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Green Building Consulting Goes Hand in Hand with Corporate Social Responsibility

posted 10 Feb 2013, 07:49 by Yusuf Turab
Muhammed asks: Hello, I am a business development manager in a company that provide building materials to Africa from Dubai and china. Part of our CSR we would like to consider the environment when building. So our company wants to expand its horizon to start providing consultancy services about LEED and green buildings to respective people in Africa. So I am asking the requirements and steps to be a company that provide consultancy to contractors, architects and all.

Advice provided by: Yusuf Turab, Y T Enterprises

Dear Muhammed

Thanks for your question. Since you have provided limited details on the kind of materials you trade in, I will try and keep this response as general as possible and not talk about green building materials.

Firstly, you need to be careful not to mix up your CSR (corporate social responsibility) message. While being environmentally responsible in your projects is a valid CSR initiative, providing LEED related services is a multi-billion dollar business today and has very limited CSR value.

Green construction industry alone is going to be worth $60 billion this year and a lots of people are becoming very rich while claiming to save the environment, so any such CSR message has to be very carefully planned so as not to send the wrong message to your customers.

Secondly, in my personal opinion environmental consideration in business is a little old fashioned way of demonstrating CSR. Environmental consideration is more on the mandatory side of things these days.

Green building consulting has proved to be a lucrative business model and it has worked brilliantly for many architecture and building contracting firms around the world. In your case you need to first examine if the LEED standard is accepted in the markets you work in. I know South Africa has a a rating system called Green Star SA but I do not think any other African nation follows any particular green building standard. This makes it very hard to market or command a premium on green buildings in the continent.

In any case to provide Green building consultancy, an organisation needs to have through understanding of the rating systems they plan to work with. Assuming you plan to work with LEED, your organisation needs to train its staff in the LEED NC rating system and then maybe branch out to the other rating systems within the LEED suite. You can also employ experienced LEED Accredited Professionals. Most LEED APs have thorough understanding of the standard and usually come with sufficient project experience to start taking up projects immediately. LEED APs also tend to have a good understanding of various building products and are good judges of what is considered to be a Green material and what is not. There is also plenty of paper work involved in filing submittal documentation for each credit attempted. So you will also need admin staff with some understanding of the rating system.

Once you have such a team in place, your company needs to start concentrating on learning latest green building practices. Try to gain knowledge of the latest building materials, fixtures and their environmental credentials along with latest technologies in the form of lighting, controls, automation, renewable energy, greywater systems, green roofs, glazing, heat pumps, HVAC etc. You will also need to create strategic partnerships with manufacturers so that you can source these materials for your clients easily. Just ensure you carry out a very strict evaluation of these manufacturers and their products before you recommend it to your customers.

Along with all this your organisation will need to have the ability to carry out advanced simulation for energy and lighting consumption in building designs. Find courses that can help your staff gain this knowledge and encourage them to practice till they can perfect it. Or you can also simply outsource this part of the job to freelance energy modellers, whichever suits your business model.

None of this is going to happen overnight, it can take many months to a year until you can create all the above and claim to be a full service green building consultancy. Once you have achieved this, you only need to do these three things, marketing, marketing, marketing.

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