Monday, September 29, 2014

Member Spotlight: Shawn Hesse

Our latest member profile is of a transplant from Ohio who brings some expertise in Architecture and Sustainability. He's also a part of our Membership Committee. Meet Shawn Hesse!

USGBCMA: What is your current job and how does it differ from past jobs in Sustainability?

SH: I am an architect and sustainability consultant. I lead the Boston office of emersionDESIGN. At previous jobs I was one of the few individuals interested in sustainability. However at emersionDESIGN, I am surrounded by people that share my passion and interest in making our work more sustainable. There we constantly raise the bar for one another.

USGBCMA: When did you first become interested in Sustainability?

SH: My interest in sustainability is rooted in spending the entire summer outside while growing up, playing in the nearby woods, creeks and lakes in and around Cincinnati. But my understanding that I have a role and responsibility to improve sustainability of our communities as an architect was developed at architecture school.

USGBCMA: Why are you a member of the MA chapter and how did you get there?

SH: I have been involved with the USGBC for almost 10 years now in Cincinnati, serving on the chapter board in several roles including board president. I have also served on the USGBC Regional Committee representing Ohio and the Heartland Region and also at the national level. I just recently moved to the Boston area and have begun to get involved here on the Membership Committee and also as a the facilitator for the Living Building Challenge Boston Collaborative.

USGBCMA: How are you an environmental steward?

SH: I have worked hard to turn my day job as an architect into my passion of making a sustainable future a reality. I am also in the process of planning my wedding next June. My fiancee and I are writing the "Living Wedding Challenge"- zero waste, carbon offset, public transit to the event, local food, etc.

USGBCMA: How do you help raise environmental awareness?

SH: I do a lot of public speaking about sustainability.

USGBCMA: If I needed to fin you on a Saturday afternoon, where would it be?

SH: On any given Saturday, I could be out hiking, camping, at a beer tasting, escaping zombies or just at home restoring my 1960s radio.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Emerging Professionals Tour of Hostelling International - Boston

By Jenna Dancewicz, EPMA & Suffolk Construction

Last evening, green building enthusiasts from all around attended the USGBC EPMA tour of Hostelling International (HI) -Boston. HI-Boston is the third largest hostel in the USA and is located in the historic Dill Building, which was originally built between 1886-1888. The building is LEED Silver certified and it is the City of Boston’s first accommodation provider to achieve LEED certification! You can read about the building's green features here. HI-Boston has also won several green and sustainability awards including the 2013 USGBC MA Green Innovation Award.

HI-Boston emphasizes sustainability and community within its core values. One of the many ways to learn about the green features in the building is by scanning one of the bar codes in a room and information pops up on your phone with its sustainable features. Very innovative! All the wood tables are reclaimed wood from the demolition of the interior of the building. The metal chairs in the cafeteria are made from 100% recycled soda cans. HI-Boston also prides itself on a green housekeeping program by using environmentally friendly products and encourages travel-goers to reuse their linens and towels for at least 7 days. From the pool tables in the game rooms to an open cafeteria to community rooms, HI-Boston makes it easy for travelers from around the world to connect.

Thank you to Martine McDonagh and Paul Kuhne with HI-Boston for having us, and Dee Spiro (Bergmeyer) and Katrina Walther (Suffolk Construction) for helping with the tour!

This is only a small amount of information about HI-Boston. To learn more, please visit their website here!”

The EPMA continued our tradition of heavy networking at Sweetwater's pub just down the block from HI-Boston and continued to build relationships across industry sectors. #moregreenbuildings!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hull Public Schools - Green Apple Day of Service connects High School and Elementary School

by Nicole Palermo Cristaldi

The Green Apple Day of Service project for Hull Public Schools took place at 180 Harborview Road, on the beautiful peninsula of Hull, Massachusetts. What a fantastic day for all involved!  The Mini-Grant awarded by USGBC MA Chapter and their generous sponsors allowed students from Hull High School to join forces with students from the Lillian Jacobs Elementary School to erect their long awaited gardens on September 24, 2014. The efforts of the Hull Parent Teacher Organization coupled with Holly Hill Farm, educated students on the food cycle, the basics of preparing raised bed gardens, basic carpentry and gardening skills.

