Monday, October 31, 2011

“Green Jobs” Versus “Jobs”? – It’s Not a Competition; They’re One in the Same

Maggie Comstock
Associate, Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

On Oct. 26, USGBC participated in a salon on green jobs and economic growth, hosted by Planet Forward. The high-level discussion included U.S. government representatives from several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and more. Private sector interests, local government representatives and non-profit organizations were also present. The overarching themes of the roundtable were:
  • Where are the jobs in the clean energy economy?
  • How should we frame this movement to further promote green jobs?
It’s hard to define a green job when they represent so much more than the clean energy sector. Recycling, waste management, storm water management, water conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable manufacturing processes, green construction, etc.—it’s not hard to expand this list of diverse professions that employ Americans in all regions and of all skill sets.

If you haven’t noticed, everyone is “going green” these days. And the bottom line is that green buildings, sustainability, energy efficiency, and the whole gamut of emerging and existing industries are creating jobs and transforming the existing workforce. We need to stop fighting over what color these jobs may be and have our politicians support industries that are proven winners in this economy.

Call it what you may—green jobs or just jobs—the bottom line is that green building and sustainability are bolstering national employment figures and stabilizing the economy. For now we’ll continue to differentiate them as green jobs, but soon, as the economy continues to accept sustainability and “green” as the norm, we hope to just call them jobs.

Energy Efficiency Financing Could Create Over One Million American Jobs »
Growing Green Building Market Supports 661,000 Green Jobs in the U.S. »

HOK & USGBC Working Together to Build LEED Children's Center in Haiti

USGBC's close collaborators in Project Haiti, global architectural firm HOK, have published a series of blog entries on their efforts to design the first LEED Platinum orphanage and children's center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Their pro-bono design efforts have been met with great enthusiasm, but also unique challenges. Read more about the design process for Project Haiti on

HOK Volunteers Helping USGBC Rebuild Orphanage in Haiti

The challenge goes far beyond a small site requiring a multitude of uses. Haiti’s fractured (and, in some ways, nonexistent) infrastructure presents obstacles for providing basic needs such as electricity and running water. Environmental and cultural circumstances influence many aspects of the design, creating a steep learning curve for the team.
Read the full blog entry »

Project Haiti: The First Charrette

When you’re used to seeing colleagues in work attire, it’s strange to see them on a weekend. But there we were – a conference room full of people in shorts and jeans, spending a summer Saturday volunteering for an extraordinary project: rebuilding an orphanage and children’s center in Haiti.
Read the full blog entry »

Project Haiti: Challenges

At the opening charrette for Project Haiti, we asked a few of the designers about the challenges they anticipated for this unique project. Their responses covered everything from technology to materials to cultural considerations.
Read the full blog entry »

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Q&A with Congressional Green Schools Caucus Co-Chair Robert J. Dold: Adlai E. Stevenson High School’s Energy Reduction Efforts

Last week, Congressman Robert J. Dold (IL-10) visited Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL to recognize the school’s LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification and energy-reduction efforts. The 833,000 square foot campus was able to achieve a 7 percent reduction in energy usage and an increase in indoor environmental quality. The school’s sustainability efforts led to integration of sustainable teachings within the school curriculum, including a recycling program that has increased waste stream management and reduced paper usage.

Congressman Dold is a long-time supporter of green schools efforts, and is a co-chair of the Congressional Green Schools Caucus. He joined the Center for Green School’s staff for a Q&A on Stevenson High School’s achievements:

How did you first become interested with efficiency in schools?

With my interest in protecting the environment and providing the best possible atmosphere at school for our students to succeed- it has been a natural fit. Furthermore, the long-term cost savings to schools will benefit our children as budgets continue to be stretched. This will allow school administrators to spend less on overhead and more on education for our students.

Can you describe your involvement with the Congressional Green Schools Caucus?

As co-chair of the Green Schools Caucus I work closely with our other co-chairs, Representatives Chandler and Matheson, to educate other Members of Congress and develop policies that benefit our communities, promote learning, and save the taxpayer money. The Caucus has already hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill given by education experts and green school industry leaders to provide background and real world success stories. We are currently working on setting up a tour of a local green school near the Capitol in the near future for staff and Members.

Congressman Dold and Stevenson staff with LEED plaque

Can you talk about your impressions of Stevenson after visiting this week?

I have to commend Stevenson High School for all their hard work in achieving the first LEED gold-level certification for an existing public high school building in the nation. This clearly is a team effort- every student, every teacher and every person associated with the school has come together to make Stevenson a green school. Whether students are participating in recycling programs or classes are planting a garden or school administrators are adjusting the lighting and temperature- everyone who utilizes this facility is aware and actively engaged in making sure that they do their part to help clean up the environment.

How has the high school used sustainability initiatives to reduce their overall operating costs and reduce energy consumption?

