DJC Green Building Blog Covering green building issues in Seattle and around the Pacific Northwest

See the Super Bowl in a whole new light: LED

Posted on January 21, 2015

The following post is by Ephesus Lighting:

It’s not the first time a championship football game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium and the two teams will not be there for the first time. But for the first time ever, the big game will be illuminated by high performance LED stadium lights from Ephesus Lighting,  which provides LED lighting for sports facilities.

Earlier this season, University of Phoenix Stadium became the first NFL venue to light its playing surface with LED lighting. Ephesus reports the lights have been a hit with fans, players, broadcasters and facility operators.

“This year LED sports lighting proved to be ready for primetime as we illuminated more than 1,000 sporting events with our Ephesus LED stadium and arena lights,” said Mike Lorenz, President of Ephesus Lighting. “It’s fitting that the biggest sporting event in the world will be lit by our LED lights, the future of sports lighting.”

City of Glendale

The new LED fixtures at University of Phoenix Stadium slash energy use by 75 percent.

Ephesus fixtures, which are powered by Cree LEDs, provide an increase in illumination compared to the traditional metal halide lights that were previously installed at University of Phoenix Stadium. LED lighting also provides brighter and more uniform light which eliminates shadows on the playing surface, creating a better stage for players and fans, both in the stadium and watching on high-definition television.

The Ephesus installation is well-suited to HDTV broadcasting and feedback from broadcasters this season has been positive. Not only is the light brighter and more uniform across the playing surface, but the new lighting ensures that colors are reproduced more accurately. Since broadcasters do not need to open the camera’s aperture as wide to let in more light, they can present a clearer picture, show greater field depth, zoom in closer and even offer more detailed slow motion replays.

“The capabilities of LED technology have changed the way we view sports lighting,” said Joe Casper, Founder and CTO of Ephesus Lighting. “There is no doubt in our minds that both the fans in the stadium and millions more watching on television will see the game in a whole new light thanks to our ground-breaking system.”

University of Phoenix Stadium installed 312 Ephesus Stadium fixtures to replace the 780 metal halide fixtures. The new system uses just 310,000 watts of energy as compared to the 1.24 million watts needed to power the previous system for a 75% reduction in overall sports lighting energy consumption.

Additionally, LED lights can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch, whereas metal halide fixtures require a 20-minute warm-up period. This on/off feature allows facility operators to create light shows for fan entertainment, and, if a power outage were to cause a blackout, like it did in 2013 at the Superdome, the LED lights can be turned back on immediately with the flick of a switch.

“As the host venue for the 2015 Super Bowl, we are excited about demonstrating the benefits of LED technology to a global audience,” said Peter Sullivan, General Manager and Regional Vice President for Global Spectrum at University of Phoenix Stadium. “The Ephesus Lighting LED solution has improved lighting for the athletes, fans and broadcasters, all while reducing energy consumption and eliminating conventional sports lighting maintenance expense.”

The University of Phoenix Stadium has a retractable roof and field. The multi-purpose facility, which opened on August 1, 2006, previously hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, two BCS National Championship Games (2007 & 2011), the annual Fiesta Bowl, and numerous international soccer matches. The 63,400-seat stadium, which is expandable to seat 72,200 fans, is owned by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) and operated by Global Spectrum.

Since lighting the first sports venue with LED technology in North America in 2012, Ephesus Lighting luminaires have been operational for over 300,000 hours in more than 100 indoor and outdoor sports and entertainment venues across North America.

Ephesus Lighting is a Syracuse, New York-based company that manufactures high-output LED lighting solutions for the industrial and sporting markets.

 

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McKinstry honors its favorite teams

Posted on October 17, 2014
McKinstry, Avista Corp

Front row: Dan Thompson (McKinstry) Back row (left to right): Paul Zasada (McKinstry), Dennis Vermillion (President of Avista Utilities); Scott Morris (CEO & President and Chair of the Board, Avista Corp); Dean Allen (CEO McKinstry), Mireya Fitzloff (McKinstry), Eric Bowles (Avista Head of Facilities) and Rod Staton (Avista Facilities).

