Wood Can be a Sustainable Solution in Commercial Construction

    When you hear the term “wood construction” you might not automatically associate it with sustainability. But wood actually offers many benefits as an environmentally friendly commercial construction building material.

    Exactly how is using wood good for the environment? Wood building materials help increase energy efficiency throughout the life of a building. When considering greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and other factors, materials like steel and concrete produce more harmful emissions and pollutants than wood. According to the American Forest Foundation, steel and concrete generate up to 300 percent and 225 percent more water pollutants than wood.

    In what others ways does using wood in the design-build process help reduce energy consumption and add to sustainability?

    –       Energy Efficiency – Wood is an excellent insulator and helps slow the conductivity of heat.

    –       Carbon Storage – Wood stores carbon and is a good alternative to materials that use large amounts of fossil fuels to produce.

    –       Long Lifespan – Wood stands the test of time as a sturdy building material and is simple to use and maintain.

    –       Renewable Resource – Wood is the only naturally renewable mainstream building material over the long term.

    Leon Williams Contractors is committed to the efficient use of wood building materials in our commercial construction projects in East Tennessee. Learn more about our process.

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    Commercial Building Efficiency Initiatives are a Win-Win for Everyone

    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 30 percent of energy used in commercial buildings is wasted. What does that mean? It’s an incredible opportunity for operations savings, and commercial construction contractors are offering solutions to make it happen.

    First, here are the facts about commercial buildings and energy in America:

    –       There is more than 81 billion square feet of commercial floor space in the U.S.

    –       Commercial buildings account for 36 percent of all U.S. electricity consumption

    –       They account for 18 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions

    –       Commercial buildings consume more than 18 percent of energy in the U.S.

    By 2020, the U.S. Government’s Building Technologies Office is targeting a 20 percent energy-use reduction in commercial buildings through its Better Buildings Initiative. Now, new initiatives and strategies make it easier than ever for commercial building contractors, like Leon Williams Contractors, to reduce energy consumption – which is good for building owners and managers and the planet.

    What does this mean for commercial construction in East Tennessee?

    Retrofitting existing commercial buildings

    Seventy-eight percent of firms plan energy efficiency upgrades in the next two years. Building owners are attracted to the long-term savings of achieving net zero or pursuing renewable energy resources.

    The following projects are being done to retrofit commercial buildings:

    –       Lighting Upgrades

    –       Installing more efficient HVAC systems

    –       Including building automation controls

    Energy-efficient design in new commercial construction

    With new construction, it pays to be energy efficient from the start.

    –       Consider a design-build project that meets ENERGY STAR standards.

    –       Use of LEDS and solid-state lighting

    –       Use of energy friendly roofing materials like metal

    –       Window treatments that keep cool air inside

    The following programs align with achieving energy-efficiency:

    Better Buildings Alliance – An effort of the U.S. Department of Energy, the alliance includes more than 200 members representing 10 billion commercial square feet in six market sectors: retail, food service, commercial real estate, hospitality, healthcare and higher education.

    Commercial Buildings Resource Database – Resources that help support the adoption of energy-saving building technologies

    Better Buildings Workforce Initiative – The Department of Energy offers training tools, materials and credentialing guidelines to advance an energy-efficiency trained workforce.


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    Developing Healthier Buildings

    For decades, building sustainability has been steadily increasing with popularity and with that comes the debate of the method’s benefits to the industry. Given that buildings account for 40 percent of energy consumption nationwide, energy efficiency is a major focus for contractors but what about occupant health?

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we understand that not all commercial construction projects are created equally and some have multiple factors to consider. When you take into account occupant health, buildings such as medical facilities, office complexes, and educational establishments should require a different design-build approach than say a warehouse or factory. More and more business owners, especially those in East Tennessee, are recognizing that increasing the healthiness of their buildings can have a positive impact on not only the people inside, but revenue as well.

    According to a recent study by McGraw Hill Construction, interest in occupant health is growing in popularity with an industry-wide commitment to provide healthy buildings and remove the disconnect owners and contractors have with these ideas. Of the industry professionals surveyed for the study, 75 percent measured the impact of construction decisions on occupant health. To them, healthy buildings have caused an indicated 47 percent reduction in health-care costs, a 21 percent improvement in occupant productivity, a 66 percent higher employee satisfaction and engagement rate, and a 56 percent reduction in absenteeism. Given these statistics, it should be clear that placing an emphasis on building and occupant health is very important for overall productivity but what some are not entirely sure about are the factors involved.

