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

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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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/

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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What can we learn from D.C.’s green building law?

Posted on February 4, 2013

The following post is by Danielle Rodabaugh:

It’s no secret that decisions made in Washington, D.C., frequently lead the way for progressive industry regulation overhaul. This time, however, the overhaul only affects the district’s construction market rather than the national industry — at least for now.

Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol

D.C.'s green building law may have ripple effects elsewhere in the U.S.

The district’s Green Building Act of 2006 was a revolutionary piece of legislation that changed the expectations construction professionals in the district must meet. Since its enactment, construction professionals working in Washington, D.C., have been adjusting to more stringent green building regulations that apply to a wider range of projects than ever before.

The GBA didn’t fully go into effect until Jan. 1, 2012, however, and industry stakeholders continued to scrutinize it through December 2011. Before we delve into how the GBA could affect the future of green building across the country, let’s review the history of this controversial law and take a look at its current state.

The GBA requires that all non-residential buildings within the district larger than 50,000 square feet be built to meet LEED certification standards. Before the GBA, various state and local government agencies across the nation had required that certain publicly funded projects be LEED certified. For example, Colorado has required LEED certification on all state buildings since 2005.  However, the GBA extended to include privately funded projects as well.

The U.S. Green Building Council developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines as a way to identify practical and measurable green building strategies. LEED guidelines focus on design, construction, operations and maintenance. Developers, owners and construction professionals can submit their projects for LEED certification, which verifies that a building, home or community was designed and built using techniques aimed at achieving high performance in certain areas of human and environmental health.

The most controversial aspect of the GBA was that it originally included a stipulation requiring contractors to purchase a performance bond guaranteeing their intention to comply with LEED. To put it simply, the bond would hold the contractor financially liable for building a structure that met the minimum LEED standards.

Although performance bonds are commonly required for construction projects, both public and private, the “green performance bond” type required by the GBA simply was not feasible.

Based on the GBA’s initial wording, if a structure failed to meet LEED certification standards, the government could make a claim on the bond to collect money that would be put in a district fund. Construction professionals, surety providers and contract lawyers began discussing how to best handle the new, strange bond requirement. Ultimately, surety providers argued against it.

Because so many parties are involved with any one construction project, surety professionals asserted that the blame could not solely be placed on the lead contractor. As such, they made it clear that the risk associated with such a bond would be far too great for them to back. The state of the GBA remained in limbo for years as rumors and speculation ensued. Finally, less than a month before the GBA was scheduled to go into full effect, the council passed the Green Building Compliance, Technical Corrections, and Clarifications Act of 2012 as an amendment to the GBA.

With the amendment in place, contractors can now choose one of four ways to guarantee that structures will meet LEED certification standards:

• deposit cash in an escrow account (in a financial institution within the district) and name the district on the account

• provide an irrevocable letter of credit from a financial institution authorized to do business in the district

• provide a surety bond secured by the applicant to ensure compliance

• submit a binding pledge that the applicant will fulfill the current LEED standards for commercial and institutional buildings at the certified level within 2 years of receipt of the certificate of occupancy

No matter which option contractors choose, they guarantee that their structures will meet LEED standards. If they fail to do so, they’ll be held accountable for the consequences, financial and otherwise.

When sweeping changes are made to construction standards, a ripple effect frequently follows. Contractors across the country should keep their ears open for discussions about new LEED certification requirements in other areas. As a construction professional, the best way to plan for the future is by learning from the past. Such is the case with the GBA.

Whether you agree or disagree with the GBA, I encourage you to make sure you’re informed of similar changes that could affect your local construction industry. Then, make sure your voice is heard. Those who spoke out against the initial wording of the GBA were successful in arguing their cases.

Knowledge is power; the more informed you are about green building expectations, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with the inevitable changes.

