Monday, September 30, 2013

Boston Green Academy Does a Green Apple Week of Service!

By Chamberlain Segrest, Director of Green Programming at Boston Green Academy

Boston Green Academy (BGA), a high school located in South Boston, celebrated 2013 Green Apple with an entire week of programming! BGA opened two years ago as an in-district Horace Mann Charter School with the mission to graduate all students prepared for college and the 21st century green

Administrators and teachers strive to integrate concepts of sustainability into classroom curriculum but students are also provided great opportunities to learn and explore outside the classroom walls. This past summer, one of BGA’s students held a summer green job as a Youth Energy Auditor. She took her newly acquired knowledge about energy conservation and renewable energy technologies back to BGA and helped organize Boston Green Academy’s Green Apple WEEK of Service event.

BGA Senior Jose Honore presents to BGA staff on 
ways the school can save energy
During this week of service, staff and students spent their daily advisory period educating themselves about the simple things occupants can do to reduce energy use and cut down on utility bills. Even in a building built ca. 1901, there are opportunities for energy savings!

They surveyed the school, looking for energy offenders like plugged in vampire devices and lights left on, looked in recycling bins for contaminates, researched energy saving tips online and created individual action plans to reduce energy use at BGA. BGA was motivated by the school’s green mission; Youth Energy Auditor, Jose Honore’s enthusiasm; as well as the new Boston Public Schools Energy Conservation Campaign, which will be kicking off district-wide in October.

Staff and students are excited to continue this energy education and track the building energy usage, comparing monthly energy bills with those from the same month last year. Stay tuned on our progress!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Turbo-Charged" New Energy Star Finds Some Rough Road

Written by Chris Liston.

Two months after ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager received an ambitious upgrade, users are still struggling through programming glitches in what the EPA has described as a “turbo-charged” new tool.

ENERGY STAR is a free tool administered by the EPA, which reports more than 40,000 individual accounts for more than 250,000 commercial buildings.  ENERGY STAR is frequently used by LEED project owners to report whole-building energy and water data to the USGBC and the tool plays a key prerequisite role within the LEED EB rating system.

The June upgrade was intended to modernize a database architecture that was first introduced in 2000.  The new site was promised to be faster, more intuitive and more user-friendly – with data entry “wizards” and easier-to-generate reports.  User data would be seamlessly transitioned to the new tool and there would be no changes to the algorithm used to calculate the actual ratings.

When the ENERGY STAR website was re-launched in July 2013, following several weeks of downtime, the site was essentially crippled by programming glitches.  By late-September the EPA had addressed nearly 30 programming issues and acknowledged a half dozen other issues that still need to be corrected.  The EPA has also acknowledged that some users are missing data and these users have been assured that the data will eventually be restored.

The ENERGY STAR update has been particularly challenging for those with large portfolios due to changes in “sharing permissions” and automated benchmarking services (ABS.)  In large portfolios (e.g. a retail chain with 100+ locations) ABS providers download energy data from utility companies and upload that data into ENERGY STAR.

Two months after the launch the new ENERGY STAR website is functional, though arguably not yet “turbo-charged.”

City’s Building Energy and Reporting Ordinance (BERDO) Moving Forward

I’m sure most of you are aware by now of the City of Boston’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), which was passed on May 8, 2013. BERDO will require all buildings or groups of buildings greater than 35,000 square feet to report on annual energy and water use along with greenhouse gas emissions through the US EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. The requirement will be phased in over 5 years and will first apply to non-residential buildings 50,000 square feet or greater in 2014 and residential buildings with 50 or more units in 2015.  Ultimately, the requirement will apply to non-residential buildings 35,000 square feet or greater and residential buildings with 35 or more units.

While many organizations have been involved with BERDO’s public process over the past year, A Better City (ABC), a Boston-based business organization, has taken an active role in ensuring thorough input from the commercial real estate sector.  ABC has worked to educate owners on the ordinance, and is soliciting feedback from the business community to help shape the final regulations.   Through the course of the summer, ABC assisted building owners throughout the City on how to use Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

ABC provided free one-on-one training sessions with owners which involved: 1) determining which owners were already using portfolio manager and 2) sitting down and training owners how to use portfolio manager and work through any problems they were having.  

