This is the final part of "Seven Practices of Highly Effective Green Building Consultants," an nine-part series from green building consultant Jerry Yudelson.
We've explored my seven practices for highly effective green building consultants:
- Be Proactive
- Visualize the End Goal
- Get Buy-In From the Team
- Think Win-Win
- Hold Charrettes
- Promote Integrated Design
- Sharpen the Saw
And now, a bonus practice for highly effective green building consultants: Keep Up with Technology.
In my recent series of blog posts, I’ve highlighted seven practices of highly effective green building consultants, but there’s one more practice that definitely deserves mention. It is this: Keep up with technology. Since 2010, the focus on green building projects has shifted to greening existing buildings, and there has been a great need for efficient and effective software tools that track building operations, especially in terms of sustainability variables such as Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions, water use, waste generation and recycling, and purchasing practices.
Know the Tools
Since 2012, the market has seen a radical improvement in cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) tools that aid in data acquisition, tracking, visualization, analysis, control and reporting, all of which are useful in securing LEED-EBOM ratings for existing buildings and in tracking building performance for certified new buildings. The term “energy dashboards” doesn’t begin to encompass what these new software tools are capable of doing with data. In fact, the intersection of real estate (buildings and portfolios of buildings), information technology, energy efficiency, and big data has created a revolutionary new environment for green building consultants—one that most consultants are not even aware of.
It’s critical that green building consultants master the variety of technology offerings that help to track a building’s energy and water use because performance disclosure and reporting is the defining green building trend of 2013.
For most of 2013, I’ve been working with an Australian software provider, Switch Automation, to help introduce its Cloud-based software tool in the U.S. This is just one of a number of other tools, from various providers, large and small.
There are many other technologies to master, including the various certification programs for healthy building materials, such as the Health Product Declaration. In fact, there are close to 300 certification programs for building products and materials. Being able to analyze building choices against the requirements of these certifications and to keep track of them while doing LEED preliminary analysis, final analysis and certification, will make you a definite asset to building teams.
Added to this, the requirements of Net Zero Energy certification and the Living Building Challenge’s ban on using any Red List chemicals make the technical requirements for being a green building consultant even more demanding. It’s going to become harder for solo practitioners or small consulting practices without a firm grasp of software tools to stay afloat, as the larger consulting organizations begin to show what they can do with superior resources. As a consequence, in 2012 and 2013 I’ve seen a number of very prominent green building consultants join larger organizations to gain access to larger projects, more international clients, and certainly to greater software tools and support.
Take Green Building to the Web
There’s another area of technology that green building consultants need to master, and that’s the world of social media and search engine optimization. On YouTube alone, more than 100 hours of new video content are posted every minute. What are you and your organization doing to create a video presence that will highlight your company’s capabilities? Twitter has just filed for a $1 billion stock offering that would value the company above $12 billion. What are you doing to showcase your ideas and projects on Twitter? Are your press releases getting read and posted on Google News so that they appear in Google Alerts (among other places)? Without mastering social media, how will you prove to prospective clients that you’re really an expert consultant and highly and knowledgeable about the industry?
It’s not enough anymore to be a LEED AP with specialty, as tens of thousands of others are similarly accredited. You’ve got to demonstrate that your green building consultancy contains something special for the client. In many cases, this means that you must bring new technologies with you to the table, along with your advisory and certification services.