Sunday, April 21, 2013

Facts About the Proposed Boston Building Energy and Disclosure Ordinance

As a component of the City of Boston's Climate Action Plan
Photo credit:
to meet the Mayor's greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25 percent by 2020, Mayor Thomas M. Menino filed the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance with the Boston City Council. This ordinance would require all large and medium sized buildings to report their annual energy and water use to the City of Boston.

Here are some facts about the proposed ordinance:
1. All large and medium buildings or groups of buildings would be required to report annual energy use, ENERGY STAR rating (if applicable), water use, and greenhouse gas emissions through ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager or an equivalent mechanism.
2. The requirement would be phased in over 5 years and would ultimately apply to non-residential buildings 25,000 square feet or greater and residential buildings with 25 or more units.
3. Buildings with ENERGY STAR ratings below the 75th percentile and not meeting other exemption criteria (to be developed by the city, i.e. high performing buildings that do not qualify for any ENERGY STAR rating or that show continuous improvement) would be required to conduct energy audits or other evaluations every 5 years to identify opportunities for energy efficiency investment. Building owners would not be required to act on the audit.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

How can we make greener leases in commercial buildings?

Endorsed by the USGBC and produced by the local Massachusetts Chapter, BuildingSmarter Buildings Forum will take place on May 9th at Suffolk University, 73 Tremont Street in Boston.

This will be a great opportunity to discuss and learn about energy efficiency incentives and ways that commercial real estate can improve both performance and marketability through sustainability.

Speakers include:
  • Brian Swett (City of Boston)
  • Bruce Percelay (Mount Vernon Company)
  • Jonathan Keefe (Cassidy Turley)
  • Cynthia Keliher (McCarter English)
  • Rives Taylor (Gensler)
  • Mark Wartenburg (Philips)
  • Derek Brown (Clean Fund)


We’ve made great strides in the past 10 years. Yet great gaps still remain in construction communities with traditional separate interests: between architects – clients; between code officials – builders; between landlords – tenants; between entrepreneurs – supporters.

Landlords have little incentive to invest - in above-code approaches to maintenance, energy, water and health improvements - when payback is reaped solely by tenants.

Tenants are reluctant to renew leases in buildings that lag behind current construction practices in energy efficiency. And there’s a heavy overhang of potentially large energy cost increases in the next few years.

Green leasing is a natural extension of the green building however many barriers exist that inhibit widespread adoption of a sustainable leasing approach. Effective green leasing processes and principles remain scarcely implemented and understood by the real estate community.

In order to integrate environmentally sustainable initiatives into the commercial real estate process it is important to have both the landlord and the tenant work collaboratively to pursue and implement these initiatives. Green leasing dictates that building performance become transparent to all parties involved in the lease transaction.

We need more collaboration – connection – commitment. This event will help to provide that.


Establishing consensus between landlord and tenants on how a particular building’s configuration and operation should support sustainability is the first step toward a successful green leasing agenda. The ideal green leasing document set not only delineates sustainability goals but also describes specific landlord and tenant behaviors that support them.

Declaring a commitment to manage through measurement is vital to any successful green leasing agenda. Quantitative metrics and sensible reporting protocols allow all parties to track their progress toward sustainability and make adjustments when necessary.

There are a real mutuality of concerns between the landlord and the tenant in respect of green leasing issues. The landlord is concerned about obtaining and maintaining the building’s sustainability certification and equally concerned about being in a position to meet any new environmental obligations that may be passed during the course of the lease. Likewise, the tenant will have the same concerns except that, being the ultimate payor of these costs, it will want to ensure that the return on its investment is a reasonable one.

A number of barriers do exist:

  • There can be the tendency of the parties and their counsel – who may be unfamiliar with the sustainable leasing process and principles – to focus excessively on certain legal aspects of the lease to the detriment of the process and the parties’ goals.
  • A lack of well-known effective approaches to overcome the “split incentive” created by many leases between landlord and tenant related to how each shares the costs and benefits of sustainability-related measures can impede progress.
  • The challenging market environment of the past several years has caused many market participants to defer implementing sustainability-related changes in their business practices and leasing operations that may be seen as costly or risky.
  • Many participants are still concerned about unsettled potential legal pitfalls posed by green leasing.
  • There is no comprehensive, widely distributed and easily digestible guide to overcoming these barriers and implementing sustainable practices into the leasing process.
  • More commercial leases do not currently stipulate any shared or unilateral environmental objectives.
  • Few leases incorporate provisions contemplating the reduction of waste production or require that the tenant improvements match the standards of LEED CI or equivalent.
  • Most existing commercial leases will not require certain types of materials to be used or mandate the use of environmentally friendly products by the parties. In fact, most leases will stipulate that the tenant must use new (or as new) building materials.


