DJC Green Building Blog

Cascadia launches Groundswell to amplify its regional collective impact

Posted on December 2, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

You could say it's just a party, a fundraiser, or an awards ceremony. You could say that, but you'd be wrong. According to Mona Lemoine, VP and Executive Director of the Cascadia Green Building Council, "Groundswell"  is all that, but more.  According to the dictionary, "groundswell" means a sudden gathering of force.  Lemoine stresses that the December 12th event in downtown Seattle is designed to showcase a "call to action that intentionally energizes the region's grassroots and takes the green building movement to the next level."  The council plans to repeat the event on an annual basis, offering new challenges each time to galvanize and amplify regional collective impact.

In an interview with Lemoine at Greenbuild in November, Lemoine was quick to say "there has and continues to be lots of green building activity in the Cascadia Region. We could be satisfied with that. But the Council can play a special role stimulating and supporting new grass roots initiatives."

Of all the US Green Building Council Chapters, Cascadia has tended to be the first out of the block with new ideas and action to suit.  (Unlike most other chapters, Cascadia was founded based on bioregional boundaries, not geopolitical ones.) In fact, it's safe to say we have a bit of a "renegade" reputation within the larger organization.  So it's no surprise that the Council has invited "innovators, rulebreakers, and changemakers" to this part celebration, and part instigation event.

Michelle Long

This year the call to action will be framed by keynote Michelle Long, Executive Director of BALLE, which uses collaboration to identify and promote "the most innovative business models for creating healthier, sustainable, and prosperous communities."  Cascadia members will be asked to enlarge their thinking (and scope) beyond (green) bricks and mortar to include sustainable business development with the goal of "transform(ing) the communities where we work and live."  BALLE, which stands for Business Alliance for Local Economies envisions "a global system of human-scale, interconnected local economies that function in harmony with local eco-systems to meet the basic needs of all people, support just an democratic societies, and foster joyful community life."  By inviting Council members to consider this vision, Cascadia's leadership is seeking to expand on the collective impact that members have already had on the built environment.

David Barmon, a permaculture designer based in Portland, and Naomi Wachira, a local folk singer with African roots will round out the program.  And yes, there will be awards. All with a mind on acknowledging, but also inspiring, grassroots action. For the first time, Cascadia will be presenting Emerging Professional, Branch Collaborative, and Public Sector Leadership Awards.  Cascadia Fellows will be recognized at Groundswell as well. Fellows are local leaders recognized for catalyzing transformative advancements in green building at the local and national level. And yes, Groundswell is a fundraiser: $50 of every ticket is a tax-deductible donation to support the mission of the Cascadia Green Building Council. And, yes, it will be a party. According to the website, dress if "formal." Hmm..dress jeans?

Registration closes December 9, 2013. Click here for more information on the event and award nominees.

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for and prolific writer about green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Recently retired from O'Brien & Company, the green consulting firm she founded over 22 years ago,  she is now the Executive Director of The EMERGE Leadership Project, a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate life-sustaining solutions in the built environment through emergent leadership training.

 

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When it comes to certified wood, GSA is right to question LEED

Posted on April 4, 2013

The following post is by William Street:

Contrary to what Meghan Douris wrote in these pages in your Building Green issue (“Is LEED’s Future with Federal Projects Under Threat?” 2/28), the Government Services Administration is correct to seek opinion regarding LEED’s acceptability for public procurement projects, given the cost involved with LEED certification and LEED’s unfortunate discrimination against two respected and widely used certification standards, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS).

Photo by Luciano Burtini/sxc.hu

There's more than one forest certification system.

The fact that GSA is seeking input on their use of green building rating systems is a positive development. This will hopefully shed light on the problem with GSA’s use of the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. USGBC, unlike Green Building Councils in Italy, Germany or Australia -- all of which recognize the importance of all forest certification systems -- has been victimized by narrow interest groups seeking to push their own political agenda at the expense of actual science-based energy efficiency, local jobs, competitiveness and inclusivity. USGBC has never publicly explained why they only reward wood certified to the Forest Stewardship Council standard.

PEFC, the world’s largest and only purely non-profit forest certification system -- which includes SFI and ATFS,  both of which are independent, non-profit, charitable organizations -- has proven on every continent and in all governmental procurement and independent and neutral evaluations that it is a superior system to FSC. PEFC affiliates are recognized by Green Building Councils in many other countries, but not by the USGBC. Thus, wood products from SFI and ATFS are placed at a market disadvantage while forest products from FSC (many of which are sourced outside of the U.S.) are accepted, even though FSC‘s for-profit structure is not recognized by, and fails to comply with, the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and ISO guidelines.

