Saturday, February 23, 2013

Boston's Mayor Menino has announced an Energy Disclosure Ordinance. 
The establishment of this requirement will “provide information to owners, residents, and prospective buyers and tenants, and, through education and the operations of the market, create incentives to participate in energy efficiency programs.” 
Energy efficiency in existing buildings is the single most important component of the City's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. 
New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis and other cities have enacted energy reporting and
disclosure requirements in their jurisdictions.

Leading by example, Boston would annually disclose its energy and water use in all of its facilities starting with 2012 building data. In following years, the ordinance would apply to non-residential buildings greater than 25,000 square feet and residential buildings 25 units or more. The proposed roll out schedule for reporting requirements is as follows:
  • Non-residential buildings 50,000 square feet or more in 2014
  • Residential buildings with 50 units or more in 2015
  • Non-residential buildings 25,000 square feet or more in 2016
  • Residential buildings with 25 units or more in 2017
In addition to reporting energy and water use, buildings may be required to conduct energy audits or other evaluations every five years to identify opportunities for energy efficiency investments.  Buildings in the top tier of energy performance or already taking significant efficiency actions will be exempted from this requirement.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through investments in energy efficiency is the largest component of the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan. Mayor Menino has established Boston as a national leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a clean energy economy through initiatives such as Renew Boston and the first in the nation green building standards for private developments. To further inspire action, Mayor Menino has launched Greenovate Boston, a new sustainability movement to ensure a greener, healthier and more prosperous future for the City. 
More information is at the City of Boston website

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Living LEED® Edition No. 1: LEED isn’t just for buildings anymore. It’s for you and me!

This is a guide for LEED® accredited professionals and eco-conscious individuals on how to apply the LEED® credit scorecard to their personal lives.

Why should only buildings benefit from the LEED® requirements? If we as eco-conscious professionals follow the LEED® guidelines so that our projects can hit silver, gold or even platinum, then why not apply those guidelines to our everyday lives? By applying the scorecard to our daily life, we demonstrate that LEED® is not just limited to buildings but it is for everyone. It shows that we not only talk the talk but walk the walk.

My posts will be part personal journey, part advice column, part standard by which we all live by. Living LEED® is for everyone, not just about me writing my personal reflections or giving advice, it is about you and your journey to your own personal silver, gold, platinum or higher! With this column, I declare a new standard, the EVERGREEN standard. Let’s be like the Evergreen Trees who in their long fruitful lives give us more than they take. So let us give back to the environment more than what we take from it.

For reference: the posts will follow LEED® for EB and NC but to get to EVERGREEN level we will incorporate the other LEED® disciplines as Homes and CI whose credits cross pollinate. The choice of including LEED® for Homes is practical because it is where we spend much of our lives; in and around the home.

I call out to all my LEED® professionals and eco-conscious colleagues to contribute to credits that you have personally achieved and I will incorporate them here. I will try to write in each edition credits in the order they appear. This new Evergreen level doesn’t come with a prescribed checklist. It uses the LEED® checklist as a reference to achieve a level greater than before.

Our first attempt at EVERGREEN standard is to achieve credits in the section Sustainable Sites.

In the current version of EB and CI you get a point for having a LEED® certified building. If you are living in a LEED® Certified building or Home, you are ahead of the curve. My townhome is not LEED® certified.

The best that I can do is go for Energy Star. Everyone needs to go here and learn as much as they can. If you can, register your existing or new home and get it up to Energy Star standards.

Not ready for Energy Star? Then consider Mass Save®. Here you can begin the journey to energy savings and dollar savings! Mass Save is chock full of rebate programs that will send you in an Evergreen direction!

There are many more components to Sustainable Sites. In the next few posts, I will try to incorporate the credits that directly affect us as people, or can be used in conjunction with people. Without infringing on USGBC or Energy Star copyrights, we will reflect on the credits and checklists that inspire an Evergreen Level of standard we can all live by.  

Steve is a Holistic Design Professional at a large Boston-area design firm. 