Danielle Rodabaugh is the director of educational outreach at


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Built Green 2010 and David Orr’s talk

Posted on March 12, 2010

I spent my Friday morning at the 2010 Built Green Conference in Bellevue. Unfortunately, I had to skip out early. I did spend enough time at the conference to do some valuable things: I heard keynote speaker David Orr of Oberlin College & Conservatory, attended one session on water, caught up with some great people I haven't seen in a while and got to quickly run through the expo floor.

This is the third Built Green Conference I've attended. I went to sessions at last year's event in Seattle and

Oberlin is already known for its Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies but the school is aiming to go further - much further in its commitment to green buildings
attended the 2007 event in Everett. Over that time, I think the attendance and focus of the conference has changed a lot. From my perspective, the event has gotten smaller... but more focused. Granted, this is all based on my memory, but in 2007, I remember it as a really large event with a large expo floor and session topics that were all over the place. Today's event was smaller than what I remember in 2007. But it seemed like the people there had more experience or focused interest in green building. The session topics also provided a great breadth of experience and topics. Again, vendors on the expo floor were more targeted and focused towards green building products and materials rather than just having something to do (hopefully) with something green. Instead of trying to cram tons of topics into a short period of time, this conference seemed like it had thoughtfully gathered speakers and sessions. Then again, this is all just my perception.

Orr's talk was an interesting one. One of the things I found most perceptive, was his impression of the future. As climate change advances and we begin to see the effects, he said "the biggest issue we face is going to be despair." To counter that despair, we are going to need hope, he said - not optimism. Today, we are all optimistic, he said, though we don't realize it. "The sweet spot is hope but hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up," he said. "Despair you don't have to do anything. Just sit and marinate."

One of the things Orr spoke about that can lead to hope, at least in his community of Oberlin, Ohio is something called 'The Oberlin Project.' The project, one of 18 projects worldwide in the Clinton Climate Initiative, aims to show new ways that cities can grow in climate positive ways. The project is a revitalization of a 13-area block near the city center that will include the development or renovation of a dozen building in the next five to seven years, according to a press release from Oberlin College.

Orr said we need to move towards this type of community-wide development for green buildings. We're doing great on green structures and are improving on green neighborhoods. Now, we need to make the next step to looking at the green community, he said.

If you attended, what did you think of Orr's speak? What struck you most?

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True Green Home – a National Geograhic book

Posted on March 17, 2009

Recently, I received a book in the mail called, 'True Green Home - 100 inspirational ideas for creating a green environment at home.' The book, by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, was released by National Geographic this month.

The book is a handy little thing that does exactly what its title says in outlining

This is the book
inspirational ideas than range from Number 1 - choose an eco-friendly location for your house - to number 100 - dry your clothes by sun.

Being an environmental reporter, most of the ideas in this book don't surprise me. I already knew building orientation mattered, as does placement and type of windows, building material and design. But I was surprised by a few things I didn't know. For example, Number 30 advises me to invest in a bag-less vacuum cleaner. Call me crazy, but I had no idea such a thing even existed! Number 76, regarding natural cleaning of kitchens and utensils, advises me to clean copper with equal parts ketchup and Worchestershire sauce. Really?! I almost want to go burnish my mom's copper pots and pans just to test it out.

Every idea comes with glossy, pretty pictures. Case studies from William McDonough + Partners, Whole Foods, the USGBC and others also punctuate the pages.

For those people who live, breathe and eat green, this book will be old news. But for those who are just looking to learn about green building or are considering a home remodel, this could be a helpful source of information.

The book is available online. For more information, visit National Geographic here.

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What Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. had to say in Seattle this morning

Posted on March 6, 2009

This morning, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. keynoted the BuiltGreen Conference 2009 at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. It was not your typical green conference keynote.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Most talks focus on one topic and explore it. At green events, that talk is usually centered around a project, a theory or a problem that we need to fix. This talk was mostly political and discussed everything from the benefits of "true free market capitalism" (many), to how the Bush administration tore down environmental rules and tenets (disastrously), to who was who in Washington, D.C. politics (lobbyists), to how much mercury human beings have in their bodies (a lot), to how the press has covered these issues (very poorly).

