Text Size:

  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Normal

Current Size: 100%

Emerging as a leader in sustainable tiny homes (USGBC Georgia)

August 18, 2017
Feature image: 

On August 17, USGBC Georgia’s Emerging Professionals group learned how big dreams turn into tiny houses—and have an enormous impact. Will Johnston, the founder of Tiny House Atlanta, guided a group of members, volunteers and staff on a tour of a local tiny home near Grant Park in Atlanta. He shared the story of how he became dedicated to sustainable residential development.

After spending a few years climbing the corporate ladder, Will Johnston realized that there was more for him to do in the world. Seeking inspiration, he sold most of his possessions and set out for New Zealand to backpack and look into the booming shipping container home. Johnston refers to container homes as his “gateway into the tiny house movement.”

Finding a mission

Three months later, he returned to the Atlanta area. He started seeing more and more posts about tiny homes on social media. Johnston “realized that there is a huge lack of housing for everyday people, and micro living could be the answer.” He started asking questions, found subject matter experts, joined organizations, attended events and started a Meetup group to get community input on how we need to be living.

He knew he was onto something big by the growth of his Meetup group and the support he was receiving from the community, so in 2014, Johnston took a leap of faith and founded Tiny House Atlanta. The nonprofit educates people on how “micro living” (in homes ranging from 300 to 1500 square feet) can benefit their finances, free time and mental well-being, also doing wonders for the environment.

Today, Johnston is working on developments centered on the idea of intentional living communities, which encourage neighbors to interact more. These developments incorporate gardens, fire pits, gazebos and other central features to create welcoming spaces. The designers also increase walkability by placing these communities close to shops and restaurants. In addition to enhancing the community vibe, the walkability also helps the environment by reducing the amount of CO2 emitted by vehicles.

How tiny homes benefit the environment

When they are fully constructed, tiny homes use a lot less energy to heat and cool, simply because of the smaller space. But big energy savings are are also made in the production, transportation and construction of the materials used to build these homes. A small home requires fewer materials than a large home, and can be constructed in less than a month. That means fewer trips for the workers to and from the job site.

Tiny House Atlanta tour with USGBC Georgia

There are drawbacks to tiny homes. Johnston warns that “if you are a person who needs their stuff, then this movement is not for you.” He asserts, though, that many people who downsize develop a peace of mind that they cannot attain when they have many possessions. Another challenge is all of the paperwork, procedures and variances that contractors must work with the government on before allowing construction on foundation. Tiny House Atlanta is currently working to fix and refine building codes that will facilitate the process.

How to get started in green building

  • Be creative and open yourself up to new ideas: “Innovate, go to lectures and events, travel to destinations that inspire you, and be willing to take risks.”
  • Learn motivational public speaking skills: “If you can’t keep the audience listening to you, then you're going to have a hard time spreading your message and achieving your desired outcome.”
  • Visit the Tiny House Atlanta site: See how Johnston and USGBC Georgia are incorporating a smaller carbon footprint into the sustainable strategies of affordable housing in Atlanta.
  • Join the community: “Sign up for USGBC Georgia newsletters to get a closer look at the local movement.”

Please visit the USGBC Georgia booth at the Big Huge Tiny House event held annually at Ponce City Market. In 2017, the event will be held on August 26 and 27.

View more USGBC Georgia events

Join USGBC Tennessee at the Zerolandfill upcycling event

August 18, 2017

Zerolandfill, a material upcycling event, is entering its seventh year in Nashville. This award-winning program takes expired material samples from the local architecture and design community, diverts them from the landfill and gives them back to the local community, targeting teachers, artists and nonprofit—all free of charge. 
When: Sat., September 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.Where: Wilsonart,1641 Lebanon Pike Circle, Nashville, Tennessee, 37210
The architectural and design community is actively gathering their expired material samples from their libraries and offices in preparation for the "pollination" or drop-off day on Fri., September 8, from 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Material samples typically include cardboard tubes, carpet tiles, porcelain and mosaic tiles, glass and metal samples, fabric memos and swatches, laminate and paint chips, rubber base, magazines, wallcovering samples and more. Zerolandfill Nashville does not accept binders (three-ring binders or carpet or tile books) or partially used paint donations.
The USGBC Tennessee community and the citizens of Nashville are invited to attend on Sat., September 9 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. There is no cost to attend, and the materials are completely free. Please plan to bring whatever bags, boxes, trucks or trailers you will need to take your harvest away with you. 
Zerolandfill Nashville has diverted as much as 16 tons of materials in previous years. Local individuals and organizations have found needed supplies:

  • Art teachers have told us that they only receive $1.50 per student for the whole year, but Zerolandfill provides them with the additional resources they need to create their art projects.
  • Animal shelters have snagged carpet tiles so their dogs had something warmer than a concrete floor to sit on during the colder months.
  • The builders of a local earth-ship commune collected tile pieces for their structure.
  • Scrap-bookers, quilters, and other non-traditional materials artists love what they find for their work.

