Friday, May 30, 2014

Weekly Bulletin to 5/30/14

For a full listing of upcoming events, take a look at our May 2014 Digest.

Coming up next week:

LEED Learning & Networking in Eastham, MA (Cape Cod), Tuesday June 3

Combined Quarterly Committees Gathering in Boston, Tuesday June 3

Any ideas where this might be?

Anyone recognize these guys?

You may have seen information about sea level rise and Boston here and there. The Nature Conservancy is hosting a program on June 9th: "Weathering the Storm: Boston's Future Climate" from 5:30-8pm at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts at 527 Tremont St. Speakers include the Boston Harbor Association President Vivian Lee and Brian Swett, Chief of Energy, Environment and Open Space for the City of Boston.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

LEED ND: Beyond Buildings Attracts Neighborhood Professionals

By Bob Weiss, Sustainable Neighborhood Development Working Group, USGBC MA

Before a spirited crowd filling the seats in the Atlantic Wharf’s Fort Point Room, the USGBC MA Chapter, in conjunction with the Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the American Planning Association Massachusetts Chapter (APA-MA), presented a half-day program on LEED ND in Massachusetts communities. Billed as not-a-LEED-101-course, experienced professionals in neighborhood development provided insights and true accounts of their applications of USGBC’s platform to fellow professionals.

After opening comments from the USGBC MA Chapter Chair Jim Newman, LISC’s Bob Van Meter and the APA MA’s Bob Mitchell, the day began with an overall retrospective of LEED ND from the USGBC MA Chapter Vice Chair Neil Angus. Attendees were brought up to date with LEED ND’s evolution including the changes in V4.

Neil then moderated a panel presentation on two LEED ND pilot projects from 2008. The 11 acre Jackson Square project in Roxbury and Jamaica Plain was presented by Carolyn Edwards, Real Estate Project Manager with Urban Edge,who discussed how the project is bringing healthy sustainable living to a mixed-income inner city area with new commercial spaces, community facilities and transportation alternatives to an area that 40 years ago was going to be surrendered to the interstate system. Greg Sampson, a Land Use Attorney with Robinson & Cole presented The Village at Taylor Pond in Bedford, a great example of how LEED ND can be a tool for sustainable development in suburban areas.

Mike Davis, Program Officer with LISC Boston, moderated a panel discussion introducing three new projects illustrating how LEED ND will help build sustainable neighborhoods for the future. Darcy Jameson with Beacon Communities and Lauren Baumann of New Ecology, Inc. noted how Old Colony housing, a traditional public housing project in South Boston used LEED ND to create a holistic approach in transforming it into a neighborhood integrated into a larger urban community. The Neighborhood Developers’ Emily Loomis described how Chelsea’s Box District is turning an older industrial area into a pedestrian oriented community with enhanced transportation that will connect it with the metropolitan area. Paul Malkemes, a local resident and community advocate gave a great resident perspective of how LEED ND was used to drive quality-of-life improvements to Codman Square NDC’s Talbot Norfolk Triangle. Paul said LEED ND was used as a “framing mechanism” and helped residents embrace sustainable development.

Neil, along with Tad Read of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, brought the program together in their presentations on using the LEED ND rating system as a tool to enhance the sustainability of local projects, regulations and development codes.

The audience initiated discussions on several LEED ND subjects such as quantifiable requirements, how to use the system’s formulas to facilitate a project and the importance of public education and outreach. There were detailed questions on using program credits to compliment other credits. Though the event ran to its noon finish, many attendees remained for an informal improvised networking. Chapter organizers have more LEED ND events planned and will be announcing them shortly.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Strategic Priorities of the USGBC

While at the Mid-Year Meeting of the big USGBC Family - the National Staff, the Board, the various technical committees and LEED Steering Committee and the various designees from the Chapters - chapter leaders, staff, emerging professionals, green schools folks and yet others, we heard a bit about the USGBC's Strategic Priorities and the health of the Chapter network.

Elizabeth Heider, SVP at Skanska and a former USGBC Board Chair, spoke to the crowd and brought out the old 2013-2015 Strategic Plan. Much of it is still relevant - so please feel free to take a look to learn more.