ABC has been involved in BERDO since May of 2012. While the ordinance was being written by the City, ABC held focus groups (organized by property types and representing Class A and B buildings) to provide direct feedback from owners and property managers.  These focus groups were attended by city staff and the feedback had a direct influence on the final ordinance.   Most building owners are starting to take steps to comply with the ordinance and are taking advantage of opportunities to learn more about Portfolio Manager.  

The timeline for reporting energy and water data is going to be phased in over five years.  The first group that will have to comply will be non-residential buildings equal to or greater than 50,000 gsf or two or more buildings on the same parcel that equal or exceed 100,000 gsf.  The first report for this group will be due May 15, 2014.  Non-residential buildings between 35,000 gsf and 50,000 gsf will not have to report until May 15, 2016. There are roughly 1,900 commercial buildings that will fall under the ordinance (over 35,000 sq ft).   

The regulations for Boston’s Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance were determined after examining several other cities that had successfully implemented a similar ordinance.  These cities include San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Washington DC.

This fall there will be a release of the draft regulations, followed by stakeholder meetings and outreach to owners that will report in 2014. The Boston Air Pollution Control Commission (APCC) will then hold a public hearing on these draft regulations.

This information was gathered from an interview with Mihir Parikh at A Better City and the City of Boston’s website.  To learn more, go to:    and

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Cambridge Rindge & Latin School Achieves LEED Gold Certification

Cambridge, MA. According to the City of Cambridge and
Image Credit: NEREJ
 HMFH Architects, Inc., the comprehensive renovation of the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) has earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. HMFH's design for the 400,000 s/f high school fulfills the city's ambitious sustainability goals through substantial reductions in energy consumption and water use, and significant increases in indoor environmental quality, natural ventilation and daylighting.

The sustainable design strategy for the three-building complex, which was originally constructed in 1932 and expanded in 1978, includes a chilled beam HVAC system - well-suited for incorporation in existing concrete frame buildings-and a rooftop photovoltaic array. These retrofits, coupled with high-efficiency lighting fixtures and daylighting contribute to the school's net energy savings, lowering the operating costs by more than $335,000 annually, and reducing energy use by more than 1.3 million KWh of electricity and nearly 44,000 therms of natural gas.

Read more at NEREJ

Building Types in Boston

Written by Jim Newman.

What resources do we put where to make the city more resilient?

Boston is an old city. Over 50% of Boston’s housing units were built before 1940 (MAPC, 2008, p . 3), with the highest proportion of pre-WWII housing among the major cities in the U.S. (Cox, 2013). Commercial buildings, on the other hand, saw a major surge of new construction after 1960 with over 25 million square feet added between 1960 and 1998.

The majority of buildings within the city are small-scale residential buildings. Large commercial and residential buildings are mostly clustered downtown, with mid-rise buildings distributed in neighborhood centers around the city.

The table below shows the distribution of building types, by total floor area in greater Boston.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Plymouth North High School Tour Kicks Off Green Apple Day of Service

By Steve Muzzy

The Chapter kicked off Green Apple Day of Service 2013 with a tour of Plymouth North High School. More than thirty people attended to witness and learn about this energy efficient and healthy school seeking LEED Gold certification.

Tour guides included Chris Hastings, Energy Conservation Coordinator for the Plymouth Public Schools and Troy Randall from Ai3 Architects. We also heard from other design team representatives from Griffith & Vary, Inc., PARE CorporationBirchwood Design, and Andelman & Lelek Engineering. Gary Maestas, Superintendent of Plymouth Public Schools provided historical context of Plymouth High Schools and shared how the curriculum played a role in the building's design. 

The tour provided an opportunity to understand the many energy conservation measures incorporated including energy efficient light fixtures, daylighting and occupancy sensors, optimized chiller and boiler plants, heat recovery, and enhanced kitchen hood controls. These features resulted in greater than 23% overall energy savings for the project, with an annual projected savings of 459,000 kWh and 13,600 therms. 

Other sustainability features include:

  • Low flow toilet fixtures
  • Recycled materials
  • Optimum acoustics
  • School as a teaching tool (historic boards, green design boards, sustainable design kiosk)
  • 20,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system
  • Green Vegetated Roof
  • Cool Roof (PVC)
  • Electric Vehicle charging stations
  • On-site renewables - Photovoltaic array on the gymnasium

Many thanks to Troy Randall, Chris Hastings, Gary Maestas and the rest of the design team for their time and knowledge. I also want to thank Kathy Arthur and the Green Schools Committee for putting this terrific tour together. 