Volunteers are still needed for both days. Volunteers may receive GBCI volunteer hours for their time, as allowable by the Credential Maintenance Program, and all volunteers will have first access to the materials available.
Visit the ZeroLandfill Nashville Facebook page for more information.
In addition to Wilsonart, the event is sponsored by IIDA Tennessee, ASID Tennessee, AIA Middle Tennessee, Turnip Green Creative Reuse and USGBC Tennessee.
Sign up to attend

Life as a LEED volunteer: Location and Planning Technical Advisory Group

August 18, 2017
Feature image: 

The application period for new LEED committee members is open through August 31, 2017. In honor of that, USGBC is bringing you stories and perspectives from members of the various LEED committees.

Marilyn Specht is a Sustainability Consultant with the Integral Group and Charalampos Giannikopoulos is a Senior Sustainable Development Consultant with DCarbon. They both currently serve on the Location and Planning (LP) Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

What does your Technical Advisory Group do?

CG: The LP TAG provides a consistent source of technical advice with regard to credits improvement and supporting tool development in the respective field of interest.

MS: We help review and write credit updates, changes to Location and Transportation credits and related topics, like Neighborhood Development.

How much time do you dedicate to working on the LP TAG?

CG: Approximately 10 hours, monthly.

MS: Two to four hours per month, on average.

How has the work of the LP TAG affected the building industry during your time as a volunteer?

CG: LP issues have an incredible impact on the way we perceive the qualities of the urban context and experience the built environment on a macro scale, and the potential to ignite a lot of small changes is great, thus accelerating forces toward the sustainable neighborhoods of tomorrow.

Why did you apply to be a volunteer?

MS: I applied to be a volunteer several years ago, when I was involved in the Silicon Valley chapter of USGBC. I wanted to connect the work I was doing on a local level with the regional and national issues, and to be more involved in the technical development of LEED. I do a lot of work with developers on campus and districtwide approaches.

What is your favorite LEED credit?

MS: For a lot of projects, I really enjoy the innovation points and the pilot credits that highlight unique aspects of different projects. We are currently working with a dining hall that pursued a Sustainable Food Services credit for Innovation in Design. It was exciting to see our work with the design and construction teams reach into the operations of the project. Currently, the project sources food that is grown locally, raised humanely, done through fair labor practices and that minimizes harm to the environment.

CG: The Integrative Process credit is very important for any process that aims to create sustainable and tangible results. Integrative Process should be a prerequisite for all project types.

What is one small change you wish every building would undertake to improve sustainability performance?

MS: Thinking about operations, it’s easy for project teams to go through initial certification, but then disconnect from their initial intent once the building is occupied, or over time. I would like to encourage project teams to think post-construction. We have waste audits and biophilia competitions in our office. I want to stress the importance of smaller operational initiatives.

CG: Enabling incorporation of green strategies from an early stage of project development and realizing that establishing a framework for sustainable operations is not just a matter of excellence, but an obligation for next generations. One small change with great effect would be putting the emphasis on the life-cycle approach rather than the up-front efforts needed to achieve transformation.

Interested in becoming a LEED Committee volunteer? Start by taking a look at the current volunteer opportunities and learn more about LEED Committees.

Apply to be a committee volunteer

Commercial Interiors Task Force tours Hogan Lovells offices (USGBC National Capital Region)

August 17, 2017
Feature image: 

Following on the heels of an early summer kick-off event, the first session of USGBC National Capital Region's Commercial Interiors Task Force was held August 3 at the law offices of Hogan Lovells, at 555 13th Street NW in Washington, D.C.

This GreenLearn panel discussion and tour, titled "Success in Commercial Interiors: Spotlight on Hogan Lovells," highlighted the value and opportunity that can come from remaking an existing building rather than relocating.

The event started with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for 65 attendees on Hogan Lovell's floor terrace at Columbia Square, which boasts a view of the monuments along the Mall. The one-hour panel discussion was held in an adjoining solarium with a glass wall overlooking the terrace.

Mark Bryan, director of the National Capital Region community, welcomed attendees and thanked sponsors. Brynn Kurtzman, one of this year’s Commercial Interiors Task Force members and a technical designer at Gensler, introduced the seven panelists and thanked event partner IIDA Mid Atlantic Chapter (MAC). Kurtzman also introduced Caroline Ashworth, this year’s Washington Metro City Center Vice President, and Stephanie Smore, IIDA MAC Vice President of Membership.

