Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Massachusetts Green High Performance Green Computing Center (MGHPCC) Receive LEED Platinum Cerfitication

On October 29th, representatives from the USGBC MA Chapter traveled to Holyoke, MA to attend the LEED Platinum plaque ceremony at the Massachusetts Green High Performance Green Computing Center (MGHPCC). Norm Lamonde, USGBC MA Chapter Board Member, and Turner Construction Sustainability Manager, spoke on behalf of the Chapter and presented MGHPCC Executive Director, John Goodhue with the LEED Platinum Plaque. 

Left to right: Mike Malone, Vice Chancellor for Research & Engagement, UMASS Amherst;
Mike Kearns, Director of Projects, MIT; John Goodhue, Executive Director, MGHPCC;
Alex Morse, Mayor, City of Holyoke; Norm Lamonde, Board Member, USGBC MA Chapter

MGHPCC is the first university research data center to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Beyond its building design achievements, the MGHPCC is a unique collaboration between five universities and the public and private sector. It's location is also unique as Holyoke not only offers low cost, renewable hydroelectric power, it also sits within the national fiber optic network connecting the Northeast to the world with optimal connectivity. Read more about MGHPCC and Holyoke here. For more on MGHPCC's LEED Platinum achievements, visit their blog

The day also included a tour of the facility and Hadley Falls Hydroelectric Dam. A large group from the USGBC MA Chapter West Branch attended as well as a number of folks from the the project team. Including representatives from Harvard Green Building Services, M + W Group, Turner Construction, and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. 

MGHPCC is a terrific example of collaboration and revitalization. Congratulations to everyone involved. Here's to more LEED Platinum projects, and leading the front edge of the green building movement. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ecoRI Article: Architects Design for an Unstable Climate

Check out this awesome article written by our friends as ecoRI News about how architects are designing new buildings like the Cuisinart Center for Culinary Excellence at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI to prepare for climate change

Photo credit: ecoRI News

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Planning for, and profiting by, pollution prevention

My last post dealt  briefly with the synergy between LEED and various ISO standards.  I thought that it might be useful if I delved deeper into creating an Environmental Management System (EMS).  An EMS is the central provision of ISO 14001.  It is a system to address environmental matters in a strategic fashion that follows the classic system for continual improvement pioneered by Quality Management Systems.  This is the PDCA or Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle or Deming cycle. 

Why would I do this?

Why should architects and designers be interested in this? Anyone involved the operation of building and the activities that take place within the building should be concerned about its environmental impact and related costs.  Architects, at the design phase, should be cognizant that the structure may benefit from having an EMS in place and this should be part of an integrated design process.  As this is largely a document and data driven endeavor, it is better to secure this vital information as early as possible. This is even more apropos for folks seeking LEED EBOM.  Why wouldn't you consider a building that is built in the best possible manner to also be operated and maintained to a similar high standard,and also, to have same high standards for the functions that occur within the structure. 

There are several convincing  business reasons for creating an EMS, reasons beyond just doing the right thing. These include market demands, regulatory compliance, demonstrating corporate core values, public perception, and of course, marketing.  I find that the  most compelling argument, from an environmentalist perspective and a business perspective is that identifying, controlling, and reducing an environmental footprint reaps financial as well as environmental benefits.  These include reduced costs, reduced overhead, more efficient processes, improved employee performance, reduced risk, and ensuring regulatory compliance. In some cases, regulatory agencies will provide incentives for adopting an EMS such as reduced frequency of inspections, technical assistance, and even modified regulatory requirements.  Also, the emergency preparation element of an EMS helps minimize threats to human and environmental health, as well as, minimize costs associated with mitigation and remediation.  

These benefits are cumulative and directly proportional to pollution prevention milestones. These are outlined in the white paper "Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point" by the MIT Sloan Management Review.  This paper shares that companies that were early adopters of rigorous sustainability programs  have now begun to harvest the benefits as a competitive advantage.  Furthermore many executives who embraced sustainability initiatives now consider the value of their programs not just in terms of corporate goodwill and theoretical costs avoided but as a profit center in and of themselves. One caveat, these benefits  are realized over time. According to the above referenced study, organizations that have less than 2 years of experience with a sustainability program are 50% less likely to report a profit from those activities than those with 12 or more years invested in their sustainability programs. An EMS can benefit any organization that is willing to commit to the process, regardless of size or business.  The range of entities that operate under an EMS include manufactures, office buildings, laboratories, small businesses, golf courses, and, athletic facilities. In short, any business that generates any environmental impact can have an EMS. If that impact represents waste or risk, then there is a compelling business interest. 

