Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Influence the Future of USGBC: Nominate and Elect the 2013 Board of Directors

Gail VittoriLEED Fellow
Co-Director, Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems
Chair, 2013 Nominating Working Group
Vice-Chair, 2012 GBCI Board of Directors
Chair, 2009 USGBC Board of Directors

What an exciting time it is to be a part of our USGBC community! The green building movement is growing so fast in breadth and depth, workforce supply can’t keep pace; LEED 2012, with its shift to building performance, is once again raising the bar for sustainable development; and USGBC chapters across the country continue to inspire with remarkable achievements.

To be sure, this is a transformational time for the U.S. Green Building Council—a turning point that will influence the future of the organization and the broader green building movement.

One of the key opportunities for USGBC member organizations in guiding USGBC’s strategic direction is with the nomination and election of the 2013 Board of Directors—underway NOW!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How Our Advocates are Advancing Benchmarking Policy

Matt Pearce
Campaign Specialist
U.S. Green Building Council

In the last six months, 29 benchmarking bills and ordinances were introduced in cities and states across the country.

Several USGBC Chapters around the country have adopted the Mainstream Building Benchmarking Campaign and are advocating for local benchmarking policies and programs intended to collect data, increase building energy efficiency and facilitate better building operations. The unique aspects of each chapter initiative, specific to interests of the market, industry and building stock in each city and state, represents the ingenuity of the USGBC chapter network. So far this year, 29 benchmarking bills and ordinances were introduced at the state and city levels. While only some will become law, each plays an important role in advancing the important message of benchmarking our building stock.

Below are three examples of how we are working with our advocate leaders to drive change on building energy benchmarking so far in 2012.

Philadelphia, PA – Last week, Bill # 120428 was introduced into the Philadelphia City Council which would require commercial buildings over 25,000 square feet to annually benchmark energy and water usage. This type of legislation is a great leap forward in improving the existing building stock in the city of Brotherly Love. The Delaware Valley Green Building Council played a strong role in advancing this bill by partnering with allied organizations as part of the Coalition for an Energy Efficient Philadelphia. While this legislation has a few hurdles still to clear, it is an important first step in improving building operations in the area. Way to go DVGBC!

Minneapolis skyline. Photo credit: Paul Weimer
Minneapolis, MN – With the launch of the Performance Metrics Strategic Initiative, USGBC Minnesota and its leaders have demonstrated a great amount of creativity and strategic thinking to clearly show the benefits of LEED buildings. Through a partnership with the St. Paul, MN based EnergyPrint, Inc., this initiative will collect, report and assess the building performance of more than 150 LEED Certified buildings throughout the state through the reporting and analysis of energy and water use. The information gathered through this program will facilitate further education on better building techniques and USGBC Minnesota’s actions will help advance the green building conversation in the Midwest.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Demand for Green Buildings Exceeds Workforce Supply

Maggie Comstock
Policy Analyst
U.S. Green Building Council

This morning, McGraw-Hill Construction (MHC) released its latest SmartMarket Report, “Construction Industry Workforce Shortages: Role of Certification, Training and Green Jobs in Filling the Gaps.” The report, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council and the American Institute of Architects with support from other contributing partners, finds that 69 percent of architect, engineer and contractor professionals expect there to be a shortage of skilled labor in the next three years. With the rapidly increasing demand for green buildings, industry professionals are concerned that the supply of skilled workforce cannot keep up with the demand. While having more jobs than people to fill them seems like a good problem to have in today’s economy, the shortage cannot be trivialized.

Green building design and construction, defined by MHC as LEED or comparable sustainable construction standards, account for nearly a third of the design and construction workforce, supporting nearly 650,000 jobs. The report estimates that this figure will increase to half of the design and construction workforce by 2014.

Training programs and professional credentials are bridging the skilled workforce gap. An MHC survey of architect, engineer and contractor firms revealed that 71 percent of firms considered professional credentials as a boost to their competitiveness. 75 percent of individuals surveyed believe that having a professional credential, including LEED Green Associate or AP, brought them more job opportunities.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

If Betty White Were a Green Building...

