Wednesday, October 15, 2014

USGBC MA Chapter Provides Voting Guidance on MA Ballot Questions

2014 Voter Guide: Ballot Questions

On Tuesday November 4, 2014 Massachusetts voters will elect a governor, and legislators for local, state, and national offices. Additionally, voters will be asked to vote on four laws proposed by ballot initiative petitions. This guide discusses two ballot questions that are of particular interest to the green building community, and also provides summary information of potential legislative initiatives for the upcoming session. We recommend these issues be brought to the attention of the candidates for public office and that you exercise your right to vote on November 4th.

Ballot Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing

This proposed law would repeal House Bill 3847, enacted in 2013 which raised the fuel tax from 21.5 cents per gallon to 24 cents per gallon with an automatic adjustment every year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. Prior to 2013, the last adjustment to the tax was in 1991 and had reduced this revenue by 18% between 1991 and 2013 after inflation, while nationwide fuel tax revenue has risen by 15%. 

We recommend a NO vote on Ballot question 1. The current law provides stability to a revenue source that funds state transportation projects including repairs to roads and bridges, and finances mass transit projects such as intra-city rail, and the Green Line extension.

Ballot Question 2: Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law

The proposed law would expand the state’s beverage container deposit law (the Bottle Bill) to require deposits for all non-alcoholic/non-carbonated drinks, except dairy products, infant formula and FDA approved medicines. The law also required the container deposit amount be adjust for inflation every five years to the nearest whole cent, but not less than five cents per bottle. Other provisions of the proposed law provide increases to minimum handling fees, allows exemptions from accepting empty bottles for small retailers, and sets up a Clean Environment Fund to receive certain unclaimed container deposits. 

We recommend a YES vote on Ballot question 2. The current law is outdated, with inadequate handling fees, and with no deposits required for water and sport drinks that have proliferated in recent years. The proposed legislation will increase recycling rates and provide dedicated revenue for proper management of solid waste, water resource protection, parkland, air quality and climate protection. 

2014 Voters Guide: Talking with the Candidates

Where do the candidates stand on legislative issues related to the green building community? Ask candidates if they support the following:

Updating the Stretch Energy Code 

As of July 2014, IECC 2012 went into effect in Massachusetts, with the result that the current Stretch Code is now essentially equivalent to the new base energy code in terms of energy efficiency. The Green Communities Act requires that “Green Communities” set requirements to minimize life-cycle costs for new construction, which largely has been accomplished through the adoption of the Stretch Code (generally 20% better than the base code) by these municipalities. We support legislative or regulatory changes to adopt an updated stretch code. 

Building Energy Benchmarking 

This is regulatory process where owners & property managers report their buildings' energy & resource use into public databases. These will be used to help improve energy efficiency, and target outreach efforts and incentives. Currently Boston and Cambridge have adopted regulations to establish BEB for large buildings. Across the United States, 8 other major cities and two states have enacted BEB requirements. Research has shown that building owners who benchmark their buildings are more likely to make energy efficiency improvements. A 2012 analysis of 35,000 benchmarked buildings, conducted by the EPA, found that the buildings reduced consumption by an average of 7 percent over three years. 

PACE - Property Assessed Clean Energy

We support a comprehensive PACE program in Massachusetts. 2014 legislation died in committee and we want our legislators to support it going forward. PACE is a term used to describe a novel approach for funding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

• Projects are 100% financed by an outside entity.

• Terms are generally longer than the useful life of the improvement, up to 20yrs, resulting in high ROI.

• Similar to a tax assessment, PACE repayments are an expense rather than part of the balance sheet.

• The assessment remains part of the property regardless of the changing of ownership.

Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax

A carbon tax is a tax on the carbon content of fuels — effectively a tax on the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. We anticipate that a proposal will be reintroduced in the next legislative session. Other states, including Washington and California, are also considering this issue. To learn more about carbon tax, we suggest the following web links:

Net Zero Standard for Buildings

We support Senator Jamie Eldridge's S. 1587 a Net Zero Standard for building in Massachusetts. The bill was based on the recommendations of Governor Patrick’s Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force and would establish definitions of residential zero net-energy buildings and commercial zero net energy buildings. In consultation with the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) create regulations establishing a residential zero net energy building standard to take effect January 1st 2020 and a commercial zero net energy building standard to take effect January 1st 2030.
More on this bill is at the Senator's website.