McKinstry is honoring its clients for their commitment to sustainability. Each is called a “Champion of Sustainability” and is presented with an award at a Seahawks home game.

The next winner, The Allen Institute for Brain Science, will be honored at the November 2nd Seahawks game against the Raiders. The award goes to Vulcan Real Estate, GLY Construction, Perkins+Will Architects, and Architectural Building Inspection (ABI) Inc. This energy efficient, design-build project has a central plant system that is designed to perform 24% better than the ASHRAE standard.

Recent winners of the prize include Avista Corp. for its corporate headquarters and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for the Thomas Foley U.S. Courthouse.

McKinstry said the five-year remodel of Avista Corp.’s 150,000-square-foot office building will save 1.4 million kilowatt-hours per year, which is enough to power 116 homes, and will save $149,000 every year in energy costs. This LEED Gold Certified project will be completed by the summer of 2015.

The Thomas Foley U.S. Courthouse project dealt with the unique constraints of providing extensive upgrades to an existing building. The upgrades reduced baseline energy consumption by 50 percent, and reduced carbon emissions by 693 tons.

Other 2014 Champions are Vulcan Real Estate, GLY Construction, Clise Properties, Lydig Construction, Seattle University, Gresham-Barlow School District.

One of the largest solar arrays in the state of Washington is included in McKinstry’s many energy conservation initiatives at CenturyLink Field and Event Center.

Here are some other conservation facts about CenturyLink Field:

  • Solar panels spanning the area of two football fields sit atop the roof and generate more than 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, meeting 30% of the facilities energy needs with solar power, an equivalent of powering 95 Seattle area homes for a year.
  • 100% of urinals have been retrofitted with ultra-low-flow water fixtures, saving more than 1.3 million gallons of water every year. That’s enough to turn CenturyLink Field into a giant 3-foot-deep swimming pool.
  • Less water means less energy and lower CO2 emissions – the equivalent of planting 278 football fields worth of trees.
  • Through the use of 614 recycle and compost bins located throughout, 94% of waste generated at CenturyLink Field and Event Center is diverted from landfills.

 

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Take a free green home tour on Saturday

Posted on April 25, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Here’s your chance to tromp through neighbors’ homes and check out what’s new in green building.

Northwest EcoBuilding and Built Green will hold their annual green home tour on Saturday, April 26, showcasing green remodels, new homes and energy retrofits.

This net-zero energy house in Issaquah is one of the stops on the green home tour.

The free self-guided tour covers 35 homes and 12 “sustainability stops” where visitors can tour green businesses, civic buildings and other attractions.

The event runs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. No tickets are required.

Though most of the sites are in Seattle, the tour also has stops in Edmonds, Bothell, Issaquah and Shaw Island in the San Juans.

Participants can start the tour any site.

An organized 5-mile walking tour is also planned, beginning at 11 a.m. at Hale’s Ales, at 4301 Leary Ave. N.W. The four-hour tour will take participants through the Fremont, Phinney and Greenwood neighborhoods. A bus is available to go back to Hale's after the last stop. Email info@feetfirst.org or call (206) 652-2310, Ext. 5 for more information.

 

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How green is the future? Yudelson’s 2014 predictions

Posted on January 14, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, has released his annual list of the top 10 green building trends and says he expects this year will see a rapid increase in energy retrofits on existing buildings, a new focus on water conservation, and a switch to cloud-based systems for monitoring and managing energy use.

Jerry Yudelson

He says the expansion will be global thanks to the economic recovery in most of Europe and North America. “There is no doubt that we are seeing more agencies, architectural firms, development organizations and companies building green each year,” he writes, “and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements.”