Step by Step

Obviously, a detailed procedure for establishing an EMS is beyond the scope of this blog article.  I will attempt to briefly outline the steps below. 

A critical step is creating an Environmental Policy.  This is an over arching statement of the entities intent, aspirations,  values and goals.  At the very least the policy must insure compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental laws. It must detail pollution prevention goals, preferably with quantifiable metrics , and it must detail managements commitment to continual improvement.  This policy needs to public and it must be communicated to the employees.  It is critical that the highest levels of management are invested and involved in this process and that they support this policy.  

Next would be an identification of all environmental "Aspects" and "Impacts". An Aspect is anything that can effect the environment and an Impact is the means and degree of that effect. An Impact may be positive as well as negative.  The list of Aspects and Impacts can be extensive and this is typically drafted by an EMS committee that is composed of relevant decision makers.  Unlike LEED, these Aspects need not be contained within the fence-line or project boundary.  For example, an Aspect may be the companies desire to only conduct business with other companies with an EMS or ISO 14001 compliance.  

Once the list of Aspects and Impacts is created. The next step is to prioritize those elements. Common means of prioritizing include a matrix with frequency of occurrence (high as daily commute to low like an unlikely emergency spill) , level of Impact, cost, benefits, legal risk, and employee and community concerns.  

Along with knowing what the environmental risks are and the potential consequences. The EMS needs to detail the legal and regulatory requirements surrounding those environmental issues. This establishes the baseline actions necessary.  

Once you know what the environmental Aspects/risks of your business are, and the potential Impacts that can result, and the minimum necessary actions - you can develop objectives and targets for all Aspects. Not every Aspect needs to have an objective beyond the minimum legal requirements. Low priority Aspects not addressed can be addressed through  the process of continual improvement at a later date.  The Aspect/Impact need not be mitigated in one fell swoop. It can be addressed incrementally over time. A goal that is unattainable or unrealistic is not valid objective.  Again, upper management needs to be involved from a resource commitment point of view.  Also it is wise to involve those "in the trenches" that will ultimately be responsible for the successful achievement of these objectives.  

Finally a formal program needs to be established and implemented. This sets up a consistent approach to achieve each objective.  This can include guidance, information, and references. It should include timelines, resources, and detail who is accountable and responsible for achieving the objectives and targets.  It should include necessary training to demonstrate competency of those involved in meeting each and every objective.  It should include procedures for communications and document control to insure that critical documents are maintained and updated and that important communications and records are logged.  Techniques, such as operational controls, administrative controls, or engineering controls should be detailed.  These can and should be amended as the program evolves.  Finally, mistakes will happen and therefore an emergency readiness and response plan needs to be formulated for each Aspect. 

Continuous improvement keeps rolling along

At this point the EMS should be developed and implemented. The management will be on board and will be supporting the efforts to meet the defined objectives.  The responsible parties will have been assigned and will be overseeing the ongoing efforts. All necessary personnel have been made aware of their respective roles and have received access to all training needed to insure their competence. 

 The next links in the PDCA cycle is check and act. This involves determining environmental performance, identifying corrective or preventive actions for situations where expected performance was not realized, auditing the systems to insure that all elements are functioning and up to date, and preserving any relevant records.   Management needs to review the effectiveness of the EMS on a periodic basis and needs to update goals, revise Aspects and Impacts, and address shortfalls uncovered by the review/audit.  Thus the cycle starts again.  

You are not alone

The process can can be a difficult and tedious ordeal. It is highly dependent upon investigation and documentation.   However, you are not alone. There are resources available.  Consultants can be hired that can guide you through the process. There are online services that will help draft a customized EMS from a stock template.  For those that wish to wish to do it themselves, the EPA has a wealth of information available. 

The most important thing is that the EMS process forces companies to think critically about their environmental impact.  This self reflection can lead to great rewards for themselves, their shareholders, their neighbors, and the planet.

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.

Friday, October 18, 2013

2013 Massachusetts LEED Project Showcase

Thank you to all who came out to the first inaugural Massachusetts LEED Project Showcase at Google's LEED Gold Office Space in Cambridge last night! 

The evening was a spectacular success with over 150 guests in attendance to celebrate the 200+ projects in MA that have achieved LEED certification since the beginning of 2012. It was great to see such a bright and passionate group of green building professionals gather together to support the mission of the USGBC to promote the design, construction, and operation of sustainable buildings and communities in Massachusetts. With all of your support, we are moving closer to our goal of making every building a green building within one generation!

Many guests expressed their interest in becoming new members of the Chapter!

