LEED Specs Referenced in a Contract

A cabinetmaker puzzles over the implications of a contract clause requiring him to "comply with LEED requirements." October 27, 2009

I'm presently negotiating a contract that includes this language:
"Subtractor is required to comply with LEED requirements."

I am no stranger to environmental responsibility. However, I've found to date that my energies have been better (environmentally and personally) spent on my own due diligence than learning to negotiate the certification culture. As such, I could use a little primer as to the possible implications of this statement, so that I can request the correct clarifications, and charge appropriately. The project uses reclaimed decorative material, but this is the only specification on the millwork plans that seems to deviate from the norm.

To those of you doing LEED work, what do you do to expressly "comply"? Or is the shop certification process the only way to do a job like this?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor K:
You need to ask the GC for LEED specs. LEED projects can consist of several different credits. The most common are the use of no NAF added materials (which can cost significantly more than standard selections), the use of FCS certified materials (the cost is increased, there is additional paperwork involved), and the need for your shop to be certified is always up for debate. If this is a requirement, make sure you notify the customer that you are not FCS certified and that you will be using FCS certified products provided by a certified vendor. Also keep in mind you could have to use low VOC glues and finishes, and could possibly have to cut outside of the building at the install, to help with the air quality test. Itís been my experience also that you miss a lot of bids because the contractors do not understand the requirements and give the job to a low bidder that doesnít understand the requirements either. Not complying could cost you a small fortune, though. I still have 20 grand being held up on a 6 month old project in which the FSC credit was not handled correctly.

From contributor B:
It depends on what is required to comply. Like contributor K said, there should be some front end documents outside of the spec section you are bidding that addresses the LEED requirements. In other words, what certification level they are going for and what credits may apply to you specifically.

It may have to do with MRc4.1, 4.2 (both concern recycled content) EQc4.1, 4.2 and 4.4 (low emissions products), MRc5.1 and 5.2 (both concern regional materials), MRc6 (rapidly renewable materials) and it could require MRc7 (FSC certified materials).

You need to find out which and you need to bid accordingly. "Green" materials cost more and you have more paperwork to do to comply with the specs and to ensure that your firm contributes to the owner's goal of getting the building LEED certified. You may also have to use different adhesives, finishes, etc. to comply with the goals of low emissions sections.

You also need to let the contractor know that you are bidding "green" and to make sure that your competitors are bidding apples to apples. As stated, it could cost you by not doing it. The contractor probably has someone handling the LEED paperwork.

Shop certification is a different thing. To comply with MRc7 (certified wood) there is a chain of custody documentation from the forest to the mill to the distributor to you. If that chain of custody is broken (in other words if someone in the chain is not certified) then the owner won't get credit for the products you provide. If you install, it is my understanding you do not have to be certified.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. As the project stands, we've bid the job according to the plans and architect specs with a fairly detailed bid. The GC accepted the bid and sent the contract. Then, this bombshell appears in the contract. I've requested further details, and haven't signed yet. We'll see what happens.

From contributor K:
I have seen more and more LEED projects on the job boards. Seems like we all better get use to it.

From contributor G:
Treat the LEED requirements as a change order and modify your bid accordingly. Unless you were informed, or were offered the opportunity to be informed about the additional requirements. Don't expect them to like it. The buyer is not allowed to add additional terms not in the original bid and acceptance. You either have a change in the terms of the contract, or you don't have a contract yet, and their acceptance with the LEED requirement can be considered a counter offer. If in doubt, see your attorney.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
So far, the comments are spot on. Specifying LEED is meaningless as there are several levels and now a couple of standards. Even if, for example, silver was indicated there still isn't enough information. The LEED professional would indicate what areas are targeted for points and map out how the team might reach silver. Such efforts might include distance from point of origin, manufacturing process, and many others. Saying LEED in a contract is like saying all wood products must have cellulose - it is information, but it is also meaningless. I would ask for the LEED checklist and then develop an understanding of what items on that list might affect your work.