Friday, May 31, 2013

Congratulations to Nitsch Engineering on their Gold Space!

On Friday, May 31st, representatives from the USGBC MA Chapter stopped by Nitsch Engineering’s new office at 2 Center Plaza to celebrate the office achieving LEED-CI Gold Certification. USGBC MA Chapter Executive Director Grey Lee, MSc, LEED AP BD+C; USGBC MA Chapter Chair Gregory Sampson; and USGBC MA Chapter Vice Chair Neil Angus, AICP, joined Nitsch Engineering President & CEO Lisa A. Brothers, PE, LEED AP BD+C, and Chief Engineer Sandra A. Brock, PE, CFM, LEED AP BD+C (who is also a Board Member of the USGBC MA Chapter) for a tour of the office, which was designed by Margulies Perruzzi Architects. Lisa and Sandy shared information on the sustainable office elements, which include refurbished office furniture, optimized energy performance, comingled recycling, sustainable building materials, and a green cleaning plan. For more details on Nitsch Engineering’s green office, visit

Photo Courtesy of Nitsch Engineering. Left to Right: Neil Angus, AICP, Staff Planner at Devens Enterprise Commission and Vice Chair of USGBC MA Chapter; Gregory Sampson, Associate at Robinson & Cole LLP and Chair of USGBC MA Chapter; Lisa A. Brothers, PE, LEED AP BD+C, President and CEO of Nitsch Engineering; Sandra A. Brock, PE, CFM, LEED AP BD+C, Chief Engineer of Nitsch Engineering and Board Member of USGBC MA Chapter; and Grey Lee, MSc, LEED AP BD+C, Executive Director of USGBC MA Chapter.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The USGBC Annual Report is Out!

If you really want to geek out about the USGBC!

Each year, the national organization collects information from the many chapters across the country to get a sense of how much advocacy, education, and professional development work is happening.

Caution:  this is a 379-page pdf  but it's worth scrolling through if you're interested in knowing more about how we compare to our peers and how similar our efforts are across the country. Quite inspirational to think about how many volunteer hours are being contributed to this cause, and how we are succeeding at making more and more components of the built environment better for the, well, the environment!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Project Spotlight: Harvard Graduate School of Education Gutman Library (1st and 2nd Floor)

Harvard Graduate School of Education recently celebrated the LEED Platinum certification of the 1st and 2nd floors of the Gutman Library. With three certified buildings already under their belts, HGSE now leads the University for the number of certified projects per square foot.

The 1st and 2nd Floors of the Gutman Library, approximately 36,000 square feet, are certified under the LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI v2009) rating system and earned a total of 83 points out of 110 possible points.  The goal of the renovation was to create a meeting place for the students and faculty of the School of Education while still prioritizing sustainability. The renovations included the addition of a cafĂ©, indoor and outdoor seating, new reading and lounge areas (including a working fireplace), and the rearrangement of book stacks, periodicals, and microfiche collection. The project team also addressed outstanding renewal issues with the mechanical, heating, and plumbing systems.

To achieve their goal of sustainability, the Gutman Library project team:
  • Installed demand control ventilation. The volume of outside air supplied to multi-occupant spaces is controlled by a C02 sensor. C02 increases as more people enter the room and more outside air is provided
  • Reused waste heat in the kitchen. Air handling units in the kitchen hood captures and uses the waste heat from the refrigeration equipment to pre-heat the supply air      
  •  Diverted 96% of construction waste from the landfill

For more information on this facility and its sustainability features:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SUCCESS: Boston Building Energy and Disclosure Ordinance Passes, Becomes Law

We are proud to announce that the USGBC MA Chapter was part of a broad coalition that successfully advocated and ensured the passage of the ordinance on May 8th, 2013. You can read more about it here. Congratulations are due to Brian Swett and the Environmental & Energy Services department in Boston for making it all come together.

Mayor Menino's Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance was approved by the Boston City Council in a 9-4 vote. The Ordinance requires large commercial and residential buildings to report and disclose their energy and water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions in order to encourage investment in energy efficiency and further the City's climate action goals. 

The resource consumption database for buildings will help the City craft more programs to support better energy efficiency. The Chapter will be sure to participate in rolling out education and outreach programs to help more owners and users of buildings embrace carbon mitigation and other environmentally responsible strategies.

The next big question is: could this reporting process and database become a State-wide phenomenon?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Green Apple Day of Service

The USGBC's Center for Green Schools is once again promoting Green Apple Day of Service to advance healthy, sustainable schools! 
The inaugural Green Apple Day of Service held on September 29, 2012 had more than 1,250 service projects in 49 countries. The second Green Apple Day of Service will be held September 28, 2013 - advocates around the world, including students, teachers, parents, business owners and more will come together in support of healthy, sustainable schools by participating in local service projects.

