Building a Sustainable Reputation in America’s Third-Most LEED Certified City

By Daniel Casciato
Green Business Quarterly – Winter Issue, 2009

Green Building comes naturally to Bruce Construction, LLC, a commercial construction company located in the eastern Pittsburgh suburb of Plum Boro. It’s become part of the company’s culture because it is right for the customers and for future generations, says co-owner Bruce Corna, Jr.

"Just by the virtue of the way we do things, we almost achieve a certifiable building without event trying," says Corna.  "This is important because it’s the socially responsible thing to do, and it doesn't take a lot of money or effort."

The company, which also does some residential remodeling, strongly supports all efforts to conserve and sustain the environment. This includes using local suppliers to save on transportation-caused emissions and using low-VOC paints, carpets, and adhesives, which do not release significant pollutants.

"We also recycle as many of the demolished materials as we possibly can," adds Corna. "We use storm-management practices that are cutting edge, as well as doing simple things like adding light dimmers and installing low=flow water closets. Anything that we can do easily, we do. If we have customers that want to go above and beyond we can do that as well. We have built green roofs and added solar panels."

The company has LEED-conscious professionals, demonstrating that it’s building techniques are truly green. A recent example of Bruce Construction’s sustainable  practices can be found at GreenForge, the first green rehabilitated, commercial building in nearby Westmoreland County. Bruce Construction served as the general contractor of this previously vacant, 23,000 square-foot building.

In rehabilitating GreenForge, the company used sustainable materials, energy- conserving technologies, and best management practices. Features range from densely packed cellulose-fiber insulation to an advance geothermal system, which provides both heating and cooling at the same time to different parts of the  building in response to the particular needs of the tenants.

GreenForge is also the first building in Westmoreland County to have a green roof to help reduce storm water runoff. The building is also distinguished for a groundbreaking storm water management approach that allows it to increase its number of parking spaces while decreasing the amount of paved surfaces.

The Pittsburgh region ranks third in the US in its number of green buildings, behind Seattle and Portland, with 17 LEED-certified buildings, according to the US Green Building Council. Corna, however, still thinks that green building is a tough sell in the area and the construction industry as a whole.

"For companies like us that have adopted green-building techniques, it gives us a competitive edge, " he says. "Some people are slow to change. I am unaware of any other companies of our size in this region that offer sustainable building practices or even promote it." In addition to its eco- friendly approach in building, Bruce Construction is in the process of developing subsidiary companies to work under one design umbrella. The company also offers landscaping, landscape design, and environmental consulting for its customers.

"We’d like to be a one-stop shop operation with intelligent design being the driving force," says Corna. "We want all the design issues to be resolved prior to putting a shovel in the ground."