By the way, Yudelson also announced he is the new president of Green Building Initiative, the organization responsible for the Green Globes green building rating and certification system that he says is increasingly competing with LEED.

Yudelson Associates’ Top 10 Green Building MegaTrends for 2014

  1. Green building in North America continue its strong growth in 2014, with the ongoing expansion of commercial real estate construction together with government, university, nonprofit and school construction. This will build on the fact that in 2013 green building project registrations in new construction accounted for about 30% of all new projects.
  2. In 2014, there will be rapid uptake of energy-efficiency green building retrofits.. Note: this trend will be strongest in corporate and commercial real estate, along with the “MUSH” market (Municipal, University, School and Hospital) projects, given the availability of cheap financing and the rise of numerous new players in the building energy retrofit market. Yudelson says absolute building performance, and resultant operating cost, (vs. the relative improvement approach still enshrined in most rating systems) is going to be an increasing focus for building owners.
  3. Zero-net-energy buildings are become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors. LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners. Developers of speculative commercial buildings have also begun to showcase Zero Net Energy designs in order to gain marketplace advantages. Systems such as the Net-Zero Certification of the International Living Building Institute are driving this trend, but it has been growing steadily for about five years.
  4. LEED will see enhanced competition from Green Globes. This trend is supported by the fact that the Federal government has released its “once every five years” assessment of rating systems and has now put the two systems on an equal footing for government projects. More importantly, LEED will struggle to convince owners, designers and consultants in all sectors that LEED v4 represents more value than hassle.
  5. The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from certifying new building design and construction to full greening of existing buildings. This trend has been in place since 2010, and we expect it to accelerate in 2014.
  6. Green Buildings will increasingly be managed by information technologies, especially those in the “Cloud.” This trend is reflected by the large number of new entrants and new products in fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls and building services information management over the last three years. In fact, we are calling 2014, “The Year of the Cloud” for how quickly this trend will become fully established.
  7. Green Building Performance Disclosure will continue as a major trend. This is highlighted by disclosure requirements enacted in 2013 by more than 30 major cities around the country, laws that require commercial building owners to disclose actual green building performance to all new tenants and buyers and, in some places, to the public. This trend will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions from commercial and governmental buildings.
  8. Healthy Building Products, Product Disclosure Declarations, along with various “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern to healthy building advocates, will become increasingly contentious. This trend has manifested through such tools as the Health Product Declaration and the inclusion of points for avoiding certain chemicals contained in LEEDv4, currently scheduled for full implementation in 2015. We predict that building product manufacturers will increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemicals of concerns. We also foresee that industry-developed disclosure systems will begin to compete with systems offered by dozens of third-party rating agencies.
  9. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow, especially because of the prospect of increasing focus on implementing aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2020 and the move toward zero-net-energy buildings. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for larger rooftop systems on low-rise commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as well as on homes.
  10. Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the U.S., will increase as global climate change affects rainfall and water supply systems worldwide. Leading building designers, owners and managers will be moved to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings by using more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new onsite water technologies.

 

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BIG’s hilly courtyard tops a new gym

Posted on August 13, 2013

The following post is by DJC staff:

The Danish architecture firm BIG with CG Jensen + EKJ + Grontmij said it has completed a new multipurpose hall for Bjarke Ingels’ former high school north of Copenhagen. The project turned a courtyard into a new gathering point above an underground sports facility.
The space can be used for sports, graduation ceremonies and social events.

Photo by Jens Lindhe

Architect Bjarke Ingels says he considers the roof a giant piece of informal furniture.

BIG said in a press release the new hall is 16 feet below grade to ensure a good indoor climate and reduce its environmental impact. It is formed by beveled concrete walls and covered by a vaulted wooden roof made of curved glued laminated timber beams.

The roof functions as an interior and exterior skin, creating a hilly courtyard that can accommodate a number of activities from group work to larger gatherings.

