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Writing the Green RFP
Sustainable Design Language for Consultant Requests
This is a tool for clients--educational and cultural institutions, companies, agencies, non-profit organizations, and others--who are writing requests for proposals or qualifications from architects and other design professionals, as well as development, construction, and construction management services. Each project and site is different and each RFP or RFQ should also be unique, including the aspects of sustainable design and planning that are appropriate to the project, site, and region. This document touches on the basic elements of an RFP for design services for a sustainable project, as well as some of the issues to be considered. Some of the language cited is fairly ambitious, and clients should take care to thoroughly understand the cost and schedule implications of such requirements, should they include those in their project requests.
There are two primary types of requests for building design (and development, construction, and construction management) services, though there are variations on these and other types as well. Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) are the more basic requests, asking in large part for much of the information that would typically appear on the federal government?s Standard Forms 254 and 255, with some additional information. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) also ask for information about firm approach, process, experience, as well as requests for project specific information such as team organization, schedule approach, and fee schedules.
SUSTAINABLE DESIGN BASICS
quoted from A Primer on Sustainable Building, Rocky Mountain Institute
The request should include a short introduction, which will state clearly and succinctly the scope of the project, the organization's vision for the project including sustainable design benchmarks desired, and the nature of services needed. If the client is a partnership, the nature of that relationship should be stated.
It is also appropriate for the request to state the client's core mission, identify how sustainable design relates to that mission, and reference other relevant statements about the motive for pursuing a sustainable design project. The client should do internal goal setting prior to the writing of the request, and those goals can provide the framework for the project introduction.
...the Museum has defined its mission as "to inspire wonder, discovery and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds." Our vision statement describes an active, outward looking institution: To fully realize our mission and vision, the Natural History Museum must reinvent itself within a structure that both inspires and enables its staff and visitors to become stewards of their natural and cultural worlds. I hope you will participate in this process as we define a team dedicated to creating a New Museum for a new century.
--RFQ: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County,
* * *
Because the new SALA facility will not only accommodate learning but also serve as an enduring lesson in design and maintenance, it should embody the highest possible architectural and environmental design excellence. The project should be convivial, beautiful, and sustainable, humane and functional, and responsive to the identity of Penn State University and the cultural and natural forces in the region.
--RFP: SALA Building, Penn State University,
Sample language of specific objectives (referencing design strategies):
While any type of environmentally sound innovative building technology may be proposed, the City is particularly interested in technologies that address the following:
• Ecological site design; on-site erosion control, water purification/pollution reduction, and stormwater management (bioswales, ecoroofs, stormwater filtration, etc.)
• Transportation: promoting bicycle, pedestrian, and transit use
• Waste reduction: building reuse, job site recycling, and efficient use of materials
• On-site management of sewage and organic wastes, such as graywater systems and biological wastewater treatment
• Energy efficiency: efficient thermal envelopes, efficient space and water heating, lighting, controls and monitoring, and appliances
• Renewable energy: photovoltaics, geothermal pumps, wind turbines, micro-turbines, and fuel cells
• Water efficiency, both domestic and irrigation, including rainwater harvesting for irrigation and toilet flushing
• Materials and resources:
o Durable building envelopes and long-lived materials or assemblies
o Recycled-content materials
o FSC-certified woods
o Safer, less toxic materials, such as alternatives to CCA-treated wood
o Innovative application of natural materials (characterized by low embodied energy, local availability, good performance, biodegradable, safe, esthetic) such as straw, earth, and other composites
• Indoor environmental quality, pollution reduction, worker and occupant safety, air cleaning, humidity control, and thermal comfort
• Operations and maintenance:
o Monitoring of energy, water, waste, air quality and transportation use
o Resource-efficient building operations practices.
--RFP: City of Portland Green Investment Fund, Grants for Affordable Housing,
Qualifications and Experience
Current architectural practice, in general, is multidisciplinary and integrative. Comprehensive or holistic sustainable design processes push these characteristics to a greater degree. The request language can help specify that the client is expecting a very broad and inclusive team at the outset of a project (whereas a conventional project might pull some of those team members along the way).