Ultimately, pursuing a successful green initiative through the vehicle of a green lease requires the landlord and tenant to work collaboratively to establish key elements of sustainable practices and concrete methods of implementation. The main provisions that both parties will want to consider when entering into a green lease are the operating costs, utilities, landlord and tenant work, access and relocation rights, and the assignment and subletting provisions.

A green lease may also specifically detail things like environmentally preferable cleaning products, comprehensive landlord and tenant procurement guidelines, requirements for natural or low water consumption landscaping, the ability to specify higher cost.


Effective green leasing processes and principles remain scarcely implemented and understood by the real estate community.

The Rationale for Sustainability

Because green leasing formalizes the meaning of sustainability between the owner and tenants, the process should begin with a transparent understanding of why this is good for both parties. A clear sustainability vision allows for better definition of the scope of the sustainability program, key metrics, and monitoring and enforcement protocols.

Reaching Stakeholder Consensus

All parties must work together to define expectations, balancing the ideal with the practical and incorporating the flexibility needed to cope with difficult leasing and capital markets. If consensus is not reached regarding the sustainability efforts of the property and one or more parties does not fully embrace the initiative, this could potentially damage other parties’ financial expectations or reputations when performance levels are not met.

Setting the Boundaries of the Sustainability Program

A green lease should be a framework for achieving the goals the landlord and tenants share on these issues, rather than an overly strict document that could become a barrier to tenant attraction and retention.

Moving Toward Common Ground

It helps to begin with an entirely new lease template – adding green components or making amendments to an existing lease document can prove cumbersome and limit your flexibility. If circumstances make wholesale updating of existing tenant leases impractical, a phased approach may be required. In some situations, one tenant’s lease may contradict or prohibit the sustainability goals of another tenant. Identifying and actively managing these conflicts – and striving for consistency in lease language wherever possible - can help prevent friction or disappointments among the building’s occupants.

Assembling a Green Document Set

The best approach is to supplement the lease itself with the following exhibits or appendices:

  • Guidelines for materials and procedures related to tenant fit-out
  • A tenant primer that extends the concept of green to office equipment, recycling, travel and day to-day practices (e.g., the proper use of operable windows in air-conditioned spaces)
  • Procurement guidelines that reinforce the building’s goals of resource-efficiency, indoor air quality, etc.

This integrated set of materials provides greater detail than any single document could. Moreover, this approach distinguishes items that are within the landlord’s control and enforceable under the terms of the lease from ones that may be just as important to the building’s sustainability profile but depend on the tenant’s voluntary compliance.

Requirements and Enforcement Protocols

A green lease should facilitate the achievement of mutually agreed upon levels of sustainability. Both landlord and tenant need to understand what a good job looks like, how their respective performances will be tracked, and how failures to meet standards will be identified and remedied. Before obligating either party to any green standard, practice or reporting protocol, be sure it is both attainable and cost-effective.

Incentives for Collaboration

The ideal green leasing arrangement is one where the landlord forms a collaborative rather than a paternalistic relationship with its tenants. Clearly delineated mutual goals and transparency in reporting are two key elements of this collaboration. And make sure your lease form defines “who pays for” and “who benefits from” greening investments where appropriate.

Managing Through Measurement

Reporting is critical to the success of any green program. Your green leases should delineate the type of reporting that you intend to request and provide. Establish upfront which data sets will be exchanged, at what frequency and at what cost, in order to satisfy the reporting needs of the landlord or any tenant. Each party needs to understand what level of reporting will be required and agree to allocate the dollars and human capital needed to deliver data in a timely fashion.

Considering that the relentless pursuit of energy efficiency is perhaps the most significant step that a commercial building can take on its path to sustainability, any green lease should include a clause that requires the cooperation of landlord and tenants in benchmarking the building’s energy performance with EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool.

Certification Strategy and Frequency

Once you decide to pursue a sustainability program for your building, you need to investigate whether you (and/or your tenants) are willing to invest the time and money necessary to secure third-party validation of its sustainability. Decide if you’re simply seeking a one-time certification or are willing to commit to tracking and certifying your building’s performance over the long term. The latter choice should not be made casually – you’ll need to stay up-to-date as green standards and rating systems evolve.

