Friday, February 27, 2015

Zero Net Energy Buildings Re-Cap

So what are they again?

Zero Net Energy Buildings (or ZNEBs) are most commonly defined as buildings that produce as much energy as they consume on an annual basis (this energy must be renewable).

However, there are actually a few different ways for buildings to achieve Zero-Net Energy status: the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) offers four definitions of ZNEBs in their report titled Getting to Net Zero. The first builds on the common definition (above), but is specifically tied to the project site: a building that produces at least as much renewable energy as it uses in a year, when accounted for at the site. The second version looks at the source of the energy, so a building that produces, and/or purchases as much renewable energy as it uses in a year. The third definition focuses on energy costs, which means the amount of money the utility pays the building owner for exporting renewable energy to the grid is at least equal to the amount the owner pays the utility for the energy services it uses over the year. The fourth way of defining ZNEBs concentrates on emissions; so the building must produce and/or purchase enough emissions-free renewable energy to offset emissions from all energy used in the building annually.

While these definitions may seem convoluted, they are in direct response to the complex environment of regulations, market forces, and financial incentives that affect different building owners and building types in a variety of ways. The variation between the definitions is an attempt to accommodate the diversity of our built environment so that all parties may participate in the ZNEB market.

These definitions also come into play when you consider recent planning initiatives for Eco-Districts and Zero Net Energy Neighborhoods. Again, there’s more than one way to get to Net-Zero and it won’t play out the same way in every building or every community. While ZNEBs are technically ‘just buildings’ they are actually part of a broader toolkit for transforming the built environment. It’s up to us to assess the potential ways that ZNEBs might be integrated into broader planning initiatives in order to achieve the maximum impact for our communities and the environment.

Investing in ZNEBs not only ensures positive environmental impact, but also offers potential for significant cost savings through more efficient and holistic design strategies, as well as insulation from swings in non-renewable energy costs.

How do we get more of them?

ZNEBs are becoming more ubiquitous, and Massachusetts has already made significant headway in supporting innovation in the market. The Department of Energy and Resources (DOER) announced 25 projects selected for the Pathways to Zero Net Energy Program, which is a $3.5 million initiative designed to facilitate the transition to the next generation of high-performance buildings. 

The next step is to pass Senate Bill 1578: An Act Promoting Zero Net Energy Buildings in the Commonwealth, which is based on recommendations from Governor Patrick’s Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force, and was sponsored in the 2013-2014 session by Senator Jamie Eldridge. The bill was discharged to the committee on Senate Ethics and Rules in March of 2014, but no further action was taken. This year Senator Eldridge is sponsoring the bill again, under petition of Representatives Chris Walsh, Denise Provost, Marjorie Decker and David Rogers.

The bill seeks to change line “o” of the Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 143, Section 94, and add a line “s” after line “r” in the same section. You can read the specifics available through the advocacy resources section of the USGBC MA website, but there are several key changes to take note of.

In line “o” the bill seeks to establish a Zero Net Energy Building standard for new residential and commercial construction by 2020 and 2030 respectively. Also, the bill would implement regulations as part of the state building code, along with more stringent energy efficiency provisions requiring incremental improvements, starting with a 30% increase in efficiency over the International Energy Conservation Code.

In line “s” the bill calls for public input and consultation with the DOER to establish separate definitions for Zero Net Energy Buildings in both residential and commercial sectors by 2017 and 2018 respectively. The bill calls for the definitions to take into account zero net energy building definitions established in other places, as well as the current and anticipated climate of Massachusetts.

In support of the bill, and in anticipation of the public process that will unfold to produce appropriate definitions for ZNEBs in Massachusetts, the USGBC MA chapter will provide further blog posts on ZNEB practices, policies and projects in other states as well as right here in Massachusetts.

We also want to invite you to the next Green Breakfast, Thursday, March 19th at our Headquarters in downtown Boston. In addition to providing additional information on ZNEBs, we will also have presentations on Property Assessed Clean Energy financing (PACE) and Net-Metering.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Re-Post: The All-Glass Building - Is Energy Efficiency Possible

Re-Post: The All-Glass Building - Is Energy Efficiency Possible

By Andrea Love, Director of Building Science at Payette, Chapter Board Member

One of our wonderful volunteers wrote extensively about glass facade buildings and the challenge these present to proponents of energy efficiency. Take a look at "her recent blog entry at NESEA". Thanks for explaining this for us, Andrea!


