Originally posted Friday, 18 January 2013

Written by Ted Argyle

In my last column, I described the ways in which COAA’s Spring Owners Leadership Conference caused me to reflect on the hallmarks of a successful owner that might not be measured by traditional methods – things such as selecting the project delivery method based on the needs of the project and owner, configuring and applying new technologies for the local area, listening to the perspectives of other partners in the construction process, and knowing when to ask for help.

I noted that COAA has consistently provided owners an opportunity to learn these skills from our peers and other members of the construction industry. It seems to me that another hallmark of a successful Owner is learning and improving through study of current industry dialogs.

There have been many such dialogs occurring this summer, one of which has been the place of sustainability standards in the construction industry. An example of that more general dialog is the GSA rating system debate.

As many of you are aware, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), whose “green” construction rating system known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) has been widely recognized and adopted, is reviewing its current standards. The LEED standards were last revised in 2009. The vote was originally scheduled for earlier this summer, but was rescheduled for next year when the USGBC received over 20,000 responses to its proposed standards.

Further discussion has been generated on the issue of whether or not the GSA should be mandating LEED as the standard for construction of federal buildings, or whether some other standard should be selected.

COAA is continuing to monitor discussions on LEED and other sustainability standards and will be updating its members on any new standards adopted. What I find remarkable about these two discussions, however, is what is not being debated. The dialog about LEED is not that sustainability standards shouldn’t be applied in today’s construction process; it is about which standard of sustainability is appropriate and what the standard should contain. Those involved in the discussion apparently agree that sustainability is a fundamental requirement of the construction design. Sustainability standards are now a key component of every successful owner’s toolbox.

Another discussion occurring this summer has centered on analysis of the U.S. Economy and whether or not the construction industry and construction in general will begin to see real growth in the coming months. Again, what is interesting is that the discussion seems to be focused on when, not if, the economy will begin to pick up steam. I realized that there are as many economic predictions as there are economists. In comparison to predictions from last year, however, the outlook is generally when and not if construction will improve. Assuming the economists are correct, it is no longer a question of how much farther down will we go, but rather from the bottom where we are now, how fast will the climb up be? Now seems like a good time to sharpen your skills.

In July I had an opportunity to attend the Society of Marketing Professional Services conference in San Francisco. While there, I represented COAA in a panel on industry trends. On the panel with me were the representatives from the Urban Land Institute, the Society of American Military Engineers, and the Society for College and University Planning. The discussion was lively and interesting. The panel members were fairly unanimous in their view that all partners in the construction process need to be familiar with industry advances such as sustainability, building information modeling, prefabrication, and collaborative project delivery methodologies.

All of which brings me to the point: Successful Owners must be aware of industry trends and new tools, and place themselves in a position to use technological advances and new information for the benefit of their construction projects. It is primarily through my connections with other Owners in COAA that I am able to sift through volumes of data to find the important kernels of help that can keep my client Owner current with industry trends and prepared to address the needs of tomorrow’s construction projects. COAA’s e-forum, e-mail connections with peers, training opportunities, webcasts, and conferences provide valuable triangulation and enable an Owner to be prepared for tomorrow’s construction world. I hope you will count on COAA to help you learn, improve, and keep abreast of current industry developments.

I hope you also will continue to count on COAA to help you prepare for and be a successful Owner on tomorrow’s construction projects.