Christopher Davis
Certification Team Lead, Existing Buildings
Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI)

Perhaps you've heard the idea that "the greenest building is the one already built." Our friends in the historic preservation movement use this phrase to argue that tearing down an existing building and starting from scratch wastes a lot of materials and energy. And they have a point: A recent report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation concludes that it can take up to 80 years to make up for the environmental impacts of demolishing the old building and constructing the new one, even if the new one is super energy efficient.

Could this be the next star
of the green building movement?
So, granted, in most cases it's better to keep a building than to build a new one, but let's think about that creed again: The greenest building is the one already built. What if you’re not planning a new building? Does that mean your existing building is already green? Does the mere fact that something already exists mean that it exhibits certain qualities? Does the fact that you were born mean that you live a healthy, prosperous and generous life? One can argue that our experiences and aspirations say substantially more about who we are than our DNA ever will. The same holds true for buildings.

Let's face it; LEED was conceived because there are a bunch of really bad buildings out there. They use too much energy and water, and make people sick. But the solution isn't to just tear them down and start over. Existing buildings, and in particular historic buildings, tell valuable stories. They've been worked in, lived in, and loved in. They teach us about our past and form the bedrock of our communities. But just like your wise but slightly behind-the-times grandfather who doesn’t quite get what those new-fangled CFLs and LEDs are all about, sometimes we need to drag those old buildings, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.

Common Ground on Green Schools

Matt Pearce
Campaign Specialist
U.S. Green Building Council

Earlier this year, USGBC launched seven new advocacy campaigns designed to highlight our organization’s public policy priorities. And local advocates sure have responded. Most recently, USGBC South Carolina hosted a day-long summit inspired by USGBC’s Common Ground on Green Schools Campaign which brought together Palmetto state educators, government officials and legislators to discuss ways to put every South Carolinian child in a green school within a generation. Nate Allen, advocacy lead at the Center for Green Schools, wrote up a blog recapping this event. You can read the original post at centerforgreenschools.org

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Toast to LEED: Volume Program Brings Industry Leaders Together

Emily Kirk Willson
LEED Volume Program Manager
U.S. Green Building Council

What happens when Kohl’s Department Stores, Wells Fargo, and Subway Restaurants walk in to a room?

At the USGBC offices, it means a great conversation on green building is about to ensue – among some of the foremost business leaders in sustainability.

USGBC's Rick Fedrizzi and Scot Horst raise a toast to LEED Volume participants

Last month, we were thrilled to welcome participants in our LEED Volume Program to USGBC’s Washington, DC headquarters for full-day orientation seminars to kick-off their journey in scaling up with LEED. The LEED Volume Program allows companies to certify vast numbers of projects by integrating LEED strategies into their standard practice and internalizing the LEED process - and all at a much lower certification cost. We are currently working with 33 participating organizations that have cumulatively certified over 800 projects through the LEED Volume Program.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Inexhaustible" Inspiration: Thomas Knittel Talks Biomimicry

Amy King
Director, USGBC Leadership Institute
U.S. Green Building Council

A building shaped like a butterfly. A skyscraper modeled after self-cooling termite mounds. A structure in arid climate inspired by a desert snail. Biomimicry, the application of nature’s principles to solve problems, is an emerging influence in modern day green building and other design and technology.

Biomimicry expert, Thomas Knittel
Last month, USGBC staff were fortunate enough to hear from architect, biomimicry specialist and HOK VP Thomas Knittel, who visited our office in DC and gave a stunning presentation on biomimicry as part of USGBC’s Leadership Institute, our new leadership development initiative for staff.

I caught up with Thomas after the presentation to pick his brain even more.

Amy King: HOK is USGBC's partner on Project Haiti, our effort to build a LEED Platinum orphanage and children’s center in Port-au-Prince. How have you been able to integrate Life's Principles into the project?