The Green Schools Committee of USGBC MA Chapter is aiming to have more than 50 projects registered across the state in 2013. has put together a terrific list of resources to describe and support organizing a day of service - and we have pulled the following list of resources to help you help us spread the word:
A one-page information sheet describing the Green Apple Day of Service.
Free 20-minute-or-less webcasts that will introduce you to project ideas, volunteer recruitment tips, fundraising ideas and more.
The Project Captain Toolkit covers how to get a Day of Service project started, establishing project goals, getting volunteers and organizing your project.

If you have questions or if your company is looking to partner with a local school to execute a project, please let us know - we are happy to help!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Green Building That Helps Make Everything Greener

In the interests of full disclosure, I submitted this building for the recent Green Building of the Year Award. My connection to this building is not as a member of the project team but as one who gets to work in this building on a daily basis. I lived through the considerable challenges that the builders, architects, and occupants faced. It was observing this project that helped crystallized my long running passion for green building.  

Imagine being tasked with turning an asbestos laden, archaic, 1950's era building that sits on a Brownfields site that used to house open tanks of raw sewerage into a state of the art laboratory for the advancement of environmental science. Now, imagine being told that it's a state building, obviously budget will be a major concern. Finally, you are told that all of the functions at this lab are critical to the Commonwealth and all activities must continue without impact and all workers must remain on site and their extremely delicate equipment must remain operational throughout. 

That was the challenge. One of the difficulties was that the old portion of the building was completely renovated except for one tiny 12x12 portion. This room was an environmentally controlled chamber that had to maintain humidity and temperature within extremely tight ranges.  Inside, it housed a robot that was capable of measuring the weight of a fingerprint. It was used to measure airborne particles that are so small that over 700 of them would fit in the diameter of a human hair. When inhaled, these particles directly contribute to hospital admissions for cardiac and respiratory distress. The state monitors the levels of this pollutant and thus the importance of this small space. This chamber stayed operational and free of contamination, not missing a single sample, while the building was literally gutted and rebuilt around it. Not only did the building meet the challenge but it achieved LEED Platinum certification.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection William X. Wall Experiment Station, located in Lawrence Massachusetts, has been transformed into a state of the art green building. Worldwide there are 52,152 LEED certified projects, but only 1,029 (or 1.97%) are certified at the Platinum level. Of those achieving Platinum certification, only 29 in the world are LEED Platinum Laboratories. Of those, the vast majority are New Construction. The William X Wall Experiment Station not only achieved LEED Platinum certification as part of a renovation to an existing building, it did so when the existing building was designated as a Brownfields site.

The old facility was constructed in 1954 and was inadequate to handle the complex testing protocols required by today's environmental science. The WXW Experiment Station houses 52 FTE's and is the state's principle drinking water laboratory. The facility also annually performs over 15,000 lab analysis of contaminates in air, water, waste water, soil, hazardous wastes, fish, environmental evidence, and other environmental samples. The state's ambient air monitoring efforts are housed in the facility as well as the Massachusetts Occupational Safety laboratories. The building contains state of the art laboratory facilities that include clean rooms, DNA testing laboratories, inorganic chemistry laboratories, organic chemistry laboratories, toxicology laboratories, a microbiology lab, air monitoring laboratories, 2.5 micron respirable particulate gravimetric chamber, and laboratory support facilities such as building wide scientific gasses storage, hazardous waste rooms, dedicated wash rooms, high efficiency fume hoods, dedicated sample prep rooms, mechanical workshops, laboratory equipment rooms, and quality assurance lab space.

The project added 13,000 square feet of laboratory space and a major renovation of the 22,000 square foot existing lab. During the entire construction period the laboratory had to continue to operate a full capacity. During this time, all samples were analyzed and all quality assurance benchmarks had to be met. Technical systems audits, conducted by the EPA, insured that data quality objectives were achieved. The project was a 4 year, 2 phase project. All laboratory operations had to be moved multiple times and personnel had to be housed on site in construction trailers.

MassDEP, Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) and the design firm of Perkins + Will and RDK Engineers planned the project. O'Connor Constructors, Inc. was the project's construction manager.