Hogan Lovells tour

The first panelist, Jennifer Anduha, Managing Director of Office Services for Hogan Lovells, shared the history of the office’s Green Committee, which was formed to standardize green office policies across all Hogan Lovells offices in the Americas. The committee meets by videoconference every other month to share ideas.

Richard Pugh, Senior Property Manager with Hines, then talked about the 32-year-old Columbia Square and its partnership with anchor tenant Hogan Lovells. Columbia Square’s atrium gives all occupants access to natural light, a theme echoed throughout the evening. Pugh discussed the initiative "HinesGO" (Hines Green Office), an internal program that measures and rewards sustainable practices within all Hines offices worldwide.

Next, Raj Sheth, Construction Project Manager at Hogan Lovells, explained the firm’s journey from having old, dated interiors with lots of drywall partitions to a recommitment to an updated 400,000-square-foot space through a long-term phased renovation. A 35,000-square-foot pilot project was built with many interior concepts for staff to test-drive. Sheth describes LEED as being in the forefront of the process of this complicated renovation, which began in 2014 and will continue until 2020 with chiller replacements.

Hogan Lovells tour

Kimberly Sullivan, Team Leader and Senior Project Manager, Gensler talked about the design process and the shift in culture that Gensler helped to facilitate with the project. A standard size and glass-front walls were introduced for all attorneys’ offices, something that was challenging to create staff acceptance of, but Sullivan explained how the existing space lacked community and destinations. Central "hives" with social and informal zones were added to each floor, each with a distinct feel.

Two members from Dewberry (MEP), Mark Heinrich, Project Manager and Jonathan Sucher, Mechanical Designer, tag- teamed the discussion on this complicated project. Heinrich described implementing the LEED Campus approach for the project, which achieved LEED Gold in 2016 and 2017. He described the gutting of one floor at a time with a bird’s-eye view of all floors and how many surprises were uncovered with undocumented existing conditions. The cafeteria added to the 13th floor was a special challenge, as all cooking odors needed to be diverted. A big MEP design consideration was attaining LEED credits for optimizing energy performance and water use reductions.

Robbie Deem, Acoustical Consultant and Senior Associate from Cerami, talked about the myth that drywall and solid doors afford higher levels of speech privacy than a glass-front system. He went on to say that spray-on acoustical treatments such as Pyrok can be used to control noise buildup with in a space without undermining the aesthetics of the space. This was evident on the guided tour that followed the panel discussion.

USGBC National Capital Region would like to thank series sponsor Davis Construction and event sponsor Barbara Nolan Inc.

On September 7, the commercial interiors series continues at Nixon Peabody with The Art of the Green Deal: Navigating the Landlord-Tenant Relationship. Learn about the value of negotiating lease terms to accommodate unusual elements such as access to roof space for on-site solar generation or for specific accommodations required by green walls, shading systems, plumbing fixtures and energy recovery systems.

Register for the September event

Attend a September workshop on SITES in California

August 17, 2017
Feature image: 

Southern California faces a variety of unique environmental and climate-related challenges that can be addressed through more sustainable land development practices. The SITES rating system can be used to develop landscapes on sites with or without buildings and takes into account significant water scarcity, coastal issues and high urban density concerns.

There are two upcoming opportunities for Southern California landscape architects, designers, engineers, architects, developers and policy makers to learn more about aligning land development and management with innovative sustainable design through the SITES rating system.

Learn about how you can incorporate SITES into your projects and professional practice by attending a SITES workshop with either USGBC Los Angeles or USGBC Orange County on September 11 or 12.

USGBC Orange County Sustainable SITES Workshop
Mon., September 11, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Where: Turner Construction Company, 1900 South State College Boulevard, Anaheim, California
Cost: $80 (USGBC-LA and ASLA members), $100 (Nonmembers)

Register to attend the workshop

USGBC Los Angeles Sustainable SITES Workshop
Tues., September 12, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Where: LACI, 525 S. Hewitt St, Training Room 401, Los Angeles, California
Cost: $80 (USGBC-LA and ASLA members), $100 (Nonmembers)

Register to attend the workshop

LEED enhances human health

August 17, 2017
Applicable country: 
Feature image: 

All over the world, promoting wellness is a priority for employers, builders and city planners alike. Building green using LEED, and other GBCI-administered rating systems such as SITES, enables us all to live, learn, work and play in environments that enhance human health both indoors and outdoors.

LEED has an entire credit category in the rating system for the indoor environment: Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ), which includes prerequisites and credits for design and construction projects, interiors, homes and existing buildings. When it comes to residential, LEED-certified multifamily and single-family homes are designed to deliver a healthier and safer place for residents by providing cleaner indoor air. As of early 2017, more than 112,000 residential units have earned LEED certification. Also, teams are focusing on designing neighborhoods that are more walkable, green and community-promoting, with tools like LEED for Neighborhood Development.