Since April of 2014, the Students of Lillian Jacobs Elementary School have been learning the cycle of food through their cafeteria composting program.  The composted apples, oranges, bananas & undressed veggies tuned into beautiful, nutrient -rich soil in the New Age Composter provided by The Massachusetts EPA’s Green TEAM! The Green Apple Day Project will allow the students to witness the next stage of the food cycle – growing your food!

At each recess, the younger students watched as the high school students prepared the earth for the new gardens, by measuring the plots of land (4x8) and removing grass and weeds from the area.  The untreated rough cut pine was then measured and cut to size. After the beds were screwed together and reinforced by the students, the beds were filled with organic soil. Soon after they were finished, all students outside were invited to join Jon Belber from Holly Hill Farm to plant the first seeds, organic radishes, taking only 24 days to mature.  The students we so excited to plant their seed into the soil and even more motivated to water their little accomplishment!

The Green Apple Day Project impacted over 500 students and inspired the High School students to start the process for implementing their own gardens at Hull High! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Brooke Mattapan Charter School's Huge Green Apple Day of Service Collaboration

by Scott Knox

The first of the 300 volunteers arrived at 6:30 AM on September 23rd to start the arduous task of building a playground in one day. Brooke Mattapan Charter School in conjunction with KaBOOM!, a national playground building nonprofit, planned for months their design, logistics and preparations. In addition to the support from UnitedHealthcare and the New England Patriorts, Brooke was able to purchase materials used in the build and will be used for continued playground maintenance with the GADOS Mini-Grant awarded by USGBC MA Chapter and Arrowstreet.  Check out Arrowstreet's blog for more pics and a video from the day.

The volunteers completed the construction of the playground and over a dozen side projects in just under 5 hours -- it was an amazing feat! Volunteers were separated into 15 groups with specific tasks. In addition to building the playground which included two slides, a rock climbing wall and monkey bars, the volunteers built benches, picnic tables, flower beds, and painted murals which will add to the community feel of the playground. Toward the end of the day, special guests from the New England Patriots and Revolution arrived to lend a hand and meet the students at the ribbon cutting ceremony -- even Pat Patriot rolled up his sleeves and helped out. 

Brooke scholars and the surrounding Mattapan community are so excited to have a safe, fun place to play for years to come. This would not have been possible without the support of the volunteers and donations from organizations such as USGBC MA Chapter. 

In total our project was made possible:
  • 48 staff members from Brooke Mattapan contributed to the build in one shape or form: recruiting volunteers, lending tools, helping with student thank you notes, etc.
  • 300 volunteers (parents, Brooke supporters, corporate volunteers)

Monday, September 22, 2014

DisruptCRE is coming to Boston 10/16/14

USGBC MA Chapter is proud to support this great mini-conference on Thursday, October 16th from 1-7pm at District Hall in Boston's Seaport District.

Read more about DisruptCRE here!

We will be hosting an excellent panel at 3pm titled "The Science of Building Systems" with 

  • Suzanne Robinson of Vanderweil
  • Kurt Roth of Fraunhofer 
  • Barbra Batshalom of the Sustainable Performance Institute

The event designed to connect disruptive ideas with capital and commercial real estate professionals. Its these innovators and professionals who are disrupting the status quo by bringing the new ideas to market. Firms with products and services to exhibit are encouraged to join the event's trade show.

The goal is to be a catalyst of change by merging the professionals of the built environment with the technological innovation community. We expect hundreds of thought leaders from the Boston area to pack the new (LEED Certified) District Hall for an impressive gathering of minds.