Friday, February 20, 2015

EMD Serono’s Sagamore Building earns LEED Platinum

Jim Newman,Chair of USGBC Massachusetts presenting LEED Platinum to Paris Panayiotopoulos, President of EMD Serono

A few weeks ago Chapter President Jim Newman had the honor of presenting EMD Serono with their LEED Platinum plaque for the Sagamore Building project. The project, designed by Ellenzweig and BR+A, and built by JLL, earned 81 points in LEED ID+C: Commercial Interiors (v2009). The sustainability efforts were lead by Eric Ruoff of chapter sponsor The Green Engineer.

Sagamore Building office area
During his speech at the ceremony, Jim said “You always know when you are in a Platinum building. They are just so cool!” Several occupants have stated they really enjoy working in the space and rumor is that the building has become so popular employees working elsewhere on the campus “claimed” desks before they were officially available. Project Architect Mario Abanto says “Every LEED point was scrutinized and not taken for granted.  The outcome resulted from a tremendous collaborative process by all parties involved- owner, builder, architect, and engineer.”

Tony Meenaghan of EMD Serono and Greg Berndt of Ellenzweig show off the Sagamore Building to Jim Newman

The building was originally a protein production laboratory complete with clean rooms and heavy-duty mechanical equipment. The team was able to open up areas to create a double-height office space with a mezzanine. Features include ample daylight and views, extremely efficient lighting and controls, optimized the existing HVAC systems, and reuse of many building elements. EMD Serono has committed to keeping the building green by using only ENERGY STAR equipment, comprehensive recycling, purchasing renewable power, and ongoing monitoring of the building’s performance.

More information about the building can be found at and the scorecard is available on the USGBC website.

JLL, The Green Engineer, Ellenzweig, BR+A and EMD Serono project team members

Carolyn serves on the MA Chapter Board of Directors as Secretary and works at Ellenzweig as an architect.

Advocacy Update

Greetings Green Building Advocates!

Here is an update on our key advocacy issues for 2015, Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (PACE), Net Zero Building Code, and Net Metering.

Our PACE stakeholder focus group—made up of around 12 organizations and trade groups, primarily with environmental, labor, and economic development interests—is gaining momentum and working towards strengthening support for this year’s legislation. We are working with Senator Joyce’s office to bring in other co-sponsors up until the bill is brought out of committee. We are also collaborating with the Climate Action Business Group (CABA) to have a public forum around PACE financing and its relationship to resiliency planning.

Net Zero

The current version of the Act promoting zero net-energy buildings in the Commonwealth by Senator Eldridge is gaining more co-sponsors, and is targeting a more stringent path to Net Zero Building Codes. The advocacy team is continuing to expand our network of support around this issue.

Net Metering

Our advocacy team is following the progress of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) Task Force on Net Metering. Among the issues the task force is examining are the potential impacts of a minimum bill for Massachusetts ratepayers and its impact on reaching the statewide goal of 1,600MW of solar. The task force has outlined 5 primary tasks to accomplish which you can see in detail here:consulting team status update and task presentation; the task force also provides a Table of policy options and a draft of the task 1 report

Mark those calendars now, the next Green Breakfast will be held on Thursday March 19th and we will have presentations to describe each issue, and how you can help build momentum to pass this years legislation!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Green Engineer Spotlight

Cambridge Center Expansion
Biogen Idec

When Biogen Idec decided to locate their 204,000 sf expansion in Kendall Square, they also decided to work with an all-star cast of design, construction and real estate professionals. The project was developed by Boston Properties, designed by Elkus Manfredi, and built by Lee Kennedy Co. The Green Engineer helped to ensure the building attained LEED Gold certification for Core + Shell. The new office and lab space is linked to the existing Biogen building by a two-level connector structure, and is also powered by an existing steam plant.

The project earned 63 points, reducing indoor water use by 30%, potable water use in irrigation by 50%, achieving a 16% improvement in baseline building performance, using recycled building materials, and specifying FSC-certified wood products. For more details on the energy-saving features of the project check out the LEED scorecard here.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Boston Properties Spotlight

Boston Properties:
LEED Gold, Class A Office Spaces 

Boston Properties certified two Class A, LEED Gold office buildings in 2014: 230 CityPoint and Reservoir Place, both along the 128 Corridor in Waltham. 230 CityPoint is part of a larger development which already includes another LEED Gold Certified building, 77 CityPoint. The two 6-story buildings provide over 500,000 sf of multi-tenant Class A office space, including a cafe, fitness center and conference center. 230 CityPoint earned 61 points to achieve its Gold certification, reducing indoor water consumption by 25%, using recycled materials and achieving an 87 Energy Star Performance Rating. The 25-acre CityPoint site features several additional parcels currently under development, 10 CityPoint and 99 Third Avenue Retail. See the LEED Scorecard here.