As a top notch laboratory, the building required some unusual features. It needed Reverse Osmosis Deionized Water available in every laboratory. The labs had to be plumbed for ultra high purity laboratory grade gasses. Any source of potential contamination had to be eliminated. The entire building needed the ability to change its air within minutes. Data handling infrastructure had to be robust in order to handle the massive amounts of data that the instruments would generate. Safety features such as positive pressure labs, eyewash stations, decon showers, and emergency communications had to be incorporated throughout the work spaces. The building needed back up power and other systems to remain functional in the event of a disaster. And, the building needs to be secure and capable in the event that it is ever called upon to analyze biological threats. 

The green upgrades include: a 52.5 kW solar photo-voltaic system for on-site renewable energy production; use of the existing site as a Brownfield redevelopment; maximizing open space; rain gardens and storm water detention basins to protect the adjacent Merrimack River; water efficient landscaping; high performance roof; green roofed areas; rain water harvesting for reuse in toilets and cooling tower; water efficient plumbing (40% savings); optimized energy performance (greater than 21% over baseline, 5 LEED points); day lighting of 75% of the space; plug in charging for 2 electric vehicles; bicycle storage room and shower facilities; lighting controls; ventilation air monitoring; low emitting, regional, and recycled materials; and many other strategies. A measurement and verification plan, as well as enhanced commissioning has been incorporated to insure that the building continues to meet its certification.

The Lawrence Experiment Station was founded in 1887 and it was one of the first laboratories in the world dedicated to environmental research. In 2013, the newly renovated laboratory became one of the few LEED Platinum labs in the world and is poised to be on the vanguard of environmental science for years to come.

Kevin Dufour is an Environmental Scientist with Viridis Advisors. He collaborates with Tom Irwin on creating greener greenscapes. The opinions expressed by member bloggers are their own and not necessarily those of the USGBC Massachusetts Chapter.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Building Energy Disclosure

The US Green Building Council - Massachusetts Chapter supports the proposed building energy disclosure ordinance for the City of Boston. We have more information at our website here.

The Building Energy Reporting & Disclosure Ordinance is a Boston policy that could transform our city and make it possible to reach our climate change mitigation goals. Mayor Menino is calling for 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the only way we're going to get there is if we can bring down the % of energy that our buildings consume. In Boston it's a whopping 70% and most building owners don't have a great handle on their building's energy and water usage. The Building Disclosure Ordinance would require owners of buildings over 20,000 sq ft to report their energy usage in a free online EPA tool called Portfolio Manager that all sectors across the country use to manage energy.

Make your voice heard by making a phone call or sending an email to your City Councilor and/or to an at large City Councilor TOMORROW. (You have to have a City of Boston address). The Ordinance is up for vote by the City Council on Wed, May 8th.

If you want to send a letter, NRDC has put together an Action Page that has a pre-drafted (but editable) letter of support for activists to send to all Boston council members (supporters must have a Massachusetts address in order to send). Please feel free to push this link out in any way you can via mailing list, social media, etc:

Why BERDO is a good idea:
1) Tenants have a right to know. Without BERDO prospective tenants and buyers can't get comparable information about the utility costs of buildings they're considering moving into. BERDO will help us avoid being stuck in cold, costly apartments. Community groups support BERDO.

2) More building owners will be motivated to improve their buildings. We have had years of a voluntary benchmarking program for building owners to know how efficient their buildings are, and many owners and managers have benchmarked their buildings. Now we need a mandatory program to make sure that all tenants have the option of living in buildings that are as energy efficient as financially possible. Environmentalists, and smart building owners, support BERDO.
3) Jobs. When owners want to get their buildings insulated, they need to hire people here. These are jobs that can't be outsourced. Organized labor, including the Greater Boston Labor Council, supports BERDO.

4) Air Quality. Our neighborhoods are already plagued by high asthma rates and other illnesses associated with environmental exposures. More insulation means reduced demand for energy generated from dirty power plants -- and that means we'll have cleaner air and improved health. Moms and kids support BERDO.

What BERDO is NOT:
1) No tenants will be forced to share their utility use information.
2) No tenant will be fined.
3) Does not apply to small buildings. Only the 1200 largest buildings in Boston will be required to measure their energy efficiency (25,000 square feet or larger).
4) We do not expect that building owners will have to spend a lot of time to do the energy reporting
5) City buildings are not exempt and will be the first to be measured.