We welcome contributions from all Members. If you would like to write for the blog, use the Contact us tab to drop us a line.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Project Spotlight: United Teen Equality Center

The United Teen Equality Center in Lowell was founded to serve the young people of Lowell and to provide them with the tools to trade violence and poverty for success. Through a number of programs, including intensive street outreach and gang peacemaking, UTEC helps students resume or continue their education and develop skills through their workforce development programs. UTEC is nationally recognized as a model youth development agency.

Photo Courtesy of UTEC

UTEC also holds the distinction of being one of the oldest LEED certified buildings in the country. UTEC renovated the former St. Paul’s United Methodist Church building, built in 1839, and were certified as LEED Platinum last November. The expansion of the building will allow UTEC to double the number of youths in their Workforce Development and Education programs.

There are 147 solar panels on the roof of the historic building. The project team also incorporated soy-based insulation in the basement. Other sustainability features include an electric car-charging station, solar chimney, passive cooling system, and natural daylighting.

The building will also have a youth-run café open to the public, serving locally sourced food. The café will also have a Green Resource Center with interactive displays.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

LEED Core Concepts for GA Exam w 6h GBCI

Register Now

The USGBC Massachusetts Chapter is presenting a live, hands-on course for green building professionals who are pursuing the LEED GA or LEED AP credential, and those who would like to understand better the basics of the LEED system, esp. the new version, LEEDv4, arriving in June, 2013.
Attendees will be provided with study materials and lunch and snacks are included. The cost is $95 ($125 for non-members of the USGBC MA Chapter). Registrants will also gain a Trade Show pass for both 3/6 and 3/7 and qualify for a $50 discount for registration to NESEA BuildingEnergy13 Conference. Register for this workshop to gain the discount code.
The program starts at 8:30 on March 6th, and lasts until 5pm with multiple breaks and opportunities to network with other attendees. The course is scheduled to be held in the World Trade Center Auditorium, on level 3.
LEED 201: Core Concepts and Strategies
This course is intended for anyone who wants more than a basic understanding of LEED - including those with a stake in their company's or community's building practices, those directly involved in green building projects, and those pursuing GBCI's LEED Green Associate credential. The course provides essential knowledge of sustainable building concepts that are fundamental to all LEED Rating Systems. It begins with an introduction to the benefits and integrative approach to green building, and a brief background on the U.S. Green Building Council and LEED, including basics of the building certification process. The core of the course presents LEED intents and concepts at the credit category level - across building types and rating systems - touching on strategies, syner gies, and specific examples that are reinforced by real project case examples.
The course will provide you with 6h of GBCI LEED-specific credits and/or 4h of AIA CES (LU).
Upon successfully completing this course, you should be able to: 
  • Describe the structure of the LEED rating system and the overall LEED certification process
  • Describe key green building intents and concepts associated with LEED
  • Recognize successful LEED strategies and measurements for achieving goals
  • Describe the central role of integrative design in sustainable building design, construction, and operations
  • Identify and explain synergies between LEED credit categories and strategies
  • Describe case studies that represent LEED best practices in action across the range of building markets
Instructor Bio
Chris Schaffner, PE, LEED Fellow is the Principal and Founder of The Green Engineer, Inc., a sustainable design consulting firm located in Concord, MA. He is past chair of the LEED Energy and Atmosphere Technical Advisory Group. He has been a member of the LEED Faculty since 2001, and has trained more than 9300 professional in the use of the LEED Green Building Rating System. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Free Money For Green Groundskeeping

Its always difficult getting folks to break out of their routine and embrace a better way of doing things.  This is even more true when you propose a more environmentally sound way of doing things.  The innovation may be a bit easier to adopt if it came with such benefits as lower costs, less maintenance, a better user experience, and, demonstrable environmental benefits.

The opportunity is sweetened further if it comes with some free money.

