Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Annual Meeting of Fun

What a great Annual Meeting on Monday night! Thanks again to Rachel Zsembery, Dee Spiro, Katya Carman and Carlos Alonso-Niemeyer for putting together such a fabulous evening! Thanks to everyone who came early and stayed late to help make it all happen. Thank you to Andrea Love and Payette Associates for providing their Practice Room as a great hall to gather in.

[above: Kathy Arthur-Tyler of our Green Schools Committee (also of NStar, one of our sponsors!]

Thanks indeed to this wonderful community we have where even with snow and sleet and rain (all at the same time) (and rush-hour!) we had a full capacity crowd. 

Thank you to Brian Swett [below] for making such an awesome presentation about the ambitious goals of the City of Boston and for reaching out to us to help partner with them as they grow their efforts - certainly we can help bring proven models of success to other communities in Massachusetts. 

Congratulations to the new and renewed Board Members and thank you to all the great candidates.

And now the work continues. I know some of the committee volunteers made connections to new helpers. As you heard, for me, the priorities are Community, Capacity and Advocacy - which means getting more members, bringing in new sponsoring partners and focusing on specific policy projects. The advocacy is really the most important thing we can do as an organization. What are we doing? I believe we can choose one or two of the USGBC campaign issues  and in my conversations some of you have heard I think that those can be Greening the MLS and Energy Reporting going statewide. With our Green Schools strategic investment grant, that will be a focus in the coming months. And, finally, pertinent to current events, we need to respond to the wild community development opportunities and building projects that are the future Casinos of Massachusetts.

[me with active volunteers: Andrea Love, Emily Greenstein, Dee Spiro, Phoebe Beierle, and Jim Newman]

I was really psyched to hear about the awesome work going on in the committees - Green Residential, Green Schools, RASOC, Education, Communications, Membership, Special Events and Emerging Professionals. I look forward to our future advocacy team. I am heartened by the West Branch and the Central Mass group with their successful and upcoming events. We've got a lot of great stuff going on!

Take a look at the website - there are new stories up there and I have been building it out more and more (with our Communications Associate Zak) every week. Please stay tuned to our social media spaces: facebook and our LinkedIn group - plenty of news and discussion there.

[Hi Phoebe!]

So you can see, we are moving right along - new people in the ranks, old-timers coming back into the fold, and a lot of work to tackle. As we mentioned last night: Massachusetts is #4 in the country in terms of LEED certified space created (per capita) in 2012. Not that LEED is everything to us (it's just our biggest horse in the market-transformation team), but 101 projects earned the status last year, taking us to just shy of 400 certified projects, total, up til the end of 2012. This means a lot of us, and our peers who aren't quite yet members, are working on a lot of green building projects and we are really changing the built environment. We really are changing the carbon intensity of our communities. We really are making the world a better place. I'm proud to work for you all and I look forward to cultivating this momentum for even more victories in the coming months and years!

Thanks again for being part of the USGBC MA Chapter! See you at the next event!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Member Profile: Megan Ramey

Key Details:
Sustainability Coordinator at A Better City's Challenge for the Environment
Market Sector: Non-Profit Organization

Contact information:
LinkedIn profile: Megan Ramey, LEED Green Associate
Personal Blog:

Megan works for "A Better City" here in Boston. For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, it is a non-profit formed out of an organization begun by around 100 businesses, mostly in real estate, around the Big Dig concerned how their employees would get to work during construction. They formed to mitigate and talk through all the issues with government and planners. Her job is to conduct programs for the members as part of the "Challenge for Sustainability" under the environment arm of the group. She likens it to a diet support group for businesses.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?
That would be in 2006 approx. I was working on my MBA at the University of Wisconsin. As part of that program we had to take a course on “Ethics and Sustainability.” That was my big light bulb moment. No one had talked to me about sustainably in terms of businesses and market transformation. Around the same time, I remember seeing an interview of Joni Mitchell and her writing Big Yellow Taxi and suddenly my career future became clear.