The 4 disruptive panel topics to be addressed at the event include: 

  • Crowdfunding real estate projects; 
  • The Cloud and how it has affected AEC; 
  • Space Utilization and what the new companies of tomorrow require; 
  • and the USGBC MA sponsored: The Science of Buildings. 

The 4 panels conclude with the unique segment “45 at 4:45” where the disruptive exhibiting tech companies will have a rapid fire style 45 seconds to pitch their product. The conclusion of the event is highlighted by a casual cocktail and hors d’oeuvre networking and demonstration session between tech companies, VC’s, and real estate industry leaders.

Don't miss out: register here. USGBC MA invites all to use the discount code USGBCMA for a 25% savings.

Other brands represented include:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

USGBC MA Chapter Celebrates LEED Platinum at 81 Brent Street, Dorchester, MA

By Neil Angus, LEED AP, USGBC MA Board of Directors

On September 6, 2014, Cynthia Loesch and Ivan Liriano, the owners of 81 Brent Street, opened up their 3-unit LEED Platinum home to the public to showcase all of the sustainable features of their house. From the modular construction that helped maintain quality control and minimize construction waste on the project, to the insulated walls, windows, renewable and efficient energy systems, and sustainable landscaping, attendees saw first-hand, how Cynthia and Ivan combined all these components to achieve the US Green Building Council’s highest level of certification – LEED Platinum.

Guided tours of the home and mini workshop presentations throughout the day kept attendees engaged and educated on the many green features of this home. Presentations covered indoor air quality, weatherization, sustainable landscaping, as well as solar electric and solar hot water. The day ended with an overview of the LEED green building rating system and a look at how 81 Brent Street achieved its Platinum rating. Photos of the open house and the home are available at

One of the great take-aways from this event was the fact that “green” does not have to cost more. This 3-unit home was built for a total cost of $450,000. This is a comparable price (maybe even a little less!) to a traditional 3-unit home constructed in the same area. Cynthia and Ivan were able to keep costs down by obtaining a number of federal and state tax incentives such as energy efficient property tax credits, clean energy tax credits, and rebates on items such as Energy Star, solar PV and hot water and high efficiency boilers. A full database of these and many more federal and state incentives that are available to most homeowners can be found at

Representatives from the City of Boston also attended the open house. ‘Greenovate Boston’ is a program of the city that focuses on engaging community members to reduce Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions. Since the amount of energy we consume has a direct impact on our greenhouse gas emissions, the Greenovate Boston program put together a great case study outlining some of the basic steps Cynthia and Ivan took to build such an energy efficient home. The case study also includes basic steps anyone can take to build new or renovate existing homes in a more energy efficient manner. Take a look at:

Cynthia and Ivan are passionate about bringing sustainability to their neighborhood and their new home is a shining example of how to go about doing so. For more details on their home and all the sustainability features, check out their website at: The USGBC MA Chapter was proud to be a part of this open house and extends its sincerest thanks to Cynthia and Ivan for not only opening up their home to us and the public, but also for their passion and drive to promote green buildings in Dorchester and the greater Boston area. 

Congratulations Cynthia and Ivan and keep up the good work!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nitsch Engineering Celebrates 25th Anniversary By Giving Back to Community

Congratulations to Nitsch Engineering and USGBC MA Chapter sponsor for celebrating 25 years in business by giving back to the Boston community.

Nitsch Engineering celebrated their 25th anniversary by honoring their commitment to “building better communities with you.” Working closely with Boston Cares, a non-profit agency that produces team-oriented volunteer events, Nitsch Engineering planned a community service event and celebration on September 4th. The event brought clients, friends, and employees together at Boston University’s Agganis Arena to assemble 60,000 meals to benefit Massachusetts food pantries. The event ended with a party to celebrate the milestone anniversary and thank all the volunteers.