The exterior surface is untreated oak and white enamel-coated steel benches that were designed by BIG. The only light sources at night come from the benches and seating, which are outfitted with LED lights underneath that brighten the entire courtyard.

The edge of the roof is a long bench with a lattice design that brings in daylight below. Solar panels around the buildings heat the hall.

Bjarke Ingels said, “Rather than placing the hall outside the school — and spread the social life further — we have created a new focal point and link between the school’s existing facilities. The roof forms a molehill that serves as a giant piece of informal furniture engaging and supporting student life.

“The main architectural idea emerged from the rules of handball as the soft, curved roof takes its form from the mathematical equation of the trajectory of a thrown ball. Form follows function. In an homage to my old math teacher, we used the mathematical formula for a ballistic arc to shape the geometry of the roof.”

A future phase will connect the courtyard and hall with sports fields and parking, and provide space for art classes and cultural activities.

BIG — Bjarke Ingels Group — describes itself as an international partnership of architects, designers, builders and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development.

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The next big thing in energy conservation? Small commercial buildings

Posted on June 11, 2013

The following post is by the Preservation Green Lab:

A new report released by the Preservation Green Lab in Seattle says an array of energy savings in small commercial buildings across the United States could profitably yield more than one quadrillion Btu annually, which translates into more than $30 billion in annual cost savings and improved financial performance for small businesses.

Conservation efforts commonly focus on larger structures, but 95 percent of all commercial buildings are less than 50,000 square feet. This is a massive and largely untapped opportunity for new energy savings.

“The energy savings detailed in our report represent the equivalent of 580,000 permanent new American jobs,” said Mark Huppert, Director of the Preservation Green Lab, and a lead author of the report. “Harvesting energy efficiency from small buildings is like striking oil, except it’s domestic, clean and keeps dollars in our local economies. The savings will produce real jobs that can’t be offshored or outsourced.”

www.sxc.hu

Ninety-five percent of all commercial buildings are less than 50,000 square feet — a largely untapped opportunity for energy savings.

The report, “Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings,” was produced by the Green Lab in partnership with the New Buildings Institute, a nonprofit that works collaboratively with commercial building interests to remove barriers to energy efficiency. The analysis was funded jointly by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Here are the key findings:

  • Small buildings are responsible for 47 percent of the energy consumed by commercial buildings.
  • Small businesses or firms with fewer than 500 employees own 84 percent (3.7 million of 4.4 million total) of small buildings.
  • Potential energy savings in small buildings range from 27 to 59 percent, depending on the building type. This represents 1.07 quadrillion Btu annually or 17 percent of commercial energy use.
  • Small, neighborhood businesses such as restaurants, grocers and retailers can improve profitability by more than 10 percent through smart investments in energy savings.

The report recommends that utility regulators create incentives for energy efficiency to unlock the potential savings in these smaller buildings. Pilot projects that pay customers for measured energy savings could demonstrate how the private sector can drive down energy costs while utilities continue to earn a profit. These innovative programs also offer utilities the opportunity to burnish their images.

Some utilities are already embracing this approach. “I believe the cleanest power plant that I will build in the future is the one that I don’t build,” said Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers during a 2012 address to the Urban Land Institute.

Programs that engage small businesses owners represent a big opportunity for the financial sector, as well as for the businesses themselves. “Since 2005, Wells Fargo has financed more than $21 billion for “green” businesses, “green” buildings, and “clean” energy customers, including $900 million in loans and investments benefitting low-income communities or housing projects,” said Andrew Kho, senior vice president with Wells Fargo Commercial Banking. “These investments can help our customers reduce their monthly operating expenses and support a transition to a “greener” global economy.”

The Preservation Green Lab is a sustainability think tank focused on the reuse and retrofit of older and historic buildings. A project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Green Lab was launched in 2009 and is based in Seattle.