How do you see yourself supporting and engaging on these priorities? Are these important to your firm and your practice?

What are we doing at USGBC MA Chapter in regards to these priorities? How are we supporting the network and growing the movement for green buildings?

In the words of Board Chair George Bandy, we need to look at how the Chapter network is functioning as a whole, and what we can do to improve it. Some big chapters are doing great, but many of the smaller chapters are struggling. Facilitated by Jason Dunlop, Chair of the Chapters Steering Committee, we participated in a series of working sessions and came out with the framework of a plan.

"Starting in early June and working through July, attendees that signed up in Detroit to take part in groups focused on one of the three topics (structure, mission + engagement, business + operations) will collaborate to identify elements of the chapters that are working well, and those that must evolve." 

Thank you to all the Chapters facilitators and supporters as we work to build a stronger network. In the words of Chair Bandy, let's get uncomfortable so we can get better!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekly Bulletin to 5/23/14

I hope you enjoyed the recent post about the USGBC Mid-Year Meeting.

What's coming up for USGBC MA?

Tues, 5/27, 5:30-6:30 Green Schools Committee Conference Call

Thurs, 5/29, 5:30-7:30 in Hudson, MA, Green Schools Tour of Quinn Middle School

Tues, 6/3, 5-7pm in Easton, MA on Cape Cod, LEED Learning & Networking with the Cape & Islands Interest Group

Tues 6/3 6:30-8pm in Boston, the Quarterly Combined Committees Gathering - calling all volunteers to meetup and plan the next few months of activities and priorities.

Friday, 6/6 3-5pm in Boston, the Regenesis Group's "Regenerative Practitioner" Intro Session with Bill Reed. Come and check it out!

Don't forget to keep the upcoming all-colleague gatherings on your calendar: Networking Nights with upcoming sessions on 6/10 and 7/17 in Boston. 

See you soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

USGBC Mid-Year Meeting

What's up?

A contingent of USGBC MA Staff & Volunteers attended the USGBC Mid-Year Meeting in downtown Detroit this week. Every year, the many committees, boards, technical advisory groups, and chapter staff & volunteers from around the country gather for this "Revival." 

I was there with Steve Muzzy, Green Schools Program Manager, to meet with our colleagues in chapter administration and on green schools, respectively. It was a great forum to trade best practices, to hear about innovations in management and program execution, and to deliberate on the best path(s) forward for our collective work to transform our communities for the better.

Also present were Chris Schaffner (LEED Committee), Andrea Love (Chapters Steering Committee), Brad Jones (LEED as well), John Dalzell (National USGBC Board), Nathan Gauthier (LEED again), Jessica Miller (EPMA), and probably some other "low-profile" folks. Let me know if you were there!

I have to admit, it really is great to consider and anticipate the positive difference we are making for our world. Thank you to the USGBC for convening this super gathering.

Downtown Detroit has a lot of old building that need new ideas to be re-invigorated. There is a surging startup and artistic culture in Detroit, a real buzz and excitement, within the majesty of a hundred years of great old building stock. The Emerging Professionals of Detroit Regional Chapter hosted a meeting at local start-up incubator on the 18th floor of the building below. Great to hear how a new generation is returning to this big old city's heart.

Mostly, however, it was long hours in the convention center, meeting after meeting - work session, strategy session, presentation, you name it - we worked at it.

One focus was on the improvement of Chapter operations and reducing redundant activities. How can the national entity, the regional councils, and chapters share the load in a better way? Many great ideas. I'm now on the "Business & Operations Review Committee," tasked with drafting a plan to reveal at Greenbuild in October.

I also presented on Building Energy Benchmarking (like our BERDO and BEUDO) with my colleague Brian Imus, Executive Director of the Illinois Chapter, where Chicago also just passed a benchmarking ordinance. Now he and I will work to share a model of how to campaign for this across the country. It really is in line with our mission and since we've had a handful of successes, we can really roll out with momentum to get every market to have transparency in building energy use, in order to drive ever greater energy efficiency in the building stock.