Allocating Greening Expenses

Retrofits that enhance the building’s energy efficiency; engineering and other assessments related to various building certifications; and, higher insurance premiums that entitle you to have damaged portions of your building rebuilt to green standards (and recertified as such) are just a few examples of the cost of greening a building. A green lease should clearly reference these expenses and describe how they will be allocated between landlord and tenant. Some tenants may insist on setting a limit on the amount of green expenses that they will be asked to shoulder in any given year.

[This article written by Dennis Walsh, Building Better Buildings Organizer]

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Living LEED Edition No.2: Water, Water everywhere or is it?!

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

This edition is a topic of much discussion: Water Reduction. We are all criminals in our over usage of water. Me, I am just as guilty. It's a cold early Spring day as I write this. I really enjoy a long hot shower. Who doesn't?! But how do you check and balance this is the heart of this discussion.

LEED across the various disciplines dictates our projects reduce its water usage by at least 20%. When you score higher percentages, for instance 30, 35 or 40, you get more credit points. We know how to achieve this: by metering, timed water usage, low to no flow toilets and more. As you know these formulas are based on men and women using toilet rooms "X" times a day. Come on LEED, let's get real! Not use the mean average! If you drink multiple cups of coffee a day, are you really holding it in and going about 3 times a day. I highly doubt it! In my interpretation, the credit is a minimum of what we should be doing on the job.

At home there is little chance of us ripping out our old faucets and installing new proximity sensor faucets. Usually we install a low flow toilet. Yet how many people have really installed aerators on their sink and shower faucets. I dare say many people love a pulsating water massage! Which is a water hog. No pun intended! So how do we get water usage reduced at home when we can or cannot replace fixtures? The answer is a major culture shift in our habits. One we have to practice no just at home but at work.

Get your water bills for the past year and create log of how much you use. Notice any variations. These could be time of year, a vacation or maybe you forgo showers at home for the ones at the gym! My lifestyle is already blissfully spartan even with 2 dogs. And these boys drink a lot of water. Yet my bill never goes above the minimum. I know by reviewing my bills and watching my water habits, I've drastically reduced my water consumption. By how much? I wish I could know. But when the city only charges you baseline, then you have nothing it to compare to.  

The keys to home Water Reduction and Consumption are simple: Reduce and Re-use. If there are children in the house it will be a challenge but one the kids will probably have fun doing. For us adults, it's changing our mindset. I've composed a list of things to help shift our Water Hog mentality. Many most of you will know. This list won't be pretty but neither is waste or wasting water. Clean water might not be an issue here in New England but I am waiting for the dam to break in Drought cultures in Texas and California. For your friends out there, this blog will help! So tighten those valves and let's get to reducing!
  • Reduce your hand washing time. PERIOD!
  • Wash your hands in a sink of water and not let the water run. Or put all your cups and bowls that need rinsing and wash your hands over them and let the grey water soak the dirty dishes.
  • Transfer that water or rinsing water to a potted indoor or outdoor plant. This is especially effective come summer. I rarely fill a bucket with water to water my patio garden of a dozen or so plants.
  • Fill up a bucket by keeping one with you in the shower. So that it catches the 'waste' water.
  • Install aereators!
  • Install a Flow Control valve on your shower head. While living in Europe, you learn to get wet, shut off the water, soap up, turn it back on to rinse the soap off. This would often lead to a cold shock but with a flow control, you will have the water temperature where you last had it.
  • Rinse all fruit and vegetables into a bucket and use the water for plants or, ahem, flushing No.1!
  • Icky dog or cat water, the plants love it!
  • Buy water saving/energy star dishwashers, horizontal axis washing machines. Only wash full loads!
  • Install rain barrels!
  • Plant indigenous and drought tolerant plants.

We've all got to Conserve! I need to take shorter hot showers. You and your family have to ween yourself of letting the water run forgetting that is is wasted down the drain. By conserving, we are helping to preserve our water resources and save money. 

We've all got to Reduce usage!

We all have to Re-use too!

LEED for buildings doesn't take into account the cultural factors. Living LEED does. I bet you can reduce far more than you think. The added benefit is more money in your wallet. So grab that glass and have a tall glass of filtered water, bottled is not the answer. Your tap is!