Solar Hot Water

Tour Participants

Ceiling of Metal, Wood, and Robotics Shop

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Plymouth North High School: A Green Marvel!

Check out this article written by our friends at Wicked Local Plymouth about our recent tour of the LEED Gold-nominated Plymouth North High School in Plymouth, MA!

Photo credit: D G Jones

This innovative project includes impressive features such as a solar water heater, a green roof, rain gardens, bike paths, electric vehicle charging stations, as well as low flow and waterless plumbing just to name a few.

Read more about the project here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A vital tool for managing Americas largest crop

If you ask anyone what the largest crop in America is, you would get quite a varied assortment of answers; corn, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans - but in fact - the largest crop in America is turfgrass.  In fact the amount of land under cultivation with turf grass is more than three times the next most common crop. There are approximately 128,000 square kilometers of cultivated turfgrass in the United States, while the next largest crop is 43,000 square kilometers of corn.  Massachusetts has approximately 4,183 square kilometers of turfgrass under various levels of management.  

My initial reaction was one of shock with quickly morphed to concern. That is quite a lot of land to be managed or potentially mismanaged.   That amount of turfgrass makes quite a large environmental impact. It naturally requires quite a large amount of water and could account for quite a lot of chemical input to the ecosystem.  However, once again, conventional wisdom proves to be neither.  But more on that later.

Data can save the day.

With such a turfgrass being such a major component of our nations landscape, such a significant agricultural industry, and such a vital cover crop - there can be little doubt that the government plays a vital role. This is role is most exemplified by the county extension services, agricultural schools with turfgrass science programs, and government backed academic research efforts.  If you have a project, such as a school or park, which may involve large areas of turfgrass - all of the above listed resources can be extremely helpful. 

 One however, can go along way to determining the success or failure of a project.  That is the NTEP program.  NTEP stands for the National Turf Grass Evaluation Program.  The NTEP program is a University based turfgrass evaluation program. It evaluates seventeen turfgrass species in as many as forty U.S. states and six Canadian provinces.   

Turfgrass is evaluated and cultivars are cross compared for such traits as disease resistance, drought tolerance, traffic durability, plant density, color, heat and cold tolerance, and quality.  This data can be used to make environmentally sound decisions by choosing the cultivar that most meets a projects particular needs.   You can use this data, for instance, to choose a type of turf that might thrive without irrigation,  or perhaps might fare better in a drought prone area, or, may fare better without pesticides.  You may have a project that will likely see severe compaction or traffic. The selection of the proper cultivar  could prevent the stand of turf grass from deteriorating and thus allowing weeds to propagate or surface erosion to occur.  One caution is due.  Too often people will look at NTEP data and just assume that the one that scores the highest is the "best".  This is not always the case. What you need to do is to carefully asses your needs, prioritize them, and then choose the cultivar or blend of cultivars that will meet as many of your concerns as possible. 

It is remarkable to me how many architects, designers, and even landscape architects are unaware of this resource. Too often a bid will spec "turfgrass" , "sod", or,  "kentucky blue grass blend" or some other generic terminology.  It makes no sense to design a water efficient landscape and not spec an appropriate turfgrass cultivar.  It makes no sense to design a beautiful landscape, and have it wash into a nearby stream. It makes no sense to build a state of the art recycled water system and have the grass die due to salt intolerance. A poor choice at the design phase leads to, at best, intensive maintenance issues, and at worst, a failed design element.  In any event, both outcomes mean a higher environmental cost.

Why not just eliminate it?

At this point you may be thinking, "why not minimize the turf grass and reap the benefits".  This is where we get back to conventional wisdom being not quite so wise.  When the International Green Building Code was being developed, just such a debate occurred.  The idea, based on the conventional wisdom, was put forth that to be "green" turf area should be limited.  It seemed to make sense, less turf means less water use, less fertilizer and nutrient issues, less pesticides. The end result was that the conventional wisdom did not quite pan out and the turf limitation was removed with the consent of all parties including the EPA.  It turns out that the research demonstrated that health turf grass actually reduced pollutant loads  in surface waters. Healthy turf grass, even one that was regularly treated with fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides was actually significantly better for surface water quality than even untreated, poorly maintained,  grass.  The ecosystem services such as nitrogen capture, carbon sequestration, air and water filtration, oxygen generation, heat island mitigation, habitat, mico flora and fauna, and storm water interception and groundwater recharge were all net positives. An area of turfgrass 50 feet square generates enough oxygen to meet the needs of a family of four and  an acre can absorb hundreds of pounds of atmospheric Sulfur Dioxide, a primary driver of acid rain. The human centric benefits such as aesthetics, texture, functionality, fire control, erosion control, and ease of maintenance were also positive. The negatives could be addressed and mitigated by Best Management Practices, modern techniques, and proper plant selection.

