Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leading with LEED

Matt Pearce
Campaign Specialist
U.S. Green Building Council

Earlier this month, USGBC launched its first of seven 2012 advocacy campaigns initiatives. The aim of the kick-off Leadership with LEED campaign is to grow green building and expand the use of LEED.


Shouldn't all government buildings, funded with taxpayer money, be built or retrofitted to a higher standard? Aren't buildings that are less costly to operate, longer lasting, and beneficial to the communities in which they're located a priority?

Friday, January 27, 2012

From Devastation to Development: How Cincinnati is Working to Change the Haiti Conversation

Myron J. Rivers
Executive Director
USGBC Cincinnati Regional Chapter

There are certain times and events throughout history that can be described with one word or phrase and require no further explanation. These words instantly evoke a deep sense of meaning, knowledge and even emotion. Words and phrases like: Challenger space shuttle, 9/11 and Columbine all bring to mind catastrophic events that have unfolded right before our eyes. Another word that stirs the emotions of many is Haiti.

As you know, two years ago this month, Haiti was ravaged by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake 25 miles west of Port Au Prince. This earthquake left in its wake more than 300,000 dead and one million homeless. There are reports that more than 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed by the earthquake and numerous after-shocks in the days and weeks following. This single event has taken so much from this small Caribbean country and left greater amounts of poverty and despair.

Chicago Can Share Best Practices for a Green Economy

Doug Widener
Executive Director
USGBC Illinois Chapter

Rio +20 presents an opportunity for cities to listen, learn, and forge pathways for a more sustainable built environment

Chicago: Home of the Cubs, the Blues Brothers, deep-dish pizza, and more LEED-certified municipal buildings than any other city in the U.S.(Not to mention Chicago ranks #1 in total square footage of LEED space, and the entire state of Illinois ranks third in the country on a per-capita basis).

Surprised? Chicago is known internationally for its iconic culinary delights, arts, culture and landmarks; less so for its leadership in sustainability. This week, I joined a group of businesses and city officials in an effort to change all that - because when it comes to talking about the Green Economy, Chicago has a lot to say.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

An America Built to Last: The Five Wins for Green Buildings in the SOTU

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

This week I watched the President’s State of the Union address with a notepad of buzzwords ready to take down some tallies. I’m certainly not the only person who keeps track keywords mentioned by the President in his annual speech. Not surprisingly, the President mentioned “jobs” more than 40 times in the 90 minute speech. I was also pleased that he referenced “energy” 20 times. Keeping track of my favorite hot topics became overwhelming only 30 minutes in, but in this case, too much of a good thing is a good thing.

I’m going to take some artistic license with the President’s SOTU title and emphasize the word “built.” Everything that we do to promote a sustainable built environment supports the long-term economic and environmental health of the nation. We cannot support our society if we deplete our natural resources at an unsustainable rate. We cannot maintain economic prosperity and resiliency without long-term, high quality jobs.

At Treasury, Green is Our Favorite Color – But We'll Take (LEED) Gold!

Note: This blog was cross-posted from the U.S. Department of the Treasury Blog and the White House Blog.

When you think about a “green” building, you probably don’t picture a centuries-old National Historic Landmark that’s lined with columns and made of thousands of tons of granite.

Well, maybe that’s about to change. I'm pleased to announce that the Treasury Building – which dates back to the 19th century and is located right next door to the White House – received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) at a ceremony today in our historic Grant Room.

According to the USGBC, the Treasury Building is believed to be the oldest building in the world to receive LEED certification. The fact that the home of much our nation’s financial history has achieved this distinction for environmental leadership really adds new meaning to the term ‘green’ building.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 10 States for LEED Green Buildings

Ashley Katz
Media Manager
U.S. Green Building Council

Today, USGBC released its top 10 list of states with the most LEED-certified building square footage per capita. The District of Columbia leads the nation, with more than 31 square feet of LEED-certified space per person in 2011, and Colorado is the leading state, with 2.74 square feet per person in 2011. Other top states include Illinois, Virginia and Washington, with 2.69, 2.42 and 2.18 square feet of LEED-certified space per person, respectively.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New USGBC Report: Better Buildings through Executive Action

Jason Hartke
Vice President, National Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

President Obama’s We Can’t Wait strategy is all about leveraging Executive Branch opportunities the Administration can take - without Congressional approval - to boost the economy, spur job creation and make America more competitive.