Steve is a Holistic Design Professional at a large Boston-area design firm. The opinions expressed by member bloggers are their own and not necessarily those of the USGBC Massachusetts Chapter. 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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Welcome Stephen Muzzy to the USGBC MA Chapter as our new "Green Schools Program Manager"

As recently announced at our Earth Day Celebration, our advocacy work for green buildings has recently become amplified. The Chapter thanks the USGBC for supporting the position with a strategic investment grant. Stephen Muzzy will start in early May, focusing on three things:
  • Facilitating a Green School Buildings coalition 
  • Implementing LEED Study Groups 
  • Creating a LEED Project Assistance Matching Service 
Steve comes to the Chapter having served for 5 years as a program manger at Second Nature, a campus sustainability consulting organization. He most recently has managed the American Colleges & Universities Presidents' Climate Challenge program, helping campuses implement carbon mitigation strategies. He brings green campus experience, program design & delivery skills, and an extensive network at higher ed institutions in Massachusetts.

You are welcome to attend a Green Schools Committee meeting on 5/9/13 where we will be welcoming Steve and making introductions. We are looking forward to promoting green buildings on campuses throughout Massachusetts in the coming months and years!

(Excerpted from USGBC MA's April 2013 Newsletter)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Celebrating Earth Day and Innovation in Green Design

Stunning! Fabulous! Classy!

We held a very impressive Earth Day celebration on the night of Wednesday April 10th. Over 120 guests attended from a wide swath of the green building industry. We had six table sponsors: Vidaris, NStar, The Green Engineer, Robinson & Cole, Bergmeyer and National Grid.

The program started with a bit of networking. One of the great things about the USGBC is it connects people from all parts of the real estate industry - from architects & engineers to facility managers and product manufacturers. Energy modelers, sustainability consultants, even lawyers! It's always a great mix and you never know who you might run in to!

Special thanks to Rachel Zsembery and the Special Events Committee for putting it all together. Much applause to Rachel (below, with Carlos Alonso-Neimeyer) and the entire Committee! GE sponsored our table settings: a mix between spring flowers and LED lightbulbs (guests could take home!) More photos are available through our media sponsor, New England Real Estate Journal NEREJ's facebook page.

We were very thankful to our venue sponsor, the Chiofaro Companies, for letting us hold the event on the main floor of Two International Place in downtown Boston. We heard from Don Chiofaro, Jr., as the owner, and from Bob Andrews, of AHA Consulting Engineers, one of our Chapter Sponsoring Partners, who discussed how the building had recently achieved LEED EB O&M Silver - a real achievement for a building that was designed and constructed in the go-go 80's.

A few of the members of the Chapter spoke, including myself, to give an overview of where we are as an organization.  People were in a good mood. I got the crowd to shout out "GREEN BUILDINGS!" whenever they heard something good from the stage. 

I'm happy to report we did indeed attain the goal of our membership drive: to bring in 100 new members by Earth Day. We have 108 new since the beginning of the year. GREEN BUILDINGS!

I also announced that we have hired a new staffer: Stephen Muzzy will start on May 6th as our Green Schools Program Manager, to faciliate green building project creation and completion at campuses across Massachusetts. GREEN BUILDINGS!

Dinner was a really good time - here we have the Green Engineer table (above) and the NStar table (below). Though many people found themselves not at the tables they were assigned to! 

Later, during the dessert, we convened the Awards Committee to present our Massachusetts Green Building of the Year award and our Innovation in Green Design awards. National Grid served as the Award Sponsor with Mark Stafford presiding. The awards were organized by Paul Brown, Carrie Havey, and Chris Liston (not pictured below). The judges were: Holly Wasilowski Samuelson of Harvard GSD, Mark Webster of SGH and Susan Buchanan of VFA. Jess Halvorson of Bank of America served as an alternate.

And the winners included: Homeowners Rehab, Inc. for the Massachusetts Green Building of the Year: their 95-97 Pine Street, Cambridge, LEED Platinum project. The judges saw this as an important model for other affordable housing projects.

Bergmeyer Associates also won for an Innovation in Green Design Award in the Building Category for their work on the Hosteling International Building on Stuart St. in Boston.

Other winners inlcuded:

Special Recognition:

Sherman Fairchild Laboratory Renovation for Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University

Submitted by Payette. Notes: This project is an example of stellar energy performance in a lab.

Special Recognition:

One Boston Place

Submitted by CBRE.  Notes: The judges praised this project for its enthusiastic spirit of the approach to recertification under EB O&M.

Award Winning Entries – Innovation in Green Design

Winner - Product, System or Technology Category

Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA

Submitted by Richard Burck Associates, Inc. Notes: This project skillfully handled water absorption and discharge to the aquifer.

It was a fun evening full of GREEN BUILDINGS!