Right now Stevenson High School is saving approximately $100,000 a year because of their LEED initiatives. From regulating the temperature when the school is closed, to adjusting the lighting and planting a garden on the roof- all of these efforts have cooperatively led to more cost efficiency at the school.

How can other schools use Adlai E. Stevenson as a role model for adopting environmental and sustainable practices?

Other schools can get everyone involved. The reason Stevenson High School is so effective is because everyone has a stake in the success of this project. By encouraging one another to participate, it not only helps the school save costs, it will also have an impact in student’s home and the way they view the environment from here on forward.

This is a great example of how a school has recognized the importance of environmentally-friendly practices by achieving LEED certification. What advice would you give students or parents looking to also go for LEED certification in their school?

Going for an LEED certification is unique endeavor that involves the entire community. It requires active participation from the school board, teachers, students, and parents. Making certain the community is participating makes a big difference because when everyone has a vested interest in success, the results are better and everyone feels a sense of accomplishment.

Make going for a certification a learning experience and teaching tool for the students. Stevenson actively engaged their science classes in the process by incorporating their analysis of flow rates of sinks and showers in their plans. Students can then take this knowledge and appreciation for sustainability practices and use it in the future.

Why should the issue of green schools matter to students, faculty and parents across the country?

Students deserve an environment that is healthy and promotes learning. Study after study has shown the positive educational benefits that are associated with schools going green. The other side is that sustainability and efficiency practices save school districts money by decreasing energy bills and operating costs. Those saved resources can be used to make additional investments in our children’s education.

Senators Urge Deficit Commission to Increase Federal Building Efficiency

Bryan Howard
Legislative Director
U.S. Green Building Council

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSCDR) continues deliberation on how to provide long term reduction to the national debt, nine Senators, led by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), urged the select committee to adopt a litany of cost saving measures that would make the federal government more effective and reduce federal tax payers' obligation to ineffective building operations.

The letter sent to the chairs of the select committee highlights the huge opportunity for reducing energy consumption.

“The federal government is the single largest owner of real property in the United States, with the General Services Administration alone owning nearly 2% of all U.S. commercial real estate. The federal government is also the single largest consumer of energy in the United States, spending more than $24.5 billion on electricity and fuel in 2008 alone.”

The letter goes on to outline a number of strategies the federal government should adopt, including building commissioning and updating federal building energy codes as a means of utility reduction and job creation.

In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee earlier this year, USGBC highlighted commissioning as one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing utility costs in buildings and encouraged its use toward greening the federal buildings stock. USGBC has also been a supportive of S. 963, the “Reducing Federal Energy Dollars (RFED) Act of 2011,” which Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced at USGBC’s annual Government Summit. The bill, which is supported by USGBC and many others in the building community, makes it easier for federal agencies to use private financing tools to pay for energy-efficient building upgrades, increases clarity of agency energy use, and allows for building design updates.

While the end game is uncertain, it is good to see that lawmakers are advancing common sense ideas that are good for energy efficiency and good for the bottom line of the federal government.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good News Coming from Charlotte with Declaration of Sustainability Week

Bryan Howard
Legislative Director
U.S. Green Building Council

In a continued demonstration of leadership by the City of Charlotte, Mayor Anthony Foxx has signed a proclamation declaring this week as Environmental Sustainability Week in Charlotte. This recent act joins the extensive list of accomplishments by the City and Mecklenburg County to promote sustainability. The resolution highlights a number of important environmental strategies, including the role of green buildings in conserving natural resources and reducing operating utility cost for consumers and businesses.

This week features a number of events in Charlotte, including the USGBC Charlotte Region Chapter’s annual signature event highlighting Charlotte as an emerging leader for sustainable change. The week culminates with the activation of numerous Smart Energy Now displays which cover over 80% of the square feet in the Uptown region of Charlotte as part of the Envision Charlotte effort to cut building energy use by 20% percent by 2016. For a list of programs during Environmental Sustainability Week please visit the USGBC Charlotte Region Chapter’s website.

Kudos to the city, the Foxx administration, and private businesses for their innovative and aggressive energy reductions throughout the built environment. With continued action like this, every week will be sustainable in Charlotte.

Green Jobs Summit at Greenbuild 2011 Calls for Mobilization around this Common Sense Economic Solution

Maggie Comstock
Associate, Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

The hustle and bustle of Greenbuild 2011 is now behind us, and we’ve all returned to our respective homes and jobs to continue “troublemaking.”

And one area where we need to continue to stir the pot is green jobs. On the Tuesday of Greenbuild, we convened a Green Jobs Summit of more than 40 prominent experts throughout the clean energy economy to brainstorm the successes and challenges experienced in the promotion of the green jobs agenda.

