Picture a little boy with a tool belt and a hard hat speaking to his Dad:
“Daddy! Daddy! We’re going green!”
The father responds: “What is green?”
“I don’t know, but we’re going green!”
“How do you go green?”
“I don’t know, but we’re going green!”
“What do you get by going green, son?”
“I don’t know, but we’re going Green”!
Many builders want to go green, but few know how to build green, what it means, what they’ll get out of it or what the best way to do it is. There are many definitions for green and many standards and programs available to you as a builder, depending on the cost and pain you are willing to endure.
No matter how you do it, you need to look at what it will take for you to go green, who will be involved, what changes you will need to make and how you’ll get all this done. Experience shows that you need a well-designed management system in place to help you achieve your green goals. There are many standards for you to consider in starting this process. On the green side, you have state programs, the LEED program, some OHSAS requirements and the new NAHB Research Center /ANSI program. On the management side, you have several ISO programs and the builder-friendly National Housing Quality Award (NHQ) program.
First we need to tell you that we believe in integration (not duplication) and that we understand that most homes are built by a team made up of the builder’s staff, their trade partners and their suppliers. We also believe that going green means understanding what your stakeholders are looking for. We define stakeholders as you; your employees; your trade partners and suppliers; your community; and most importantly, your customers. But what do we mean by integration?
In world-class organizations across the industries, we have seen the increased application of ISO9001 (quality), ISO14001 (environmental) and OHSAS18001 (health and safety), which are the traditional approaches of operating quality; environmental; and health and safety management systems independently giving way to an integrated approach. The key advantage of integrating these management systems is the synergy created that result in increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Integrating ISO management systems is the first step in highlighting which systems complement each other. The integration also enhances their leverage to improve strategic performance. Often it is the lack of cross-functional understanding that limits the impact of quality and, therefore, its strategic impact, so ISO management systems are perceived as failing. But this systems synergy can be enhanced through their alignment with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award , which is based on the Criteria for Performance Excellence , increasing their strategic impact.
The Benefits of Integration
Integrating each of these management standards creates efficiencies in managing the systems and eliminates duplication of work, especially during audits. The ultimate aim needs to be improving the performance of quality, safety and environmental management, and creating a coherent system designed to improve the bottom line of the organization. Other benefits include reduced risk, eliminating conflicting responsibilities, increasing consistency and better communication. Integration should also focus on reducing departmental silos and increasing the use of organizational wide assessment. Breaking down barriers between departments and improving coordinated efforts to measure and monitor strategic and operational improvements is a huge benefit of good integration.
Other important issues emerge with the integrated approach, such as the use of an integrated database covering all of the disciplines. This means that document control; internal audits; and corrective and preventive actions can be recorded and tracked on a central system to ensure clear communication and coordination of efforts. If these metrics are then linked to a corporate scorecard, critical quality, environmental and health and safety aspects can become accessible to and will be regularly monitored at the strategic level. Duplication and repetition are eliminated.
ISO Management Systems in Home Building
You can take advantage of these synergies in the home building industry. The NHQ Builder Certification is the equivalent to ISO9001; the key management elements used in driving green building practices represents ISO14001; OHSAS requirements are the same; and the National Housing Quality Award has the equivalent standards of the Baldrige National Quality Program .
The integration of quality management and green building practices is the perfect alignment of technical and managerial best practices. While green building practices provide effective and efficient building methods, quality management systems provide effective and efficient methods to implement, manage, create consistency and reduce costs in achieving those building methods. Builders that already have quality systems in place find that green practices are easier to implement, adapt and sustain. One builder believes that he can build almost 40 percent more green homes because of the NHQ quality management systems (QMS) already in place.