-Grey Lee

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Energy Disclosure Laws Gaining National Popularity

by Chris Liston

As the debate continues over Boston’s proposed energy disclosure ordinance it has understandably shifted attention to those cities and states that have already enacted similar legislation.

To date, energy disclosure laws have been approved by lawmakers in Austin, California, the District of Columbia, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.  Lawmakers in Boston, Boulder, Cambridge, Chicago and Portland have expressed interest in energy disclosure legislation but have not yet formalized their programs.

Three commonalities in these laws are 1) the use of ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager as a benchmarking tool 2) a focus on large buildings and 3) mandatory reporting with fines and/or penalties for those buildings that fail to disclose their data.  The definition of a “large” building differs by jurisdiction, but generally speaking the laws are focused on buildings with a minimum size of 10,000 SF to 50,000 SF.

Like the proposed Boston ordinance, most local energy disclosure laws have been phased in over a period of time.  The District of Columbia’s program was introduced in 2008, but per the District’s timeline the only buildings to have their data disclosed have thus far been District-owned buildings.  New York City’s program was introduced in 2009; energy data for NYC-owned buildings was first published in 2011 while energy data for privately-owned NYC buildings was first published in 2012.  Philadelphia’s law was just passed in 2012 and as such no energy data has yet been submitted or published.

The 2011 New York City Benchmarking Report, published in August 2012, was a groundbreaking study of private sector energy use spanning 1.7 billion square feet of space. The report found that energy use varies widely within the same category of building type – for example the least efficient NYC hotels use 3.2x as much energy as the most efficient NYC hotels, the least efficient NYC office buildings use 4.5x as much energy as the most efficient NYC office buildings, and the least efficient NYC retail buildings use 7.9x as much energy as the most efficient NYC retail buildings.  In addition to the PDF report NYC also released an Excel spreadsheet containing the name, address, energy utilization index, carbon emissions and ENERGY STAR rating for more than 4,000 privately-owned buildings.

You can download the 2011 New York City Benchmarking Report at

You can download CBRE’s US guide to energy efficiency disclosure requirements at 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Institutionalizing Ignorance

Ignorance: state of being ignorant, lack of knowledge , education, or awareness.
I felt that I needed to get that definition in place right our front, before I start throwing bombs. My first few posts have been on items that have been rather mundane such as, groundskeeping and maintenance plans.  However, over the last couple of weeks several things have come to my attention that both angered me and made my wonder about the long term viability of the sustainability movement.

The children are the future

The first thing that got may attention was a concerted effort to pollute the minds of school children by requiring, under force of law, the teaching of climate denial in schools. Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona are all debating bills that refer to global warming as a "theory" that is "controversial" and riddled with scientific weaknesses. This, despite the fact the National Academy of Sciences, as well as major national academies of science around the world and every other authoritative body of scientists active in climate research have stated that the science is unequivocal: the world is warming and its primary cause is human activity.  The veracity of climate change is unshaken despite the fact that this spring has been ice bound and last winter was virtually snow less. These variations are explainable.  The trend line of the data has been verified, despite the claims of climate change deniers.

These bills are being advanced under the canard that students need a "balanced" perspective " to develop critical thinking skills they need in order to become intelligent, productive and scientifically informed citizens." (These efforts have been crafted and honed over decades, if you want to learn more, an excellent PBS documentary is here.) This is the latest approach to arguing for an idea you can't possibly support with evidence - the false equivalency.  The powerful interests behind climate denial are well aware that the vast weight of evidence is against them so they propose that , for the sake of balance and fairness, both sides need to be considered equally.  This is bunk.  This is the same argument that was made between creationism and evolution.  One side has the vast weight of the generations greatest subject matter experts all reaching some form of accord, the other has....nothing. The best support that they muster is a selective interpretation of the data.  Sure they can point to a scientist or two - often not even a climate scientist - to support their position.  The tobacco industry would occasionally find a scientist who did not believe that smoking damaged your health, it did not mean that those scientists opinions should receive the same weight as the avalanche of opposing colleagues. 

While these laws seem laughable on their face, this is not something to be trivialized. While the above referenced law is up for debate in 3 states, it has been raised in 10.  The forces that propose these laws are very very well organized and heavily subsidized.  They are also expert at influencing the political process to gain a built in, legislatively mandated, advantage.  Kudo's for them.  If you care about something, you need to fight for it.  I fear that the pro-sustainability constituents may not be up for the fight.  Examples of their efforts include efforts to prevent the disclosure of fracking fluids, efforts to blockade renewable energy, and even developing a "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms." 

Now, we get to the part that worries me.