Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Living With Water" Design Competition Launch at ABX in Boston

Boston's Mayor Walsh kicked off a new design competition today at ABX - the Boston Society of Architects' (BSA) annual convention at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. 

"Boston Living with Water" will draw on the collective talent of architects and planners globally to explore how rising sea level can be an opportunity rather than a threat to Boston. Three types of scenarios are in the contest: mid-size multifamily building on the waterfront, a vacant lot area in the Seaport, and Morrissey Boulevard on the Dorchester waterfront which already floods regularly. 

More info on the contest is here.

Hundreds of people attended to hear the announcement, which also included remarks by Brian Swett, Chief of Environment for the City, describing a leadership summit on climate resilience to be hosted at UMass Boston in the spring.

The Mayor was joined City Manager Rossi of Cambridge, Manager Ash of Chelsea and Marc Draisen, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to announce a new regional effort to help prepare Boston and the metropolitan area for the impacts of climate change. 

Also in attendance (below) were the leaders of the BSA Eric Wilson (Executive Director) and Emily Grandstaff-Rice (current President of the BSA) among other state and local officials.

Chapter all-stars included Phoebe Beierle (Boston Public Schools), John Dalzell (Boston Redevelopment Authority), [Grey Lee], and Brian Swett (City of Boston).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

From Devastation to Restoration - a tour of Mississippi's "Katrina Coast"

As Greenbuild draws to a close, the local Louisiana Chapter of USGBC hosted a few tours of their city and state so attendees could see more of the situation of green buildings in the area. Folks could check out the Make It Right projects in the Lower Ninth Ward, green buildings at Tulane, the Broadmoor neighborhood and other locations throughout New Orleans.

The Mississippi Chapter provided a big tour out into their gulf coast areas affected by Katrina and other weather events. I joined this tour to see a school, a fire house, a community center and some homes that have been re-built to FEMA 361 standards (seriously heavy duty) and are helping the communities recover and become more resilient.

We got on the bus at 8am on Saturday to head east. First we took a little tour of the Pearl River to see some of the local fishing communities. And some alligators.

 Then into Hancock County, Mississippi to see the new LEED-certified elementary school.

 The kids are very happy to be in a LEED building, and learning about sustainability every day.

 The cafeteria was built to be an emergency shelter in the event of a major hurricane or tornado situation. The glass is half an inch thick and the roof can withstand a direct hit from an oil barrel full of concrete.

We went on to see the new firehouse at Bay St. Louis on the coast. This was also built to FEMA 361 standards for rigor in the event of a major storm - wind and/or flooding event. We did not get to try the firepole.

The apparatus bays (the garage) and the facility have features to improve the safety of the first responders and create a secure location to manage disaster intervention communications. One interesting note was that about half the firefighters have the last name "Farve..." yes, we are near a famous quarterback's hometown and these are all his relatives.

Here I am next to Shannon Stage, my friend and colleague who is the executive director for the Lousiana Chapter of the USGBC.

The last stop of the day was also in Bay St. Louis where a drainage ditch (similar to below) near the old coastal train tracks (which are actually still in use) has been re-designed into a community asset - a beautiful pond.

Nowadays, the area has become a major local attraction - there are ducks & geese and plenty of benches to observe. It was a great installation. Notice the cypress trees right there in the water! 

It was a great day and tour of some wonderful and hopeful places. I hope I can visit again sometime, and maybe spend some time on the beautiful Gulf Coast Beaches we saw!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Greenbuild General Report

Greenbuild 2014 in New Orleans was a very positive experience for our community. Once again, we gathered as a professional force to address how the built environment can be improved for greater social benefit. Hundreds of educational sessions explored the technical, financial, regulatory, and even philosophical aspects of green buildings and sustainability in communities.

New Orleans and surrounding communities in the Gulf Coast were prime examples of how green building know-how can help communities. Especially important this year was the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit which highlighted the work happening in New Orleans. We heard from the Make It Right foundation - Brad Pitt's organization responding to post-Katrina community challenges with LEED Platinum homes. Also, the Broadmoor community which re-created itself after utter destruction with an "education axis" and from I-SEEED, of Oakland CA, about using community knowledge to solve design challenges.