There were breaks to eat and hear major presentations - 

On the main stage on the second night, we heard a great "pep talk" from Founding Chairman and CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, who spoke about how our movement is growing, and the opposition is growing as well. "We have to be reckoned with" and that is creating a new level of attention from our detractors in the unsustainable timber and toxic plastics industries. So, now, we're going to have to fight harder. States & markets where our green market transformation momentum is strong, like Massachusetts, will have to "raise the flag higher" and keep our detractors on the defense. It's been a long 20 years of growth for the USGBC, so let's stay strong, together, to move on our mission for the next 20 years. I agree, Rick!

We did have a few meetings in some of the great old spaces, like the Guardian Building here.

Here we can see part of the transformation in Downtown Detroit - an old lot turned into a thriving urban garden space, with a meditation and yoga area. I was surprised to see my car parked nearby, but then again, sometimes it has a mind of its own.

Thank you again, USGBC, for hosting and facilitating this great gathering of our hard-core devotees and experts. LEED ON!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Healthy Buildings Summit Coming to Boston this Autumn

By Blake Jackson, Tsoi/Kobus & Associates
Originally posted at A Better City's blog
It has taken the green building movement almost twenty years to begin investigating the human health impacts of the chemical ingredients which make up building products. Alas, the latest version of the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEEDv4) rating system is beginning to drive the market towards broadening how we define ‘green’ materials in relation to their human health impacts. LEED is the most internationally recognizable metric for measuring holistic sustainability measures in new and existing buildings in the world today. Thus far in its history, LEED has defined ‘green’ building materials simply through the material’s attributes, including salvaged materials, recycled content, those that are classified as ‘rapidly renewable,’ contain FSC-certified wood, are highly reflective (exterior materials), and/or contain no or trace amounts of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) (interior finishes, furniture, and furnishings).

The new LEEDv4 rating system continues asking projects to aspire to these criteria in conjunction with several new concepts, the most controversial of which are codified within three new credits under ‘Building Product Disclosure & Optimization.’ Regarding human health impacts, MR credit 4: ‘Materials Ingredients’ encourages projects by awarding points for selecting products for which the ingredients are inventoried using a combination of accepted methodologies to verify minimal harmful substances. This all sounds simple; however, this concept has created a large backlash and from both proponents and opponents of LEED, as this represents a learning curve for designers, owners, and manufacturers who all must upgrade their practices to meet the more stringent standards of LEEDv4.
Anticipating the need for a large-scale shift within the building industry, several local sustainability leaders are planning an event to target New England design, business, and institutional communities to spread awareness of these trends, initiate tools and resources, and to promote these new concepts within our regional built environment. Other cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, DC, and Dallas, have held similar summits, spearheaded through local USGBC chapters. For example, the Northern California Chapter initiated a 2-year challenge amongst USGBC membership, which targeted client and product representative education on Health Product Declarations (HPD’s), promoted worker job-site safety strategies, etc. The DC Chapter held a series of ‘open-house’ events at different member’s headquarters, allowing local experts to present their knowledge.
The Boston summit seeks to utilize the synergy codified by ABC’s Challenge for Sustainability scorecard by adding criteria for healthy materials into the system, making the summit relevant for stakeholders. It will feature a half-day ‘un-conference’ event which invites leaders from the business, design, and institutional communities to get together to learn concepts, brainstorm strategies, and set a regional agenda for healthy materials. The ‘un-conference’ will begin with a panel of interdisciplinary healthy materials experts and will break out into group sessions with focused 30-minute talks with local leaders and panelists. The discussions from these conversations will be captured in real-time and posted at the end of the event to quantify key takeaways, areas of focus, and synergies amongst peers. Our hope is this event will equip these diverse communities with the tools they need to move forward in a way which promotes healthy buildings and generates a demand for healthy materials regionally. Boston and New England are uniquely configured to lead the promotion of healthy buildings, as we are one of the largest cities in the US, we have the highest per capita percentage of designers in the US, our economy hinges on stakeholders who value and promote human health (hospitals, universities, corporations).We are one of the greenest cities in the world.
Our thanks to ABC, Bergmeyer Associates, BuildingGreen, DBA-W Architects, Gensler, Goody Clancy, MA USGBC, Payette, PDT Architects, Symmes, Maini & McKee Associates, Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, TRO Jung Brannen, and Wilson Architects, for their help in initiating this exciting event. For details on sponsorship, serving as a panelist, attendance, etc., please reach out to the author via the ‘New England ‘Healthy Buildings Summit’’ Group on Linked-In.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Weekly Bulletin to 5/16/14

What's up?