Here is some sample language requesting a more integrative, multidisciplinary process than a conventional project might employ:
The Poudre School District believes that an integrated design approach can greatly increase the chance of success of meeting sustainable design goals without getting indigestion. Traditional design approaches to the construction of facilities has largely been a linear process. The architect progresses from conceptual/schematic design to design development to construction documents to contract administration while pulling in technical consultants along the way. Integrated design employs a multidisciplinary approach where all project stakeholders are involved in the design process from start to finish on a collaborative basis. The process recognizes that a design decision made unilaterally may have a major impact on achieving sustainable design goals.
--RFP: Poudre School District Prototype Elementary School,
Sample language for specific qualifications desired:
An important goal of the Authority is to develop an environmentally responsible building on the Site that can serve as a model for high-rise residential construction in this region and elsewhere. The Authority's policy is to implement financially feasible, technologically sound strategies to conserve energy and to surpass current norms for water conservation, waste management/recycling and the quality of the indoor environment (including quality of indoor air, light, acoustics and personal controllability of building systems). The Authority will require that such strategies be fully explored in the development of the Site. Specifically, the Authority will require schematic designs for the building to be analyzed by an experienced consultant using energy use computer simulation model such as DOE-2. The results of this analysis will be used to determine whether alternative design choices could increase the energy efficiency of the building, and what the incremental cost/benefit of these alternatives would be over the life of the building. The DOE-2 analysis would be repeated during the design process at design development phase and upon preparation of construction drawings. The Authority is prepared to assist the Developer in applying for any available funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to help defray the cost of this analysis as well as the incremental cost of incorporating energy efficiency measures in the building design.
--RFP: Site 18A, Battery Park City Authority Residential Development and Design,
Clients may invite respondents to include a list of environmental conferences, seminars, workshops, and professional meetings attended by team members in recent months or years and a list of firm members actively involved in the local, state, or national level of the American Institute of Architects' (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) or similar efforts such as the U.S. Green Building Council.
Requests that get too specific with past examples, such as "provide three examples of medium-size conference centers," open the door to specialized or very large firms only; "similar in scope and scale" is more appropriate wording.
Services Required and Approach
Sample language of specialized services required:
Demonstrated ability to provide green building consulting and design services for public and commercial buildings. These services can be provided by the proposed by the proposed firm or individual, as well as through the use of specialized subcontractors. Firms and individuals responding to this RFQ will be required to submit information specifying in which of the following areas they can provide expert services:
--RFQ: Green Building Assistance, Alameda County Waste Management Authority,
This section should outline the key phases of work, critical deliverables, and other tasks that will need to be completed as part of the project work, including the following:
For more information, see The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice (John Wiley & Sons, 2001). (Order at the AIA Store or use a copy in AIA offices around the country.)
Inclusion of construction budget information, even if just a range, will result in responses far more valuable to the organization. Without any budget parameters, consultants will be forced to speculate (low and high), which can lead to a less-focused response.
Green buildings typically require some additional services and result in additional deliverables. In most cases, additional costs are paid for within a few years based on energy savings and other factors. Aggressive efforts may require longer-term payback analyses.
The request should include a list of the submittal components as well specific directions for submission and clear rules about deadlines. The submittal could include (but may not be limited to) some or all of the following:
The request should include the evaluation criteria that will be used to select the consultant as well as who will be doing that evaluating. If the client plans to weight certain criteria more heavily than others, that weighting system should be spelled out in detail for respondents.
LEED, the USGBC's Green Building Rating System, is growing in use, but there are still only a sprinkling of LEED-certified buildings throughout the country. Requiring firms to show LEED-certified buildings of the same type or scale as the project in question may result in a low number of responses. But there are other ways that LEED can be useful. Project team members may include LEED-accredited professionals (and the RFP could require this). The RFP could also ask that the team be familiar with the use of LEED as a tool to help guide the project. This approach, regardless of whether the project become LEED registered or eventually certified, can help ensure that some of the many issues involved with sustainable design are considered and addressed.
