Friday, March 29, 2013

Energy Disclosure is Coming to Boston

The USGBC MA Chapter is happy to promote, support and advocate for public disclosure of energy use in Boston. According to the recent proposal, over the next four years, different types and sizes of buildings will report their energy use score (using EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager) into a public database. The city will rate all the buildings it owns starting in 2013. The information will be used to help the city's Energy and Environment Office, led by former USGBC MA Board VP Brian Swett, to craft incentives and programs to help owners embrace energy efficiency measures. It will not be used to force anyone to do anything, just to report their building's energy use. One of our members, Chris Liston, Director of Energy and Sustainability at CBRE New England, noted that for his clients in New York, reporting for the entire year can be done in about 30 minutes. 

I went to City Hall on Thursday, March 28, to submit supportive testimony to the City Council, which will be voting on the ordinance in the near future. We believe the ordinance will lead to better building values, better tenant experiences, better building operating practices, reduced waste of energy, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, among other things. Some organizations, including Boston's Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), came out against the ordinance, which was puzzling. Industry leaders like Partners Healthcare and Boston Properties spoke in support of the ordinance. It seemed like a lot of the opposition just didn't understand the program. It was too bad, but the USGBC MA Chapter is here to help people learn more and get more support behind the measure.

The ordinance is somewhat like telling people to go weigh themselves when you care about their health. If someone knows their weight, they might decide to start exercising or eating better. But some people just don't even want to know things. And this ordinance isn't even like telling anyone you have to go to the gym - just to get weighed!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Let's Rock the Northeast Regional Summit

Is it the greatest show on earth? Or maybe for the earth? Well, you won't know if you don't go. But the Upper Northeast Regional (UNRC) Summit is only once a year--this time on April 18th and 19th. So if you're ready to rock Rhode Island with your fellow USGBC Chapter members from that state and CT, MA, ME, NH, NY (Upstate), and VT, mark your calendars now.

The UNRC summit is kinda like Coachella, but with not quite so much music and a whole lot more green building/organizing help/learning from each other. A large crew from Massachusetts will be there, so don't miss out. Jim Newman, UNRC Regional Rep, is the info man if you want more deets.

What’s the program like? Glad you asked. You can read about it in-depth here, or see below for the set list:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Get Your LEED (Green Associate) On!

For those interested in sustainability with a specific focus on green building, getting LEED certified is the way to go. The best place to start is with the LEED GA (Green Associate) exam, a two-hour, computer-based test covering the essentials of green design, construction, and operations. Individuals in a variety of occupations--from real estate to planning to education and beyond--take the exam every year to grow their knowledge and boost their careers. If you're thinking about going for your LEED GA, we at the USGBC MA Chapter are here to help. Our next LEED GA study group kicks off at 281 Summer Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02210, on Thursday, April 4, from 5:45 PM – 7:30 PM, and then meets for the following five Thursdays at the same time and place. The best part is that each session with be led by a seasoned green building professional such as Erik Ruoff or Tom Hardey. Here's the agenda for each meeting:
  • 4/4: USGBC Programs: General LEED GA knowledge, GBCI, Rating Systems
  • 4/11: Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency
  • 4/18: Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality
  • 4/25: Materials and Resources, Innovation in Design, Regional Priority, & upcoming LEED v4
  • 5/2: Green Building Jeopardy
  • 5/9: Wrap-up and Green Associate Exam Prep
Hope to see you at the next meeting!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One State, Three Awards, Many Amazing Projects

Time flies when you're building green. The USGBC Massachusetts Chapter launched its Innovation in Green Design Award program back in 2008 with the aim of publicly celebrating the most innovative green buildings and products in the Commonwealth. Hard to believe but the Sixth Annual awards program is already upon us. That means it's once again time to recognize those projects that have been innovative, yet have also blazed a trail others may follow. Another key aspect of the awards is to promote the triple bottom line, so we'll be looking for projects that make a positive impact environmentally, economically, and socially.