- BERDO VICTORY (again!) - see our update at our BERDO Advocacy resource page. Brian Swett sent us a nice thank you note.

BEUDO is Coming to Cambridge! That's right B-E-U-D-O - "Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance" is the term for the People's Republic's policy to require energy & water disclosure into a public database. You can read more at this one-pager about it, from the city's Community Development Department.

Of course USGBC MA supports this ordinance. You can also support it at a hearing this Monday, 5/19/14, at 5/30pm, at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber. Let me know if you'd like to attend.

The USGBC Chapters Annual Report, detailing the situation for the 76 chapters throughout North America, is a great read if you're interested in our strategic goals as a movement, and how USGBC is evolving. Special note: USGBC MA has gone up in the rankings in terms of numbers of members, from #40 to #17. Thank you, all!

We have re-invigorated the Networking Nights with upcoming sessions on 6/10 and 7/17 in Boston. 

This Sunday: Don't forget to check out the Boston Environmental Film Festival - multiple awesome environmental documentaries with speaker panels to discuss at each screening. Check out the full program at "e"-inc., the organizers of the Festival.

Upcoming Chapter Events:

Next week: 

Credential Maintenance Webinars: 

Take a look at this handy summary of all the upcoming events we have, that we just sent out the other day to our email subscribers.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

LEED Gold Plaque Ceremony in Hadley Mass., with the USGBC MA Chapter's West Branch

By Jeff Dalzell, UMass Amherst

On Weds, 5/14/14, the US Fish & Wildlife Regional Headquarters in Hadley, MA, unveiled a LEED Gold Plaque for earning certification after a renovation project on their 20-yr old building.
Mark Dunn provided congratulatory remarks on behalf of the USGBC

USGBC MA Chapter West Branch Chair Mark Dunn joined with representatives of the building’s Owner/Developer, Pearson Companies, Inc., the tenant Green Team, and the Director of US Fish & Wildlife to celebrate this certification achievement. 

The Service took active measures to upgrade many aspects of building operations to achieve this accomplishment including:

• Replacing HVAC units with more energy efficient models
• Replacing all light fixtures inside the building as well as outdoor lighting
• Replacing old plumbing with more efficient water saving fixtures
• Adding Energy Recovery Ventilation units on the roof
• Installing a roof-mounted 108 kW solar PV system
• Redesigned walkways and landscaping for more environmentally friendly upkeep. 
Since the start of the project the amount of energy savings is more than 375,000 KWh, which is a reduction of nearly 575,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. This amount of energy savings is the equivalent of taking 56 cars off the road. The amount of water use was reduced by nearly 60,000 gallons per year and the amount a gas use had been reduced nearly 3,500 CCF per year, the equivalent of eliminating 44,000 miles driven per year.

Congratulations to the project team and especially the leadership at GSA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Regional Office.

US Fish & Wildlife Northeast Headquarters will be Hadley’s first LEED building. Exceptional future energy savings for the building will be driven an extensive new solar PV array on the building’s roof and the use of LED lighting throughout. For a long time, families with children have been coming to this building’s pond to learn how to fish. Now the site has even more to teach a rising generation.

Photo (below) at the plaque ceremony (left to right, Building Owner’s representative Bill Keavany of Pearson, Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber, U.S. Green Building Council representative Mark Dunn, Service Architect and Green Team Leader Liz Dawson, Chair of the Hadley Selectboard Guilford B. Mooring).

The interior courtyard and pollinator garden:

The entrance to the facility:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

An Intense Passive Discussion at Green Breakfast Club

On Tuesday morning, May 13th, the USGBC MA hosted two passive design specialists to present a case study on the zero net energy Weygand Hall at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.

Yanel de Angel and Jordan Zimmerman, of Perkins+Will, described the intricacies of a 500-bed dormitory being designed to achieve net zero energy requirements. You can read more about the project at Perkins+Will's research journal.