    While the surface would indicate building owners and workforces are the ones who benefit from healthier construction, it’s the contractors who are ultimately responsible for these outcomes. By being aware of how important certain factors such as natural ventilation, access to proper lighting, better HVAC systems & filters, and even acoustical comfort are to occupant well-being, a commercial contractor can design a building constructed for true efficiency and gain an edge in a competitive market.

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    High-Performance Technology Can Make Your Commercial Building More Energy Efficient

    Interest in an energy-efficient commercial building continues to grow nationwide. Property owners want to cut back on their energy consumption, but also keep employees and customers comfortable inside.

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we’re always keeping an eye on industry trends that could impact commercial construction in Knoxville. One trend impacts everyone: The Department of Energy says that buildings account for 40 percent of energy consumption nationwide, and that building owners spend $40 billion each year on energy. It stands to reason, then, that building developers and property owners are interested in cutting those costs.

    A recent study by McGraw Hill Construction and Siemens Building Technologies found that there are plenty of high-performance building system technologies already on the market. The survey looked at 10 different types of energy-efficient technologies, and found that between 63 and 71 percent of commercial engineers and contractors had a working knowledge of them – or had installed six out of the 10.

    Even though there’s a wide working knowledge of these systems, thought, the study found that many builders and developers weren’t using them. The study found that cost, along with the building owner’s own interest, played a role in why they’re not installed very often. In many cases, companies don’t have the staff available to operate such systems to the best of their ability.

    However, such high-performance technologies as energy recovery, demand-control ventilation, geothermal, and automated facades can save a building owner 11-13 percent on energy costs, so it’s worth it for developers, property owners, and general contractors alike to learn more about them.

    If you’re developing a commercial construction project, contact Leon Williams Contractors today to find out about our comprehensive design-build services.


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    3 Trends that Add Value to a Commercial Building

    These days, green building is all the rage. The more you read about commercial construction trends, the more you realize that sustainable building materials and techniques have become not only a luxury, but a necessity.

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we see green building trends starting to appear more and more in commercial construction in East Tennessee. Growing environmental concern has driven a lot of these trends, but as property and business owners realize that “going green” can also save them a lot of money, the trend is becoming more and more popular.

    In fact, choosing green building options can add a great deal of value to a commercial building. Today’s building materials are high-quality, high-efficiency, and sustainable. Here are three trends you may want to consider incorporating into your next commercial project:

    1. Energy Efficiency: Commercial developers and building owners want their buildings to be as energy efficient as possible, largely because it can save a lot of money on electric bills. Making a building energy efficient means choosing a high-energy heating and air conditioning system, adding plenty of strategically-placed windows to increase natural light and temperature control, and using energy-efficient lighting throughout the building. Many developers are also putting lights and other fixtures on automated or motion-detected systems, so they save even more energy when people aren’t around. And cloud-based automation systems can manage how much energy a building uses.
    2. Solar Power: To make a commercial building even more energy efficient, many owners and developers are considering adding solar panels to their building to circulate their own energy without pulling it from a municipal grid. It’s popular to get as close to zero-net energy as possible.
    3. Water Conservation: From low-flow toilets to “grey water” recycling systems, commercial buildings are looking for ways to cut back on water usage. Grey water systems recycle some of the used water back through a building – for instance, water from the kitchen sink might move into the toilet system. These systems save money as well as water.

    Green building isn’t the only way to add value to a commercial building, but it’s certainly one of the most popular – and green buildings are likely to hold their value for years to come.

    If you’re interested in incorporating some green building techniques in your next commercial development project, contact Leon Williams Contractors today.

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    How Windows Play a Role in a Building’s Energy Efficiency

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we understand that commercial windows play an important role in the heating, cooling, and lighting systems of a building. In fact, having the right amount of windows in a commercial building can help save on energy costs.

    Through a process called daylighting, windows provide effective, natural, internal lighting. This reduces the need for artificial lighting and saves on energy costs. Although daylighting can be a great asset to a commercial building, general contractors need to be careful not to overdo it. Too many windows may produce unwanted solar heating in the summer. Just as people turn up the heat to compensate for cold window surfaces in the winter, they may use air conditioning units to counter the effects of warm window surfaces in the summer. One strategy is to separate the windows into upper and lower portions to independently control daylight, natural ventilation, and visual aesthetics.