Nitsch Engineering President and CEO Lisa A. Brothers, PE, LEED AP BD+C, said, “When we started discussing how to celebrate our anniversary, we felt that it was important to find a way to combine celebration with community service, since that’s such a big part of who we are as a company. By donating the money to cover the cost of ingredients for more than 60,000 meals, we were able to honor the spirit and commitment of our tagline, ‘building better communities with you.’" She went on to say, "It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since we opened our doors. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! We’re thrilled that our future looks bright, as we continue to grow and expand our services. We know the next 25 years will be just as great!”

Since the company’s founding in 1989, Nitsch Engineering has grown from a one-person civil engineering company into an 85-person firm that also provides land surveying, transportation engineering, structural engineering, green infrastructure, planning, and geographic information systems (GIS) services. Founding Principal and Chairman Judith Nitsch, PE, LEED AP BD+C, commented, “Thanks to our terrific clients, fabulous employees, and wonderful projects in 18 states and five countries, we’ve been able to grow into a successful, respected company that just keeps getting better!”

About Boston Cares
Boston Cares ( is the largest volunteer agency in New England, an Innovation Hub within the national Hands On Network, and a leader in the volunteer engagement sector. Their year-round volunteer programs and seasonal signature service events engage adults of all ages, children and teens, and corporate partners. Boston Cares annually mobilizes 21,000 volunteers who serve 65,000 hours in support of 155 schools and nonprofits. Every $1 invested in Boston Cares returns at least $4 of value to the community through volunteer labor, supplies, equipment, and other services.

About Nitsch Engineering
Nitsch Engineering ( specializes in providing civil engineering, land surveying, transportation engineering, structural engineering, green infrastructure, planning, and GIS services. Since 1989, the company has worked with developers, corporate and institutional owners, public agencies, and design professionals on major private development and public infrastructure projects in 18 states and five countries. Nitsch Engineering is the largest Women-Owned Business Enterprise (WBE) civil engineering firm in Massachusetts, and is also certified as a WBE by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Monday, September 15, 2014

$5600 in Green Apple Day of Service Mini-Grants Awarded

Green Schools Update 
$5600 in Green Apple Day of Service Mini-Grants Awarded

Thanks to the generous support from a number of sponsors we have awarded a total of 14  mini-grants of $400 each to schools in support of Green Apple Day of Service projects. National Grid and NSTAR funded a total of 12 projects focused on energy conservation (National Grid split their grants between MA and RI) - and Arrowstreet, Capitol Waste Services, Re-Stream, and Triumph Modular provided support for five more projects. 

Congratulations to our awardees!

NSTAR - NGRID Energy Focused Project Awardees

Alighieri Montessori School
East Boston
Manning Elementary School
Jamaica Plain
Boston Green Academy
Boston Latin School
Clark University
Dallin School
Manchester Essex Regional Middle High School
McKinley Middle School
Medford High School

General Project Awardees

Brooke Charter School
Curley K-8 School
Jamaica Plain
Lillian Jacobs Elementary School
Quincy High School
Wentworth Institute of Technology

We also thank Excel Dryer for their in-kind donation of four XL-SI Green Apple dryers to Brighton High School. 

It's not too late to get involved with Green Apple Day of Service. Projects can still be coordinated and registered at If you're looking to volunteer with a project see the  current MA registered projects for service days in your community.

We especially encourage Chapter Volunteers to attend the projects that received funding support from our sponsors.

Thank you to our generous Green Apple Day of Service Mini Grant sponsors and their support of healthy, sustainable schools.

Granny Smith


Honey Crisp



Friday, September 12, 2014

The Weekly Bulletin to 9/12/14

Are you going to volunteer with us? That's right - we have a great opportunity in two weeks (most of the projects are on Saturday, Sept. 27th) with our Green Apple Day of Service! You can participate in a project at a school or other learning facility near you. Sign up by looking up a project on the map at the Center for Green Schools, our USGBC-affiliated partner organization for projects throughout the WORLD!