The Opening Session of the Summit highlighted several keynote speakers who represented a range of stakeholders, including Ken Neumann, National Director of Canada for the United Steelworkers, Bob Peck, Public Buildings Service Commissioner at the U.S. General Services Administration, and Dan Esty, Commissioner at the State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. They each outlined the successes to date that they have observed in their respective roles, and also the opportunities for further action.

The eight breakout sessions illustrated that all professionals have a role in this movement. Whether you work locally or globally, in tech or communications, as a skilled laborer or a financial executive, the Green Jobs Summit demonstrated the uniquely important roles of all of these stakeholders. View the session topics and speakers here.

Eco-entrepreneur Majora Carter capped the Summit with an inspirational and motivational call to action. By expertly weaving her personal experiences and “ah ha” moments into her greater message, each attendee internalized her amazing life story and realized that they too could do more, be more and affect real change.

Yes, “green jobs” is a nebulous term (even a flashpoint in certain circles where hanging on to the status quo, old economy jobs, is a full time job in and of itself), but we troublemakers can all agree on this: No matter your job description, professional level or geographic location, YOU contribute to this important movement. YOU are the living proof that green jobs are real and thriving. YOU are the champions for change in our government and beyond.

Though the Summit is over (until next year), green jobs remain perpetually topical and timely. The President’s American Jobs Act outlines a plan for rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and modernizing America’s underperforming schools. These campaigns would create hundreds of thousands of jobs and underline the importance of energy conservation in supporting the economic bottom line. Read more about how the American Jobs Act affects the green building and energy efficiency sector on our website.

Visit the USGBC Green Jobs website for resources and information on the role of green buildings in job creation and economic growth. Also view the recent McGraw-Hill Construction study which revealed that the green building market supports 661,000 green jobs in the U.S.!

We need to work together to underscore that all jobs are critical in our current economy, but green jobs are also about the future — both literally, in terms of new technologies that define our movement, and in the broader view terms of what’s next for our society and our planet. Given our troublemaker status, we’re the best group of all to move this critical agenda forward.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Energy Efficiency in the States in 2012: Will You Help Your State Compete for Top Rank?

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Manager, Building Codes Advocacy
U.S. Green Building Council

If you’ve ever wondered if government policy and advocacy can actually make a difference, consider this: Despite what you may often read in the papers, state governments are plowing ahead on making energy efficiency a reality. And as USGBC mentioned in a recent report, all states are doing something. That just doesn’t happen if no one is fighting for it.

Today, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy released its 2011 Energy Scorecard which shows significant improvements in several states and, maybe most interesting, California sliding to #2 behind Massachusetts as #1 in energy efficiency. The Commonwealth’s Stretch Energy Code – which has been adopted by nearly 50% of all Massachusetts localities – has played an important role, alongside many other state programs. (This is not to say there aren’t a lot of great things going on in the Golden State… more on that later).

One of the six energy policy metrics in ACEEE’s scorecard is state policy for building energy codes. Importantly, “Twenty-nine (29) states have either adopted or have made significant progress toward the adoption of the latest energy-saving building codes for homes and commercial properties - up from twenty in 2010 and ten in 2009.” This is a clear endorsement of minimum standards for building energy efficiency, and a vital step in the right direction if we’re to further extend fundamental protections from other non-acute threats to human and environmental health.

This rapid increase in building energy code adoption, and the advancement of other state policy initiatives (like transportation policies, appliance efficiency standards, utility and public benefits programs) has been championed by advocates of energy efficiency and green building. USGBC’s community of advocates has been behind many of these policy advancements. Have you?

If you attended Greenbuild earlier this month, you heard from New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman (see 30th minute) that we very clearly still have a lot of work to do to get our nation’s leaders on board with our vision of a sustainable future – and we need your help! Are you involved with your local USGBC chapter? Tell them that you want to get involved in their advocacy and outreach activities. Do you know who your elected officials are at the local, state and congressional levels? Let them know why energy efficient, green buildings and communities matter to you, and why they should be embraced in smart public policy.

Setting sights on 2012, will you join us in our campaigns to drive green building policy that rewards responsibility, embraces a sense of urgency and catalyzes change? Together we can compel even further competition in the states in our collective pursuit of a healthier, safer, more efficient and prosperous future.

Accounting for Energy Efficiency: SAVE Act Would Improve Mortage Underwriting, Create Jobs, Save Household Money

Bryan Howard
Legislative Director
U.S. Green Building Council

On Wednesday, surrounded by leaders from business, construction, and real estate, USGBC joined Senator Michael Bennet (CO) and Senator Johnny Isakson (GA) to announce the introduction of bipartisan legislation to enhance the current mortgage underwriting and home appraisal practices to account for energy efficiency and other sustainable features.