    Windows can also save on energy costs through natural ventilation. Natural ventilation is the process of supplying and removing air in a building without using mechanical systems. This can significantly lower costs on HVAC system use. Having the right amount of windows can help ensure that these savings occur. For general contractors, however, it is important to make sure the natural ventilation and mechanical systems do no conflict with one another. Outdoor air intake should not inhibit the heating and cooling systems in a commercial building.

    In addition, having the right amount of windows can also increase occupant productivity. According to United States Green Building Council (USGBC), daylighting and access to the natural environment are both linked to increased individual productivity. Another study found that the presence of windows increased psychological well-being because people believe that daylight is less stressful compared to electrical lighting.

    So how many windows is the right amount of windows?

    For energy savings, the answer is complicated. Every commercial building is different. The key is finding a good balance that provides adequate natural ventilation and that does not conflict with the heating and cooling systems in a building. And considering how windows provide us with the benefits of connecting with our natural environment, a pleasant view of East Tennessee doesn’t hurt, either.

    If you are developing a commercial construction project in the Knoxville area, contact Leon Williams Contractors today to discuss our design-build services.

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    Commercial Doors: What’s the Most Energy Efficient Option?

    Energy efficiency is an increasing interest in the world of commercial construction. More businesses are interested in not only minimizing their environmental footprint, but in saving money on energy costs like heating and cooling.

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we work with a variety of clients on general contracting in East Tennessee. We’ve found that more architects and developers are interested in adding eco-friendly elements to their commercial buildings as the trend grows and becomes easier to incorporate.

    These days, going green is an intuitive process that flows through a whole building, from the choice of building materials down to the placement of windows and doors. In fact, the right windows and doors, placed in the right position inside a building, can cut energy costs by huge amounts.

    Large, well-insulated windows can let in lots of natural light, and help keep a building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But doors are equally important. So the question is – what’s the most energy-efficient option for a commercial door?

    Well, it turns out that a revolving door may be your best choice. An MIT study back in 2006 found that if everyone used a revolving door installed in a building, it would save about 1.5 percent of the energy required to heat and cool the building. It would also prevent the emission of about 14.6 tons of carbon dioxide.

    It works because revolving doors minimize air flow in and out of a building. Ongoing foot traffic in and out of a building by way of a traditional door can cause 30,000 cubic feet of air to leak every minute – but a revolving door cuts down on the amount by keeping the level of air flow in and out more even.

    The biggest trick is to get people to use a revolving door. If you give them a choice between that and a traditional door, many will choose the traditional option. If you’re serious about cutting back on energy costs, then, it might be worth it to consider only using a revolving door in your commercial  building.

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    How Do White Roofs Cut Energy Costs in Commercial Buildings?

    As energy costs continue to rise, and as companies become more environmentally conscious, we’re seeing an increasing trend toward green building in the commercial construction industry.

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we want to make sure we’re knowledgeable about easy, affordable ways to build in an eco-friendly manner, for our East Tennessee clients who may want to make use of those techniques.

    One way more companies are incorporating “green” elements into their buildings is through the use of color. That doesn’t mean actually painting the entire building in shades of green. Rather, it means that you choose colors for elements of a building, especially on the roof, that will cut down on energy costs. And it may surprise you to learn that while dark roofs are still the dominant choice in residential and commercial building, it’s actually better to choose a light-colored roof.

    Think of it this way: Let’s say you were attending an outdoor business function on a hot, sunny day, and you were required to wear a long-sleeved, button down shirt – but could choose the color of that shirt. Would your instinct be to think that a lighter color or a darker color would keep you more comfortable? A light colored shirt would reflect sunlight away from you, keeping you cooler.

    Likewise, a light colored roofing material, sometimes called a “white” or “cool” roof, reflects sunlight away from a building, lowering the temperature of the roof itself, cutting indoor energy use by as much as 20 percent, and even cutting carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, a study found that if cities used reflective roofing on all their buildings, it would offset the emissions put out by all the cars in the world, for the next 18 years.

