Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ecodistricts Summit Coming to Boston, November 12th-14th!

This November, the EcoDistricts Summit, the premier conference dedicated to the global movement to promote sustainable neighborhood development, is coming to Boston!

What’s an ecodistrict, you ask? An ecodistrict is a new model of public-private partnership that emphasizes innovation and deployment of district-scale best practices to create the neighborhoods of the future – resilient, vibrant, resource efficient and just.

Each year the EcoDistricts Summit convenes leading municipal policymakers, developers, business leaders, planners, and community leaders – people with decision-making power – to share best practices and shape the growing EcoDistricts marketplace. More than 30 plenary sessions and panel discussions are carefully curated to introduce conference participants to cutting-edge projects and thought leadership in green buildings, smart infrastructure and community action.

USGBCMAis a Community Sponsor for the conference and we will keep you updated as more information becomes available. Feel free to contact us at with any questions or Teague Douglas of EcoDistricts at

Early bird registration ends September 30th. Register now and save!

P.S. Hear John Dalzell, Senior Architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Host Sponsor for the Summit, talk about ecodistricts in Boston!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Regenerative Development for Breakfast

Bill Reed and Jim Newman came to speak about regenerative development - not just regenerative design, but bringing regenerative concepts into each of our own minds to change the design approach fundamentally. Over a dozen Chapter members and friends came out to hear from these two, based on the work Bill has been doing for many years at Regenesis Group.

Bill's message is fresh and important. The way our society thinks about the world has resulted in a built environment that diminishes our communities. The traditional means of arriving at so-called mutually beneficial results is often through compromise. But compromise is a continuous process of lowering one's standards and expectations. Bill advocates for reconciliation rather than compromise. Reconciliation brings two sides of a situation into harmony, benefiting both sides rather than forcing everyone to tolerate a lesser solution.

He explained how this path for project design and implementation has been used in a variety of locations - in particular a farm community proposed to become residential "ranchettes" which were diminishing three ecosystems. A reconciled design approach resulted in an epiphany moment for the owner team and a design solution that resulted in projected improvements to all parties - better ecology, better community and even better returns to the investors!

Regenesis has worked with private landowners, businesses, schools, governmental organizations and tribal governments across the United States and internationally on everything from land development, community and urban planning, eco-resort and retreat development, education and learning center design, and agricultural land use and stewardship planning. See a sampling of their project case studies here. 

Jim and Bill have agreed to convene on a monthly basis to explore further the concept of regenerative development and the mental shift to embrace ever-bigger wholes to solve problem situations. Stay tuned for an evening program in August!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Project Spotlight: UMASS College of Natural Sciences Greenhouse and Laboratory (LEED Gold)

The University of Massachusetts College of Natural Sciences (CNS) Greenhouse and Laboratory was awarded LEED Gold Certification in January 2013, after successfully achieving their sustainability goals while still meeting the needs of a high-tech research facility.

The greenhouses contain multiple research compartments, each capable of supporting separate experimental environments. The houses feature automated systems to control natural and artificial lighting, temperature, humidity, irrigation, and fertilization. The laboratory, designed to reflect the look and feel of a New England barn, features two research labs and a core facility for seed germination.

Photo by Warren Jagger

Stormwater management was one of the greatest challenges facing the project team in achieving LEED certification, but they came up with a creative solution. The greenhouse required a 6-in deep gravel bed to isolate the greenhouse from surrounding native plant life. This gravel bed was increased to a depth of 3 feet to act simultaneously as a barrier and water retention basin, eliminating the need for gutters or an underground water storage structure.  

Photo by Warren Jagger

Read more about the Greenhouse’s LEED certification at or at

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Networking Event Tips and Tricks

This post follows up on a talk I gave at the July 2013 Summer Social. The content was obtained from several resources over the years.

Mingling at events may be the most unnatural activity the human race has invented. Sure, many of us are social, but "networking" adds a level of pressure to perform. It can be associated with our fear of speaking, which is apparently hardwired to be our number one fear. Thankfully, it's something that can be overcome. These tips and tricks should help you feel more in control and have the confidence to become a networking star.