"Residence Halls provide a unique educational opportunity for students, since they can learn about and experience a lifestyle that embodies sustainable practices and engages them as active participants in reducing energy use for the building. The Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA) and Bridgewater State University (BSU) took advantage of a Zero Net Energy Building (ZNEB) pilot study to research design strategies and building systems that will advance the planning and design of future residence halls. Perkins+Will led a collaborative design and construction team, which included Rist Frost Shumway Engineering and Bond Brothers Construction.  Working closely with MSCBA and BSU, the team developed a detailed case study that ultimately led to successful identification and implementation of low energy strategies for the Weygand Residence Hall at BSU."

Thank you to Cyrus Dahmubed for organizing this month's Green Breakfast Club. We had a great turnout - many familar faces, and some great new attendees, esp. notable was Catherine & Brian from Stone Source - who invited us to present at their showroom nearby sometime. Thanks!

Topics of discussion and hearty back-n-forth included:
  • How seasonal use patterns affect zero net modeling and potential.
  • How a new building's "cool factor" can lead to increased use (over modeled) and overwhelm the zero net intention, but that this actually offsets less efficient use elsewhere on a campus.
  • Will students really tolerate a lack of micro-fridges?? So far, yes, and living at Weygand is viewed as a privilege. 
  • How to engage occupants through outreach & education. During the freshman orientation, one of the students asked "well, isn't this how it's supposed to be done everywhere?"
It was amazing to hear that for a $1M premium on a $50M project, you could achieve net zero potential and that was at an 8-year payback. In the mid 2020's, the school will be essentially saving more than $100k per year in energy costs, ceteris paribus. Clearly a design intention to propagate throughout Massachusetts' institutional owners.

It was great networking following the presentation. These morning events help people connect and spend time delving into a topic: it's a chance for green building enthusiasts to really geek out. Thank you to all who came, and we'll see you at the next Green Breakfast Club!

Thank you especially to Jordan Zimmerman and Yanel de Angel, and to Cyrus Dahmubed for presenting and organizing the program.

Monday, May 12, 2014

BERDO Boost - Advocacy for More Green Buildings

[UPDATE: 5/15/14 - the BERDO 120-day extension amendment has passed. We received the following note from Chief Swett:

I just wanted to quickly thank you all for your efforts on this.  City Council unanimously approved Mayor Walsh's amendment to BERDO, and we are now back to work on implementation. This unanimous vote would not have been possible without your outreach and support.


...thank you to our volunteers and peer organization partners for supporting building energy reporting.]

Boston City Council held a hearing to continue to tweak the Building Energy Reporting & Disclosure Ordinance today [5/12/14]. You can read a number of pieces regarding the background of the ordinance at our Advocacy Resources page.

On April 30th, the Council voted to delay implementation of the ordinance, enacted in May 2013, one year. A few entities were concerned that the reporting deadline, of 5/15/14, was coming up quickly and their constituents wouldn't be prepared. Greater Boston Real Estate Board suggested the delay and the council felt that it was prudent.

However, doing so would dramatically change the information gathering process for building energy use, and, the major utilities had recently come on board with being able to provide building-by-building data for ordinance compliance. With a one-year delay, the City would lose out on information trendlines regarding greenhouse gas emissions that are needed for the triennial Climate Action Plan Update, due later this year.

The City's Office of Environment & Energy worked with the Mayor to create a compromise to meet more stakeholders' needs. They introduced a 120-day delay amendment. USGBC MA is proud to support this amendment.

Today, the City Council held a hearing for testimony in support of the new amendment. I represented the Chapter along with Board Member David Straus, who was there on behalf of his constituents at A Better City. The Chapter's testimony can be read here. Tedd Saunders of the Saunders Hotel Group also testified very eloquently on the benefits of BERDO.

Councillor-at-Large Michael Flaherty chaired the meeting. Brian Swett and Carl Spector introduced the amendment and described how over 120 buildings have already reported as of this morning. Many are smaller owners and institutions like a catholic high school and a convent that have reported - not the ones you'd expect to have an elaborate energy reporting capacity. Swett described how the amendment includes a provision exempting owners from the original sanctions during their first year of reporting - so if for some reason the reporting is not achievable for a particular building, they will get a pass in the first year on any fines or energy audit requirements.