A big shout-out to all of our wonderful volunteers and board members who contributed their time and energy to make this night such a successful event for the green building community!

USGBC MA Staff & Board of Directors.

This event would not have been possible without our volunteers who helped set up boards and greet guests throughout the night!

And a special shout-out to our Green Schools Program Manager, Steve Muzzy, for all of his support in putting this Showcase together. 

Steve Muzzy with Green Schools Fellow, Phoebe Beierle.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to Google for graciously hosting us in their new LEED Gold Office Space in Kendall Square. Thank you to our hostess Tiffany Colt for all of her help in putting together this event!

Tiffany Colt, our Google hostess.

The evening featured displays of around 65 LEED-certified projects with representatives of many project teams present to celebrate their amazing achievements. 

Bob Andrews of AHA Consulting Engineers with Kathy Arthur of NStar as well as Holly Miller and Meng Howe Lim of Gund Partnership.

Our friends from the New England Real Estate Journal were also present to conduct interviews with representatives from our sponsors about their featured projects.

Maxine Ramos from NEREJ interviews Mark Stafford, Account Executive Architect and Engineer Program of National Grid, our Platinum Chapter Sponsor.

The presentation portion of the evening featured project presentations from Google and 5 of our sponsors.

Our esteemed USGBC MA Executive Director kicking off the project presentations.
Tiffany Colt introduced us to some of Google's initiatives to save energy and reduce their company's environmental impact on a global scale.
Guy Campagnone, Director of Sustainable Practices at Chapman Design / Construction, highlights some of Chapman's latest efforts that align with their lifelong dedication to sustainable design.
Win Mallet, Principal of Tempietto Homes, spoke about the "necessity of diagonals" as part of their modern, solar-based designs.
Chris Alexander, Director of Business Development at Sterritt Lumber, spoke about his company's lifelong dedication to sustainability since its founding in 1841.
Mark Stafford, Account Executive Architect and Engineer Program, at our Platinum Chapter Sponsor, National Grid, spoke about ways in which his company is demonstrating their commitment to energy efficiency.
Architect Doug Rand of Dimella Schaffer introduces their latest LEED-certified projects such as the North Shore Community College Allied Health Building.

The evening wrapped up with a final word by Grey Lee thanking all of our Chapter member and encouraging all the guests to join the Chapter to ensure the continued growth of the green building community as we work together to make every building in Massachusetts a green building within one generation!

Here's a link to our SPOTLIGHT Feature in the New England Real Estate Journal: USGBC Project Showcase 10/17

Thank you everyone who came out to support the mission of the USGBC and we'll see you next year at our next MA LEED Project Showcase!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

ISO & LEED: A beautiful couple

One item that synergizes perfectly with LEED is the International Standards Organizations (ISO) environmental standards, yet, I find that many in the building trades have an imperfect or incomplete understanding of these tools.

The ISO membership is comprised of 160 national standards institutes and its standards provide practical tools for all three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, environmental, and societal.  These standards provide an internationally developed and recognized framework to ensure quality, ecology, safety, economy, reliability, compatibility, interoperability, conformity, efficiency, and effectiveness.  These traits facilitate trade and shared knowledge based best management practices.

Many of the standards, particularly those in the 14000 family of environmental management standards, harmonize with many aspects of LEED.  While LEED focuses upon the built environment, ISO focuses more on the organizations operations and management, thus it meshes quite nicely with LEED-EBOM.  These standards can build off each other and the strengths of each can complement the other to build a more sustainable whole.  With a small amount of planning and foresight, a company can occupy a LEED certified building and earn ISO certification without duplicating effort.  If they currently hold one certification, the other is more easily attained.

Why would an organization seek ISO certification?

Just as there are a myriad of justifications for seeking LEED certification, there are a host of reasons for pursuing ISO certification.  These include improved efficiency and effectiveness, contractual or regulatory compliance, customer or public preference, risk management, sales prospects and market access, cost savings/waste reduction, and finally, environmental stewardship.

It should be noted that while the ISO develops the International Standards, it is not a certification body.  Certification is performed by third party auditors. These “certification bodies” review the written documentation and audit the facility.  The documentation can include employee standards, training records, approved standard operating procedures, plans for non conforming events, quality verification, calibrations and test methods, document control procedures, and audits.  The purpose of this documentation is to ensure that the desired procedures are followed in a proscribed manner and that the PDCA, or Plan–Do-Check-Act, cycle is driving continual improvement.

ISO 14001 standard is unique in that one can opt for the traditional third party audit and certification or one can independently self-certify. The ability to self certify opens the standard up to many smaller organizations that may be daunted by the costs of a third party audit. 