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.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

PACE for Green Buildings and Green Energy

We had an awesome program this morning with excellent speakers and an engaged audience.

We gathered to hear about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. John Dalzell of the Boston Redevelopment Authority MC'd the event.

National Grid sponsored the event and it was great to see Mark Stafford, who manages the Architects & Engineers Program, chime in on the benefits of PACE finance. Thank you again, National Grid!

Senator Brian A. Joyce kicked off the program describing to us his Bill S.177 - Fueling Jobs through Energy Efficiency - which is essentially PACE enabling legislation for Massachusetts. We all have to get behind this bill to help move it through the Statehouse and help make more clean energy (and associated jobs) grow in Massachusetts. Thank you Senator, and your staff, for attending and helping MA stay a leader in cleantech, renewables, and energy efficiency.


Our Keynote speaker was Genevieve Sherman from Connecticut's Commercial and Industrial PACE at the state's Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA). She had a brilliant presentation describing the ins and outs of setting up a PACE financing entity or authority, as they have in CT, and what it means for investment parties and municipalities. PACE finance enables a property owner to create a debt instrument for an affixed asset or capital improvement which will enhance the energy performance of the building, the debt of which will reside in a place subordinate to municipal property leins but superior to traditional commercial mortgage debt. The financing authority in CT enables projects to We will be posting the presentation here soon.

We were at Atlantic Wharf - the Fort Point Room - with about 57 attendees from all ends of the green & clean energy sector. Many of our members such as John DiModica (NORESCO), Matt Shortsleeve (Mercury Solar), Suzanne Abbott (Chapter Sponsoring Partner: Vidaris), Martine Dion (Chapter Sponsoring Partner: SMMA), and Jennifer Taranto (Chapter Sponsoring Partner: Structure Tone). Many future members and sponsoring partners were also in attendance!

After Genvieve's great presentation, we turned to a panel of experts from the field. Ward Strosser from ConEdison Solutions moderated the group which included Shawn Hesse (emersionDesign), Nalin Kulatilaka (BU School of Mgmt), Jeffery Lessard (Cushman & Wakefield) and Genevieve Sherman. Shawn described the opportunity to fund large projects as the instrument enables long-term thinking which could lead to aggressive Net Zero projects. Nalin described how PACE enables owners to spread out the risk in a project which should be much more exciting to institutional investors. Jeff Lessard wanted us to make sure we promote this to large property management companies like his and his competitors who have millions of square feet under their responsibility, where PACE financing could help create many new opportunities for cleantech and efficiency plays related to the business model, not just the real estate. Ward Strosser chimed in to stress the potential for these investments to help attract & retain younger talent who want to see their employers walking the talk on going green and sustainability in general.

This was a very informative program and we expect to follow up with more programming related to existing buildings and the economics of green buildings in the months to come.

The program was produced by Dennis Walsh in association with the Chapter and the City of Boston - BRA & Greenovate Boston - and couldn't have been possible without the participation of the many excellent speakers in attendance. See you next time!

Below: Grey Lee (USGBC MA), Brad Swing (City of Boston), Brian A. Joyce (MA State Senate - Avon), and John Dalzell (Boston Redevelopment Authority)

 Travis Sheehan (Ecodistricts Fellow, City of Boston), Genevieve Sherman (CT CEFIA), John DiModica (NORESCO), and Ward Strosser (ConEdison Solutions)

Neil Angus (MassDevelopment - Devens EC), Jennifer Taranto (Structure Tone), John Dalzell, Suzanne Abbott (Vidaris) and Mark Stafford (National Grid)

Boston Properties' LEED Platinum Atlantic Wharf - Boston's Green Skyscraper!

Monday, September 16, 2013



My name is Lilly and I'm the new Communications Associate for USGBC MA! 