I tell people that my gateway drug to sustainability is transportation and this comes from a series of dramatic shifts in lifestyle from an early age.  As a child, I grew up in rural Wisconsin where I learned to bike after taking a Safety School class in kindergarten.  My bike symbolized freedom and I rode to school, to play in the woods or for soccer practice.  When I was 14, we moved to the suburbs of Atlanta in a planned community called Peachtree City that is designed around a series of paths for golf carts.  Even with this great system, it was still very uncool to bike, walk or take the bus and as soon as I turned 16, I started driving to high school.  The car is definitely king in Atlanta and my life revolved around driving.  Then, in college, I did a work abroad in London for a summer and took the Tube everywhere I needed to go.  When I returned home to Atlanta, I remember being skinnier and my mom commenting on great my legs looked and driving felt really weird and disconnected with society.  After graduating from college, I moved back to my birth city of Madison, WI and began to design my life around walking, biking and taking the bus and over the course of two years, I gradually lost 15 pounds without trying.  This lifestyle has remained a core value since and I can no longer live anywhere with a walk score less than 80 or where I am required to own a car.

How are you an environmental steward?
In my professional world, our Challenge for Sustainability is goverend by the Barr Foundation. Unless we achieve greenhouse gas reductions, we aren't funded. So by definition, if my job was not impactful in a positive way on the environment, I would be out of one.

Personally, I spend a lot of my time in advocacy. I serve on Livable Streets and the Boston Bikes advisory board. Most of my personal volunteering time goes into complete streets and livable communities advocacy.

In my more immediate life, I made the conscious choice to not have a car in 2008 when we moved to Boston. We were spending more time moving our car from parking space to parking space than spending with each other. With Zipcar being here, it was an easy choice to make. That and we also get most of our groceries from Boston Organics. No car needed.

I am continually trying to improve. This year my goal is to install container gardens in my yard.

Why are you a member of the chapter?
Architecture has always been something I've always been passionate about. When I was forced to make a decision between fashion and interiors, I did fashion, though looking back it seems that was the wrong choice. I’ve always had a huge appreciation of the built environment in terms of facilitating community interactions.

LEED and the USGBC was the first framework for sustainability that I came across. At one point I started a business called MoCo Market, an organic convenience store. My friend designed MoCo to LEED-Gold standards, so the USGBC has been there at the front of my head. When I moved to Boston I went to Greenbuild and volunteered as a young professional. It was like church for me. It helped inspire me and connect me to other young professionals. Now there are other organizations more specific to the work I do, but I still need to have a working knowledge of Green building 101 for my job.

If I wanted to find you on a Saturday afternoon, where would you be?
Most likely on some sort of multi-modal adventure. Say it was snowing; I will take the Fitchburg commuter rail ski train and ski right off the train onto the trail system in Lincoln. The weekend is filled with finding local places we have never been, whether they are cities, buildings, museums or public space. It’s fun to do something different by bike or train. We chronicle all the family adventures we have on a blog called Our pug, Gordo, narrates it like a comic strip and it was inspired by Curious George. Most recently we exposed the fun that is the traffic in Central Square.

We are looking to highlight our diverse and talented members. If you would like to be a future member profie, use the Contact Us form.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Advancing Sustainability with the BSA

I attended a great meeting this morning with the Boston Society of Architects' Committee for the Advancement of Sustianability at the invitation of Vernon Woodward and Ken Fisher, co-chairs.

I had a chance to introduce myself to the 15 or so attendees and describe a bit about the Chapter and where we are in terms of cultivating our community,  building our capacity and advocating for green building friendly state and local regulations.