Before You Arrive
  1. Grab business cards. There are many philosophies on how many to bring and when to hand them out, but you can't hand any out if you forget them. It's a good idea to carry more than you think you could ever hand out at one event.
  2. Carry a small pen or pencil so you can take notes about someone on the back of their card. You can add personal details they share while you are talking, put additional info on the back of your card for someone else, and note where you met someone. Business cards become little event notebooks when you have a pen handy.
  3. Think about why you are attending the event, beyond the official event reason. Are you looking to meet particular people? Would you like to learn something? Be ready to talk about this or work towards that goal.
  4. Arrange to meet someone you know in advance. Even if you have never met in person. You don't have to stick together, but it's a good way to break up nerves if you know at least one person you can talk to.
  5. What is your elevator speech? Be prepared to have a 30 second talk on who you are. 
  6. Be able to answer questions about where you work and what you do like "How large is Acme?" "What are you working on?" "What services does Acme provide?" "Where do they do business?" and "What markets are you in?" A personal favorite is "Are you [the firm] busy?" Everyone seems to be asking that question these days. Be sure your answer reflects positively on your situation.
Personal Appearance

It should go without saying that you should show up well groomed and clean to any professional event. There are, however, some little things you may not remember.
  1. Wear a jacket with pockets so you can carry your business cards and reach them easily with one hand. You don't want to fumble around trying to find your cards, handing others your drink, or worse, dropping it. It's easiest to grab in the waist pocket or opposite breast pocket of your dominant hand. Women, if you don't wear jackets you can also carry a small wristlet, but be sure you are not fumbling. I carry mine around my left wrist.
  2. Put your name tag on the right. Typically people place the name tag on the left, but if you put it on the right when you shake hands the other person is looking right towards it. It makes it easier for them to remember your name. Tip offered by Kate DeWolf from Hanscom AFB.
  3. Carry food in one hand and only carry what you can balance easily. If you are also carrying a drink, place it on the plate. Hold a napkin under the plate. If the food is being eaten with utensils, put your fork under your thumb, and hold everything in your left hand so you can freely eat with your right. If it's finger food you may wish to carry it in your right and eat with your left. This way you can swap hands and shake being assured your hand is clean even if you are constantly wiping it.
  4. Employ the sweaty hand trick: Carry your glass of ice cubes wrapped with a napkin in your right hand. The napkin(s) keep it dry and the ice keeps it cool. Then you don't have to worry about shaking hands. 
  5. Smile even when you don't feel like it or you don't have a natrual "resting smile" face. This helps you appear approachable and friendly. Tip offered by member Suzanne Abbott of Chapter Sponsor Vidaris.
  6. Keep body language of circle open to allow others to walk up. When you are facing each other directly no one can join in the conversation. Tip offered by member Steven Wychorski.  
Actually Talking to People
This is probably the most difficult part of any mingling activity. You've just walked up to someone and may know nothing about them. You've got to get and keep a conversation going.
  1. Introduce yourself with a little information. Don't just say your name; add who you work for, what your do or why you are here. Note that you want to introduce yourself first before interjecting. It can be considered rude to comment on someone else's conversation out of the blue.
  2. Use first names repeatedly so you will remember them. When someone introduces themselves, repeat their first name back immediately. The easiest way to do this is "Nice to meet you, Tom." Then, use their name again shortly thereafter. "What projects are you working on right now, Tom?" It is OK if you have met someone before to ask their name again. You want to remember but most people are aware that networking events are a bit of overload and it's difficult to remember names for many of us. It can take a few times meeting someone before you remember who they are.
  3. Strive for a 50/50 split in who is talking. You don't want to dominate the conversation. Keep your responses "Reader's Digest" length - good information in a short amount of words, and end your responses with questions.
  4. Ask questions that are open ended. "Do you like working at Acme?" is not the same as "What is Acme working on right now?" People generally like to talk about themselves once they get going.
  5. Don't talk to your peers. Engage with others and avoid "talking shop" with folks you see all the time. You can't expand your network if you only speak with people you already know. Tip offered by Kathy Arthur of Chapter Sponsor NStar.
  6. Enlarge the group if there are only two of you. Draw in nearby free-floaters. This not only gets you to talk to more people, but shows leadership.
  7. Play host by offering to get them a drink or take someone's plate. Introduce people to each other.
  8. Talk to the lonely. When you see someone sitting by themselves, go up and say hello. They may be shy or feel out of place. Make them feel welcome. If we mentor each other then everyone moves up. Tip offered by Chapter Executive Director, Grey Lee.
  9. Exchange business cards and comment on them. There is no reason to wait until the end of a conversation to ask, and they can provide a means of carrying the conversation along. "Has your office always been in Needham?" "This is a nice card/logo, do you know who designed it?" etc.
  10. Work in a "Figure 8" with a partner. Start in the center of the room, they take one corner and you take the other in a loop. When you are done with your half of the "8" meet back in the middle. There you can exchange stories and get moral support. When done with the first Figure 8, split up again and do the same with the other half of the room.
  11. Avoid hostage situations. Most of us have been in that conversation we can't get out of or where we feel like we are hanging on. Test to see if your counterpart is restless with a question like "Who else do you know here?" If they are not restless they will tell you and may even introduce you. If they are, it gives them the chance to say they need to go find someone. Move away from the conversation with "I really should try to find Bob." "I'm going to get rid of this plate/get more food." and then find someone else.
    Hopefully you find these tips helpful for your next networking event. With practice, you will become more comfortable in these environments. Try gatherings that are low-pressure to work on your skills so you are ready for important events.

