Many contractors are new to the idea of sustainability and the specifics of the LEED certification process. Pay careful attention to writing LEED requirements into the construction documents—keeping the following points in mind—so that the contractor understands how integral LEED is to the success of the project.

  1. Eliminate the fear factor. Use the pre-bid meeting to educate potential contractors about the LEED process, discuss what their role will be, and preview examples of the documentation they'll be required to submit. This information brings in better bids the first time around.
  2. Decode LEED-speak. LEED uses materials and standards new to even seasoned contractors. Help them understand industry terms like “chain-of-custody”(1) and acronyms like “SMACNA.”(2)
  3. Set procedures. Define the material-approval procedure and the contractor's schedule. Provide a sample cover sheet to ensure all LEED information is submitted. Highlight material selection on supporting docs (like material safety data sheets or manufacturer's cut-sheets) for quick and accurate review.
  4. Require reports. Monthly progress submittals are necessary to track the contractor's progress with LEED certification goals. For best results, require these reports to coincide with the contractor's pay applications.
  5. Designate a driver. Should the contractor submit documentation for construction credits directly to LEED-Online or hand over the docs to the architect to review and submit? The former option allows more buy-in from the contractor, saving you review and edit time.
  6. Get verified. Commissioning, or “Cx,” is a third-party verification and documentation process for energy-related systems. It's also a LEED prerequisite. Include commissioning in the construction documents, as the contractor has a participating role.
  7. Cost counts. Contractors need to be forewarned that a total materials cost is required when pursuing many material and resource LEED credits. Cost breakouts will be required for some specific materials, such as wood and recycled content.
  8. Plan for Plan B. Mandate a substitution policy, because alternative materials the contractor selects may not have the same LEED value as the original selection.
  9. Place the waste. Before construction starts, contractors need to submit a construction waste management plan for separating and recycling so-called trash.

(1) “Chain-of-custody” refers to the Forest Stewardship Council's certification program for wood products.

(2) “SMACNA” is the acronym for the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association, which publishes a LEED-recognized standard for indoor air quality during construction.

Valerie Walsh is principal of LEED Management Services, a LEED consulting firm in Boulder, Colo.