Project plans cover green standards
When Aurora, Ill., officials approved plans to build a new police facility in 2007, they wanted contractors that would ensure the project met certain energy efficiency and environmental standards, says the project’s manager Barb Katterman. So, those factors were important criteria for selection in the city’s request for proposals (RFP) and bidding procedures. “If [a company] didn’t understand [green standards], we didn’t even want them to bid on the project,” she says. A growing number of cities and counties now are including green and sustainability goals in their RFPs and are requiring prospective contractors to demonstrate their abilities to reach those goals.
While most people have a general idea of the term “environmentally friendly,” that definition becomes less clear when discussing product details, says Brent Moss, director of marketing for the Herndon, Va.-based National Institute of Governmental Purchasing (NIGP). RFPs can specify product standards, such as the amount of recyclable material that should be used.
Aurora hired Baton Rouge, La.-based Shaw Environmental to help set the standards for its police building — which would include its headquarters, garage and training support facility — to ensure it would be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified and highly sustainable. “They designed for us an entire proposal of how to go into this, including the very moment [we] go out to bid and what [we will] include in [the] invitation to bid documents, what [we] require in [our] contracts, and how [we will] write it into [our] specs,” Katterman says.
In the city’s bid process, contractors that would be responsible for attaining the LEED requirements were either pre-qualified or had to prove their qualifications during a post-bid review. The post-bid reviews can last for three to four hours and involve detailed conversations about green standards that are then included in the final contract.
Government procurement officers are becoming aware of the need to verify the legitimacy of any “green seal of approval” a company claims to hold on products it manufactures or uses, Moss says. “[Some seals may be] more marketing hype and self-serving to the company that is issuing them,” he says. LEED and the Green Seal and EcoLogo programs are generally considered to be legitimate seals, Moss says. Officials can verify that a company issuing a seal is an independent auditing firm that evaluates products.
Although Aurora did not specify that product suppliers involved in the project needed a particular green seal, almost every company that submitted bids had some kind of green certification. “We feel that the industry is too new and too changing at present [to pursue only companies with green seals],” Katterman says. By the time one company has acquired a seal and changed their letterhead to reflect it, another company may have already made further advancements in the same field, she says. “We don’t want to limit ourselves to that group of certified companies,” she says.
NIGP members are sharing their experiences with incorporating green standards into the procurement process on the organization’s Web site, www.nigp.org under the “Knowledge Communties” tab. “It’s absolutely top of mind for probably the majority of purchasing people, but it’s also at the earlier stages of learning how to put out the RFPs that are going to bring in the bids that are going to reflect the standards that really are legitimate,” Moss says.