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Project Construction

Building DesignProject ConstructionCommisioning

Integrating renewable energy into Federal new construction or major renovations requires effective structuring of the construction team and project schedule. This overview discusses key construction team considerations for renewable energy as well as timing and expectations for the construction phase.

The project construction phase begins after a project is completely designed and the construction documents (100%) have been issued. Construction team skills and experience with renewable energy technologies are crucial during construction, as is how the integration of renewable energy affects the project construction schedule.

Construction Team

Key Actions in Construction

  • Use best-value selection criteria for the
    construction team.
  • Require the prime contractor to have
    experience integrating renewable
    energy.
  • Specify that the construction team
    demonstrate specific expertise on
    technologies relevant to the project.
  • Require all parties to coordinate during
    project construction, including the
    general contractor, subcontractors,
    and renewable energy installers from
    external contracts.
  • Specify contractor responsibilities for
    enhanced commissioning, operations,
    and maintenance materials and
    training.
  • Identify and plan key scheduling
    issues with various renewable energy
    technologies.
  • Involve building and inspecting officials
    early and often in the process to
    familiarize them with systems.
  • Keep the project energy lead involved
    throughout construction, including on
    any energy system decisions that
    arise.

If the project is design-bid-build, the construction documents become a bid package for selecting the construction team, which is typically led by a general contractor. If the project is design-build, the general contractor is already in place and renewable energy expertise should have been figured into that selection. Other primary team members include renewable energy subcontractors.

The general contractor manages the entire construction process and ensures the project is built as specified in the construction documents. Although the general contractor might not have specific skills for installing every type of renewable energy technology, basic familiarity with installing and operating the various technologies is important, as is understanding how installation fits within the broader construction process.

Usually, a general contractor uses subcontractors to install the renewable energy systems. Finding an experienced subcontractor can be challenging, and in this case the skills needed to install the system are more important than the lowest price. The agency or architectural and engineering (A&E) firm may also bring in a subcontractor for renewable energy that handles system design and construction.

Specifying particular expertise and certifications for specific renewable energy systems can ensure that the general contractor brings on subcontractors with significant demonstrated experience on similar projects. Considering the use of specific Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contracts for renewable energy systems may increase access to experts and reduce construction delays.

The agency's project energy lead oversees energy systems and issues during construction, as does the commissioning agent. Both must be familiar with renewable energy technologies being installed to manage any problems that arise with design or installation.

For more information on skills and requirements of key project construction players, see the construction team section.

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Photo of initial building structure with two workers on large metallic beams.
Construction photos show the first reclaimed gas
pipes being erected at the Research Support
Facility (RSF) construction site. Using these
recycled pipes will help the building attain LEED
Platinum status.

Timing and Expectations

Integrating renewable energy technologies affects the project construction schedule. Many renewable energy contractors are more experienced with standalone projects than with integrating renewable energy technologies within other construction activities, so there may be a learning curve. In addition, projects including renewable energy could require specialized equipment rentals, subcontractor scheduling, equipment staging, and optimal timing of various types of work. It is the general contractor's responsibility to pull together all elements introduced by incorporating renewable energy.

For example, a solar installer could need access to a building roof to install footings prior to the installation of the roofing material. If they do not have access until after roofing is complete, some roofing elements might have to be reinstalled, increasing costs. However, if the solar installer is not available at the proper time, the delay occurs while the roof is in a vulnerable, unfinished state. Each subcontractor's responsibility must be clarified in these instances.

Maintaining the highest quality is fundamental to any successful construction project, as is finishing it on time and within budget. Typically, a monetary incentive is offered to complete tasks ahead of schedule or at a higher quality than standard construction. If used, these incentives can have specific requirements tied to the renewable energy technologies as well.

For more information on key issues surrounding scheduling the installation of various renewable energy technologies during project construction, go to the construction timing and expectations section.

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