While green certainly provides a marketing edge to promote your product through third-party certification and verification, its real value is in using building science to create a high-performing product. This includes creating a home with better air quality; less waste; more recycling; recycled products; less off gassing because of using no- or low-VOC products; and safer and more comfortable homes. None of this mentions the lower energy costs that are critical in our economic situation. Remember that while the size of an average U.S. home has gone from 1,000 square feet in 1950 to 2,400 square feet in 2008, residential buildings now represent 21 percent of national energy consumption — almost as much as transportation.
But, while all of the above provides a result for your customer and creates an edge in competition, green practices also allow you to save costs on waste and through such tools as value engineering and to create rationalized techniques such as advanced framing. The improved construction practices, supported by a robust QMS will also help reduce callbacks and warranty issues. All of this will give you an edge in this current market but also ensure that improved product and processes are in place when the market returns.
The Key to Green Building Success
The key elements of green building are:
1. Sustainable, durable, low-maintenance building design and operation
2. Energy efficiency and conservation
3. Site/land management, sustainability, reclamation and conservation
4. Water efficiency, management and conservation
5. Indoor air quality
6. Outdoor air quality
7. Material and resource management, recycling, reuse and conservation
8. Operation, maintenance and owner education
Whether you are using Energy Star, NAHB Model Green Building Guidelines, ICC-NAHB National Green Building Standards or another program, the key is conducting a gap analysis on your existing materials and methods of construction; selecting a program; planning transition; implementation; and sustaining the program. Quality tools and techniques ensure that all aspects of design and construction processes are conducted effectively and continually improved.
Quality can allow communication, planning, scopes of work, training, testing, plan evaluation, pilot homes, risk assessment, inspection and green program evaluations to be conducted. Other key tools used in quality such as Failure Mode and Effect Analysis  or simple fishbone or root cause charts can be used to determine risk mitigation. Finally it can provide the infrastructure to conduct the measurement and monitoring of key metrics to “Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control” (DMAIC) your green building program. The NHQA can ensure that customer satisfaction is evaluated and that the processes are aligned to ensure your organizations vision, mission and of course financial and non-financial results are achieved.
Without these systems in place, evaluating new methods and materials will be laborious and therefore costly. In addition, the wheel will be reinvented each time a new product or technique is introduced. The point, as discussed earlier with integrated management systems, is to create collaboration, ensuring that marketing, land development, purchasing, estimating, design, construction and warranty are all involved in home plan improvement and initial design.
Without a concurrent engineering format for designing new plans or updating existing ones, plans will have critical and repeatable errors in regard to constructability, defects, maintenance and warranty issues. Everything from customer requirements and satisfaction; public awareness; erosion control; orientation of the home on the site; the products used; the cost evaluation of each material and product; layout; window area; insulation; vapor; air tightness; sealing; and ease of maintaining of the home all need to be taken into consideration. But in the case of green building practices these issues will be made much worse if integration is not conducted. For green buildings to be successful, it is critical that from the concept through design phase cross functional groups be actively involved; otherwise, critical aspects required to achieve certification may not be achieved.
Role of Trade Partners
Finally, the actual building of the homes relies on our trade partners. A QMS developed by a builder also aims to connect to and drives quality into the organizations of their trade partners as well. This focuses on communications, defect reduction, training, inspection processes, problem solving techniques and customer satisfaction, to name a few aspects. When building green, such systems and enhanced relationships with your trades is even more important due to the coordination of changing materials, product and installation methods. Also the requirements and complexity of some products may be different, and a QMS ensures that these new requirements are communicated, scopes of work updated and methods adapted quickly on-site. The QMS ensures that you have a seamless quality process.
Perhaps the relationship between quality and green building practices can be boiled down the concept of the scale of production. You may be able to make an energy-efficient, green-certified home, which we all believe is loved by the customer. But how many are you able to build easily, quickly and cost effectively?
About the Authors
Serge Ogranovitch is a senior partner with the Potomack Group. Denis Leonard is president of Business Excellence Consulting. You can reach them at email@example.com  and DenisLeonard@BusinessExcellenceConsulting.net