Upcoming Events:
9/25 - Hostelling Int'l Green Building Tour with the EPMA in Boston
9/30 - LEED Project Showcase in Cambridge
10/2 - Bring the Outside In with Gunnar Hubbard and Dan Nall in Boston
LEED Study Groups are forming - stay tuned
10/30 - Halloween LEED Credit Costume Party with the EPMA in Boston

Also we have a Green Schools Committee Meeting on Thursday 9/18 at 6pm at our main office on Milk St.

Speaking of green schools and academic communities - I recently met up with three wonderful people who are working hard on improving educational outcomes for sustainability and organizational change. Pictured below are Leith Sharp, leading the Harvard/USGBC "Core Business Integration of Sustainability (CBIS)" executive education program, Christine Renauld, founder and CEO of E-180 "Brain Dates for Learning Humans" (a platform for peer-to-peer informal learning exchanges), and Margo Street, manager of community advancement at USGBC, with whom I'm in constant correspondence at the national office. It was a great conversation which I'm sure will go forward into programming at the Massachusetts Chapter.

And surely you are already thinking about it: Tuesday the 30th of September: The LEED Project Showcase! Reach out to your colleagues now! We want their certified projects to be in our show. This is a major fundraiser for the Chapter and it's going to be an excellent time for all. If you know someone who is "on the fence" and interested in sponsoring - put them in touch with Grey. Thank you to the many existing sponsors so far:
  • National Grid - Platinum
  • NStar / Northeast Utilities - Platinum
  • Suffolk Construction - Gold
  • Boston Properties - Silver
  • Richard Moore - Silver
  • ICF International - Bronze
  • Urbanica - Bronze
  • Chapman Construction
  • Columbia Construction - Bronze
  • and over two dozen other project sponsors...
See you there!

Below is a set of notes taken during the recent Combined Committees Quarterly Gathering - a great and engaging evening of about 35 chapter volunteers. After an overview and introductions, we broke into two groups to explore Membership & Engagement and also Leadership and Learning Communities. It was a very dynamic gathering of truly committed and inspiring fellow green building advocates. I look forward the continuing conversation!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Green Buildings Set the New Standard

by Jessica Roche, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

Cambridge has joined Boston in enacting a building energy disclosure ordinance, under which owners of buildings more than 50,000 square feet will be required to report their energy use beginning in May 2015. 

Life sciences spaces have higher necessary energy use than typical residential or office buildings, as they must accommodate complex air ventilation and water flow systems, as well as meet stringent safety requirements. But lab developers and users have long worked
toward greater energy efficiency, and impressive developments in lab design and operations have made new lab spaces in Massachusetts showcase projects for replication throughout the world. 

The Center for Life Science (above), an 18-floor research building in Boston, utilizes energy sub-metering that allows users to closely monitor use. It was no small effort; it required substantial investment in new systems, consensus protocols among users, and intensive data mapping. 

“With more transparency and accountability, tenants are dialing down on their equipment usage,” said Peter Damiano, Sr. Facility Manager of BioMed Realty Trust, the company that owns the Center for Life Science. The system has changed operating conventions,
reduced energy consumption, and become a roadmap for BioMed in improving efficiencies within its global building portfolio.

At MIT’s Koch Institute building in Cambridge, completed in 2011, cutting-edge efficiency design was at the forefront. The building is oriented east to west to maximize heat and light from the sun. Light-shelves bounce sunlight to the ceiling, bringing ambient light deep into the building to reduce dependence on electric lighting. Its ventilation system uses a “cascading design” by which office cooling air is reused in lab hoods, air flow rates are at a reduced 80 feet per minute, and labs are aligned to reduce duct work. Electrical systems were “right-sized,” not overbuilt. 

