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Green Builders

The Job

The Environmental Protection Agency defines green building—also known as sustainable or high-performance building—as "the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and deconstruction. This practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort."

Green builders aim to create energy-efficient (and low-maintenance) buildings at reasonable costs while conserving resources. They build healthy structures that have as little impact as possible on the environment. Commercial and residential buildings that are green are now identified through the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designation. LEED is a universal rating system that the U.S. Green Building Council created in 2001 for sustainable standards through the lifecycle of a building, including design, construction, operations, and maintenance.

Green builders may also be known as construction or project managers, constructors, project engineers, or general contractors. They coordinate, plan, and direct a variety of construction projects, such as the building of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, and schools and hospitals. They may be responsible for the entire project or just a part of it. It's up to them to pull together a team of specialty trade contractors and oversee their work throughout the project. Managers might either own their own building company or work on staff with a company. Property owners, developers, and contracting firms overseeing the projects also contract construction managers.

Construction managers work with owners, engineers, architects, designers, and others, making sure that the planning, scheduling, and implementation of the construction design meets specifications. Complex projects, such as industrial complexes and office buildings, entail larger teams and greater division of labor. For these projects, the specific types of work people are hired to do include the following:

  • site preparation, which often includes clearing land
  • creating or replacing sewage systems
  • landscaping and road construction
  • building construction, which includes excavation, foundation laying, and structural framework erection
  • building systems, such as fire protection, electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, and heating

Green construction managers also make sure that the materials used are green materials. They recycle and reuse building materials to reduce waste and conserve energy. Types of materials they use may be locally or regionally available; salvaged, refurbished, or remanufactured; and those having independent certification, such as certified wood. Construction managers figure out the best way to get the materials to the building site, keeping the project's budget and deadline in mind. They oversee worker productivity and safety, use of tools and equipment, and construction quality. They create the steps involved in the project and delegate and oversee the jobs. Depending on their role, they may select general and trade contractors for such work as plumbing, metalworking, painting, and carpet installation. It's also up to them to secure the building permits and licenses, and, in some cases, to make sure all construction activity meets insurance requirements.

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