    The USGBC MA Chapter has a monthly event specifically for networking almost every month, and tons of events all the time. If you haven't already done so, please sign up for our mailing list so you can stay informed of what is happening. We are a fun and welcoming group of people so please come by! Don't believe me? Check out the photos from last night's event: USGBC MA Chapter Summer Social 2013-07-16.

      Sunday, July 14, 2013

      IECC 2012 is Now the State Energy Code

      by Carrie Havey

      On July 9th the Massachusetts Board of Building 
      Photo credit:
      Regulations & Standards (BBRS) voted to adopt the most current version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2012). This makes Massachusetts one of the first states in the nation to adopt the new code, and represents a 20% increase in energy efficiency over the current statewide energy code. The results of this change - the state base code is now equal to the energy efficiency requirements of the Massachusetts Stretch Energy Code. 
      The Stretch Energy Code was added to the state building code in 2009 and provides an option for cities and towns to adopt an energy code that requires greater energy efficiency in buildings than the base code that is otherwise mandatory for municipalities across the state. Currently, the Stretch Code has been adopted by 131 municipalities in Massachusetts. 
      So, for a short while, the Stretch Code and the MA state code will be one and the same, until the State determines what the change in the Stretch Code will be. Our Advocacy Interest Group is following the issue and meeting with partners next week to outline a strategy to make sure we get an ambitious next Stretch Code. Contact Norm Lamonde if you are interested in knowing more.

      Friday, July 12, 2013

      Green Schools Update (July)

      by Steve Muzzy

      Green Apple Day of Service is two months away and we are making good progress in Massachusetts. We currently have 9 projects registered, with many more in the works. Be sure to check out the current projects for ideas or to register to attend an event in your area. The Green Schools Committee continues to do a great job marketing this opportunity and has been coordinating a number of green school tours for the fall to coincide with Green Apple. If you'd like to coordinate a Green Apple project, please contact me for support.
      Speaking of green building tours, on Tuesday July 30th, the US Department of Education's Facilities Best Practices Tour will be coming to Massachusetts to highlight Green Ribbon Award winners Manchester-Essex Middle/High School and Quincy High School. If you'd like to attend, email me to be added to the list and to receive a detailed agenda.

      If you have vacation planned for Washington, D.C. this summer be sure to check out the National Building Museum's  Green Schools Exhibit. Littleton, MA based Triumph Modular, a past supporter of the Chapter, has partnered with Perkins + Will to design Sprout Space, a healthy, high performance modular classroom. Sprout Space is currently on display at the National Building Museum and is a terrific example of design with education in mind.

