Specifications and Submittals - You can't have what you don't ask for.
Session Recap: Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 

Specification content in Division 1 is one of the most critical areas for achieving LEED certification for a building. The session, Specifications and Submittals - You can't have what you don't ask for, covered technical sections and how to improve the requirements outlined from standard industry templates commonly used as starting points for building projects.

Speakers Linda Davisson, Senior Sustainability Strategist, and Emily Reese, Sustainability Director, Certifications & Compliance for Jacobs Engineering, covered the importance of specifications as contract documents that must be leveraged for a project’s success to ensure clear and reasonable requirements and consistent, ongoing communication between the contractors and designers.

 Although the session covered so many topics in the span of an hour, some of the highlights included submittal specs, managing the construction phase review process, embodied carbon reduction strategies, and lessons learned.

Submittal Specs help include enforceable requirements for better accountability through the end of certification processes.
  • Devision 1 Specs – the general requirements (procedural matters and temporary facilities)
  • Parts of Spec Section
  • Part 1 – General
  • Part 2 – Products
  • Part 3 – Execution
  • Types of specs: Performance vs. Proprietary
  • Contract documents are important to protect the owner and ensure key areas are complete
  • How sustainability fits into specs      
  • Consistent messaging in all documents (avoids confusion)
  • State all required rating systems and required goals (clarity upfront)
  • All construction submittals need to be approved
  • Construction waste management plan should define waste reduction goals and how they will be demonstrated 

The Construction Phase Review process was outlined by five steps to bring clarity and ensure the overall process accounts for all of the key sustainability initiatives. 
  • Preliminary Action Plans
  • Sustainable Design Submittal Log
  • Sustainable Design Submittals
  • Progress Reports
  • Best Practice = Best Outcome 

Embodied Carbon Reduction Strategies were also covered in terms of submittals and how to best account for EC within the specs. Key strategies include:
Establish the carbon footprint goals and state them in the sustainability section of the submittal
  • Perform iterative Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and require improvement upon the baseline with performance results
  • Successful EC reduction involves both design specifications and construction submittals
  • Utilize Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment (WBLCA) to inform specifications
  • Compare materials manufactured in the project region
  • If materials have Environmental Product Declarations (EDPs), require them in specs
  • If no EPDs, request from supplier during late design / procurement

Both speakers shared their lessons learned from embodied carbon and how to best account for the strategies in planning processes. The list includes:
  • Hold a construction kickoff meeting to establish goals
  • Attend regular progress meetings and reports
  • Establish a submittal review process
  • Build a collaborative team (Designers + Contractors)
  • Support the contractor in identifying new alternatives
  • Temper goals with construction costs
  • Ethical dilemmas in construction administration – there is no LEED Police – but you sign the LEED forms, and specs help hold them accountable 

With so much tactical information covered in the session, the summary below offers a short insight into many key themes that will help sustainability professionals with their LEED specifications and submittals. Overall, professionals should remember the following points:
  • Language matters
  • Clear – Concise – Correct – Complete
  • Everything in its right place
  • Include accountability and enforce
  • Provide tools and resources
  • Designers + Contractor = Collaborative team
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