Environmentally Responsible Building: Techniques and Materials Used in Commercial General Contracting

What is Green Building?

Green building is a concept and practice that has steadily gained popularity since the early 90s. Today, it is a commonplace choice for both new construction and renovations. Green building practices can be implemented in any type of structure, commercial or residential. Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design (LEED), the primary organization heading up the effort, defines green building as “the planning, design, construction, and operations of buildings with several central, foremost considerations: energy use, water use, indoor environmental quality, material selection and the building’s effects on its site.”

Green construction is based upon materials and techniques used for and during the building process as well as the function of a structure once building is complete. While building a green structure was, at one point, much more costly than traditional construction, it now actually saves businesses money over time, and can help companies earn grants, tax breaks, and rebates. Below is just a sample of some of the green building materials and techniques that are being implemented in new commercial construction and building renovation today:


  • • High Thermal Mass Materials- tile and concrete retain heat and cut down on the use of energy to heat the building
  • • Insulation-Recycled denim or plastic, or plant-based insulation
  • • Electrochromic Glass- changes from opaque to translucent depending upon the sun’s position-cuts down on HVAC and electricity used for lighting.
  • • Photovoltaic Solar Panels- cover an entire structure and produce electricity for the whole building


  • • Heating- Outdoor hanging gardens insulate the building and cut down on solar radiation. Used inside, they purify the air and improve mood.
  • • Heating/Cooling-Chiller boiler systems are hydronic (water) and use existing water in the building to control temperature.
  • • Water Conservation- Dual plumbing systems separate water for drinking from water for flushing toilets or irrigation. The “reclaimed” water was once wastewater that has been treated to remove harmful bacteria but is not meant for drinking.

For Renovations:

  • • Updating HVAC and plumbing to more modern, energy efficient systems
  • • Upgrading to solar power systems
  • • Replacing older windows with new, energy-efficient ones

MBM’s Expertise

MBM has completed a significant number of impressive green building projects in the Pittsburgh area. Following LEED standards, we have renovated many existing buildings to receive LEED Certified, Silver, and Gold ratings. MBM served as the commercial general contractor for the renovation of the 11,500 SF space in Highmark’s offices on the 24th floor of Fifth Avenue Place. Upon completion, the space, pictured above and below, was rated LEED Gold. Our renovation of the first floor of The Duquesne University Student Union was a 20,500 SF project that included a new commuter lounge, lobby, offices, TV room, and the “Nite Spot” which includes a billiard table, foosball, vending areas, and seating. This completed space received a LEED Silver rating. Our commercial construction and renovation expertise combined with our knowledge of LEED standards allows our clients to get what they need while creating spaces that help to sustain our environment and its precious resources. If you’re considering green building, contact MBM for a consultation at 412-379-9000.