I guess I should tell you a little bit about myself... I'm currently a student at Tufts University where I study Environmental Science & Biopsychology with a minor in Chinese. That means on any given day, you're most likely to find me sipping on a chai latte in a comfy chair immersed in anything that has to do with animals, sustainability, or the environment.... or pictures of delicious food! I've also always had an appreciation for architecture, so that's how I ended up in the green building industry. 

I'm coming to USGBC with experience as a social media and outreach intern for my school's recycling organization. I'm SO excited to become a part of this vibrant industry at such a pivotal time and I can't wait to start spreading the word about all the latest and greatest news about green buildings!

... so stay tuned! I'll be in touch. 


-  Lilly

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cape Wind

By Carrie Havey

Cape Wind Associates LLC, is about to begin construction on
Image credit:
 their wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind has secured all its permits and is putting together financing for the project. Cape Wind plans to have 130 turbines with a maximum production of 454 megawatts, 5.6 miles from Cotuit on Cape Cod. The average expected production will be 174 megawatts, which is almost 75% of the 230 megawatt average electricity demand for Cape Cod and the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

A second wind project is now on the scene. Deepwater Wind has won a competitive lease auction to develop two offshore wind energy sites. This was the first-ever auction held by the US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for commercial offshore wind development. It will total more than 164,000 acres and will be located approximately 17 miles south of the Cape. Deepwater's sites will produce enough energy to power approximately 350,000 homes and displace over 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Most of Deepwater's turbines will be located 20 to 25 miles from land. 

To learn more, see

(Excerpted from the USGBC MA August 2013 Newsletter)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cape Cod Hurricane Category 3 Flood Model

By John Gravelin, Linnean Solution

Image Courtesy of  John Gravelin, Linnean Solutions

This image of Cape Cod represents a Category 3 Hurricane flood model under ‘perfect’ storm conditions during an average (mean) tide. The flood layer was obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Research Division Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory. The hurricane model is referred to as Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH).

The SLOSH models account for several variables of hurricanes, including the intensity of a storm, forward speed, storm trajectory, and initial tide levels based on observations from previous events. NOAA runs several hundred hurricane models over an area like New England and develops a ‘Maximum Envelope of Water’ or a baseline of flooding per hurricane category. NOAA also provides a flood model that represents “the worst case scenario for a given category of storm under ‘perfect’ storm conditions,” and takes the maximum of the variables above.

This image of Cape Cod represents the maximum flood damage possible under ‘perfect’ storm conditions. Areas in dark blue are most susceptible to flooding (particularly along the southeastern and northern shoreline of the Cape) and areas of light blue are least susceptible (seen around the southwestern part of the Cape towards Rhode Island). Even the least susceptible areas are vulnerable to flooding under certain storm conditions, and proper planning should consider ways to mitigate damage.

For more on how the NOAA calculates hurricane flooding, see “How is storm surge forecast at NHC.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hurricane Research Division Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory.

For more on historic storms and paths see “Historical Hurricane Tracks.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

(Excerpted from the USGBC MA August 2013 Newsletter)

Friday, September 6, 2013

An Energy Committee strategy that seeks to maximize the solar power generation for the Town of Wellfleet

By Marcus Springer; Linnean Solutions, Springer Architects, Town of Wellfleet Energy Committee

The fundamental purpose of Wellfleet Solar is to drastically lower or eliminate Wellfleet’s carbon footprint.  Through maximizing the solar power generation in town, Wellfleet can realize a zero net energy future. This will serve to greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and our use of fossil fuels.  This in turn will have a positive effect on our shellfish economy, watershed and financial stability.

The strategy to maximize and expedite solar installation is to create a Solar Map of the town of Wellfleet. We are doing this through a privately funded project, performed by Mapdwell ( In conjunction with the obvious benefits of a totally solar powered town the result will serve to educate and inform the residents, businesses and Town government of the benefits of renewable energy and the efficiencies that are created by its adoption ranging from the environmental to the economic. 
This is a LIDAR map of Wellfleet  illustrating the potential town roof structures. Image courtesy of Mapdwell.
We plan to have a Solar Map in place by the end of 2013 after which we will monitor and facilitate the installation of solar power on the rooftops of Wellfleet residential, commercial and Town owned structures. For installation we will either go through the MA CEC “solarize” program or create a “solar challenge” similar to the Town of Stowe. These two procurement routes allow for greatly reduced pricing on a tiered system depending on how many installations we can sign up.  This, in combination with the newly funded SREC program (1600MW), the 30% Federal Tax credit (sunsets in 2017) and the accelerated depreciation for commercial owners, should make installation of Solar PV pretty attractive.