For the sake of all Americans, this We Can’t Wait ethos is something we share and strongly support, especially since green building sits at the nexus of saving people money, saving energy and creating jobs.

For the second time in two years, the U.S. Green Building Council has convened a diverse group of 15 businesses and organizations to help develop a series of green building policy recommendations that could be achieved via executive action.

Today, we are releasing that report, Better Buildings through Executive Action, and we hope the Obama Administration will take note and seriously consider advancing these new recommendations.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Green Building to be a Priority at Rio+20

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

Climate policy wonks are used to reading leaked draft text in advance of international negotiations. However, the 19 page draft text for the upcoming United Nations Convention on Sustainable Development Rio+20 Conference is unique for being leaked so far in advance of the June meeting. Climate policy nerds like me are pretty excited over this fortuitous accident.

The draft text, subject to substantive changes before it is officially presented in June, outlines policy prescriptions for nations to support sustainable development. The text is divided by the seven critical themes of the conference—jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and disasters. The programmatic recommendations under each theme speak to the two overall objectives of the meeting—a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development.

After an initial look at the text I am pleased with this initial draft, though I look forward to more forceful language regarding country commitments and fulfillment requirements in later iterations. I was thrilled to see green buildings included in language promoting sustainable cities. Yes, buildings are one piece of a larger puzzle contributing to a city’s sustainability; however, they are the keystone of the puzzle. On average, the on-going use and performance of buildings will contribute to a city’s environmental footprint for over half a century! Buildings are also one of the largest end-users of energy and, thus, should be a priority in any sustainability plan.

In October 2011, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Council of Brasil submitted a joint position paper to the Convention on Sustainable Development for consideration at the Rio+20 Conference. The submission, Building the Green Economy from the Ground Up: Sustainable Cities and the Built Environment, recommends four strategies to support the green economy and poverty eradication through green building programs: Foster Green Communities and Neighborhoods; Achieve Sustainable and Affordable Housing; Build Green Schools; and Pursue Resiliency as part of the Sustainable Built Environment. In the sustainable development context, buildings have the potential of addressing multiple birds with one stone. Acknowledging the role of green buildings in sustainable development is a positive first step; however, we look to the next iteration of the draft text to make green buildings the new global norm.

Please note that since this blog was written on January 10, the Convention of Sustainable Development has posted the leaked document as a zero draft on its official >Rio+20 website.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Where Were You? Haiti After the Earthquake

Sean Fish
Associate, LEED
LEED Project Administrator – Project Haiti

I’ll always remember where I was when I found out about the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010. That evening, I was attending an event at the Newseum in Washington, DC, where Brian Williams of NBC News was the guest of honor. As the event was beginning, Mr. Williams stepped on stage and announced to the crowd that a magnitude 7.0 earthquake had just shaken Port au Prince. The reports were just starting to come in, but fatalities were expected to be in the thousands. His words that evening and the visual scenes of the devastation that came across the airwaves over the following days and weeks will forever be etched in my memory. From those first few days, I knew I wanted to help make a difference in Haiti; I just wasn’t sure how I could.

In June, 2011 I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime when I was asked to be the LEED Project Administrator for Project Haiti Orphanage & Children’s Center. I soon found myself deeply involved in this very special part of the recovery effort in Haiti; working with an incredible team of volunteers from USGBC and HOK Architecture. In August, I was able to visit Haiti and see firsthand the resiliency of the people there. I was truly amazed to see how, despite having barely enough to eat, everyone smiled as they went about their business. People who had almost nothing were happier than just about anyone I had ever met. These were truly special people.

As the LEED Project Administrator for Project Haiti, I am tasked with overseeing the LEED certification of the project. Project Haiti aims to be the first LEED Platinum certified structure in Haiti, a truly sustainable example of how Haiti can be rebuilt following the devastation of the earthquake. People have asked me why we would strive to build to Platinum in Haiti, and the answer is simple; because the Haitian people are worth Platinum, they deserve to see something truly special come together out of complete devastation.

While in Haiti, I met a few children who lost their families in the earthquake. Meeting these kids changed my life and turned Project Haiti into more than just another project for me, it has become a mission. A part of the mission is actually seeing this project completed, and to do that, we need donations. I recently began an effort with USGBC staff to help raise money for Project Haiti by running in an upcoming half marathon in Washington, DC. Currently, over 15 USGBC staff members have committed to running the half marathon and we are each soliciting individual donations on behalf of Project Haiti. Our goal is to raise $2,000 collectively for the project.