The results are striking. Anticipated 14.6 watts per square foot usage are at 3.8 watts instead. Steam heat that was projected at 35,000 pounds per hour for the coldest days is at 20,000 pounds. The building reduces total energy use by more than 30 percent as
compared to a standard laboratory facility. Walt Henry, MIT’s Director of Engineering at the time, explained in an MIT News article, “To get a building that performs well requires only that you make intelligent choices.”

Intelligent choices like those made by Biogen Idec, which has already surpassed its goal of reducing its overall environmental footprint by 15 percent by 2015 even as it adds in facility square footage. Biogen Idec’s greenhouse gas intensity goal is to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 80 percent by 2020. Its two new Cambridge buildings achieved LEED Gold and Platinum certifications from the U.S. Green Building Council. Biogen Idec’s
campus is powered by its cogeneration plant, which produces 75 percent of the campus’ electricity and 100 percent of its steam. Cogeneration has helped lower emissions by more than 150,000 metric tons of CO2e on the campus since 2006. 

These examples of recent lab developments provide models in energy efficiency that set the standard and point the way for energy sustainability.

[This article originally appeared in the summer edition of MassBio News]

Monday, September 8, 2014

Bring the Outside In! 10/2 in Boston

Buildings are designed to shelter us from the harshness of nature, but the most comfortable and energy-efficient indoor environments are those that use the free resources of the outdoors for heating and cooling. For many architects, using the outdoors to create more comfortable indoor environments means using operable windows for natural ventilation. For mechanical engineers, bringing the outside in means using an airside or waterside economizer. However, these simplified versions of climate responsive building design ignore other possibilities for harvesting outdoor thermal resources to maintain indoor comfort.

 Although opening windows and using economizers have their benefits, they can also create new problems, such as indoor pollution through the introduction of outdoor particulates. These deficiencies can be overcome by smart design strategies that make better use of the exterior thermal resource. Strategies that enable the design team to minimize building energy consumption without compromising occupant comfort include:

  • Dividing free cooling into two components: humidity control and sensible cooling. This way, free sensible cooling can be provided, even when energy-consuming indoor dehumidification is required.
  • Achieving thermal comfort not only by convective heat exchange between the human body and the air but also by radiant exchange with building surfaces.  Use free natural resources to cool interior surfaces to maintain comfort.
  • Recognize that the outdoor thermal resource also has three components: sensible, evaporative and radiant.  Create systems that can use each of these components as they are available and are not dependent on their simultaneous availability.
  • Recognize that outdoor thermal resources may not be available coincidentally with indoor thermal requirements.  Add controllable capacitance (thermal storage) to the system to harvest outdoor thermal resources when available for later delivery for indoor comfort maintenance.
Attend this great educational session on Thursday morning, October 2nd – “Bring the Outside Inside: Using the Outdoors to Create Indoor Comfort”, with Thornton Tomasetti’s Gunnar Hubbard, principal, and Syska Henessy's Daniel Nall, vice president and regional director of high performance solutions, who will talk about how to make better use of available environmental resources to increase indoor comfort.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Weekly Bulletin to 9/5/14

USGBC MA Chapter is moving full steam ahead! Lots going on. And you could be our 500th "Like" on facebook - like us right now! Thanks.

Coming up:

This Monday the 8th: Residential Green Building Committee. They will be hosting a presentation about sustainable forestry and timber construction from Michael Sigmon and Jack Mackin of Chapter Sponsor Sterritt Lumber. 

Our Combined Committees Quarterly Gathering will be Thursday, Sept. 11th, and will be our official "Open House" at our new offices. All Chapter working group and committee leaders are invited to attend. This is a great opportunity to come and meet other green building activists and change agents. We will be discussing the topic "Leadership," exploring how to succeed with our Q4 Membership Drive, and breaking out into working groups (committees etc.) to start the 2015 budgeting process. If you haven't yet come over to our new space at 50 Milk Street right in Downtown Crossing, this is a great opportunity to visit.