Honestly, he spoke about so many different things I don't really know what to tell you, dear reader. So I'll start with energy.

Kennedy spoke a lot about the energy grid. The largest technical problem in weaning ourselves off oil, he said, is that we don't have a grid that can handle new sources of energy like wind or solar. Developing a system that would reach every American home would cost $1 million per mile, he said, or $150 billion. It's a one-time expenditure, he said, and would benefit national security. He said we've done it before with computers and the Internet; all we have to do is make the commitment.

He also said we need to change the way the energy business works. Utilities today, he said, benefit by creating and selling more energy. We need to redevelop it to focus on conservation. "We have to change that incentivized system," he said, "So that they can make the same money by getting people to conserve, not consume."

He also spoke a lot about a business he is a part of called Better Place. Better Place is a venture-backed company that seeks to build an electric car network based on today's technology. Kennedy said the company is beginning with Israel, where it hopes to transform the market over the next three years. The company will give electric cars away for free - made by Renault and Nissan - to anyone who signs a contract with the company. Under the contract, the person owns the car while Better Place owns the car battery (which costs $20,000). The company pays itself back by charging a premium on the power the car needs to run, outlined in the contract. He said the company has similar contracts with Denmark, Australia, Hawaii and north California, and would love for all of North America to follow suit.

"The electric car is the way this country is going to go," he said.

Kennedy also took a hit at the mainstream media, calling it "negligent" in reporting important stories over the past decade. Instead, he said the media has become entertainment rather than information, which appeals to the prurient interests in the reptilian parts of our brains. Ouch.

Were you there? If so, what did you think was the most interesting thing he said and how would you rate his speech?

P.S. The information Kennedy shared about his personal levels of mercury (if he were a woman, he said a doctor told him his children would have cognitive impairment) was pretty frightening. If you want to test your mercury levels, visit the Waterkeeper Alliance, another organization Kennedy is affiliated with, here.

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Why local metal recycling matters

Posted on December 23, 2008

This is a guest posts by Dave Bennink, owner of Re-Use Consulting. 

When I started deconstructing buildings in 1993, we certainly made efforts to recycle metals we found at our jobsites (as well as other recyclable materials). The money we made was used for important purposes like company gumball machines or a used jobsite radio to replace the one that was driven over by the forklift (with my Abba cassette tape in it).

Frankly, the $123.45 we collected didn't compare to the $1,234.56 we received from flooring sales but we did it anyway.

Then China started buying up recycling commodities and the price went through the

Metal recycling pile
roof.  All of the sudden everyone was recycling. They recycled their cans and pie tins, their flashing and pipe, and unfortunately their neighborhood street signs and electrical substation equipment. We had never had so much interest in our jobsites (I mean after we had left for the day). We were even getting ripped off by grannies in electric wheelchairs towing 3 cubic yard metal recycling bins.

When demand increased the scrap prices, supplies steadily rose with it. Local recycling companies bought up scrap and laid out thousands to do so. When the demand for steel suddenly fell so did the price paid, and that amount actually dropped from $300/ton to $20/ton. Our local recyclers were stuck with metal that they couldn't sell for as much as they bought it for and the lack of demand meant some had months worth of stock on hand. This series of events led to some metal recyclers cutting back and others closing up shop altogether. 

I had a chat with Dave Whitley of Nuprecon and found out that this has also affected contractors.  He said that they were giving building owners a break by lowering their bid price after factoring in the value of the metals found within the building.  When prices suddenly dropped, demolition companies were left ‘out in the cold’.  Whitley also informed me that other markets including even cardboard had experienced similar drops and that it was all caused by our current complex financial problems and demand issues overseas.