Thomas Knittel: Life’s Principles were developed by Biomimicry 3.8 to describe the overarching patterns found amongst species surviving and thriving on Earth. For me, this set of six principles and 20 sub-principles identifies what you could call system-level success. Whether it is dynamism critical to homeostasis (Gaia Hypothesis), or individual parts operating in the system, these patterns are not just an ethical overlay, but common sense if we want to continue living on a planet with limited resources.

Southeastern Building Codes Welcome Greater Efficiency for Greater Savings

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Director, Technical Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

“Air conditioning saved the South.” I distinctly remember my high school American history teacher repeating this as we reviewed economic growth in the U.S. during the mid- to late twentieth century. Whether you believe that reduced perspiration leads to economic growth or that economic growth spurs the demand for comfortable, less humid spaces, evolving building practice has proven that we can build much more efficient buildings today if we have the right tools – and the Southeast is taking action.

For state status maps on commercial and residential energy
codes, see the Building Codes Assistance Project.
Building energy codes set minimum expectations for buildings to use energy more efficiently in states and localities that adopt them. Together, the development, adoption and enforcement of these improved codes is the glamour-less response to a transforming market, and an important and complementary force to leadership and innovation in the building sector. USGBC is coordinating its Build Better Codes campaign to facilitate engagement in state and local code processes and advancement in the codes towards minimum safeguards that ensure broad access to the benefits of better, greener buildings. In the Southeast, there’s great news to report.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Harvard Achieves a Record 75 LEED Certifications

Andrea Trimble, LEED AP BD+C
Senior Program Manager, Green Building Services
Harvard University

Harvard University recently achieved an important green building milestone: our 75th LEED certification, representing over 2.4 million square feet of our campus in LEED New Construction, Commercial Interiors, Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance and Homes systems.

We have estimated that over 11,000 people on campus work, learn or live in a LEED Certified project. Our focus on building and operating greener buildings has demonstrated that supporting the environment and public health ultimately supports our research and teaching mission by conserving resources, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. For example, our newest LEED Platinum lab building saves operational costs by using greywater for toilet flushing and by reducing air flow change rates during unoccupied periods with the use of occupancy sensors. Because of this, the building is estimated to consume 11 percent less electricity and 51 percent less steam annually.

How did our community reach this exciting green building milestone? There were two key strategies that helped us in getting this far. First, we focused on the bigger picture, creating university-wide Green Building Standards to integrate energy efficiency and conservation into every construction project. Second, we developed a strong internal service model comprised of experts who know Harvard’s building and culture better than anyone else.

A two-year demolition and reconstruction project transformed the Sherman Fairchild Building into one of Harvard's greenest labratory spaces. Photo credit: B.D. Colen, Harvard Staff

Harvard’s Green Building Standards are one of our clearest commitments to sustainability for our built environment. The Standards, adopted in 2009, go well beyond LEED to help ensure greenhouse gas impact, energy use and ongoing operational costs are part of the decision-making process during design and construction. LEED certification is just one piece of these Standards. Two reasons we use the LEED rating system are the opportunity for third-party verification and accountability for defining green building, and because the documentation aids in knowledge management to help promote continual improvement and institutionalize green building practices.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Green Hotel Case Study: The Shore Hotel Santa Monica

Kal Wellman
Associate, LEED
U.S. Green Building Council

It doesn’t take a luxurious property (or budget) to build in sustainability, but the Shore Hotel Santa Monica is a strong example of how luxury and green building can work hand in hand in the hospitality industry. I’ve profiled elements of the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica’s newest boutique hotel to combine LEED with luxury.

Some background: Last month, the Shore Hotel joined an elite group of sustainability leaders within the hospitality industry when it received LEED Gold certification for its design and construction, decreasing the hotel’s environmental footprint by reducing waste and promoting energy and water efficiency.

According to Bryan Oakes, Senior Associate at Gensler and one of the lead architects on the project, “Having a hotel that is a model for sustainability was an important factor for the owner since the beginning of the project…LEED was a great match for the owner’s goals and the city’s green building requirements.”