Dozens of Massachusetts Chapter colleagues were able to attend this year - a few made it to the group photo shot on Thursday. A great group of folks!

One of the engaging topics during the week was the "Chapters Evolution" discussion on Wednesday. The USGBC Chapters Staff and the volunteer Chapters Steering Committee is looking at how to evolve the 75-Chapter network to become a stronger organization and more effective body of advocates for market transformation. Over the past couple of years, many of the chapters have been losing members and declining in financial health, while a few large chapters based in large cities like New York, San Francisco and others have been growing into very effective entities in the network.

The Massachusetts Chapter has been growing significantly over the past few years and the Boston-based real estate market is a strong host for our high-performance green building industry. It seems that USGBC wants to support a stronger grassroots network with a more focused and repeated advocacy voice, and to improve efficiencies across the Chapters. Our Board of Directors and I are monitoring the situation to understand what the USGBC is aiming at and how we can be a leader in whatever "evolution" of the Chapters network turns out to mean.  

Meanwhile, members of the Chapter continued to hustle from one session to the next. Here we bumped into Kevin Bright, formerly of the Chapter having worked at Harvard University, and now Sustainability Coordinator at Colby College. Jim Newman, Board Chair, myself, and Darien Crimmin (also a member), of Winn Development, are also in the foreground. 

But who is that in the background? that really?...of all the 23,000 people who could have been walking by... Amazingly, I think LEED Fellow and chapter member Leo Roy of VHB seems to have photobombed this pic. Hey Leo! Great to see you!

Some of the sessions were more esoteric - here we see Mike Schiller, ED of the Pittsburg Urban Green Alliance, hosting the "Storytelling" session where we heard from half a dozen folks to help us see how to present your history and your vocation as a story to engage with your listeners for longer lasting and stronger impressions.

On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Chapter held a get-together at "The Warehouse" pub on the way to the main Opening Celebration at the Superdome. We were able to play a few rounds of "corn hole" before heading to the big show.

At the Superdome, we heard a great talk with Paul Hawken (pictured) and other notables. It was a little slow, but being in the Superdome was entertaining in its own right.

Soon enough, the party got going and we heard from Trombone Shorty and then The Alabama Shakes (below) - it was some fine and strong music!

I bumped into New York Upstate Chapter Tracie Hall and USGBC Advocacy Coordinator Jeremy Sigmon (among others) while listening to the show.

On Thursday evening, I stopped at the major donors party and heard from David Gottfried (below) who spoke about engaging with our passion and staying balanced while we pursue our mission. He is always a powerful communicator with a heartfelt message.

The Closing Plenary provided us with the opportunity to hear from David Brooks who had a very important gift for us. He explored the moral imperative of our work and how buildings can be moral instruments. Each building and each community we work on has a message to its users and its surroundings. We have an important role to ensure that the moral power of the buildings is expressed for the benefit of the most people, and especially to the people of the future. I very much enjoyed his presentation, as did the large crowd.

All in all, Greenbuild continued to prove that it is a tremendous way to re-charge and rejuvenate for our work. The plenaries, the educational sessions, the exhibition hall with the hundreds of presenters and mini-shows, and of course all the product samples, was an absolutely impressive feast for every green building professional. I think we can all look forward to going again - and in 2015, Washington DC will host the event. I'm sure we can rally a really large crew from Massachusetts to head down there to pick up even more knowledge and stronger connections. See you then!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Massachusetts Ranked as the Most Energy Efficient State for the 4th Year in a Row

On October 21, 2104, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard and ranked Massachusetts #1 for the 4th year in a row.

Way to go Massachusetts! Be sure to check out the press release and report.