Chairman Flaherty noted that at the council meeting on 4/30, they were faced with an option of the impending deadline, or a 1-year delay. He felt that at the time, they had to vote for the delay, but was glad that they now have this 4-month compromise which will make everyone happy. Councillor Tim McCarthy was also present. Both thanked the supporters of the amendment, the only side to testify, although GBREB was in attendance. I hope that means that their constituents can live with the change. As I testified, BERDO means energy reporting and the EPA has found that will lead to energy savings, and who can't be happy with spending less on energy?

The USGBC MA will continue to follow the issue and work, as Darien Crimmin of Winn Development noted, to bring all parties together. Energy efficiency in buildings is good for owners, users, the city at large and of course the environment. I look forward to working with the owners and operators of buildings in Boston (and beyond!) to create high-performance buildings so Boston can stay #1 in energy efficiency and be a leader on climate response & sustainability.

I will keep you posted!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

USGBC Chapters Network Annual Report is now available

The compendium of stats and updates from all 76 of the USGBC Chapters throughout North America is ready for your review!

Take a look at this massive document outlining the differences, and the commonalities, of the many Chapters throughout our network.

A couple of highlights:
  • Massachusetts has the 4th most LEED certified space per capita
  • We have the 4th most LEED Accredited Professionals in the country
  • We are also #7 in terms of number of national member companies in the state
  • The Chapter is 19th in revenue, having grown 26% from 2012 to 2013
  • We went from #40 in number of members to ranking #17 (out of the 76 chapters)
Let's keep up the great progress for More Green Buildings!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekly Bulletin to 5/9/14

What's Up?!
- BERDO Advocacy on Monday 5/12 at 9:30am at Boston City Hall. Let us know if you can come to testify in support of the building energy reporting & disclosure ordinance.
- Quarterly Combined Committees Gathering will be Tuesday 6/3/14 at our offices in Boston. This is for our active volunteers to coordinate upcoming events and campaigns across the different committees, working groups and task forces of the USGBC MA.
- Save the date: Building Technology & Science Fair to be held the evening of 7/24 at 50 Milk St in Boston.

Upcoming Events:

Monday, 5/12, 5:45 - 7:30pm: Residential Green Building Committee "Indoor Air Quality: Why it Matters!" - in Boston

Tuesday, 5/13, 7:30 - 9am: Green Breakfast Club "Passive Design for a Sustainable Future" - in Boston

Tuesday, 5/20, 8am - 12pm: Beyond Buildings "A Review of LEED for Neighborhood Development in Massachusetts" in Boston

Friday, 5/23, 9am - 6pm: Education Workshop "LEED Green Associate Exam Study Prep" in Boston

Thursday, 5/29, 5:30 - 7:30pm: Green Building Tour of Quinn Middle School in Hudson, MA

Tuesday, 6/3 6:30 - 8pm: Quarterly Combined Committees Gathering in Boston

Please spread the word about our LEED Green Associate Study Prep all-day workshop. This is a great way to get ready to take the LEED Exam! Read about our last all-day workshop here.

This just in: one of our members, Darien Crimmin of Winn Development, has been participating in the White House's "Climate Push," and was quoted in the Wall Street Journal:

Obama to Lay Out Proposals on Cutting Carbon Pollution

By Colleen McCain Nelson

President Barack Obama will trumpet new executive actions and public- and private-sector commitments aimed at cutting carbon pollution and improving energy efficiency as he continues to make the pitch that the impacts of climate change must be addressed.

In a speech in California, the president will focus on clean-energy objectives he can accomplish without Congress's help, laying out a list of modest proposals, as well as pledges to expand the deployment of solar power.

The initiatives are wide-ranging but small-bore--from training workers for jobs in the solar industry to strengthening commercial energy building codes and from making federal buildings more energy efficient to setting new efficiency standards for walk-in coolers and freezers. But administration officials argue that cumulatively, the efforts could have a significant impact.

Dan Utech, special assistant to the president on energy and climate change, said the initiatives would help cut pollution, save businesses money on energy bills and support working training programs across the country.

Critics of Mr. Obama's climate change push contend that new regulations are a pricey proposition, burdening businesses and ultimately costing jobs.