Don't delay in signing up for a Green Apple Day of Service opportunity: there are a lot of projects just waiting for volunteers like you. Use this link to look up a project near you in Massachusetts - by zip code. It is going to be a lot of fun - there are projects on many dates throughout the coming weeks.

And now for something completely different: 

And surely you are already thinking about it: Tuesday the 30th of September: The LEED Project Showcase! Reach out to your colleagues now! We want their certified projects to be in our show. This is a major fundraiser for the Chapter and it's going to be an excellent time for all. If you know someone who is "on the fence" - put them in touch with Grey. Thank you to the many existing sponsors so far:
  • National Grid
  • NStar
  • Boston Properties
  • Richard Moore
  • Chapman Construction
  • Columbia Construction
  • and over a dozen project sponsors...
And more are signing up every day!

Hope you're enjoying the post-labor day "Still Summer!" weather:

Do you know this pond? Hint: Western New Hampshire

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Zero Net Energy: the latest trend in high-performance buildings

by Suzanne Abbott, Gilbane Building Company

For the past century, okay decade, LEED certified buildings have been the premier standard in high performance sustainable buildings. Other standards like the Living Building Challenge, Passivhaus (more recently Passive House), and Zero Net Energy (ZNE) verified buildings were signals of over achieving designers and owners looking to make a statement. These high benchmarks were viewed as complex and expensive goals that design teams were lucky to participate in only rarely. Recently, ZNE seems to be trending throughout Massachusetts and across North America. ZNE buildings currently contribute to a small fraction of all green buildings, but if you have sat through a presentation or read an industry article lately, you know the market is changing.

North Shore Community College - Net Zero!

The New Buildings Institute (NBI) defines Zero Net Energy buildings as buildings with greatly reduced energy loads such that, averaged over a year, 100% of the buildings' energy use can be met with onsite renewable energy technologies. Project teams achieve highly energy efficient designs through thoughtful material choice, passive energy strategies and intelligent system design and sizing. Then apply renewable power generation to reach ZNE status. In the past, owners were reluctant to invest in what was a costly and time consuming project path to ZNE. Through increased incentives, more aggressive energy codes and policy, less expensive renewable energy systems, and more experienced design teams, ZNE now comes at a much smaller additional cost and is gaining market share. An experienced team will incorporate early energy analysis, and an integrated design approach to manage these costs. According to a report released in early 2014 by NBI, the number of buildings achieving or pursuing ZNE across North America has more than doubled since 2012. With those kinds of numbers if it was a product on the popular show Shark Tank, I would invest in it.

ZNE is achievable in a wide variety of regions and climate zones, working for many building types and sizes. These buildings use only a quarter of the energy of average commercial buildings, repaying incremental costs applied during design and construction as significant operational savings. Much like other sustainable building objectives, ZNE is achieved by careful design, selecting the right technology for the project's specific needs, controls, monitoring and constant feedback and commissioning. In other words, a lot of work! But the benefits in terms of energy savings and building resiliency are worth it.
NBI states that 24% of all ZNE verified projects are now renovated existing buildings, once considered a near impossible feat. This bodes well for Americas aging building stock especially in larger cities in the northeast like New York and Boston that have building energy policies, like Boston's Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO).

ZNE districts are also a growing trend. Communities and campuses are committing groups of buildings to achieve ZNE, taking advantage of economies of scale. Today there are currently 18 ZNE districts in the US. Community district efforts are organizing everywhere. In December 2013 the city of Cambridge, MA created the Zero Net Energy Task Force that has been charged with advancing the goal of putting Cambridge on the trajectory towards becoming a "net zero community".

In the last few years ZNE buildings have gone from impossible to improbable to finally achievable. ZNE buildings are becoming the new standard for achieving significant energy savings and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment, a market transformation tool much like LEED. Do you remember when LEED certification was a statement?

Suzanne Abbott is business development manger at Gilbane Building Company, Boston, Mass.

The Yawkey Station - slated to go net-zero by 2017