibility of ensuring certification standards are met.

Logistical challenges must also be overcome. To get the proper “green” materials, special orders may need to be placed. This is not always a simple process. Suppliers work with manufacturers regularly and are in the best position to know if additional time is needed for delivery of these materials.  Some special order items have long lead times. Knowing this is vital because delayed deliveries could stop or slow down projects. As we know, work stoppages are costly and can hinder a project’s progress. Suppliers must watch and continually communicate with architects, project managers and builders before and during projects. This ensures ordering and delivery planning is properly coordinated.   

In addition, using green-sourced materials can necessitate changes to the building’s design. This requires communication with the project architect to ensure the integrity of the original design is maintained. Suppliers are also in a positon to recommend new or more easily accessible products and materials.  This can help to secure additional credits and improve efficiency.

Minimizing delays and tracking the sources of materials requires using an organized and detail-oriented building material supplier. Suppliers, who regularly work with manufacturers, are in the best position to know the sources of existing materials and what new materials are available.

Selecting a supplier with experience helps keep a project on schedule. A savvy supplier can leverage the information gathered on previous projects and utilize a database of material sources for rapid use for new projects while keeping the architect’s design on track. Such a database helps to keep projects on schedule by reducing the need for time-consuming research and allows the supplier to quickly locate a manufacturer for a particular product.

The building material supplier’s central role in the process enables it to work with architects and designers for making or potentially suggesting modifications while maintaining the integrity of the design concept. As a facilitator, the supplier receives a list of the construction materials needed for a project and determines availability and source. The list of available products is then submitted to the architect and general contractor for approval. After they are approved, the supplier must gather LEED compliance letters from manufacturers as part of the certification process. 

Suppliers are often the first to learn about new energy efficient materials and advanced building systems. This knowledge can aid in LEED or other green certification processes. Green-sourced products can be used in every aspect of a construction project from ceiling tiles and plaster wallboard to systems for wall or ceiling construction. Suppliers understand how to best incorporate materials and construction techniques into projects. They work hand in hand with co-contractors and facilities managers on planning and coordination of the delivery of materials, further ensuring project success.

An architect needs to rely on the expertise of a building material supplier to take a design from concept to reality. The right supplier can use expertise from previous jobs to source materials, keep a project on schedule and ensure green certification is earned, allowing the project’s owners to reap the short- and long-term benefits of green construction.