"The SAVE Act would help provide access to useful information about energy usage that home owners, buyers, appraisers and underwriters want and need. It would lead to more complete and accurate mortgage underwriting, would encourage investments in home energy improvements, create more than 80,000 jobs and lighten the load for Colorado families' budgets," said Bennet.

The Sensible Accounting to Value Energy or (SAVE) Act would require federal loan agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to assess the expected energy costs for mortgage loan applicants through modest adjustments to underwriting guidelines and appraisal practices.

"I place my support behind this bill because it has the potential to create jobs without any cost to taxpayers, and it will also improve mortgage underwriting in this country by including energy as a factor in the process," said Isakson. 

Updating the appraisal and underwriting guidance has long been supported by USGBC and others in building community. Last year, USGBC and a number of organizations in real estate, housing and energy services released a report that recommended reforms including the greening of federal banking regulation. USGBC also worked with a number of partners in construction and real estate in the development of a toolkit for local Multiple Listing Services (MLS) to give buyers and sellers better information on green properties in their local markets.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) average households spends $1,900 annually on energy bills. It is nice to see a bipartisan focus on ensuring that consumers have better information on how their largest financial investment is effecting their bottom line every month.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Your Board of Directors Election Vote Matters!

Gail Vittori, LEED AP BD+C, LEED Fellow
Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems
GBCI Board Member

Your vote in the USGBC Board of Directors election will help shape the future of our movement.

Each year the USGBC member community has a special opportunity to influence USGBC's future leadership, governance and strategic direction by electing its national Board members. Your vote will influence key decisions about how USGBC serves you, our members, educates the industry and advances the mission.

The Election Period for the 2012 Board of Directors is now open through Nov. 1. To those who have already voted, thank you! For those who haven’t, this is your chance to add your voice to those of the more than 14,000 USGBC organizational members and cast your vote today!

The election period runs for 30 days, and closes on November 1st. USGBC By-Laws require that a minimum of 10% of USGBC member organizations vote. That’s why it’s especially important for you to take a moment and cast your vote now.

This year 11 candidates are running for four open Board seats in the following categories, each to a three-year term:

Designer of Buildings

Environmental Nonprofit Advocate Large-Scale Manufacturer
Urban/Regional Planner

USGBC provides for proportional voting, so every full-time employee of a USGBC member organization is eligible to vote. By casting your vote today, you will ensure that the USGBC Board continues to represent our organization’s diverse, strategic interests.

Cast your vote today! The election will be open through Nov. 1, 2011.

Thank you for making a difference, and making USGBC the best it can be!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Project Haiti Takes Center Stage at Greenbuild 2011

This is a cross-posted entry from the blog at
Access the original entry »

HOK is the USGBC’s official design partner for Project Haiti, a pro bono effort to build a LEED-certified orphanage and children’s center in Port au Prince. Sustainable Design Director Mary Ann Lazarus and a team from HOK recently returned from Toronto, where they shared the Project Haiti story at Greenbuild 2011. Read on for Mary Ann’s guest post and an amazing video from the USGBC:

Imagine it: 15,000 people in the Air Canada Hockey arena, lights flashing, music playing, Jumbotrons running. Cue USGBC CEO Rick Fedrizzi for the introduction of the new Project Haiti video. The video features the recent site visit by the USGBC and HOK team members and meeting with the terrific clients, Gina and Lucien Duncan from the children’s center.

I was quite overwhelmed to be projected at mega-scale to this crowd of great green leaders from across the globe and humbled by everyone’s positive reaction. The video’s goal is to communicate the tremendous opportunity to support the children’s center effort as well as share the inspiration that the project provides to all involved. And it does just that!

Check it out – it’s well worth the five minutes of your time. And think about supporting Project Haiti as well. Pass it on.

Learn more and support Project Haiti »
Visit »

Monday, October 3, 2011

What’s new with LEED and Demand Response? Find out at Greenbuild 2011

Brendan Owens, LEED AP, P.E.
Vice President, LEED Technical Development
U.S. Green Building Council

Earlier this year, USGBC launched the Demand Response LEED Pilot Credit as a road test before full adoption in LEED 2012. We are now working on ways to engage even more projects, drive widespread adoption of demand response participation, and develop a stronger relationship between the energy & building communities.

To learn more about the demand response pilot credit, explore becoming a partner in the new market pilot, and receive a report on qualified demand response programs in your market come see us at this year’s Greenbuild conference in the LEED Lounge or join us for a focused information session. Members of the team that developed the credit language will be available to answer your questions and help you discover how your projects can benefit.

LEED Lounge
Level 800, South Building
Thursday, Oct. 6, 8 – 10:30 a.m. and 12– 3 p.m.

Information Session, Room 802A
Wednesday, October 5, 4 – 5 p.m.
Thursday, October 6, 4 – 5 p.m.

Looking forward to seeing you at Greenbuild!