Today I encourage everyone to reflect on where they were two years ago when they found out about the earthquake and the devastation in Haiti. Please keep these amazingly resilient people in your thoughts and donate what you can to this exceptional project that will transform lives for years to come.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Years Later: Rebuilding a Resilient Future for Haiti

Rick Fedrizzi
President, CEO & Founding Chairman
U.S. Green Building Council

This article is cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

Two years ago this week, Haiti was hit by the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 315,000 people. Today, the work to rebuild this poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has barely gotten started.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the U.N. has called this earthquake the largest urban disaster in modern history, affecting 3 million people, displacing 1.5 million and creating 10 million cubic meters of rubble. Two years later, while some significant steps have been made – less than half of those originally displaced still remain in camps, half of the 10 million cubic meters of rubble has been removed and USAID has provided approximately $108 million for emergency shelter and shelter solutions – we need to work faster and do so much more.

I've always said the work we do to make our buildings green is about people and making their lives better. That is why the U.S. Green Building Council, along with global architectural firm HOK as the pro-bono design partner, have been working to design and construct Project Haiti, which is aiming to be a LEED Platinum orphanage and children’s center in Port au Prince. In an effort to show the children of Haiti that their lives are valued, they deserve to breathe clean air and they are cared about, it will provide for the immediate health and emotional needs of orphans and offer a pathway to adoption. And today, we are proud to release the renderings of Project Haiti, the first of many steps toward our end goal.

This building is our commitment to live up to our ideal. Project Haiti will provide a safe, comfortable and nurturing environment for some of the most vulnerable people in the world. HOK’s sustainable design strategies are sensitive to the culture and history of Haiti, while at the same time including passive elements that require minimal maintenance and are not dependent on mechanical systems. Aspects such as natural ventilation, a safe water supply, an on-site power generator that uses solar, wind and biofuel and biomimetic design features will all be incorporated to create a building that is environmentally and financially sustainable for the people of Haiti.

I have witnessed for myself the amazing resiliency of the Haitian people who wake up every morning in the tent cities, wash themselves in a bowl of water and do whatever they can in the oppressive heat and sun to make an honest day's wage. But nothing has had more of an impact than meeting the hundreds of orphans that have made Project Haiti not just a professional obligation, but a personal commitment.

As we soberly acknowledge this two-year mark, I'm asking that you reflect on the efforts being made to rebuild Haiti and engage in USGBC’s work with Project Haiti. Whether you simply learn more about the project, make a donation or spread the word, every little bit helps to get us to our goal to do just this one critical thing. I guarantee it helps us show the developing world that sustainable building practices are not just for the well-off, but for everyone.

Read the press release from HOK »

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Promise of the Green Economy: Strengthening the Economy While Protecting the Environment

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

The author of an article posted yesterday on CNN couldn’t be further embedded in the spin zone he arguably says he’s trying to debunk. In his opening line, the author, Steve Hargreaves, wrote, “The tactic du jour for environmentalists trying to sell a skeptical public on tighter regulations is this: spin the thing as a job creator.”

If you want to substantively get into a discussion on driving job creation, it won’t be long before you’re talking about green jobs. Green building is Exhibit A. In hundreds of communities across the country, green building is strengthening the local economy and creating jobs. Unfortunately, Hargreaves, with his clear predisposition, and others, work tireless to further politicize the established economic benefit of clean energy solutions. Interestingly, these economic opportunities, and green building in particular, are rooted in energy conservation and fiscal responsibility —basically prudent spending of taxpayer dollars to build healthy schools for our children or energy-conserving hospitals that provide a significant return on investment through significant energy and water savings. And from Kentucky to Ohio, Florida to California, we are seeing very diverse political stakeholders advance these opportunities simply because they are smart financial decisions (and wholly apolitical).

For starters, let’s look at a study by the Pew Charitable Trust which reports that the clean energy and green economy sector is the fastest growing job sector, producing twice as many jobs as the sectoral average between 1998 and 2007. A 2009 Booz Allen Hamilton study estimates that by 2013, the green building industry will create 8 million jobs in a range of occupations including construction managers, carpenters, electricians, architects, truck drivers and cost estimators, among many others. Today, McGraw Hill Construction estimates that green construction supports 660,000 jobs, which represents a third of the green design and construction industry. The McGraw Hill Construction study uses a very narrow definition of green jobs which is limited to workers who spend more than 50 percent of their time on green projects or designing and installing green systems, this excludes administrative professionals and manufacturing, production or transportation-related services. This sector only has potential to grow. And this number is only likely to grow with support and investment from both the public and private sectors. A prominent report from McKinsey & Company reveals that energy efficiency improvements in the residential and commercial sectors could create 600,000 to 900,000 stable and on-going jobs. The job creation potential of building energy efficiency could be increased by 114,000 jobs through the President’s Better Buildings Initiative, with the greatest proportion of jobs (over 77,0000) coming from a revised tax incentive for commercial retrofits, also known as 179D (see joint report "A New Retrofit Industry").