In the U.S., SFI and ATFS are the only forest certification systems to require and enforce compliance with the International Labor Organization’s core labor standards for forest workers.  Strong labor standards mean safer work, better wages, sustainable jobs and viable rural communities that depend on them.

Rather than attempt to create a monopoly for FSC, USGBC should do what practically every other national and third-party system has done: recognize and reward wood from all sustainably managed forests. To do otherwise is to promote deforestation in the tropics and the conversion of sustainably managed forests here into resorts, golf courses and second homes.

It’s well past time to stop fighting over the well-managed forests of North America and start speaking with a single voice to send a unified message to the rest of the world: that green buildings benefit from using wood from all sustainably managed forests. By speaking with a single voice, Americans can truly be a force against deforestation and the conversion of forests to other land uses.

William Street is director of the Woodworkers Department of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

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Study makes a case for developing more living buildings

Posted on June 7, 2012

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

In early May, I traveled to Portland to the Cascadia Green Building Council's annual Living Future Conference. I enjoyed the conference a lot, and especially the very practical financial focus in several of the sessions.

O'Brien

Moving the needle on real estate investment was the topic of a Living Future panel including Jason Twill (Vulcan), David Baker (Earth Economics), Theddi Wright Chappell (Cushman & Wakefield), Stuart Cowan (Autopoiesis). They noted that investment in sustainable real estate seems to be "topping out" in the market at this time — at LEED Platinum. Their hope is to help the market cross that barrier into higher realms of sustainable achievement, such as the Living Building Challenge.
Jason, David, Stuart, and Theddi are coauthors of "Economics of Change: Catalyzing the Investment Shift Towards a Restorative Built Environment." The research study was funded by Bullitt Foundation, a long time supporter of environmental protection in the Northwest. The point of the study was to "provide evidence of monetized environmental and social benefits...currently not considered in conventional real estate model(s)." The authors hope to provide a defensible rationale for including these public and private benefits into investment models, appraiser methodologies, and supporting policies. This is especially important for U.S. real estate investments where ROI and IRR are the ultimate drivers of most transactions.
The report lays out the ABC's, if you will, of Ecosystem Goods and Services, the potential Ecosystem Services that Living Buildings might provide, and finally the opportunity to measure, monetize, and value those ecosystem services. The study takes a scholarly approach, a step up from the early days when we in the green building field had to rely more on reason and intuition, since we had little real data to base our assumptions on. (Not that reason and intuition is bad...it's what got us here, yes?).

"The Economics of Change"

The report also introduces the concept of integrated real estate investment modeling. From this layperson's view, it seems to build on the conventional model, rather than replace it — an approach that makes a good deal of sense. The methodology they propose will allow many environmental and social benefits currently valued at zero to be seen as economically valuable, and therefore marketable. In the next phase of their work, they plan to produce detailed calculations and case studies of the environmental and social benefits of Living Buildings, test the impact of these values of valuation models or appraisals, and create an open source prototype of the integrated real estate investment marketing tool to "demonstrate how environmental and social benefits can be embedded within a pro forma in an new building development context."
In addition to taking this tool out to the real estate development communities (appraisers and valuation specialists), they hope to provide a basis for changes in local, state, and federal policy that will acknowledge public benefits of Living Building development and incentivize it.
As Theddi noted, "right now investors are going for the low hanging fruit — energy efficiency — for example. We need to provide sufficient rationale if we want them to go beyond that."

Hear, hear.

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Having recently sold her firm, O'Brien & Company, she is now focused on leadership work with those "still in the trenches."  For more info see www.emergeleadership.net

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Off to Living Future 2011!

Posted on April 26, 2011

Hello Readers.

It's (one of) my favorite times of year here at the DJC Green Building Blog: time to head to the Cascadia Green Building Council's Living Future Conference! Starting tomorrow and lasting until Friday, I'll update you on the happenings of my favorite annual conference. If you've never heard of

Off to Vancouver!
Living Future and won't be heading up to Vancouver, B.C., either keep your eyes tuned here or check out the blog's archives on past events. You can also follow me on twitter @KatieZemtseff for a more thorough and concise take on sessions and speeches.