One of the main points we discussed was the Coming of the Casinos to the state. Julie Taylor, of Noble & Wickersham, provided a great overview of the collaboration between AIA MA, BSA and ACEC. She was holding the draft white paper for the Gaming Commission regarding design standards and an outlined design review process, which the commission had asked them to produce. This was as follow-up to the “Promoting Sustainability and Strengthening Communities: Design Excellence for Massachusetts Casinos,” forum held on Dec. 12 last year (which many USGBC MA members attended).

Julie reviewed the State's charge to the Commission and how design professionals can help weigh in on the casinos. Many in attendance hoped that the process would result in casinos that could support sustainability goals for their host communities. I asked Julie what would be the one priority that peer associations could push for, and she said getting renewable energy into these casinos, since they really will be energy hogs one way or another. You can read more about the forum here, and stay tuned to John Nunnari (ED of the Mass. AIA) who chimed in considerably with Julie, as he is also one of the white paper authors, to keep track of this process.

We also heard from Carolyn Sarno, from NEEP (Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership) speaking a bit about the base building code and also the stretch code for the state. It sounds like a lot of things were waiting for the recent fall's election, and now, are just stuck in bureaucratic backlog. It may be one thing our Chapter could specifically advocate for: asserting for the stretch code and demanding the state issue appropriate regulations for green communities as per Green Communities Act of 2008.

I look forward to promoting good green policy at the state and local levels! Let me know what you'd like to see us move forward on. The USGBC (national) has a great list to work on, but we need to think locally, strategically, and creatively, to help move the levers of influence throughout Massachusetts.

See you soon! - Grey

PS - the image on the right side of the photo is what? It's probably obvious, even if it looks like some kind of mini-monster from this angle...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Members Present "Flip the Switch" at NIOP on Jan 31st

In two weeks a few members are presenting Flip the Switch: New Energy Efficiency Requriements, Incentives and Tools for NIOP. Board member Greg Sampson, Attorney at Robinson & Cole, will moderate. Former board member Brian Swett, Chief of Energy & Environmental Services for the City of Boston and member Mark Stafford from National Grid will be on the panel. Good luck, gentlemen!

When: January 31, 2013 from 7:15am-9:00am
Where: Atlantic Warf Fort Point Room, Boston
More info:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Employee Profile: Zak Patten

Key Details:
Communications Associate, USGBC - MA Chapter
Student in Urban and Regional Policy program at Northeastern University (Master of Science expected May 2013)

Contact information:
Twitter: @USGBCMA

This being my first week on the job, it seemed like a great time to introduce myself to the community and share what appealed to me about working at the Massachusetts Chapter of the USGBC.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?
Growing up in Vermont surrounded by so much unspoiled beauty, it never occurred to me that there was any other option than to take care of the land and water on which we depend. I was always drawn to cities for their excitement and possibility, however, so I suppose I just took my homegrown sense of sustainability with me when I moved to Boston.

How are you an environmental steward?
I pride myself on a multifaceted approach to taking care of the environment, from where I live to how I eat, get around, and deal with household waste. My family's home is in a dense urban neighborhood that allows us to walk, bike, and ride public transportation for the vast majority of our trips. At the same time, we have the space to garden and grow a variety of vegetables. When not gardening, we purchase organic foods and farmers' market produce whenever possible. In terms of output, my family is able to recycle a great deal, compost our yard waste, and pay a fantastic service called Bootstrap Compost to take a 5-gallon bucket of food scraps away every week. In return, Bootstrap regularly leaves containers of rich compost for us to use on our own garden.

What attracted you to working with the chapter?
I was drawn to the idea of helping to minimize the environmental impact of the built environment, which I have learned in graduate school is responsible for about 40% of carbon emissions. I had previously interned at LISC's Green Development Center and wanted to continue working in the arena of building sustainability.

If I wanted to find you on a Saturday afternoon, where would you be?
On a perfect summer day, building a sandcastle on the beach with my two young kids. In the winter, either skiing a remote Vermont trail with my camera handy or curled up inside reading a great book.

We are looking to highlight our diverse and talented members. If you would like to be a future member profie, use the Contact Us form.