This is exactly the case with switching from gas powered outdoor maintenance equipment to propane power and it can be done now with significant grants to offset the initial costs. These grants are available from  the Propane Education and Research Council. They provide for up to $500 to convert a gas powered commercial mower to propane and up to  a $1,000 rebate for the purchase of new propane powered mower.  More info can be found here. 

Why would somebody want to do this? After all you are just swapping one fossil fuel for another?  That is true, but anyone pursuing LEED-EBOM will be putting together a forward looking landscape maintenance plan. This is also important under a SITES certification.  LEED v4 specifically offers credits for site management plans that adopt gasoline free and low emission landscaping.  Finally it just makes sense from a fiscal and a sustainability perspective.

Reducing costs
All groundskeepers whether on a commercial campus or a public park/school are concerned about ever shrinking budgets.  Converting to propane based equipment can help.  The cost per gallon equivalent is between 30% and 50% less because, unlike gasoline, it is easier to negotiate a contract price for a full year.  Secondly, the maintenance interval for propane equipment is much longer - many people see oil changes move from every 25 hours to every 100 hours. Thirdly, The equipment lifespan is frequently increased.  Commercial mowers typically need to be rebuilt or replaced at about 2,500 hours.  Propane powered equipment can see a 50% improvement due to cleaner oil and pistons.  Finally, the loss of fuel due to theft and spillage is virtually eliminated.

Reducing environmental impact
Spillage of gasoline is an often overlooked environmental problem. The EPA estimates that 17 million gallons of gasoline are spilled annually when fueling landscaping equipment. The lack of spilled fuel is just one of many environmental benefits.  According to the EPA, about 5% of ALL air pollution is generated by lawn care equipment. Propane powered equipment can help with this problem.  Propane yields more than a 25% reduction in green house gasses versus gasoline. It reduces carbon monoxide emissions by  greater 60% and it generates fewer ground level ozone precursors and fine particulates than conventional gasoline powered equipment.  Conversion kits are certified by both the EPA and the very strict California Air Resources Board (CARB).   Most jurisdictions even allow for the use of propane powered equipment during ozone action days when ground level ozone concentrations force the shut down of gasoline powered small engines.

Similar performance to gasoline
A question often asked is, "The benefits are obvious, but how does it perform?".  The market itself is beginning to answer that question. Many major landscaping outfits, particularly in the south and west where they are often subject to ozone action shutdowns, are switching to propane.  They claim that they have the same power with all the benefits. Operators like it because it can be quieter and they are exposed to less fumes.   One issue that I have uncovered is that propane is somewhat less energy dense than gasoline. This results in the range of a tank of propane being equal to about 3/4 of that of a comparable gasoline tank.  The issue of fuel transfer can also be an issue.  Large operators will benefit from an on site tank filling infrastructure, but this is a large upfront expense.  These costs can often be offset by grants and rebates, these are worth pursuing.  Smaller operations can have a  dedicated tank exchange installed, similar to those seen at supermarkets or hardware stores. 

One advantage to investing in a propane filling station is that it allows for the future expansion into vehicles.  I have driven propane and natural gas vehicles and have found them to be identical in performance to gasoline.  Having a fueling station would allow for large vehicles to be converted to  propane.  The lack of a wide array of fueling stations limits a vehicles use, but operating out of a central location, equipped with a fueling station, makes sense.

A reasonable alternative
Of course, electric powered equipment would be the best choice. They could be powered via alternative means and would emit next to nothing in hazardous air pollutants.  There are several viable electric options available for smaller pieces of equipment (blowers, trimmer, saws etc,) but electric still does not have the range or power needed for larger pieces of machinery.  Propane, however, can power smaller engines, such as blowers,  as well as  the larger ones.  One of the best solutions I have seen is a solar array that powers a battery recharging station with interchangeable batteries for the smaller pieces of equipment and propane for the higher power equipment.  This could be a bridge solution that is enhanced by the prospect of free money.

Kevin Dufour is an Environmental Scientist with Viridis Advisors. He collaborates with Tom Irwin  on creating greener greenscapes.