What can we do to help?  In many ways the Northwest is a national leader in green building and materials recycling.  When prices were high, we were all benefiting.  So when prices dropped, we shouldn’t allow anyone to be left out in the cold.  They say that for one of us to prosper, we all must prosper.  The recycled commodities market is beginning to recover, and I suggest we look to groups like the Northwest Chapter of the Construction Materials Recycling Association to tell us how we can help and how to avoid problems in the future. 

We have worked hard to make recycling a common practice here in the Northwest, and we can’t allow temporary drops in the price to change that.  So support your local reuse and recycling companies.  They are working everyday to create jobs, preserve natural resources, and save precious energy and they are counting on you to help.

Dave Bennink, Reuse Consulting

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Steve Nicholas has left the Office of Sustainability and Environment

Posted on August 26, 2008

Steve Nicholas, one of the most constant faces in Seattle sustainability politics, has left the Mayor's Office of Sustainability and Environment. In sdi_conference_speaker3.jpgfact, he's even leaving the state!

That's right. Nicholas, who has been the director of OSE for eight years (longer than the mayor has been mayor), will begin a new job in Montpelier, Vt. in October as director of climate programs at the Institute for Sustainable Communities.

His spot will be filled, as in interim position, by Michael Mann, the deputy director of the Office of Policy and Management. Mann recently led the department’s Transportation and Infrastructure Team. 

Sadly, Nicholas has already left the building and I have no forwarding address. But what I can tell you is back in 2001, when he had just been appointed the office's first director, Nicholas told the DJC here, "My goal is to work the Office of Sustainability out of existence in 10 years."

Back then, the article reads:

"If, on the other hand, his office becomes a "repository for all things sustainable. That's an abject failure," he says."

A lot of things have changed since that article. But some things haven't changed. The office is still around. The city is still looking at a streamlined permitting process for green buildings. We're still wrestling with the word 'sustainability.'

Readers, it hasn't been 10 years yet --- only eight. But what do you think the office has accomplished in that time? Has Seattle done everything it could to encourage sustainable development, living, business etc., in eight years or not? And is the mayor's office a repository for all things sustainable or slowly being worked out of existence? What do you think are the biggest green development changes in that time?

Oh, and if anyone has Steve's e-mail, tell him I'm lookin' for him!

For more DJC articles on Steve Nicholas, see this article he wrote for us in 2004, this one he wrote in 2005, this one he wrote in 2002, this one about the mayor's crusade for trees, and this one about smart growth.

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What would you do to increase efficiency in buildings?

Posted on July 30, 2008

Last week, I mentioned Seattle's new green building task force. Their job is to figure out how to make Seattle's buildings (both old and new) 20 percent more efficient by 2020. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me (and possibly them) what you want to see.

The team is discussed in an article today in the DJC. The story discusses multiple viewpoints: Ash Awad of McKinstry thinks Seattle is behind small-light.jpgNew York City and Chicago in some ways in energy efficient programs and incentives, and the task force can help shore up that deficiency. Douglas Howe of Touchstone is concerned about maintaining Seattle's commercial viability.

But there are 50 people on the task force. Doesn't that mean there are (honestly) going to be 50 different opinions? Especially when the force is looking at everything from density bonuses and expedited permits to green investment funds and "carbon feebates."

So how about you, 51st task force member? Does one of these ideas strike you as being better? What would it take to get you to update or upgrade a building or system, and would any of these ideas do it?

For those of who who have already taken the efficiency plunge, don't look so smug. Mark Frankel, technical director of the New Buildings Institute and task force member, said there isn't a building in Seattle that couldn't improve its energy efficiency, even by commisioning alone. Hemmmmm.

In other news, MarketWatch has a story on how the Electrical Contractor Magazine's 2008 Profile of the Electrical Contractor says almost half of electrical contractors used green or sustainable feature. For more go here.

The New York Time's Dot Earth covers what Google's energy czar thinks we should do about energy in America.

EcoMetro Seattle has a post on green fabrics appearing on Project Runway (for any fashion geeks out there).

JetsonGreen has two Puget Sound area stories, including an announcement of a green open house in Mt. Baker tomorrow.

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