This is my fifth Living Future event (which means I've been to all of them). The conference alternates each year between Seattle, Vancouver and Portland. In past years, I've heard and documented talks in this blog from Janine Benyus, Paul Hawken and James Howard Kunstler among others. This year, I'm looking forward to hearing what Majora Carter has to say. I'm also really excited to tour the University of British Columbia's Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability.

Living Future, here I come!

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Greenbuild recap: Seattle represented!

Posted on November 22, 2010

GreenBuild is done for another year. Looking back, I can definitely say the Pacific Northwest - and Seattle in particular - represented.

From speakers (there were at least 35 from the Pacific Northwest) to people in the crowd (I must have seen at least 50 people from the area) to a reference in Rick Fedrizzi's opening speech to the Living Building Challenge to expo hall presenters, there was a giant contingent representing what

The expo hall at GreenBuild, by Katie Zemtseff
some *ahem* consider to be the greenest region of the country.

Overall, I noticed a change in GreenBuild presenters. It seemed (to me) that there was a little less architectural focus and more focus on the financial aspect of green building from the real estate side. Speakers came from Kennedy Associates, Wright Runstad & Co., Hines, PNC Real Estate, Lease Crutcher Lewis, Vulcan, Jones Lang LaSalle etc. To me, this reinforced the idea that "green" is becoming more and more mainstream. While the design aspect is important, the financial metrics really sell it -- just look at LEED volume. I also noticed a focus on the sustainability of the site, versus just the sustainability of the building.

I enjoyed the focus of the expo floor to reduce waste. Instead of a flood of literature that stays on my desk for months, presenters were encouraged to limit waste and only give away business cards. It was impressive.

I also enjoyed some of the wild outfits that turned up. Especially colorful cowboy hats, a full fake animal print suit in different colors and the myriad of cowboy boots worn on people's feet. A friend of mine said there seemed to be a lot more suits at GreenBuild this year - which she said is a good thing "cuz we need 'em!"

As for dislikes, I heard a lot of complaints about the lack of vegetarian food (this is GreenBuild afterall!) I also heard a lot of people complaining about two elements of Colin Powell's speech: his discussion of the state of terrorism in the U.S. and abroad and his statement that coal, nuclear and oil need to be just as much a part of our energy portfolio as solar and wind energy.

What did you think of GreenBuild? Comment below and tell me what your favorite - or least favorite part was. Would love to hear your reaction!

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GreenBuild Day 2: bifacial solar panels and natural swimming pools that use plants, not chlorine!

Posted on November 18, 2010

I've been through about an eighth of the GreenBuild Exhibition floor so far and wanted to share two of the things I've seen with you.

These are the Sanyo bifacial panels that will be on the Bullitt Foundation's Living Building on Capitol Hill. The collect energy from both sides while letting some light in at the same time. Bullitt was attracted by the transparency of the panel.

Sanyo panel, photo by Katie Zemtseff

And this is the BioNova Natural Swimming Pool. The swimming pools use natural systems (meaning plants in gravel) instead of chlorine and other chemicals to treat water. That means the water color is darker, looking more like a lake than a traditional pool. It also means that people that use them need to get used to the idea of sharing their pool occasionally with frogs or other critters. James Robyn, CEO of the company, said the pools aren't for everybody. "Whoever doesn't like that sort of thing shouldn't do this."

bionova

Robyn said the pool technology came from Europe, where it has been used for 20 years. He said it has a low carbon footprint, is all natural and is "perfectly healthy." Robyn, who is based in New Jersey, said he's being asked about the pool system all across the country. In fact, he was in Seattle giving a lecture last month though he said there are not yet any of his pools in process in the Seattle area.

There are basically five ways to build the pools but each involves about 1 square foot of treatment space for 1 square foot of pool. That means if you want an 850-square-foot-pool, you need 850 square feet of treatment space. It's more expensive but it certainly looks cool!

For more on BioNova, check out its Web site.

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GreenBuild Day 2: There’s something about GreenBuild

Posted on November 18, 2010

I'm mid-way through my second of three days at GreenBuild and something is different this year.

For the most part this conference just seems.... on. First, let me tell you that this is my third GreenBuild I went to GreenBuild 07 in Chicago, GreenBuild 08 in Boston and had guest posts on the blog at GreenBuild Phoenix last year. To read posts from each experience, click the 'greenbuild' tag below.

Personally, of the three, I think this is the best year yet. All the problems I had with my first Chicago GreenBuild experience:  insanely long lines for the keynote speaker, no clear way to compost food or recycle name tags, a tiny nonfunctional press room, teaching sessions focused on the lowest common denominator, almost rampant waste with giant programs and a general disorganization - are gone.

