High Profile recently interviewed Tiffany King, a LEED certified project manager at Commodore Builders. From a very early age, King knew her career would involve buildings. First she pursued a career in architecture, but quickly realized she couldn’t draw. Then she considered civil engineering, but realized she didn’t like being chained to a desk. Trial and error eventually led her to the field of construction, where she found the ideal balance between mobility, design and technical detail.
King’s career has taken her from a commercial general contractor in the mid-west, where she built concrete tilt-up warehouses and several large senior living facilities, to Commodore Builders, a construction management firm in Newton. Recently relocated and exploring her new hometown of Boston, her first assignment as a project manager at Commodore is managing a large office park project in Waltham. In addition to her project management responsibilities, King heads the sustainability initiatives of the growing firm. Accredited as a LEED AP in 2006, she is over-the-top enthusiastic about building green. She is a member of the USGBC and facilitates LEED Green Associate prep classes.
“I’m passionate about the sustainable side of construction and the importance of making sure buildings are built with minimal waste and the highest level of efficiency,” said King during our interview.
HiPro: The concept of sustainability is now ubiquitous in the A/E/C industry lexicon. It’s a buzz word. Is it also an expectation?
TK: There’s been a shift in the expectations of clients. Of course cost and schedule are still important for any construction project, but many building owners are also considering sustainability when selecting their team and developing their projects. They want architects and engineers who can design highly efficient buildings, and they want contractors who can build them correctly. These buildings will, in return, keep their maintenance costs down and their user satisfaction up. Building green is smart business.
HiPro: Is there a particular sector that has had a boost in green building?
TK: The hospitality sector has really jumped on the green building bandwagon. According to McGraw Hill Construction, the percentage of hotel owners investing in green building practices in over half of their building projects has increased by 20% in the last two years, and is projected to rise another 16% by 2015. There are strong financial reasons motivating the growth in green building. Hotel owners have realized that by building green, they are able to reduce their annual operating costs, reduce their energy use, and enhance their brand. All of these things help the bottom line. Again, good business!
HiPro: Are there green building rating systems other than LEED that aren’t getting enough attention?
TK: While the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system is a name people recognize, there are other certification options out there with a lot to offer. The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) recently recognized this and recommends both LEED and Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes systems for use in federal buildings. Green Globes is a user-friendly, on-line system that uses a series of questionnaires and provides automated reporting. It’s currently the only green building standard that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
More involved certifications are Passive House and the Living Building Challenge. Both of these systems are taking much larger steps to directly reduce green house gas emissions from the building sector by dramatically reducing or eliminating fossil fuel consumption. While they can certainly be a challenge for larger buildings, the design principles behind both systems are commendable and exciting!
HiPro: What do you feel is the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your experience with building green?
TK: Start early! The quickest way to create budget and schedule problems for a project is to change the design parameters midstream. Getting the entire project team – architect, engineers, client, and contractors – in the mindset of building sustainably from the beginning is key to building a successful project. There are a lot of green principles and features that can be easily integrated into a project design with no cost minimal cost impacts – if they are in place from the start.
HiPro: You say “no cost impacts,” but often times building green is considered more expensive. Is this true?
TK: There are two ways to look at cost: (1) the cost of green materials, and (2) the cost of the green systems. In general, the cost of green materials is going down as the demand is going up and more options are becoming readily available. For example, we used to be hard pressed to find a decent, low-VOC paint that fit in the standard budget. Now there are countless options available and at prices that are consistent with traditional paints. Photovoltaic (PV) power systems are another great example of falling costs. In 2012, the cost of installed PV systems fell 6-14% depending on size, from the prior year, and installed prices have already dropped another10-15% in the first half of 2013.When looking from a building system perspective, we can actually eliminate some of the traditional hard costs, such as expensive mechanical equipment, by integrating smart design and implementing passive techniques.
Tiffany King is a LEED AP BD+C certified project manager at Commodore Builders and specializes in corporate projects as well as sustainable initiatives for the firm.