Call Your City Councilor
Here is the breakdown of Councilor contact info and how to identify which district you live in:
Verify your district:
Look up your city councilor:

Salvatore LaMattina - District 1 (Charlestown, East Boston, North End) 617.635.3200

Bill Linehan - District 2 (South Boston, Chinatown) - 617.635.3203
Frank Baker - District 3 (Dorchester) - 617.635.3455

Charles C. Yancey - District 4 (Dorchester) - 617.635.3131
Robert Consalvo - District 5 (Mattapan, Hyde Park, Roslindale) - 617.635.4210

Matt O'Malley - District 6 (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) - 617.635.4220
Tito Jackson - District 7- (Roxbury, SouthEnd, Fenway) 617.635.3510

Michael P. Ross - District 8 (West End, Mission Hill, Back Bay)- 617.635.4225

Mark Ciommo - District 9 (Allston, Brighton) - 617.635.3113

Felix G. Arroyo - At Large - 617.635.4205

Stephen J. Murphy - At large - 617.635.4376

John R. Connolly- At large - 617.635.3115

Ayanna Pressley - At large - 617.635.4217

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Green Schools Update (May)

by Steve Muzzy

I've been at the Chapter for nearly three weeks and have been getting up to speed with operations and meeting members of the Chapter network. It is inspiring to learn about all the activities the Chapter is involved in to advance green building. As Grey mentioned last month as the Green Schools Program Manager I will be focusing on the following activities:

  • Establishing & Coordinating a Multi-Disciplinary, Massachusetts “Green School Building Coalition”
  • Expanding the LEED Education & Practice Program
  • Developing & Managing The Green Schools Project Matching Service

I will also be developing a Green Schools webpage on the Chapter website that will include resources to support green building retrofits and construction and highlight completed and current school projects. It will also provide data on the number of LEED projects at K-12 and higher education campuses across the State.

In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with questions or resources to share. Finally, I’d like to pass along some recent reports that may be of interest - highlighting how the education sector is supporting and advancing green building. 

Published by McGraw-Hill Construction, this report reveals feedback from K-12 and higher education occupants and green school design and construction professionals, resulting in data and intelligence on the green education market and how it will evolve over time.

From the Center for Green Schools, a free downloadable resource for K-12 schools and communities that demonstrates how schools can implement healthy and resource-efficient building improvements.

From the Center for Green Schools and their partners the “State of Our Schools” report estimates that it will take approximately $271 billion to bring public K-12 school buildings up to working order and comply with laws. These preliminary findings are a call for an updated survey on the condition of America’s schools.

(Excerpted from USGBC MA's May 2013 Newsletter)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Green Buildings for Peace & Prosperity

I wrote a short introductory note to our newsletter yesterday [click on "April Newsletter"] and got a lot of comments in return. My basic thing is that green buildings are examples of reduced violence and can help psychologically reduce violence in our society. Some commented that it was too soon to connect the Marathon Bombings to our industry or any industry. Many said they thought I was right on, though I missed a couple of things. One is the connection of imported energy to human rights abuses, and the other of imported energy to terrorist-sponsoring states. I think both those thoughts merit further exploration.

I hope you will stay energized and alert to improve our building stock and the ecological, health & safety, security and human rights issues relevant to our real estate and built environment. We have a lot of work to do!

[please also see the comment from Ben Myers below, just under the "tags"]

Below is the piece:

It has been an eventful Spring in Massachusetts. We've had award contests, a membership drive, conferences, and state & municipal public policy issues. And of course I can't take the soapbox here without mentioning the Marathon Bombings. We all express our heartfelt condolences to those affected. I have not heard of anyone in our community directly, significantly, affected, though many of us have friends and colleagues who were part of the situation - as victims, helpers, or otherwise.

Let me go out on a limb and point out the relevance of green buildings to reducing dramatic violence. We are part of the solution. Our work helps to ensure that our society takes responsibility for waste products resulting from buildings. Green buildings embody less violence: reduced deleterious health effects, diminished negative effects of materials procurement and manufacturing, and they reduce projected damage estimates from long-term repercussions on the environment. This includes the reduced toxicity of green buildings and their materials, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. 

Call me a peacenik or what you will, but I do believe the embodied negative effects of buildings are diminishing every time we "green" a building. This will have positive psychological implications for everyone. Certainly there wasn't much we could do about the events of 4/15, but over time, green buildings are norming a more peaceful society. Green buildings are better buildings - and we need to ensure strong codes not just for energy efficiency, but also to prevent loss of lives as seen in building failures in the Brazil club fire or more recently the Bangladesh garment factory collapse. I'm glad to be part of this community, all working for the good cause of better buildings.
Our community continues to grow and to make a difference in our industry. We recently achieved our goal of bringing on 100 new members before Earth Day - a quick drive at the beginning of the year which has grown our ranks significantly. Thank you to all the new Members, and thank you for participating in our efforts.

Grey Lee
Executive Director
USGBC MA Chapter