The client may also want to compare team based on what other tools they have experience with, such as DOE-2 software to create energy profiles, Green Building Advisor, Energy 10, Energy Plus, and more.
See the AIA Handbook for guidelines on contractual information that should be included. (Order at the AIA Store or use a copy in AIA offices around the country.) The client may choose to identify whether its team plans to use current AIA Owner-Architect agreements or its own contracts.
Several institutions and organizations have agreed to let us post their requests. They appear here in PDF format. (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view PDF files, and is available to download free of charge.)
• RFQ: City of Highland City Shop and Public Works, Highland, UT (2000)
• RFP: Environmental Education Center, Township of Upper St. Clair, PA (2000)
• RFQ: David L. Lawrence Convention Center Expansion, Public Auditorium Authority of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Convention Center Design Commission, Pittsburgh, PA (1998)
• RFP: Dan Ryan Woods Nature Preserve, City of Chicago Department of Environment, Chicago, IL (2002)
• RFQ: Green Building Assistance, Alameda County Waste Management Authority, San Leandro, CA (2002)
• RFQ: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, CA (2001)
Sustainable Design Language for RFPs, Department of the Navy (multiple projects) (2000)
Stephanie Gelb, Battery Park City Authority (architect/client):
Bob Harris, Lake/Flato Architects (architect):
Joyce Lee, Office of Management and Budget, City of New York (architect/client):
Lisa Fay Matthiessen, AIA, consultant, formerly with the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum (architect/client):
Bill Reed, Natural Logic (architect, consultant):
Another thing to remember is that construction partnering is important. You need to let the firm know that they need to do more than construction observation. They need to be there when the tradespeople walk on for the first time because these are not the same people who were at the workshops. You have to be willing to walk through the project specifications line by line.
Paul Sterbentz, Facilities Manager, Gobal Ecology Department, Carnegie Institute, Stanford University (client):
We brought the mechanical engineer and electrical engineer on board at the same time as the architect. In the early meetings, they ran a lot of ideas by us. After we provided feedback, they chose key strategies, all proven concepts, to design around. Cost has been a deciding factor for us in the final months, but the original key choices have held up well. An important element will be system commissioning and subsequent monitoring. Even though we are not going through the LEED process, we are very interested in ensuring that the resulting product operate as designed perform within expected energy-saving parameters.
Rebecca Flora, executive director, Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance (client):
Shouldn't a good firm provide a well daylit building anyway?
At what scale a building is computer modeling worth the investment?
Can I use performance-based contracts for a green building?
American Planning Association. Tips on Writing a Green RFP. ( www.newecology.org/newsletter/Model%20Green%20RFP.PDF)
Dianna Lopez Barnett and William D. Browning. A Primer on Sustainable Building. Rocky Mountain Institute, 1995. (www.rmi.org/store/pid385.php)
Center for Economic Conversion. Green Base Conversion Strategies, Technical Brief #4: Design Services for Sustainable Buildings, July 1998. (www.conversion.org/)
Hugh C. Carey Battery Park City Authority Residential Environmental Guidelines. Hugh C. Carey Battery Park City Authority, 2002. (www.batteryparkcity.org/guidelines.htm)
Rocky Mountain Institute. Green Developments 2.0 CD-ROM. Rocky Mountain Institute. (www.rmi.org/store/pid385.php)
The U.S. Green Building Council. LEED Reference Guide. The U.S. Green Building Council, 2001 (www.usgbc.org/)
Alex Wilson, Jenifer L. Uncapher, Lisa A. McManigal, L. Hunter Lovins, Maureen Cureton, and William D. Browning. Green Development: Integrating Ecology and Real Estate. John Wiley & Sons, 1998.
Special thanks to Pauline Souza for her significant contributions and to members of the Committee on the Environment and its Advisory Group for their review and assistance.
If you have any questions or additions to any of the content, please contact Kira Gould at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-867-0032.