"The State Energy Efficiency Scorecard benchmarks states across six policy areas – utility policies and programs, transportation initiatives, building energy codes, combined heat and power development, state government-led initiatives, and state-level appliance standards. In total, states are scored on more than 30 individual metrics. Data is collected from publicly available sources and vetted by state energy offices and public utility commissions."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Greenbuild: Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit

Today at Greenbuild, USGBC hosted the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Summit for 2014. Above is Anisa Baldwin Metzger, the first Green Schools Fellow from the USGBC in New Orleans, who provided guidance to the Recovery School District to implement green schools in the rebuilding effort after Katrina. She provided an introduction to the dire situation in New Orleans, which while being dramatic, is not unheard of in our country. She showed how green schools show kids and communities that they matter, that they are important and have the potential to do great things.

The summit was an amazing gathering of incredible speakers and advocates for sustainability for the places that matter - our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our schools and where we recreate & socialize. Kimberly Lewis, USGBC SVP for Community Advancement, outlined the day and gave us a pep talk on how the Chapters can connect on this important dimension of our work - enabling greater sustainability in our communities.

The best speaker from my perspective was Dr. Antwi Akom of I-SEEED who has created the Streetwize app to help people crowdsource data about the places where the live and frequent. It is like a yelp for neighborhood features. His presentation was on the power of Place - how place determines a lot of your chances in life, and how community-driven tech powers smart cities of the future.

One of his major points is that he can tell, due to statistics, what's going to happen to a kid born and living in his neighborhood in Oakland, California. The zip code of a young person is the defining indicator of health, wealth and success in life - if you're from certain place, you have certain chances in life - likewise for people from privileged places. 

Not just chances for social mobility, but also for receiving the benefit of government services. And not just typical things like policing and fire protection, but also investment in civic infrastructure for learning, for parks & recreation, and for environmental health. Essentially, if you are in certain zip codes, you are missing out. This is all related to race and ethnicity, and thus, we are living in an eco-apartheid situation.

He described the cumulative causation of climate injustice and the way the design community creates for the 1% - but we need to create and design our communities for the 100%! Climate destabilization is one crisis - but the other crisis is of the human imagination, public participation, diversity of democratization and the collapse of our civic infrastructure!

He says it best here at a Greenbuild video.

We also heard from LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans City Council (below), who was one of the community leaders of the neighborhood Broadmoor which was one of the sections of the City hardest hit by Katrina. In 2006, months after the disaster, New Orleans planners developed a map of the city to indicate where some neighborhoods would not "come back" - and would be reborn as urban parks. Well, the people of Broadmoor didn't quite jibe with that and built a program of outreach and engagement to repopulate, repurpose, and rebuild their community with an "educational axis" and improved amenities. They are still working hard to recover but their library and school are important community assets and they are an example of community organizing at its best. LaToya was truly inspirational!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boston Latin School Highlights Air Pollution for Green Apple Day of Service

Last year, four students and a teacher attended the Beijing International Science Competition simply for observing purposes.  This year we would like to submit a science project and attend once again. Our goal is to create a biodegradable mask that will support better health for Chinese citizens. We want to create awareness concerning natural gas power plants and their contribution to air pollution.

Boston Latin School's Green Apple Day of Service kicked off by bringing air pollution awareness to our school community. 40 students and teachers from all grade levels participated by decorating biodegradable cotton bandanas that will be worn during school to promote the growing degradation of air quality in China. While they were decorating the bandanas, we told them about our project creating biodegradable air pollution masks with seeds in them. They were very impressed.

The cotton material was originally in a large sheet, which was cut into 15 squares. We had a variety of scissors for people to use, with curves and zigzag shapes on the blade. Everybody came in right after school, to Mr. Smiths room. They sat down or stood around the edge of the classroom as we explained what we were all about. Once they started decorating the bandanas, we went around and decorated with them. The decorated bandanas turned out very nicely, with designs ranging from drawings of smiley faces to drawings of nature and green apples. The turnout was solid, and people were enthusiastic, which we were very pleased with!
Overall, it was a great experience being able to teach these people about climate change awareness, specifically air pollution, that they may not have known much about otherwise. It was fun being able to meet new people. At the end of the day, we can all say that given the opportunity, we would definitely do something like this again next year!