The White House also plans to a release a video touting the installation of solar panels on the first family's residence. The project, which is expected to pay for itself in energy savings over the next eight years, "helps demonstrate that historic buildings can incorporate solar energy and energy efficiency upgrades," White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.

Friday's announcements come on the heels of the release of the National Climate Assessment, an extensive document that details far-reaching consequences of climate change. Mr. Obama and other administration officials have launched an all-hands-on-deck public-relations push aimed at convincing Americans that climate change is an urgent problem, though polls show that they face a steep challenge in the realm of public opinion.

John Podesta, counselor to the president, said at an event in New York that the ultimate goal should be to eliminate carbon emissions from energy production. Right now, carbon-emitting fossil fuels make up about 62% of the nation's electricity mix.

The nation must "ultimately move toward an electric system that is going to have to be literally carbon free," Mr. Podesta said.

The White House's focus on climate change has been met with a mix of Republican criticism and indifference, as GOP lawmakers have suggested that Mr. Obama should focus on more pressing priorities. The president isn't proposing any major legislative initiatives, and administration officials have acknowledged that the issue hasn't gotten traction in Congress.

Mr. Obama, who is wrapping up a fundraising swing through California, is expected to speak about the burgeoning solar industry, calling for expanded use of solar energy in homes, businesses and schools. Solar power has increased 418% during the last four years, but it still accounts for only 1.13% of total U.S. electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration.

The president will announce more than 300 commitments from private companies and public-sector organizations to advance solar deployment. Companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., IKEA and Apple Inc. have offered an assortment of pledges to increase solar generation at their facilities and in their supply chains.

Darien Crimmin, vice president of energy and sustainability for WinnCompanies, a company which manages affordable multifamily housing, praised the president's efforts to draw attention to these issues.

"If you're paying attention to climate change, it's good to see federal leadership trying to create new programs," he said.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Why LEED Matters to Future Generations

By Steven Burke, Bergmeyer Associates. Article courtesy New England Real Estate Journal

We all love babies. Sure, there is the occasional annoying run-in on airplanes, in restaurants, and during a speech or ceremony, but they help to secure our advancement as a species. If for no other reason than that, we should do our best to safeguard their future (and cut them slack when they lose it in public).

There is an average of more than 10,000 babies born in the United States every day. What almost all parents of those babies don't know, and pretty much nobody wants to think about, is that all of those new infants are certain to test positive for having a long list of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in their bodies.

A study of newborns by the Environmental Working Group found an average of 200 chemicals per child in their sample group. What's worse, they would have likely found more chemicals, but only tested for just over 400 chemicals total. The chemicals found in these babies included flame retardants, pesticides, and industrial compounds. Many are known to cause cancer, birth defects, infertility, immune system disruption, hormone disruption, and are neurotoxins.

Those last two impact categories are particularly troubling as they pertain to newborns: hormone disruptors have numerous and sometimes grotesque consequences for reproductive and sexual development, while neurotoxins affect the brain and central nervous system, of somewhat critical importance in a developing child.
Meanwhile, many childhood and adult cancers are increasing. Autism is increasing. Women are having increased difficulty in becoming pregnant and carrying children to term. Men are experiencing decreased sperm counts. There is one very possible common denominator: the "toxic load" in our bodies, and in our babies.

Where are all these chemicals coming from and how are they ending up in our newborns? The short answer is that they come from many exposure points, and then they are passed from mothers to babies in utero.
So what are you to do as an individual? How can you control your exposure levels to these harmful substances and protect your children? Well, as Americans we spend 90% of our time indoors (depressing, I know). That means that by removing harmful chemicals from the places we work, sleep, and relax, we can go a long way towards creating a healthier environment.

Enter LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is a national, and increasingly international, green building standard. This green building certification system is operated through the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. In July of 2013 the newest version of LEED, LEED version 4, was voted into adoption. One of the most controversial and key aspects of the updated system is a focus on materials transparency.