ISO 14001 – Environmental Management Systems.

This standard is the bedrock of the entire environmental series. It establishes the requirements for an Environmental Management System (EMS).  An EMS is a standardized plan that defines the environmental impacts of an organizations activity and seeks to minimize those impacts that are within its control.  The system that quantifies and then minimizes these impacts follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.  In short this involves deciding upon a plan of action, implementing the plan, checking that the plan in effect and correcting any shortfalls, and finally, reviewing the results and improving the system.  Determining the impacts and designing the plans can be a daunting task; however, the ISO has many published documents to assist in the task.

If a company is certified to ISO 9001 standards, it is much easier to obtain ISO 14001.  ISO 9001 establishes Quality Management Systems.   A company that has a Quality Management System in place will have much of the framework required for an EMS. For instance, the will have records on raw materials and products used, a system for dealing with problems or incidents, internal and external audit procedures, and employee and management training.

Other standards within (and without) the 14000 family that can help

Many other standards within the ISO 14000 family of standards can be integrated into an EMS and can assist in the development of a comprehensive Environmental Management System.

ISO14004 provides additional guidance and useful explanations.  ISO 14031 helps an organization evaluate its environmental performance and can assist with selection of suitable performance indicators.  This is useful for accurate and truthful reporting on environmental performance.  ISO 14020 addresses a range of environmental labels and declarations, including eco-labels, self declared claims, seals of approval, and quantified environmental information about products and services.   ISO 14040 provide guidelines on the principles and conduct of Life Cycle Assessment of products and services.  ISO 14064 provides a set transparent and verifiable requirements for Greenhouse Gas accounting and verification.  ISO 14063 can assist with environmental communication to outside parties. 

Several standards are still in development. These include standards for eco-efficiency assessment (ISO 14045), material flow cost accounting (ISO 14051), Carbon footprints (ISO 14067 & 14069), Phased EMS implementation (ISO 14005), and, quantitative environmental information (ISO 14033).

There are several standards outside of the “environmental” 14000 series that can help. The 19011 is the auditing standard and it is useful for both Quality and Environmental audits.  ISO 50001 is the Energy Management System standard. While an Environmental Management System will contain sections that address energy usage, an Energy Management System under ISO 50001 requires energy performance monitoring and actual energy performance improvements.  It is akin to ongoing building commissioning but for all the processes that occur within an organization.

Data driven standards for continual improvement.

The interactions between these two great consensus driven international standards, LEED and ISO, can ensure the long term sustainability of an enterprise. A LEED certified building, especially if it then earns LEED-EBOM, will position the physical plant for an ongoing benefit. EBOM will ensure that the gains realized by the integrated design and thoughtful planning are not squandered and that the improvements are maintained. ISO standards can help the activities that occur within those buildings meet their environmental goals.  Building Designers and Facilities Mangers can work shoulder to shoulder to ensure not only a sustainable building at occupancy but throughout its life and throughout the course of the activities the building supports.  These distinct environmental benefits will yield tangible economic benefits and sustain the triple bottom line. 

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, October 7, 2013

Showcase Podcast

Grey Lee was interviewed by the New England Real Estate Journal to discuss the upcoming MA LEED Project Showcase (10/17).

Take a listen if you have 12 minutes - start at 27:30 minutes.

What is the Showcase? Who is coming? How are we connected to Google? Why should we celebrate LEED project teams? Will there be another?

The Showcase is sold out, but link here for more about the Showcase. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Brief Summary of Changes to LEED EBOM

Written by Paul Brown.

A great summary of changes can be found here, on the National USGBC site.

A few of the changes include:
  • Under Sustainable Sites, the Credit for LEED Certified Design and Construction has been removed.
  • Under Water Efficiency, there is a new Prerequisite to install (permanently) a whole-building water meter which reports data directly to USGBC.
  • Within Energy and Atmosphere, the Prerequisite previously called "Minimum Energy Efficiency Performance" is now called "Minimum Energy Performance", and the baseline for compliance with the Prerequisite has been raised from an Energy Star Rating of 69 to 75 (in Option 1).
  • Also in Energy and Atmosphere, a new Prerequisite has been created for whole-building energy meters, and for sharing of data with USGBC.
  • The Materials and Resources Category has been substantially revised, with re-organization of credits (moving to other categories) and revising of Prerequisites.
  • Under Indoor Environmental Quality, the hospitality residential option exception for the Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control Prerequisite has been eliminated, and the former Green Cleaning Credit, has become a Prerequisite called "Green Cleaning Policy".
Those are just a few of many changes; please consult the official documents of USGBC for further important information.