BLS Students show off their bandanas

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wentworth Institute of Technology Taps into Local Water for Green Apple Day of Service

by Kaila Lee Gibbons

On a campus where facilities are rapidly evolving, it may be easy to overlook the new water bottle filling stations amidst the opening of a new residence hall and an updated nanotechnology lab. With a generous grant from the USGBC MA Chapter and the support of the institution’s Sustainability Engagement Committee, the Green Team student club set out to highlight this fountain upgrade for our Green Apple Day of Service project.

The event, entitled Tapped, addressed the importance of local water resources and the reduction of plastic waste from bottled water. A blind taste test comparing tap and bottled spring water was conducted to see if the Wentworth community could really tell the difference. Joshua Das, an expert from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA), joined in to help educate students on tap water and the quality control it undergoes before reaching your faucet.

Tapped also featured a 1,200 pound plastic bale from Casella Resource Solutions to illustrate the amount of waste created by bottled water. For every bale that reaches a recycling center, more than 2 of these monstrosities end up in a landfill, according statistics from the EPA. This spectacle drew attention to our event and helped spark conversations among the over 220 students, faculty, and staff who participated.

The results of the taste test determined that 53% preferred the taste of tap water, compared to 30% for bottled water! Another 17% could not tell the difference. Taste testers were rewarded with a reusable water bottle made of 100% recycled plastic, and were directed to the new bottle filling stations.

For photos of Tapped and other Wentworth Green Team happenings, check us out on Facebook:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Dallin School Launches "Be Bright, Power Down" Campaign for Green Apple Day of Service

by Jennifer Devlin

The Dallin School Go-Green Club is so excited to be part of the Green Apple Day of Service (GADOS)! For GADOS the group launched our "Be Bright, Power Down" campaign. September 26th was our first day of implementing what will be a yearlong campaign and the first of it's kind in an Arlington Public School. We have read about campaigns in other schools and are inspired by the difference that changes in behavior can make in the amount of energy we consume as a school community. We hope to run a great pilot that has lots of success and inspire other schools to “Be Bright and Power Down”. We have many community members pitching in to help the campaign and have support from our town energy manager, club leaders including our town recycling coordinator, our new principal, PTO, and most importantly Dallin teachers, staff and students.

For the GADOS campaign kick off, the Go-Green club had a brainstorming session on ways to reduce consumption. Ideas included using less lighting, plugging in to power strips that can be easily shut down over weekends and holidays, using less heat, and using solar and wind power that we create at school! Some of these things can be done right now at Dallin and others we can work toward. We created a large banner to hang in the front entrance of our school to raise awareness of our new campaign and club members created artwork that shows the importance of energy conservation. We plan to replicate this artwork and create signs around every light switch in school telling folks to

“Be Bright, Power Down”. We are talking about energy consumption outside of school too and our Go-Green members are working with the PTO to promote the "International Walk to School Day"! We appreciate the GADOS Mini-Grant from USGBC MA and NSTAR! It will enable us to buy the supplies we need to implement our yearlong pilot!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

USGBC MA Chapter Provides Voting Guidance on MA Ballot Questions

2014 Voter Guide: Ballot Questions

On Tuesday November 4, 2014 Massachusetts voters will elect a governor, and legislators for local, state, and national offices. Additionally, voters will be asked to vote on four laws proposed by ballot initiative petitions. This guide discusses two ballot questions that are of particular interest to the green building community, and also provides summary information of potential legislative initiatives for the upcoming session. We recommend these issues be brought to the attention of the candidates for public office and that you exercise your right to vote on November 4th.

Ballot Question 1: Eliminating Gas Tax Indexing

This proposed law would repeal House Bill 3847, enacted in 2013 which raised the fuel tax from 21.5 cents per gallon to 24 cents per gallon with an automatic adjustment every year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index. Prior to 2013, the last adjustment to the tax was in 1991 and had reduced this revenue by 18% between 1991 and 2013 after inflation, while nationwide fuel tax revenue has risen by 15%. 