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Your patio can also be a power plant

Posted on May 17, 2013

The following post is by Silicon Energy:

Two Washington-based companies said they are joining forces to make solar systems easier to install and more flexible than traditional roof- or ground-mounted modules.

Silicon Energy, a solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer, and CrystaLite, a skylight and sunroom manufacturer, will create pre-engineered, integrated-PV systems. The new structures — including patio and carport coverings, electric car charging ports, and picnic shelters — will let solar contractors offer customizable, durable PV systems.

Silicon Energy said the modules are strong enough to withstand harsh weather and were recently rated the most durable among competitors by the federally funded National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

They were introduced at the recent Living Future's unConference in Seattle.

PV systems can be installed on different types of structures.
The structures are offered in modular 4-foot widths, and can incorporate CrystaLite railing systems with glass panel, aluminum pickets or stainless steel cable railings. Silicon Energy and CrystaLite PV-integrated structures can be grid-tied or battery-backed to generate electricity in remote locations.

Silicon Energy said its double-glass design allows light transmission through the PV module with a mounting system that fully encloses and protects the system wiring, delivering an aesthetically pleasing and practical shelter. The open-framed, shingle-like mounting of the Cascade Series PV Module and Mounting System maximizes shedding of snow, dirt and debris from the modules, which optimizes performance.

Silicon Energy’s modules come with a 30-year power warranty, a 125-psf load rating and Class-A fire safety rating.

"A paradigm shift is needed in how we look at PV,” said Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver. “We need to think beyond the roof and fields and integrate PV even more into our local communities, bringing the beauty and benefits of distributed generation of PV into our built environment.”

The systems will be available starting in July.

Silicon Energy was founded in 2007 and is located in Washington and Minnesota. More information is at www.silicon-energy.com.

Founded in 1982, CrystaLite is a Washington-based manufacturer of roof glazing, sunrooms and railing systems that are built by local employees. Primary vendors are in Portland and Hood River, Ore., and the company says 80% of its raw materials are from Washington and Oregon. For more information about CrystaLite, Inc., visit www.CrystaLiteInc.com.

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House gets a deep green remodel for $150 a square foot

Posted on April 17, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

It's taken awhile to go from touring green homes to actually living in one, but for Becky Chan, it's been well worth it.  Chan has been blogging her two-year journey, and says she got hooked on the idea as a result of visiting "homes built with recycled or reclaimed materials to reduce waste, homes with green roofs and living walls to slow stormwater  runoff and filter pollutants, and the first net-zero-energy house built in Seattle.”

Photo by Becky Chan

This year's Green Home Tour will include Becky Chan's net-zero energy house, which has a 6.72-kilowatt solar array.

Now, those who plan to partake of this year's Green Home Tour on April 27, co-produced by the NW EcoBuilding Guild and Built Green of King and Snohomish County, will get to see her "deep green" remodel.

Parie Hines, LD Arch, designed the remodel and was impressed by Chan's focus on combining deep green ambitions with "thrift."  Hines conservatively estimates a final construction cost of $150 per square foot (the original goal was $135 per square foot), pointing out that the new remodel includes high quality (and expensive) windows and infrastructure, while keeping finishes and details simple (and less expensive).

Chan's "Blue View, Green Built" net zero energy remodel is one of several in the North Seattle tour quadrant, and includes SIPS construction (3 walls were replaced with SIPS), rainwater harvesting, natural materials, salvaged/reused materials, solar PV, ductless mini-split heating, triple glazed windows, and a heat pump water heater. The home is also an example of deconstruction.

After the tour, she wanted to learn more, so she joined the NW EcoBuilding Guild, the nonprofit that has organized the free tour for three years.  She also attended a net zero energy workshop conducted by Sustainable Ballard where she met Ted Clifton, TC Legend Homes. Clifton had built the net zero energy house Chan had so admired in the 2011 tour. She eventually hired him to conduct the remodel. She then bought a home, with remodeling in mind, that was conveniently located to services she knew she would need, proactively reducing her carbon footprint.