230 CityPoint

77 CityPoint

10 CityPoint (Under Development)

99 Third Avenue Retail (Under Development)

The second LEED Gold building certified by Boston Properties in 2014 is Reservoir Place, a 527,000 sf Class A office building on the northern edge of the Cambridge Reservoir. In addition to being the largest multi-tenant office building on Route 128, Reservoir Place features a cafe, fitness center, several shops and even tennis courts. Reservoir Place was constructed in 1955 and renovated in 1983, and not acquired by Boston Properties until 1998. The decision by Boston Properties to bring the project up to LEED Gold standards for Building Operations + Maintenance, represents their commitment to investing in energy-efficiency for both new and existing construction. See how Boston Properties was able to transform an existing building into a LEED Gold project by checking out the Scorecard here.

Reservoir Place

Reservoir Place

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sustainable Landscape Networking Night on Cape Cod

by Adam Prince, ZeroEnergy Design

USGBC MA Cape & Islands Interest Group just enjoyed an evening with two sustainable landscape design presentations and a quick tour of a newly renovated commercial building.

Michael Talbot, co-owner of Talbot Ecological Land Care and principal at Environmental Landscape Consultants, LLC, and Seth Wilkinson, President of Wilkinson Ecological Design, each presented a program on ecological and sustainable land development.  Michael provided an overview of sustainable landscape design and management principles, and Seth followed by reviewing case studies of how to incorporate sustainable design by including these principles in the planning and permitting phase of the building process.  Each took questions afterward, as the 20-ish attendees enjoyed a fabulous food spread with refreshments sponored by Cape Associates.

The evening ended with a quick tour led by Adam Prince of ZeroEnergy Design together with Seth Wilkinson, as the group investigated the well insulated office building for Wilkinson Ecological Design which recently underwent a full gut renovation. With green architecture and mechanical design by ZeroEnergy Design, and construction by CapeWide Enterprises, the tour highlighted the many green features of the building.

Michael Talbot, co-owner of Talbot Ecological Land Care

Seth Wilkinson, President of Wilkinson Ecological Design

Cape Associates

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AHA Consulting Engineers Spotlight

815 Albany Street, Graduate Student Housing

This year AHA Consulting Engineers completed a number of LEED certified projects, including the LEED Gold Certified Graduate Student Housing Project for Boston University. Developed by the Fallon Company, and designed by Beacon Architectural Associates, the 84,000 sf, 9-story project houses over 200 graduate students in 104 2-bedroom suites. Construction was finished in 2012 with a budget of $33 million, or around $390 per sf. This is the first phase in a larger development project on 1.7-acres adjacent to the Boston University Medical Center. The project includes a 12,000 sf park, and over 400,000 sf of development comprised of three buildings and parking facilities.

AHA's role on the project as Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing engineers significantly enhanced innovation in energy efficiency, and helped the project achieve LEED Gold Certification. The project reduced potential water consumption by 40% through the installation of low-flow fixtures, and by harvesting rainwater for use in a high-efficiency irrigation system for native plantings, which in conjunction with permeable surfaces, helps reduce storm water runoff.

The building is 18% more energy efficient than required by code, thanks to high-efficiency building envelope, efficient heating and lighting, energy recovery, and regenerative-drive elevators. There are individual thermal controls in every space, including offices and commons space to help save energy when spaces are not in use. The building employs both natural and mechanical ventilation to meet ASHRAE requirements, which improves the indoor air quality while saving energy.

Other programs in the building include a gym, extensive bicycle storage in the basement, laundry, and the Little Sprouts child care and early childhood education center on the ground floor. All of these features combined make a great place for graduate students to live well while saving energy. The project earned a total of 60 points, you can see more details by checking out the LEED scorecard here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Delight of the Living Building Challenge

This past Saturday, the USGBC MA Chapter convened a tour of the Bechtel Environmental Center at the Smith College Field Station in Whatley, MA.