(Excerpted from the USGBC MA August 2013 Newsletter)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

USGBC MA Cape & Islands Interest Group

by Adam Prince

Over the last year the USGBC Cape & Islands Interest Group focused on core goals of education, networking, and experience as decided by its members. Keeping these goals in mind, the group's events are curated to offer significant value to attendees. 

Our next event is “A LEED for Homes Under-Construction Tour”. Come view a new house currently under construction in Brewster, and review sections of the LEED checklist. Targeting LEED Gold, the home is weather tight and nearing insulation installation. Designed by Jill Neubauer Architects and built by Cape Associates, staff from each will be on hand to discuss project challenges, the LEED checklist, and specific LEED credits.  Event sponsored by Jill Neubauer Architects. 

Date: September 24th at 5PM in Brewster, MA.  RSVPs are required. Please email and property address will be shared upon RSVP confirmation.  

Passive House Tour. After a viewing one of the few certified Passive Houses in the US, architect Steve Baczek presented an overview the home's design, construction, and performance attributes. Event Partners - Green Drinks Cape Cod & Sotheby's International Realty.  Event Sponsor - Cape Cod Five.

Beyond Energy Audits. Cape Light Compact presented on the organizations residential and commercial energy efficiency initiatives, including energy monitoring, heat pump hot water heaters, and the newest incarnation of the deep energy retrofit program. Event Partner - BSA Cape & Islands Network. Event Sponsor - Cape Associates.

IFAW Tour.  A guided tour and presentation was provided by Boston-based designLAB architects of the LEED Gold certified International Foundation for Animal Welfare Headquarters Building. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment selected IFAW’s headquarters building as one of the 2009 top ten examples of sustainable architecture and green design. Event Partners - BSA Cape & Islands Network, and Green Drinks Cape Cod. Event Sponsor - A.W. Hastings.


Event curation is in process for a winter event held in partnership with the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod, as well as a future tour of a mixed use (residential & commercial) project seeking LEED-NC certification. If you have suggestions for future events for the USGBC Cape & Islands Interest Group, please email

(Excerpted from the USGBC MA August 2013 Newsletter)

Monday, September 2, 2013

How does water quality on Cape Cod relate to LEED?

-Paul Brown

Why is water quality particularly important on Cape Cod?  Because groundwater is the only source of fresh water on the Cape; and most areas of the Cape have no municipal sewage treatment or sewers. Most homes and many commercial properties treat their waste in on-site septic systems. If these systems are improperly designed, or poorly maintained, or otherwise performing badly, they risk  pumping high levels of nitrates into the groundwater, and even possibly other more dangerous bacterial contaminants.

The groundwater aquifer on Cape Cod is recharged solely by rainwater. It feeds the many freshwater ponds on the cape, and ultimately flows to the sea. Nitrates can feed algae blooms in the water, which can consume the oxygen in the water, negatively impacting marine life.

What steps can individuals take to protect water quality on the Cape?
Homeowners are obligated to comply with system inspection requirements upon transfer of ownership of the property. In addition, homeowners should be careful to use and maintain the system correctly. Minimizing the volume of water put into the system, using environmentally friendly cleaning agents, and never disposing of oil-based products into the septic system, are all basic. Designers should ensure that systems are properly designed for the specific soil and groundwater conditions on-site, without cutting any corners. 

How does LEED interact with the need to protect Water Quality on the Cape?
Basic LEED principals, overlapping between various credit categories and specific credits, emphasize the need to reduce levels of potable water consumption as much as possible, to prevent excessive surface run-off, to encourage proper aquifer recharge, and to prevent contaminants from leaching into groundwater.  Specifically, Credit WE 2, Innovative Wastewater Technologies, Option 2, rewards treating 50% or more of wastewater on-site to tertiary standards, with onsite infiltration or re-use.

(Excerpted from the USGBC MA August 2013 Newsletter)
LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations Rating System USGBC Member Approved November 2008 (Updated April 2013)