Let’s take a look at some of the features that make this project a verifiably green hotel.

Zoning Goes Green

Howard Slatkin
Director of Sustainability and Deputy Director for Strategic Planning
New York City Department of City Planning

Note: This blog was originally published on Urban Green Council blog.

Any building in New York City should be allowed to generate solar energy on its rooftop. Buildings should be rewarded, not penalized, for adding insulation to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions. It’s a great addition to the urban landscape when green roofs and urban farms sprout on top of our buildings.

No-brainers, right? Well, until yesterday, New York City’s zoning inadvertently discouraged or prevented all these green building strategies. But now, our zoning has gone green.

Quick! Use Duke Energy, USGBC and Sustainability in a Sentence

Emily Scofield, LEED® AP ID+C
Executive Director
USGBC Charlotte Region Chapter

On Monday, April 23, 2012, the Carolina blue sky contained just a few pure white clouds and the sun was shining at the perfect angle through a slanted wall of glass to make the most picturesque back drop for an executive sustainability conversation between USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi and Duke Energy Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers. Since the event was open to the general public but capped at 160 to maintain intimacy, the professionals in attendance on the 46th floor vista of the Duke Energy Center (DEC) felt like they were part of the sustainability conversation. Topics ranged from the power of public-private partnerships to new technology designed to engage consumers in conservation.

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers with Rick Fedrizzi
 Learning from Mr. Rogers about how much energy will be needed in the future and how critical it is that we shave peak loads coupled nicely with Mr. Fedrizzi’s affirmation that LEED certification is on the rise both domestically and internationally, creating more energy efficient homes and buildings. When an audience member asked about government energy policies, Mr. Rogers demonstrated his unique leadership by encouraging industry to lead government instead of waiting on the government to set a minimum standard.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old Dominion Law Demonstrates Renewed Commitment to Green Government Buildings

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Director, Technical Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

As I mentioned in my last blog, there are some wonderful advancements in the Southeast that need celebrating. Here’s an update from the Commonwealth of Virginia that keeps the state on the leader board.

Green Building in the Southeast (Part Two)
With a stroke of the pen last week, Governor Bob McDonnell signed legislation that will ensure that Virginia remains among the list of pacesetting states that are leading by example and building green public buildings. The High Performance Buildings Act, effective July 1 of this year, is an important next step in the Commonwealth’s continued appreciation for government buildings that are designed to not only use less energy, water and other resources, but also provide dividends back to Virginians in the form of healthy buildings, locally-sourced materials and operational cost savings.

Gov. McDonnell approves the High Performance Buildings Act
The benefits of green public buildings are many, but at the end of the day it’s about leadership. Commitments like these (as found in Virginia and 22 other states) demonstrate responsible stewardship of tax dollars while planting important seeds for growing the state economy. It’s this kind of leadership that sets entire markets on course to achieve a greater potential. For example, Virginia currently holds the #7 spot for the total number of LEED projects (392 certified and 1137 registered).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Taking Action at Rio+20

Maggie Comstock
Policy Analyst
U.S. Green Building Council

Note: this blog was cross-posted from UK Green Building Council

The Rio+20 Earth Summit represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a roadmap for the “Future We Want” —the fitting motto of the June Summit. Heads of State, government leaders, non-governmental organisations and the business community in attendance are charged with the task of accelerating the green economy and addressing poverty eradication through sustainable development.

At a time when multilateral negotiations have struggled, Rio needs to produce tangible and viable outcomes with provisions for their implementation and attainment. No more “agreements to agree” at a future date. We can’t afford to wait until Rio+40.

The buildings sector represents a silver (or should I say green) bullet for sustainable development and the green economy. Buildings not only represent one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but additionally offer low-cost opportunities for emissions reduction and resource efficiency. Addressing the design and construction of the built environment can also prevent the “lock-in” of unsustainable future emissions.