Student volunteers from Smith hosted us, first greeting us at the end of a long and winding country road, and then to describe how the College uses the facility for a variety of purposes. It was funded by the S.D Bechtel Jr. Foundation, in case you were wondering.

Shawn Hesse, of emersionDESIGN, a new member of our Board of Directors and long-time Chapter volunteer, is also an Ambassador for the International Living Future Institute. He regularly provides trainings and outreach programs for the Living Building Challenge. The BEC (as it is known) is the fifth Living Building ever certified. We are proud that we can visit, right here in Massachusetts, the result of a lot of hard work under the auspices of the Living Building Challenge!

Below is a map of the area.

 It was quite picturesque.

Attending the tour were over 30 people, including Chapter Programs Manager, Steve Muzzy. The place is set up so you have to take a five-minute stroll (longer in the snow) from the parking area to get to the building. Nice gaiters, Steve!

Once inside, you can enjoy the cozy comfort and real beauty of the design - created by Coldham & Hartman Architects. Nice clerestory!

Shawn Hesse led the discussion - outlining the basic features of the Living Building Challenge and then going into detail on each of the petals.

Here we have the Smith College tour guides explaining how it came to be and how they use the place...including for ski weekend adventures and summer study sessions...

Here we have the speaking crew: Grey Lee, Emmett Wald, Brice Hereford, Julie Graham, & Shawn Hesse.

 I got a chance to plug the Chapter and Brice gave the pitch for the visitors to become part of the West Branch. It was actually interesting how many people - perhaps a dozen - actually came out from the Boston area to see the place. Living Buildings have some real star power!

So cute!

Part of the Living Building Challenge is its petals and one of them is Equity - quite an advanced subject actually, and unfortunate that we have to enshrine it in a reward system like LBC rather than it being a spontaneous manifestation of the built environment. 

And here are the requisite solar panels which enable the facility to achieve net zero energy. Now here are things that manifest rather regularly in the built environment. More every day!

Another petal is Health:

We anticipate returning to the BEC for a summer gathering - perhaps a solar-powered sustainable BBQ of some kind? I have a SolSource parabolic concentrator we could use for a giant pot of vegan chili! 

At any rate, thank you to all the presenters, all the parties involved in the creation of this beautiful Living Building, and to all the attendees who made it through the rough roads and deep snow to visit and learn with us. We look forward to promoting the Living Building Challenge throughout Massachusetts and beyond.

See you next time!

Thank you for additional photos from Shawn Hesse, David Bliss and Chris Farley

Reducing Power Plant Emissions

EPA Rule 111: Clean Power Plan

In 2013, the EPA proposed new carbon pollution standards for power plants under section 111 of the Clean Air Act. The program is designed to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for new power plants under federal guidance, and to address the emissions of existing power plants through a state-based program. The proposals are designed to cut emissions from the power sector by as much as 30% by 2030, which will help to protect our health and the health of the environment for future generations. For a comprehensive list of benefits, see the EPA's fact sheet on the Clean Power Plan. The following diagram helps to explain the different kinds of greenhouse gas pollution and which sectors are major contributors.

The map below shows the location of the 54 fossil fuel fired power plants in Massachusetts. The data points and background map come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA); their online mapping system allows users to explore the various sources of energy production and distribution across the United States.

In December of 2014, the USGBC submitted recommendations to the EPA supporting their Clean Power Plan, proposing that States be given flexibility in developing their individual compliance strategies. The USGBC also suggested that existing knowledge around evaluation, measurement and verification used in the LEED system, be applied to tracking the reduction in emissions of power plants.

The EPA Clean Power Plan proposes 4 building blocks for states to achieve reduced power plant emissions, 1) power plant efficiency improvements, 2) dispatching to cleaner natural gas combined cycle plants, 3) renewable energy, and 4) energy efficiency. The fourth building block presents an opportunity for Massachusetts professionals to leverage their leadership and expertise in green building practices to help the Commonwealth achieve these important goals.

Friday, February 6, 2015

2014 LEED Certification in Review

2014 was a great year for green building and LEED Certification in Massachusetts! Of the 130 total projects certified in 2014, 19 earned LEED Certified status, 29 earned LEED Silver, 61 earned LEED Gold, and 21 earned LEED Platinum.