      Finally, the Green Schools Committee is seeking volunteers. We have a number of exciting projects to work on. Please contact me or Green School Committee Chair, Kathy Arthur Tyler to be added to the distribution list. Our calls are scheduled for the second Thursday of every month from 8-9AM.  

      For a limited time, USGBC is offering schools and districts first time,  one year free organizational membership. By becoming a USGBC member, schools and districts have the ability to connect to other member organizations and access a wide variety of resources and benefits. 

      (Excerpted from USGBC MA's July 2013 Newsletter)

      Thursday, July 11, 2013

      LEED v4 is approved!

      by Grey Lee

      Photo credit:
      Members of the USGBC accepted the next version of our flagship building rating system, LEEDv4, with 86% voting in favor. The new system will be officially launched at Greenbuild 2013 in Philadelphia. Changes to the GA/AP exam, documentation materials, and LEED Online will occur over the coming months with much timed to coordinate with Greenbuild. Our LEED Study Group program will continue to focus on fundamentals of green building and the LEED system, with information relating to v4 as that becomes available from USGBC National.  

      With the approval of the new version, USGBC is soliciting entries of new projects to use the new system in a beta test of LEEDv4. If you register your project in the new system, you will benefit from hands-on support from USGBC and if your project attains Platinum, the fees could be waived.

      Individuals from over 1200 USGBC Member firms joined the "consensus body" to be eligible to vote, and only 10% voted against LEEDv4 (with 4% abstentions). The USGBC benefited from gleaning comments from many voters and will be using those critical observations to improve the system as it is fine-tuned into implementation. LEEDv4 will help take the LEED brand global, simplify some aspects of project documentation, and enable the system to evaluate building design paths and products more quantitatively.

      The current system of LEED, v2009, will be available for teams to register projects  with until the end of May, 2015. After 6/1/15, LEEDv4 will be the only system you can register projects with. 

      If you are interested in reading more about the concerns of some of the naysayers, BuildingGreen posted a great article looking at the issue here.

      We are looking forward to celebrating the first LEEDv4 registrant in Massachusetts - let us know if you are involved in a prospect!

      Wednesday, July 10, 2013

      Thank you USGBC National Members!

      I recently sent out a note to all the USGBC National Members in the Commonwealth. It's a great group of almost 400 seriously green organizations!

      Hello, I wanted to say thank you to your firm for being part of the USGBC. Together, we are a powerful force for the transformation of our built environment toward sustainability. Green buildings are making a positive difference in the health and welfare of our communities and the world around us.

      I appreciate that you and your firm connect with our vision: "buildings and communities will regenerate and sustain the health and vitality of all life within a generation." This is a big challenge! I'm glad we're working on this together.

      I run the Massachusetts Chapter of the USGBC and we organize educational and networking events to improve the professional cadre in the green building industry. We foster a sense of community that continually grows our influence to advocate for market adoption and regulatory support of green buildings and sustainable design. We serve as a hub for information on the state of the industry and a 
      connecting place for stakeholders. 

      Thank you especially to your peer USGBC National member organizations who are among our Chapter Sponsors: AHA Consulting Engineers, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger, F.D. Sterritt Lumber Co., Nitsch Engineering and National Grid.

      Many of your employees are LEED AP & GAs - over 5000 in the state! Many are members of the local Massachusetts Chapter of the USGBC. Firms join the National USGBC, while individuals join the local Chapter. We are a very active and dedicated group. We have a monthly networking meeting on Tuesday, 7/16 in Boston. 

      I'm interested in learning how could I connect with more of your colleagues at your firm and let them know about more of our activities and events. I'm constantly trying to grow the connections in our community in order to strengthen our effectiveness toward our vision.

      Let me know if you have an internal newsletter or announcement system, where you might be on social media, or otherwise. I hope we can cross-promote events, and I hope I can convince you and some of the people at your organization to engage with the USGBC MA Chapter.

      Thank you again for your continued participation with the USGBC at the national level; I look forward to meeting you and/or your peers through activities in Massachusetts through the local Chapter.

      Thank you for your interest,
      Grey Lee