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February 16, 2005 7:21 AM CST

How Mason Contractors Fit into the Green Building Initiative


While the information provided in Subasic's article "LEED & Masonry" is direct and easily understood, many mason contractors may still wonder why all of this is of interest to them. Subasic was kind enough to elaborate more on the topic and discuss how mason contractors fit into the green building initiative.

Masonry: The benefits of green building are obvious for the owner and surrounding community, but what are the benefits to the contractors themselves to participate in sustainable design?

Subasic: The same benefits to the community of protecting our environment benefit the contractor as well. Practices such as recycling construction waste can lead to a reduction in contractor costs as opposed to paying tipping fees at a landfill. In addition, the positive publicity that LEED-certified buildings receive extends to all members of the design team.

Masonry: The long lifecycle of masonry is not taken into account for LEED certification. Why is that, and do you see this changing in the future?

Subasic: The durability of materials is not directly reflected in the LEED rating system at this time, but aligns with the philosophy and intent of the LEED system. At present, durability is an area in which an Innovation & Design credit may be earned. It is likely that LEED-NC version 3.0 will incorporate durability as one of the credit categories.

Masonry: Do you feel that creating a building that qualifies for LEED certification falls solely onto the owner, architect and/or engineer, rather than the mason contractor? Why or why not?

Subasic: Certainly the primary decisions involved in the design of, and material selections for, a building are made by the owner, architect and/or engineer. However, the LEED process requires cooperation of the entire design team. The mason contractor working with the architect or general contractor as part of the design team can identify ways in which masonry can contribute toward many of the LEED credits. Masonry is often initially chosen for its aesthetic attributes, but has many "green" benefits.

Masonry: What do mason contractors need to do (i.e., waste, reuse, recycling) to assist in a building achieving LEED points for masonry?

Subasic: It is the contractor's responsibility to see that the specifications necessary to obtain the LEED certification are followed. In the Materials & Resources category up to two points can be earned for reducing construction waste and recycling scrap materials. Contractors can also help identify products made from recycled materials.

Another area in which contractors can play a role is selecting the location of the manufacturer of the masonry. Up to two points can be earned for utilizing locally extracted and manufactured materials.

Masonry: Are there differences between the use of brick, block or stone that mason contractors should be aware of when it comes to LEED certification? Please explain.

Subasic: Products themselves are not LEED-certified, only buildings are. However, different materials can make different contributions toward a building obtaining LEED certification.

For example, all types of masonry can contribute to energy efficiency depending upon how they are used. Most scrap masonry materials can by recycled. But only manufactured units such as brick and concrete masonry units can contain recycled materials. Some masonry unit manufacturers are developing units with especially high recycled materials content.

Masonry: On the point scale, how does masonry stack up to other types of building systems, like fiber cement, siding or EIFS?

Subasic: While I have not examined the other building materials that you mentioned in detail, it is safe to say that masonry offers the most potential for synergy within the LEED rating system. For example, masonry used for the building wall system can contribute toward points in reduction of construction waste, recycled materials content, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, acoustics and of course durability.

Masonry: How do other mason-installed items, such as vapor barriers, insulation, flashing, etc., play a part in green building?

Subasic: LEED is a total building rating system. All materials are considered, for example, when determining the percentage of materials in the building that contain recycled materials content. This includes things like vapor barriers and insulation, as well as carpet and casework.

Masonry: Does green building lead to higher costs for the mason contractor? Please explain.

Subasic: Much of this increased cost is associated with the LEED certification process, not the actual building design. In many cases, the cost of choosing green materials is the same or even less when the total synergy of the choices is considered.

Masonry: As you educate the public and construction professionals, do you see masonry being used more often in the future when it comes to sustainable design? Why or why not?

Subasic: I think the use of masonry will only increase, particularly as durability plays a bigger role in the LEED rating system.

Masonry: Are there any green building classes, workshops or certifications that mason contractors can pursue?

Subasic: The USGBC offers numerous workshops related to the LEED rating system held throughout the country. Introductory, intermediate and advanced workshops are offered on the LEED-NC rating system. In addition, the Greenbuild Expo in Portland, Ore., offered several other workshops geared toward specific applications of LEED, such as healthcare projects, for product manufacturers, and for general contractors/construction managers. A complete list can be found on the USGBC LEED web site (

Masonry: Thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise.

About the Author

Masonry, the official publication of the Mason Contractors Association of America, covers every aspect of the mason contractor profession - equipment and techniques, building codes and standards, business planning, promoting your business, legal issues and more. Read or subscribe to Masonry magazine at


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