Hes LEEDing the Way

By Christina Beau

Aug. 31, 2008

Two years ago, Gary Hardy would have told you green was the color of money and grass, and that’s about it. Then he went back to school.

    Hardy, 51, is a senior project superintendent at Leopardo Construction Inc. in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

    When his boss, general superintendent George Tuhowski, mentioned a new building energy technologies certificate being offered at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago, a light bulb (compact fluorescent, of course) went off.

    “I knew this was the wave of the future,” Hardy says, citing the city’s green roofs and green-building policies, as well as its 2016 Olympics bid, which, if successful, would spark a construction frenzy. “I wanted to become a leader.”

    Hardy, who joined Leopardo in 2003 after almost 30 years in carpentry and construction, began the program in fall 2006 and graduated in December.

    For three semesters, he took two evening classes a week, writing weekly essays and spending some Saturdays visiting wind farms and buildings renovated or constructed using U.S. Green Building Council standards. Courses covered energy efficiency, as well as energy and environmental mechanical systems, certifications and maintenance.

    With that training under his belt, Hardy plans this summer to become accredited in the principles of the council’s ’Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which governs green construction practices and ratings.

    Eleven of Leopardo’s project managers and engineers and one vice president are accredited under the program referred to as LEED, but Hardy would be the first among the company’s 50 superintendents to earn accreditation.

    “It’s nice, being in construction, to know where you’re going a week from now and to not worry about being laid off,” he says.

    David Inman, project manager for the building energy technologies program at Wilbur Wright, says LEED accreditation is a particular boost for workers in Chicago because so many green projects are in the works.

    “If we were doing this anywhere other than Chicago, we might not emphasize LEED as much,” he said.

    Leopardo began doing LEED projects in 2005, and as interest has grown, so has that side of its business. Tuhowski, the company’s general superintendent, estimates that green jobs will account for more than 20 percent of Leopardo’s $300 million in revenue this year.

    Employee LEED accreditation “gives us the upper hand when we bid,” he says.

    Current projects include several green roofs and a 195,000-square-foot, $70 million public-safety campus in Aurora that will be LEED-certified.

    This fall, Hardy will be supervising a LEED-certified, 40,000-square-foot project for Harris Alternatives LLC, a hedge fund investment firm.

    “Everybody wants to be green,” he says. “It’s a great selling feature for any business.”

    Maybe even his own someday. Hardy and his wife have five acres in Vail, Arizona, where he’s itching to build a green house.

    He would also like to open a division of Leopardo Construction there, perhaps in three years or so. Just long enough to make some more green.

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