We recommend a NO vote on Ballot question 1. The current law provides stability to a revenue source that funds state transportation projects including repairs to roads and bridges, and finances mass transit projects such as intra-city rail, and the Green Line extension.

Ballot Question 2: Expanding the Beverage Container Deposit Law

The proposed law would expand the state’s beverage container deposit law (the Bottle Bill) to require deposits for all non-alcoholic/non-carbonated drinks, except dairy products, infant formula and FDA approved medicines. The law also required the container deposit amount be adjust for inflation every five years to the nearest whole cent, but not less than five cents per bottle. Other provisions of the proposed law provide increases to minimum handling fees, allows exemptions from accepting empty bottles for small retailers, and sets up a Clean Environment Fund to receive certain unclaimed container deposits. 

We recommend a YES vote on Ballot question 2. The current law is outdated, with inadequate handling fees, and with no deposits required for water and sport drinks that have proliferated in recent years. The proposed legislation will increase recycling rates and provide dedicated revenue for proper management of solid waste, water resource protection, parkland, air quality and climate protection. 

2014 Voters Guide: Talking with the Candidates

Where do the candidates stand on legislative issues related to the green building community? Ask candidates if they support the following:

Updating the Stretch Energy Code 

As of July 2014, IECC 2012 went into effect in Massachusetts, with the result that the current Stretch Code is now essentially equivalent to the new base energy code in terms of energy efficiency. The Green Communities Act requires that “Green Communities” set requirements to minimize life-cycle costs for new construction, which largely has been accomplished through the adoption of the Stretch Code (generally 20% better than the base code) by these municipalities. We support legislative or regulatory changes to adopt an updated stretch code. 

Building Energy Benchmarking 

This is regulatory process where owners & property managers report their buildings' energy & resource use into public databases. These will be used to help improve energy efficiency, and target outreach efforts and incentives. Currently Boston and Cambridge have adopted regulations to establish BEB for large buildings. Across the United States, 8 other major cities and two states have enacted BEB requirements. Research has shown that building owners who benchmark their buildings are more likely to make energy efficiency improvements. A 2012 analysis of 35,000 benchmarked buildings, conducted by the EPA, found that the buildings reduced consumption by an average of 7 percent over three years. 

PACE - Property Assessed Clean Energy

We support a comprehensive PACE program in Massachusetts. 2014 legislation died in committee and we want our legislators to support it going forward. PACE is a term used to describe a novel approach for funding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

• Projects are 100% financed by an outside entity.

• Terms are generally longer than the useful life of the improvement, up to 20yrs, resulting in high ROI.

• Similar to a tax assessment, PACE repayments are an expense rather than part of the balance sheet.

• The assessment remains part of the property regardless of the changing of ownership.

Revenue-Neutral Carbon Tax

A carbon tax is a tax on the carbon content of fuels — effectively a tax on the carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. We anticipate that a proposal will be reintroduced in the next legislative session. Other states, including Washington and California, are also considering this issue. To learn more about carbon tax, we suggest the following web links:

Net Zero Standard for Buildings

We support Senator Jamie Eldridge's S. 1587 a Net Zero Standard for building in Massachusetts. The bill was based on the recommendations of Governor Patrick’s Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force and would establish definitions of residential zero net-energy buildings and commercial zero net energy buildings. In consultation with the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) create regulations establishing a residential zero net energy building standard to take effect January 1st 2020 and a commercial zero net energy building standard to take effect January 1st 2030.
More on this bill is at the Senator's website.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

AHA Consulting Engineers

AHA Consulting Engineers has been a USGBC MA Chapter Sponsoring Partner for 3 years and a regular participant in many Chapter activities including the MA LEED Project Showcase and Earth Day Gala. We would like to thank AHA for their support and commitment to creating healthy, high performance buildings.

We'd also like to highlight AHA individual Chapter members for their efforts to support our work.

Robert Andrews, Partner / Department Manager has been the project administrator on 29 LEED projects in MA, totaling 6,424,537 gross square footage of LEED certified space.

Dan Whittet, Sustainability Consultant, has supported the Chapter in helping us develop a robust LEED education program as well as provided consultation on updating the Chapter website and database.

