Sustainable Construction Best Practices: LEED Lessons Learned

April 22, 2020
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As a leader in the design and construction industry, Brasfield & Gorrie supports sustainable efforts by incorporating thoughtful, cost-effective project options, regardless of whether the project will pursue LEED® or other sustainable certification. We have learned valuable lessons since the early 2000s from our work on sustainable projects, including several for the General Services Administration (GSA)—the largest owner/operator of buildings in the world and a leader in incorporating LEED® requirements, resiliency, and sustainability in its projects.

Brasfield & Gorrie has a growing portfolio of land port of entry (LPOE) work with GSA. Two GSA LPOE projects in Laredo, Texas—Convent Avenue and Juarez-Lincoln—involved sustainable construction techniques that can be applied to many projects.

The GSA requires new construction to obtain LEED Gold certification and requires modernizations, repairs, and alterations to obtain LEED Silver certification. Committed to accomplishing and outperforming the GSA’s LEED targets, we helped promote Convent Avenue LPOE from LEED Silver to LEED Gold certification, and we are currently in the process of achieving LEED Platinum certification for Juarez-Lincoln LPOE an improvement from the original target of LEED Gold.

The Solution: Sustainable Upgrades

Many of the challenges presented by the Convent and Juarez-Lincoln LPOE sites stemmed from construction upgrades to historic buildings and the scarcity of local material to source. Some of the focused LEED efforts included:

  • remediating brownfield site asbestos
  • using recycled materials from the demolition
  • creating efficient stormwater design
  • developing water-efficient natural landscaping (pollinator habitat)
  • installing an optimized energy performance HVAC system
  • relocating existing photovoltaic panels from old to new buildings
  • mitigating heat islands by installing canopies and paving
  • using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) blocking and wood features.

Of particular note is the installation of the pollinator habitat, which included transforming gravel and bare locations into vegetated areas that support water retention and promote the health and well-being of bees, butterflies, and moths. In addition to promoting sustainability, incorporating flowering plants satisfies a 2009 executive order that expanded the energy reduction and environmental performance requirements for federal agencies and buildings.

Takeaways for Sustainable Construction

If you are pursuing LEED or other sustainable certification for your project, Brasfield & Gorrie can guide you through a seamless process, drawing on lessons learned from our portfolio of successful sustainable design and construction projects.

Our team will keep up with documentation during construction efforts for an easier certification process and will incorporate LEED or other sustainable requirements in subcontract scopes. When planning for demolition efforts, we research the project’s local recycling standards and reception facilities and plan accordingly.

Whether or not a project is pursuing LEED or other sustainable certification, we can help guide clients toward incorporating the latest renewable energy technology. The incorporation of easy, effective project upgrades such as LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures, and water-efficient landscaping support sustainable efforts and save clients money during the project’s life cycle.