In its place three years later is a well organized, smoothly run conference. Sessions are easy to get into and focused on pertinent topics. People I've spoken with so far agree that this year, everyone seems to have a deeper level of green building knowledge. The press room is large with easily accessible outlets. Compost and recycling is clearly marked and encouraged. There's also signs all around this exhibit hall stating that the carpet is going to be recycled or that giving out fliers is strictly prohibited without USGBC permission.  The USGBC also worked with food suppliers at the conference to make sure everything was organic.

There are also many more of my favorite kind of session: off site visits that demonstrate the unique aspects of the city you're in.

There's been changes in the exhibit hall. Rather than the standard conference practice of having every exhibitor give out literature that is often thrown directly in the garbage, the USGBC has instituted a program to curb that waste. More about this later.

That's not to say that everything is perfect. But overall, I'm pretty impressed and looking forward to the rest of today and tomorrow.

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GreenBuild Day 1: Colin Powell says he knows more about green building than you think

Posted on November 17, 2010

This morning, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell gave the keynote speech at the USGBC's GreenBuild Conference in Chicago. He said he knows more about green building than you think.

Powell's green building credibility, at least during his talk, came from three things: a $1 billion annual budget for building embassies during his time as a politician, his work with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers that is funding

Colin Powell
Bloom Energy, and his association with a LEED platinum affordable housing building in the Bronx bearing his name.

However, his talk didn't really focus on green building. Instead, it focused on the state of the country, motivating Americans and creating true leadership to support our economy and continue improving America. A big part of this effort, he said, is energy efficiency.

Powell said those in the green building sector need to look at what they're doing and see the broader purpose:

"Your purpose is to help the world use less energy, to help the world promote its environment and above all to help the world grow economically so that more people can come up out of poverty and despair... you have got a purpose for your future.

"What you’re doing is building green buildings and that's wonderful but what you’re really doing is helping the world deal with its energy needs and helping the world create growth for those in need."

Powell said this effort is playing a major role in the U.S.'s national security policy because it is reducing energy needs. However, he also said the U.S. can never be totally energy independent and that we need all sorts of energy: wind, solar, nuclear and coal. I'm guessing a number of you would take issue with that.

Overall, the talk careened from America's place in the global economy to our country's future to terrorism to leadership. Powell spoke personally about having a 2.0 GPA in college, being a son of immigrants and being a new soldier soon after the army was desegragated. None of these things matter, he said.

"It doesn't matter where you start in life, it's where you end up but more importantly, what did you do along the way?”

He spoke about aging in a world of new media "I'm analog trying to become digital" and about the emptiness he felt immediately after leaving his post as secretary of state (to deal with it, he needed to find other intellectually challenging opportunities, such as his work with Kleiner and with his effort to promote education nationally).

As a speaker, Powell was engaging and funny, repeatedly making the audience (and me) laugh. It's nice during these talks when you can lose yourself to some degree in what the speaker is saying and allow yourself to be transported, rather than always remaining detached from the subject matter. If you have a chance to hear him speak, I would highly recommend it.

Are you here? What did you think of the talk? Were you impressed with the overall inspiration or upset that it didn't focus more on green building? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Going to GreenBuild!

Posted on November 15, 2010

Hello lovely readers! I will be at the USGBC's GreenBuild Conference in Chicago this week and will be right back here throughout, updating you on all the sustainable  happenings of the event!

However, one can only blog so much. If you want more news and timeline tidbits, follow me on Twitter. My handle is @KatieZemtseff.

I'm looking forward to learning a lot. Hope you are too. Starting Wednesday, check back often!

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$100 million class action lawsuit filed against LEED, USGBC

Posted on October 19, 2010

According to Environmental Building News, Henry Gifford, owner of Gifford Fuel Saving, has filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Green Building Council and its founders.

"The suit argues the USGBC is fraudulently misleading consumers and fraudulently misrepresenting energy performance of buildings certified under its LEED rating systems, and that LEED is harming hte environment by leading consumers away from using proven energy-saving strategies," the article says.

The lawsuit looks like it is based at least in part on research by Washington's very own New Buildings Institute.

I don't know the details so I will refer you to those that do: first, read the excellent Environmental Building News Article. For a more opinionated article, check out this Treehugger piece. For a lawyer's take, go to Green Building Law here. If you read the articles, don't forget the comments. There's some pretty interesting opinions.

This blog has covered green building problems before. For our related archives, click the tag 'problems' below.

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