Plus, in addition to continuing to give out awards for Innovative Building or System and Innovative Product or Technology, we're very proud to present a NEW category: Massachusetts Green Building of the Year Award! If you have a great green project you want to tell the world about, please enter to win by this Friday, March 29, at 5 p.m. All Innovation in Green Design submissions should be dropped off or mailed to the USGBC MA Offices (Attn: Grey Lee at Space with a Soul - 281 Summer Street, 5th Floor, Boston MA 02210). Whether you enter the contest or not, join us to celebrate all of the state's green builders at our fabulous Earth Day event on Wednesday, April 10, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 2 International Place, Boston, MA 02110. We'll have the awards ceremony, not to mention live music, delicious food and drink, and the opportunity to connect with your green building colleagues. See below for more photos of last year's ceremony.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pests, Poison, & People

Managing a landscape with or without pesticides is a difficult decision.  What’s so difficult you may ask? Pesticides are created to kill things. They are an inherently dangerous product. This should be an easy decision.  However, the pests they seek to eliminate also bring a danger. There's a reason one of the Four Riders of the Apocalypse was pestilence.  After immersing myself, at the request of a client, in the study of this subject and trying to separate the science from the emotion, I find that the subject is, as in most things, far more nuanced than I initially believed.

I, like most people, initially approached the subject from the aforementioned position that pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are designed to kill things and therefore must be bad for the environment and bad for human health. I also assumed that organic products, being ‘natural’ would be better. When you are asked to counsel a client on their landscape management plan, you will probably find that it's not quite so simple.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Compartmentalization and LEED for Homes

LEED for Homes Certification has two paths: Low-rise and Mid-rise. In addition to having some different 'optional point' credits, the two certification paths have some key differences in Prerequisites (the pass/fail items). One of these differences, which I will discuss in this post, is EQp12.1 - Compartmentalization of Units.

Compartmentalization is an air sealing practice that focuses on limiting air movement between dwelling units within a building. Historically, the exterior boundary has been the primary plane for reduction in building air leakage. More recently, air leakage across unit boundaries has been targeted for more than energy savings. Where air can travel, sounds, smells, heat, cold and rodents can, too. The goal of the compartmentalization requirement in LEED for Homes Mid-rise is to reduce movement of all of these things. Many of us have probably experienced an apartment where neighbors share more than just the common stairwell.
Figure 1

Figure 1 demonstrates the intent of compartmentalization. Solid lines in this image represent walls that have been sealed to act as continuous air barriers, dotted lines indicate walls that have not been sealed. The floor plan to the left represents a building in which only the exterior boundary has been sealed, while the floor plan to the right represents a building that has been compartmentalized, or sealed to prevent air movement between units.

Now, you may be thinking, how hard can it be? The entire unit gets gypsum on the walls and the ceiling, the windows and doors are sealed, where can the air come from? Well, let me tell you something: air is sneaky.

It finds its way anywhere that it can - whether through a light fixture, electrical outlet, duct chase or behind baseboard. If you don't seal it, it will come, and meeting the LEED for Homes Mid-rise prerequisite doesn't happen by accident.
Figure 2

Figure 2 is a cross-section of a multifamily building in which we are looking at one unit which is bounded on all sides by other units. The orange dotted line represents the interior gypsum on the walls and ceiling and the floor. The red arrows indicate the paths for air leakage. Air leakage can be found coming through electrical penetrations such as wall outlets and ceiling fixtures. It can also enter the unit through penetrations made by ductwork and unsealed framing in spaces between unit ceilings and subfloors above.

In my experience, residential units that have not had a compartmentalization goal are typically measured at twice or more the allowable leakage level for LEED for Homes Mid-rise. Working with a LEED Green Rater from framing, to insulation, to finish, and focusing on compartmentalization has shown to be an effective way to help projects meet their air leakage requirements.