    Many developers and architects still choose dark roofs for aesthetic purposes, but as you can see, the benefits of choosing a white roof are worthwhile. If you’re interested in incorporating a light-colored roof in your next commercial construction project, contact Leon Williams Contractors today to find out how we can do that for you.


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    Top Eco-Friendly Materials to Use in Commercial Construction

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we’re always keeping an eye on popular trends in the commercial construction industry. Construction methods, techniques, and materials are always changing, and it’s important for us to stay on top of these trends so we’re always prepared for anything that our clients may require in their building projects.

    When commercial developers look for a general contractor in East Tennessee, they’re going to be looking for someone knowledgeable about the construction industry – someone who can meet any of their needs or wants. Because we pride ourselves on being able to simplify the building process, we’re happy to work with clients to incorporate any trends into a building.

    One of the biggest growing trends is for green building – as more eco-friendly materials hit the market and become more affordable, it’s more common for them to be used not only in home construction, but in building commercial buildings. Many companies today are more concerned with the materials used in their buildings – and using green items not only makes the building more sustainable, but will actually save a company money on energy costs.

    Here’s a look at some of the top eco-friendly materials available to the commercial construction industry.

    • Flooring: Commercial flooring is available in sustainable materials like bamboo or recycled wood. Wood laminate is usually made of particles leftover from other wood production, cutting down on waste. Some commercial carpets are made out of recycled plastic bottles, and using carpet tiles makes it easier to replace any damaged areas – you only have to replace one or a few tiles instead of the entire floor.
    • Roofing: a chemical-free roofing material known as Duro Last is easy on the environment, cuts down on waste, and lasts a long time. Some companies are opting to install solar shingles to offset or completely eliminate the need for a traditional power source. Some buildings are even including living walls outside and in – using plants on the roof and walls to insulate the building and cut further need for energy use.
    • Smarter devices and fixtures. Electrical systems can be set up to automatically shut off when no one is around. This is useful in parts of a building that aren’t used very often, or after everyone goes home for the night. And low-flow toilets and sinks with motion sensors cut down on the amount of water used in the building throughout the day.

    Often these days, companies are determining that the up-front cost of including eco-friendly building materials is worth the savings down the road. If you have a commercial project where you’d like to use green building supplies, talk to Leon Williams Contractors about the options available to you.

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    Going “Green” by Using Recycled Construction Materials

    These days, “green” building is all the rage, and more commercial developers are interested in building offices and other spaces that are energy efficient, sustainable, and less harmful to the environment. The market has responded with a whole host of earth-friendly building materials.

    But we at Leon Williams Contractors have found on some of our commercial construction projects that using such materials can sometimes be cost-prohibitive. We’re certainly willing to use such materials if the developers with whom we work want them included in a commercial building—but often there’s a lot of hesitation about using green building supplies.

    If you’re a developer intrigued by the idea of sustainable building, you’ll be interested to know that recycled materials are becoming more common as an affordable green construction option. Over the last couple of years, more companies have devoted themselves to salvaging and reclaiming, and recycling or repurposing building materials and supplies. It’s an involved deconstruction process that requires crews to survey the construction site and get an idea of which items can be reused or repurposed.

    Salvaging items from a construction site is time-consuming, but it’s good for the environment—and great when you’re shopping for supplies. Used materials can be as cheap as a third of the original value, and brand new but salvaged items will likely save you half.

    So what kinds of recycled items can be used in a commercial construction product? Concrete and asphalt are two popular materials; both can be crushed and either used in that state or remixed and used in the same way they were originally. Wood can also be recycled—everything from plywood to lumber to hardwood flooring can be reused, or any kind of wood can be chipped or ground to be repurposed for other items. You can also pick up steel, aluminum and copper at salvage yards. These can easily be used in framing a building and anywhere else you might need them. Even gypsum can be broken down and reused in new drywall or concrete mixtures.

    Just remember, if you are salvaging materials from an old building, that anything with lead paint can’t be recycled. Today’s standards on lead usage are much higher than they were previously, and most builders won’t be able to reuse these items. Also, if you plan to apply for certification from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, you must do so during the construction phase, and keep track of anything that will give you points toward LEED certification, including using recycled items. Talk to your general contractor about how to track your points.

    Using recycled building materials in your next commercial development project might take a little extra time and effort, but if you’re determined to have a green building, we promise it’s worth the effort. Contact Leon Williams Contractors today to find out how we can help!

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