Monday, October 13, 2014

National Association of Realtors (NAR) Elects Chapter Member Craig Foley

Craig Foley has been a champion of green homes and a leader on both our Advocacy Committee and Residential Green Building Committee. He has helped us support market transformation initiatives like greening the Multiple Listing Service and Senator Eldridge's S. 1587 - the "net zero mandate" for Massachusetts homes and commercial buildings. Craig is the co-founder of inCharge Energy and a REALTOR with RE/MAX Leading Edge based in Somerville, MA. Below, Craig writes of his recent selection into the NAR political elite:

"I have been asked to serve on the Land Use, Property Rights, and Environmental National Committee for NAR. It's considered one of the most influential policy committees of the organization. The committee is often referred to as the "Land Use and AntiEnvironment Committee"...however, this year it looks like myself, Laura Reedy Stukel from Chicago and John Rosshirt form Austin, Texas have all been placed on the committee - Laura and John are both personal friends and considered thought leaders in the real estate industry on sustainability and real estate.
Really good signs that my national trade organizations is committed to change!"

Congratulations Craig!

Friday, October 10, 2014

USGBC MA Chapter friend and Board member Chris Schaffner is a candidate for USGBC's Board of Directors

USGBC MA Chapter friend and Board member Chris Schaffner is a candidate for USGBC's Board of Directors. Chris has provided an overview of his intentions and reasons for seeking a seat designated for Sustainable Practice Leader: Engineer. Voting for the 2015 USGBC Board of Directors is ongoing, through October 30.

Via Chris Schaffner

Friends and Colleagues:

I'd appreciate your consideration when you fill your ballot. 

People ask: "Why are you running for the Board".
Chris Schaffner
Image credit W. Marc Bernsau, Boston Business Journal

The USGBC has come along way in the last two decades. 20 years ago, the USGBC was in its infancy, and green building was seen as a niche, practiced by only a very few. Today, a market transformation is in progress, as witnessed here in Boston’s Seaport District, where every one of the new buildings recently finished or under construction will be LEED Certified. That’s the impact that we, the members of the USGBC have had.  We succeeded in beginning a market transformation, a transformation that has brought green building practices into the mainstream. We’ve communicated the message that green buildings are not only good for the environment, they’re also good business, good for communities, and good for people. 

But our work is not finished – it has really barely begun. What do the next 20 years and beyond look like?  That is the question before us.  I want to help us, the members of the USGBC, plan and lead the next 20 years. That is why I'm running. 

With our many accomplishments, we face a few challenges. 
1) We’ve succeeded in making green buildings a desirable object. How do we make sure that they are available to everyone, everywhere? 

2) With our growth and power come new challenges, organizations and individuals who are threatened by our mission. How do we face these challenges?   

3) Our growth has also created vested interests within the green building movement. How do we challenge our friends to raise the bar, to improve what is working, and fix what is not?  

4) And finally, we must remember that the USGBC is a 501(c)(3) charity –we’re not a professional organization, and we’re not lobbyists. How do we go beyond just advancing the interests of our current members, and become a force for good everywhere, for everyone?

These questions need answers. I hope to help answer them. 


Chris Schaffner, PE, LEED Fellow 
Principal and Founder
The Green Engineer, Inc.
Sustainable Design Consulting
54 Junction Square Dr.
Concord, MA 01742

The Green Engineer, Inc. is a Certified B Corporation and a Massachusetts Benefit Corporation - Employee Owned since 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

YouthBuild Boston Partners with McKinley Middle School for Green Apple Day of Service

by Paul Rouhas

For YouthBuild Boston’s (YBB) Green Apple Day of Service, we elected to complete an energy efficiency project at McKinley Middle School. YBB has previously completed service events at McKinley Middle School for Martin Luther King Day (January 2014) and with John Hancock employees (June 2014). After discussing the project with school administrators, we determined the Science and Technology room would be our target area. The project involved installing energy efficient surge protectors to support the room’s 4 PCs and printer, as well as a laptop charging cart for the 7 Chrome Books used in classroom instruction. The surge protectors feature control switches that allow all PCs and equipment on each power strip to be automatically turned on or off by a designated control unit. Each strip also featured 4 automatic switch outlets, which cut power when equipment is not in use, eliminating “phantom electricity”. Kilowatt meters were also installed so that students can monitor energy consumption and incorporate energy efficiency into their curriculum. The laptop charging station was designed and built with support from YBB’s The Designery, an after-school architecture/design/build program. The charging stations create a central charging area and is also equipped with a smart surge protector to limit energy consumption. We want to thank NSTAR and the USGBC MA Chapter for providing financial support to complete this project.

The mission of YouthBuild Boston is to empower and assist underserved young people from the Boston area with the essential social, vocational, academic and life skills necessary to navigate a positive pathway to self-sufficiency and neighborhood responsibility. McKinley Middle School is a BPS facility that focuses on the emotional, behavioral, and learning needs of 5-8th grade students (10-16 years old). 95.5% of these students are enrolled in special education courses focusing on social and emotional needs, 89% are minorities and 79% are low income (2012-2013 BPS data).

The project involved 6 YouthBuild Boston students, 5 YouthBuild Boston Staff, and 3 staff from McKinley Middle School.