In practical terms, this means that future green building projects seeking LEED certification can score points for having building product manufacturers publish the ingredients and source materials that went into the assembly of their products. Already, some product manufacturers are evaluating their supply chain and seeking help with adjusting to materials transparency requirements. LEED v4 has empowered some leading architecture firms to notify product manufacturers that if they don't carry certifications for materials disclosure, they will stop using their products in new projects beginning as early as January 2015.

These results are starting to create a spillover effect into transparency in the chemical manufacturing industry, which handles many of the inputs into building products. This is nothing short of revolutionary: the fact that a nonprofit is indirectly reforming one of the most powerful global industries is almost unfathomable.

Government regulation and market oversight have largely been reactionary mechanisms for managing chemical manufacturing. Proactive and precautionary tools are needed to increase consumer protection from potentially hazardous substances produced by this industry. At 38-years-old, the law designed to regulate chemical manufacturing in the United States, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, has proven itself ineffectual. Now LEED is successfully applying pressure where many others failed.

Of course, all of this has not been without controversy. The chemical industry is understandably resistant to this new version of LEED. Lobbyists are attempting to remove LEED as the building standard in new federal buildings, which includes children's schools. Industry proponents have even been funding an alternative green building rating system, called Green Globes, as a response to the challenges posed by LEED. Thankfully, though, it appears the movement towards materials transparency has been set in motion, and it is unlikely to reverse course.

Ignorance is not always bliss, and sometimes what you don't know can hurt you. So let us thank LEED for working towards a world that will be healthier for our children, and for pushing the market boundaries out of a comfort zone of toxicity and secrecy towards transparency and public health.

Steven Burke, LEED AP BD+C, ID+C, is sustainability coordinator at Bergmeyer Associates, Inc., Boston, MA.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Weekly Bulletin to 5/2/14

Hello Everyone,

Are you interested in IAQ? Passive design? LEED ND? Taking the Green Associate Exam before it changes? Well, we have a program for you!

We've decided that I should put up a weekly bulletin on the Blog to capture the latest news of the Chapter's activities.

Is it a "summer breeze" yet?

What's been happening this week? Well, we've been working on a lot of things.

  • The Building Innovation & Technology Science Fair will be in mid-July, and I'm forming a committee to help me organize it. Email me if you're interested. We'll be seeking innovators, service providers, and product vendors who can show off really cool stuff. It will be fun. 
  • "Passive Design for a Sustainable Future" is our Green Breakfast Club on Tues, 5/13 at 7:30am in Boston. Please come for an in-depth conversation with Perkins+Will's Yanel de Angel and Jordan Zimmerman.
  • Our Green Schools Committee recently met and is moving forward with preparations for the Green Apple Day of Service in September. We are creating a "mini-grant" system to connect sponsors to worthy projects. Talk to Steve Muzzy for more info (
  • Crazy news from Boston City Hall on Weds night: within minutes, the council drafted and voted to approve a delay in the implementation of the Building Energy Reporting & Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO) which otherwise would require reporting starting 5/15/14. We are following the situation closely. Let me know if you have any inside information to share.

Other Events Coming Up:
  1. The Residential Green Building Committee is hosting a talk about indoor air quality on Monday 5/12
  2. Beyond Buildings - LEED ND symposium on 5/20
  3. We are holding a LEED Green Associate Exam Prep all-day workshop on 5/23
  4. Our Worcester Committee is holding a Green School Tour in Hudson on 5/29

I hope you read about the recent EPMA Earth Day Service Project - here's the screenshot from google maps of the site: quite green!

Our Board just had our annual retreat to examine our strategic priorities. These are:
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Collaboration
  • Leadership
We spent time examining what constituencies we want to priorities. These are:
  • Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC)
  • Building Owners & Managers
  • Planners and community developers
  • Legislators, other electeds and government officials
  • School building stakeholders
  • Product & services of the green building industry
We want to be more than a trade association - after all, we have a massive and important social mission. Where these stakeholder populations overlap, and where they intersect with our priorities, we will find the richest and most important programming opportunities. With high-value programming, we will build our membership and sponsorship base and grow our capacity to serve Massachusetts as a social benefit organization. 

Thank you for helping us in this important work. I look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event.

Do you know when this would have been taken? Sorry about the glare - thank you Boston Properties, Cambridge Center, loved the decor at your Kendall Sq. HQ.