About AHA Consulting Engineers

Founded in 1991, AHA Consulting Engineers is a Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing design firm of over 130 employees with offices in Atlanta, Boston and Washington, D.C. Their work is overseen by 5 principals who pursue the firm's philosophy of delivering an efficient design, coordinated with creative, interactive spaces, on time and on budget.

AHA provides consulting services in:
  • Mechanical
  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Fire Protection
  • Building Commissioning
  • Sustainability Consulting
  • LEED Project Administration
  • MEP Design Documentation
  • Energy Modeling
  • Building Information Modeling

Monday, October 13, 2014

National Association of Realtors (NAR) Elects Chapter Member Craig Foley

Craig Foley has been a champion of green homes and a leader on both our Advocacy Committee and Residential Green Building Committee. He has helped us support market transformation initiatives like greening the Multiple Listing Service and Senator Eldridge's S. 1587 - the "net zero mandate" for Massachusetts homes and commercial buildings. Craig is the co-founder of inCharge Energy and a REALTOR with RE/MAX Leading Edge based in Somerville, MA. Below, Craig writes of his recent selection into the NAR political elite:

"I have been asked to serve on the Land Use, Property Rights, and Environmental National Committee for NAR. It's considered one of the most influential policy committees of the organization. The committee is often referred to as the "Land Use and AntiEnvironment Committee"...however, this year it looks like myself, Laura Reedy Stukel from Chicago and John Rosshirt form Austin, Texas have all been placed on the committee - Laura and John are both personal friends and considered thought leaders in the real estate industry on sustainability and real estate.
Really good signs that my national trade organizations is committed to change!"

Congratulations Craig!

Friday, October 10, 2014

USGBC MA Chapter friend and Board member Chris Schaffner is a candidate for USGBC's Board of Directors

USGBC MA Chapter friend and Board member Chris Schaffner is a candidate for USGBC's Board of Directors. Chris has provided an overview of his intentions and reasons for seeking a seat designated for Sustainable Practice Leader: Engineer. Voting for the 2015 USGBC Board of Directors is ongoing, through October 30.

Via Chris Schaffner

Friends and Colleagues:

I'd appreciate your consideration when you fill your ballot. 

People ask: "Why are you running for the Board".
Chris Schaffner
Image credit W. Marc Bernsau, Boston Business Journal

The USGBC has come along way in the last two decades. 20 years ago, the USGBC was in its infancy, and green building was seen as a niche, practiced by only a very few. Today, a market transformation is in progress, as witnessed here in Boston’s Seaport District, where every one of the new buildings recently finished or under construction will be LEED Certified. That’s the impact that we, the members of the USGBC have had.  We succeeded in beginning a market transformation, a transformation that has brought green building practices into the mainstream. We’ve communicated the message that green buildings are not only good for the environment, they’re also good business, good for communities, and good for people. 

But our work is not finished – it has really barely begun. What do the next 20 years and beyond look like?  That is the question before us.  I want to help us, the members of the USGBC, plan and lead the next 20 years. That is why I'm running. 

With our many accomplishments, we face a few challenges. 
1) We’ve succeeded in making green buildings a desirable object. How do we make sure that they are available to everyone, everywhere? 

2) With our growth and power come new challenges, organizations and individuals who are threatened by our mission. How do we face these challenges?   

3) Our growth has also created vested interests within the green building movement. How do we challenge our friends to raise the bar, to improve what is working, and fix what is not?  

4) And finally, we must remember that the USGBC is a 501(c)(3) charity –we’re not a professional organization, and we’re not lobbyists. How do we go beyond just advancing the interests of our current members, and become a force for good everywhere, for everyone?

These questions need answers. I hope to help answer them. 


Chris Schaffner, PE, LEED Fellow 
Principal and Founder
The Green Engineer, Inc.
Sustainable Design Consulting
54 Junction Square Dr.
Concord, MA 01742

The Green Engineer, Inc. is a Certified B Corporation and a Massachusetts Benefit Corporation - Employee Owned since 2014