Simply, green jobs are win-win. The green building retrofit jobs that President Obama and President Clinton have worked to encourage are new jobs that can’t be outsourced. And in addition, green jobs have the added benefit of creating healthier communities, protecting the planet, and fostering a globally competitive workforce. Thus, the CNN article, which compares the jobs created by the potential Keystone XL pipeline to environmental jobs, sets up a false choice. We have long shown unequivocally that we can advance our economic prosperity without compromising the protection of our environment.

Ultimately, we shouldn’t allow green jobs to be a political punching bag (like Congressman Issa’s hearings as Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform). We need to fight back against the slander. Get involved in advocacy for green buildings and green jobs. Tell Congress what we want, because, after all, they’re supposed represent us, right?

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Best Way to Celebrate a Wedding

Nathan Gauthier
Energy Manager
Jones Lang LaSalle

I am incredibly blessed. Among other things, I met my soul mate and I’m about to get married. My mom says it is about time. My fiancée Bethany also feels very lucky… she gets to marry me, after all.

Bethany is a public health statistician with Partners in Health and volunteers at a local soup kitchen every week. I’m an energy manager and green building educator and a member of USGBC’s Board of Directors. One way we’ve chosen to celebrate our upcoming marriage is to support Project Haiti. We would like to share our good fortune with others and we passionately support the goal of addressing the health and emotional needs of orphaned children and providing a pathway to adoption in that country. We’ve also found that our friends and family are equally inspired by this worthwhile cause.

Here’s what we’ve done:

Personal Donation: We ended 2011 by making a donation to Project Haiti to help fund the orphanage and children’s center being built there. We dedicated the donation to the 2011 USGBC Board and staff in recognition of the great work they do promoting the vision of buildings and communities to regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation. We found that giving to Project Haiti added to our holiday festivities and we are confident our money is being put to good use. You can make a donation online, and even give to the cause on behalf of a family member or friend.

Matching Funds: My employer, Jones Lang LaSalle, is committed to being a good corporate citizen and puts significant efforts into environmental sustainability. After a quick check of our website, I found that they offer matching charitable donations up to $250 per employee per year. With very little effort from us, a portion of our initial donation to Project Haiti was instantly doubled. Check in with your company or organization to find out if you have a donation matching program. A small contribution can go a long way when it’s doubled.

Wedding Registry: Bethany and I reminded our loved ones that we do not need anything for our wedding beyond their support, yet more than one still asked us what they could get us as a gift. As a result, we’ve posted on our wedding website that if somebody is so inclined, we suggest making a donation in our honor. We’ve picked “his” and “hers” charities for this purpose. Bethany selected the Friday Night Supper where she volunteers and I selected the Project Haiti Orphanage and Children’s Center as a USGBC effort dear to my heart. Now our friends and family have an opportunity to support our favorite causes.

We’re scheduled to get married on Jan. 28. I can’t wait. While I’m not sure where our adventures will take us, I know Bethany will be an excellent partner on the journey. I’m also certain that donating to Project Haiti is a wonderful way to celebrate our big day. I just hope that going forward, there is more we can do to support the effort. Oh yeah, I hear it is acceptable to get somebody a wedding present up until a year after the ceremony, so there is still time to donate under our name if you’re interested. Or you can make your contribution at any time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Every Penny Counts: Tracking Building Performance to Save Money and Resources

Lauren Riggs, LEED AP
Manager, LEED Performance
U.S. Green Building Council

This post originally appeared on FacilitesNet.

In today's economy, every penny counts. And as building owners and facility managers know all too well, every penny adds up. When the lights in your 30-story office building are left on an extra hour each day, or the brutal summer heat requires an extra blast of air conditioning, your energy consumption escalates and so does your utility bill. That's precisely why building owners and facility managers are starting to "listen" to their buildings to ensure optimal operations.