For those responsible for programming, funding, or otherwise involved with green building education, the hope is that this education translates to implementation. Chan's deep green remodel is a great example of how this works.

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. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project. Her book "Green Home Primer" is apparently on Becky Chan's bed stand (No kidding!)

 

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It’s time to redesign our neighborhoods

Posted on March 5, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

After participating recently in the King County Sustainable Cities Roundtable to discuss “Beyond Net Zero: Resilience, Regeneration, and Social Justice" Ron Sims agreed to an interview for the Daily Journal of Commerce's Green Building Blog.

Q. As the King County Executive, you worked to promote sustainable development through policies, such as the green building and low impact development demonstration ordinances. And, as the Deputy Secretary of HUD, you got to see first-hand how communities across the country are addressing the issue of sustainability. From these vantage points, where do you think we should be focusing our energies?

Ron Sims

A. The neighborhood.  A well designed neighborhood correlates directly to a good quality of life. And that means things like community gathering places and safety, such as from crime, pollution; access to nature, such as street trees; and more transit options, such as walkability, and bike lending stations.  It's easier to create new neighborhoods with these features than it is to redevelop existing neighborhoods, but we have to incentivize reinvestment that incorporates these design features for truly sustainable communities.

Q. How would you propose going about doing this?

A. I've never seen a developer turn down density bonuses in return for more bus stops, low-income housing, etc.  We need to get creative and open the door to more thoughtful mixed development, including residential options. We can tie some of this to demolition in an area. But we need to plan further out.  We need to ask the question: "What should this neighborhood look like in twenty years?"

Q. Sustainability advocates hold that sustainable development incorporates not simply environmental health, but economic vitality, and social equity, as well. Sometimes this gets lost in the development timetable. How can we do a better job of maintaining the prominence of all three legs of the stool as we try to practice what we preach in the field?

A.  I repeat: We need to begin planning long term to take advantage of opportunities as they come up, and to have a roadmap in place.  It's by redesigning existing neighborhoods to be healthier, safer, greener that we'll be addressing social equity, and the health of our economy.  Right now, energy efficiency is "hot." But new technologies and new neighborhoods are still the domain of the well-to-do. It hasn't gone viral. If we really worked on existing neighborhoods, we'd be addressing issues faced by the poor and culturally diverse.  You know, you can predict health and longevity rates by zip code.  Neighborhoods should and will still have their personalities, their "feel,"  but every neighborhood should have the basic green features I mentioned earlier.

Q. Is there a leverage point that sustainable advocates can focus on to bring about better neighborhoods and a better quality of life for all?

A. There's actually two.  Most people are unaware, but at HUD we learned that the most significant cause of mortgage defaults in this past recession was the cost of transportation --  it amounted to 42% of income. This was often in excess of the 34-36% of income of the average mortgage. If someone lost a job that required them to have a car, they were still left with a car payment. So better transportation planning (including infrastructure improvements) would help.  Energy costs was another big chunk of the reason for defaults -- 28-30%, so the emphasis on energy efficiency is good.

Q. With the specter of climate change-related disasters becoming more real, there has been a greater focus among sustainability advocates on "resilience" in the face of catastrophes. Disasters seem to bring out both the best and worst of us. How do we prepare and use the opportunity to course correct for the greater good?

A. I'm repeating myself, but it's to plan, plan, and plan again.  We learned a lot from the Nisqually Earthquake; we were able to apply what we learned when 9/11 happened.  After the earthquake we decided we needed to build a structurally and technologically sound center that could function independently.  We learned to plan for the "worst" case -- and not the best "reasonable" case.  We had to plan, memorialize in writing, and train.  Going forward, we need to take climate change and related disasters into consideration when we are re-designing our neighborhoods -- particularly the infrastructure side of things.

Q. Last question: What advice would you give young green building professionals and public sector advocates who are looking to be leaders in the kind of sustainable transformation  you are talking about?