We want to thank all of the project teams for their hard work and commitment to innovation in efficient design, construction and operation. We are looking forward to another impressive year in 2015. We already have three certifications completed this year, including a LEED Platinum project by one of our sponsors, The Green Engineer. The following top ten list ranks firms and owners whose project administrators helped certify over 50 LEED projects together in 2014.

  1. The Green Engineer (Sponsor)
  2. Harvard University
  3. AHA Consulting Engineers (Sponsor)
  4. Entegra
  5. Bergmeyer
  6. New Ecology
  7. Urbanica
  8. ADD; CBRE; Chapman Construction; TND; VHB; Wright Builders
  9. Boston Properties (Sponsor); Boston Global; Corgan; GSA; Perkins + Will; TT Arch
  10. AECOM; Architerra; Callison; Goody Clancy; Mount Vernon

Look for upcoming blog posts highlighting our sponsors and some of their recent achievements in Green Building.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Massachusetts ranks fifth in 2014’s Top 10 States for LEED

Massachusetts earned fifth place in our annual Top 10 list.

The results are in! All of the states that make up our Top 10 list have done an extraordinary job promoting LEED and making sustainable solutions a priority.  

 View the list »

"The USGBC Massachusetts Chapter is proud to represent the high-achieving professionals of the green building industry who have worked hard to make Massachusetts a leader in the creation of LEED-certified space,” said Grey Lee, executive director USGBC Massachusetts Chapter.

Massachusetts certified 99 projects representing 14,662,950 square feet of real estate, or 2.2 square feet per resident, in 2014.

A sample of notable projects that certified in Massachusetts in 2014 includes:
  • Unitarian Universalist Association new Headquarters in Boston, LEED Platinum
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 130 Brookline Street in Cambridge, LEED Gold
  • Athol Public Library in Athol, LEED Platinum
  • Harvard Law School Gannett House in Boston, LEED Gold
Take a second to congratulate yourself, your colleagues, your legislators, and your friends on a job well done! Want to share the good news? Use the hashtag #Top10LEED on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX, Green Building & Energy Efficiency

Congratulations to the New England Patriots on their victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday!

(Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

With all the excitement around Super Bowl XLIX we thought it would be fun to see how the home states of each team stack up in terms of Green Buildings and Energy Consumption (Yes we know that it’s the New England Patriots, but for the purposes of this study we are only including data from states that actually house the stadiums). For good measure we are also including the sunny state of Arizona where the big game was played. The following bar graphs compare data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on average monthly electricity consumption from 2012.

Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington are all very different places with a range of climatic, transmission and generation factors that influence how and when electricity is used. In the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) 2014 rankings, Arizona placed 15th, Washington placed 8th, and Massachusetts placed 1st overall. One component of the ACEEE ranking system is on Building Energy Codes in which any state can earn up to 7 points. Arizona earned 3 points in this category, with the majority of its municipalities using the 2009 IECC for residential construction. Washington earned 6 points for building energy code stringency, and adopting the 2012 IECC for both residential and commercial construction. Massachusetts earned 5.5 points after adopting the 2012 IECC in 2014 with state-specific amendments. Massachusetts also completed a baseline compliance study which involves utilities in code compliance support efforts (ACEEE, 2014).

In addition to energy efficiency these three states are also pursuing renewable energy solutions. The Arizona Office of Energy Policy provides statistics on the state’s current renewable portfolio (8% total energy) and also a 10 year outlook on solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric for the state. The Massachusetts office of Energy and Environmental Affairs provides information on different types of renewable energy, funding programs and incentives, as well as installation assistance. Massachusetts obtained 9.3% of its total energy from renewable sources in 2013. The Washington State Energy Office provides energy policy support and analysis for the legislature and commerce, and manages the State Energy Program. Washington is the nation’s leader in hydroelectric generation, accounting for 29% of total hydro capacity in the United States.

How are these states doing when it comes to Green Building? Looking at data from the USGBC from 2013, we can see Washington State has an edge over both Massachusetts and Arizona with an impressive 1,474 registered LEED projects!

A lot of energy goes into putting on a Super Bowl, what are stadium operators and teams doing to address this? The University of Phoenix Stadium is a member of the USGBC and as part of their Green Mission prioritizes recycling and Green Products, water-efficiency and high efficiency LED lighting. Find out more about their Green Mission here: University of Phoenix Stadium

(Image Credit: Arizona Cardinals)