Inspired by these attentive facility managers, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) launched its Building Performance Partnership (BPP) in 2009. The organization-wide initiative positions the optimization of building performance as a fundamental goal of the green building movement. BPP engages both owners and facility managers of LEED-certified commercial buildings through data collection, analysis and action. Participants receive annual performance reports, report cards and real-time data interfaces to aid in their building performance goals.

At the end of 2010, 132 LEED-certified facilities, mainly office buildings, had joined BPP. These facilities range in size from 2,000 to 2 million square feet. In 2011, the program grew to include nearly 350 partners, triple 2010's figures. The types of organizations and facilities have grown to include retailers, offices and other building types. These participants are demonstrating their commitment to energy efficiency monitoring and are leading among their peers by sharing their experiences and contributing to the market need for building performance education.

The first year participants represented high-performing buildings from every region of the country. Those buildings eligible for an Energy Star score had an overall average score of 87. Consistent with a high average Energy Star score, BPP participants had demonstrated Source Energy Use Intensity that is on average 41 percent lower than the national averages reported in EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

Each year will bring new enhancements to the program and offer increased connectivity to other USGBC programs. This year, all participants that share data through BPP will receive their performance report through an online interface, which will contain an analysis of their current performance, from the most recent 12 months of utility data provided, side-by-side with their benchmarks from LEED certification.

To support the increased interest in building performance, USGBC is implementing automation solutions for data collection and transfer, including establishing an automatic data input and output relationship with EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and will begin work to automate additional benchmarking solutions.

The goal is for the annual performance reports to act as a helpful reminder to facility managers that their building's performance matters and benefits the bottom line. Armed with comprehensive green building performance data, BPP will enable standardization of reporting metrics and analytics and establish new performance benchmarks, ultimately transforming the way the world views building operations and maintenance.

For more information about BPP, visit usgbc.org/bpp.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

City-wide Clean Development Mechanism: A Framework for Empowering Cities

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

As the dust settles after the COP17 Climate Talks in Durban, a sigh of relief is released. The mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol have survived to see a second commitment period.

The mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol—the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), Joint Implementation (JI) and emissions trading—provide flexibility as participating countries attempt to comply with their emission reduction targets. Each of these mechanisms allows developed countries to fund emissions reduction projects outside of their borders in order to meet their domestic targets. The CDM has been universally embraced by the first and third world as a way to encourage sustainable development and green economic growth in developing countries.

In a recent effort to expand the benefits of CDM, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Board approved a new methodology for large scale emissions reductions made throughout multiple sectors within a single city. This “city-wide CDM” allows for a city to reduce emissions through buildings, energy use, water use, waste management, transportation and beyond. It allows for an integrated systems approach to emissions reduction and resource conservation, which we at USGBC obviously love. The first pilot of this CDM Progamme of Activities (POA) is underway in Amman, Jordan. The U.S. Green Building Council along with countless stakeholders are eager to watch the progress made in Amman as this pilot proves the feasibility and replicability of the city-wide model.

We recently witnessed disappointment for international climate policy as countries further postponed taking action. The fate of the planet’s climate looks bleak when countries have extended the deadline of an agreement on a new climate regime to 2015 when the first round of major reductions is due by 2020. In the face of this indecision and inaction, cities have historically stepped up to the plate to reduce their carbon footprint without pressure or prompting from national governments. To learn more about city leadership on climate change and green building policy, see Jason Hartke’s blog, “Lights…Cities…Action,” the C40 Cities blog, and the World Green Building Council’s Government Leadership Awards Publication.

A new challenge that we would like to pose to U.S. cities is to turn to Amman for inspiration. Consider an integrated approach to city-wide sustainability as outlined in the CDM methodology developed by the World Bank. As a climate change policy wonk, the potential for cities to out “green” each other is very exciting and opens additional policy and economic opportunities. I dream of emission reductions made within the buildings sector of participating cities, with opportunities to meet additional compliance through city-to-city emissions trading schemes. Though I am not the only one to think and dream of this potential, we are several degrees away from this end goal.

I will finish with a few asks to U.S. cities. Establish baselines for greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. Develop a mutli-sector approach to city-wide sustainability and consider Amman as a model. Enable emissions trading for reductions made through building retrofits à la the Tokyo model. Inspire and encourage other cities to join this effort. The wider the pool for emissions trading, the more economically efficient are the reductions. The U.S. Green Building Council is here to help you develop and implement policy. Let’s work together to create an extensive network of sustainable cities who recognize the role of market-based approaches and common sense economics.