A. People think change is easy. I like to say, we are running a marathon, but because we've run out of a lot of chances, we need to do it at a sprinter's pace.  Will this be rewarding every day? No it won't be. Will it be a long path? Yes it will be.  If you believe that what you are doing serves the greater good, some day (not now) you will be able to take a deep breath, reflect on what you've been able to accomplish, and say WOW.

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. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project.

 

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Chemical trade group lobbies to block LEED

Posted on February 19, 2013

The following post is by Robin Guenther:

The war over toxic chemicals and human health is spilling over into places we live and work: our buildings. The American Chemical Council (ACC) has launched an expensive and focused attack on the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to protect the status quo of a small set of bad-actor manufacturers of toxic and obsolete chemicals. But innovative companies across the building industries and human health advocates are fighting back.

Guenther

The American Chemical Council is lobbying to end the federal government’s use of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system unless USGBC removes all references to human health. If successful, they will keep taxpayers from receiving the cost savings and productivity benefits that LEED certification has generated. Why does a chemical industry trade association think better buildings are such a threat, you ask?

The USGBC has transformed the global building industry with its emphasis on high performance, low energy and healthier building practices through its LEED certification program. In only a decade, LEED plaques have become synonymous with the best buildings in the world.

SXC.hu file photo

A high-performance building?

USGBC’s mission is to make buildings not only more energy-efficient, but healthier spaces for those who inhabit them. The new draft version of LEED seeks to assuage human health concerns of buildings by offering voluntary credits for buildings using healthy materials. Many in the health community see this as a long overdue step for the rating system.

The ACC, however, sees this as a dangerous threat to their member companies because a few of them make a pretty penny producing controversial chemicals.

So if you can’t beat ‘em, lobby against ‘em, right? ACC is doing what it does best -- spreading misinformation and shoving truckloads of cash into lobbying efforts to keep the market from abandoning toxic materials and embracing green chemistry.

They’ve even gone so far as to form the laughable “American High-Performance Buildings Coalition,” a group whose membership reads like a who’s who of industries that make unhealthy products, all uniting to lobby against LEED. From big chemicals to vinyl to adhesives to petrochemicals -- they’re all here.

These toxic trade associations are trying to convince us that they are the ones who truly support “green” building. Perhaps next they’ll suggest that their products only increase your odds of developing “green” cancer.

While they claim LEED is not consensus-based, this is demonstrably false. Any revision to the LEED standard must be approved through a democratic balloting process open to all 14,000 members of USGBC. These members are architects, engineers, builders, contractors and product manufacturers.

In fact, the ACC and many of its member companies are participating in the LEED development process. But when the professionals who purchase building materials began to suggest that a LEED credit be available for purchasing healthier building materials, suddenly the process is flawed, and not consensus-based.

In the real world, when your customers ask for something, you don’t lobby against their right to buy what they want, do you? Let’s hope these companies wake up and start to reign in their out-of-control trade association before people really start to notice who’s behind the curtain.

Green buildings are about more than energy and water conservation; they must also include consideration of human health. Hospitals have started to lead the way. The Health Product Declaration, an independent, open-source methodology for declaring content of building products, is ushering in a new age of transparency in corporate reporting. The Healthier Hospitals Initiative recently released targets for safer products that include credit for avoiding chemicals of concern in interior furniture. Major manufacturers of health-care building products have begun substituting PVC and phthalate plasticizers with safer alternatives. These firms are innovating and capturing market share.

While the ACC protests these LEED credits, we would venture to say their innovative members are investing in R&D to move to safer alternatives precisely because of these initiatives. The construction industry needs the USGBC and LEED; citizens do, too. Someone has to make the push to get these chemicals out of our faces.

Robin Guenther, FAIA, is a principal focused on health care architecture at Perkins+Will, a global design firm. This piece was distributed by American Forum.

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