Energy-efficient buildings also help reduce pollution and improve outdoor air quality in major industrialized areas, making LEED a critical tool in reducing smog. Cities are embracing the power of green building to mitigate the effects of climate change and make air healthier and fresher for their citizens.

For office buildings, a healthy indoor environment with clean air and access to daylight makes a big impact on employee engagement. Studies show that LEED-certified buildings demonstrate increased recruitment and retention rates, as well as increased productivity benefits for employers. As global green construction continues to double every three years, the driving factors include not just client demand and environmental regulation, but an increased awareness of the health benefits to occupants.

Learn more about applying sustainable building strategies to human health with this session being held at all three Greenbuild events:

Performance-based IAQ evaluation in LEED v4—a pilot

Greenbuild China: Tues., October 17, 3:15–4:15 p.m.

Greenbuild India: Fri., November 3, 3:30–5 p.m

Greenbuild Boston: Fri., November 10, 8–9 a.m.

In 2016, USGBC tasked a working group with exploring state-of-the-art approaches to evaluating and monitoring the air in our indoor spaces. The group’s work is now complete and available for use in a new LEED pilot credit. Participants will learn about the pilot credit requirements and how to apply it to their LEED projects, as well as participate in a discussion with two experts from the working group, both offering a unique perspective on evaluating indoor air in China.

Register for Greenbuild

State lawmakers plan legislation in support of green schools

August 16, 2017
Feature image: 

Early in August, the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators hosted their annual meeting in Boston, where state lawmakers discuss the most pressing issues in environmental policy and make commitments for their coming legislative sessions. Each year at the caucus meeting, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC holds a workshop to review the latest in green schools research and policy and make an action plan.

A dozen legislators from around the country joined us in a morning tour of the beautiful Martin Luther King, Jr. School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was recently built with aspirations of net zero energy and seeks to achieve LEED Platinum. Visitors met with the architects from Perkins Eastman, the former mayor of Cambridge and city energy staff to learn about the policy landscape and motivations behind the green school. They also learned more about the school's features—including an extensive learning garden, lesson-friendly mechanical room and an indoor/outdoor gym.

National Caucus of Environmental Legislators tour Boston school

That afternoon, the group was joined by around 30 additional lawmakers for a workshop to review current research and recent legislation on four topics:

  • School infrastructure financing and management: The group discussed recommendations for local, state and federal action from a 60-person working group of national experts on school financing and management, including implications for state-level policymaking to give school districts what they need to operate healthy and efficient buildings.
  • Energy efficiency in existing schools: A soon-to-be-released policy overview from the Center for Green Schools was reviewed. The overview covers state laws in eight states that provide funding mechanisms for energy efficiency projects in existing schools.
  • Benchmarking: The group examined current best practices for benchmarking energy, water and other sustainability metrics on the local and state level, including examples of existing state-level and local policies.
  • Green infrastructure: A preview was given of a forthcoming study that builds on the 2016 Achieving Urban Resilience, as well as policy implications for more sustainable land and infrastructure management. New research on the sustainability and health opportunities of so-called “smart surfaces” was also addressed.

Each year, the Center for Green Schools follows up with state legislators to ensure they have the resources they need to advance their priorities on green schools and green buildings. View our menu of options for state legislators, and pick out what you think is most important to take to your elected officials.

After many years of working with legislators, we have learned that your voice, as a constituent, is the one they value most.

View the menu of options

Leadership platforms for efficient design [USGBC+ July/August 2017]

August 16, 2017
Feature image: 

The July/August 2017 issue of USGBC+ showcases the platforms and practices by which leaders in the green building movement create innovative solutions and prioritize energy efficiency and resiliency.

Take a look at four of our top stories from the issue:

  • Safeguarding Brazil: Protecting the Amazon’s tropical rainforests has become a multidimensional affair with global implications.
  • Idea Exchange: LEED User Groups share challenges, opportunities and best practices in sustainability.
  • Energy-efficient Data: Data centers power our digital lives. Now, LEED is helping the world’s top data companies find new paths to energy efficiency.
  • Energy Efficiency, Squared: For almost 25 years, Energy Star and USGBC have joined forces to deliver more energy-efficient products, homes and businesses.

In addition, two special online-only articles are available for this issue. Be sure to check them out, because they're not in your hard copy of USGBC+.

  • Material Matters: USGBC Platinum members are rising to the challenge of designing and making products that last.
  • Durable Design: Four USGBC Platinum members are leading the way on resilient design.

To receive 1 hour of GBCI CE credit, read the magazine online and then take the quiz in Education @USGBC. Learn more.

Read more articles in USGBC+

The science and practice of measuring human performance in buildings (USGBC Northern California)

August 15, 2017
Feature image: 

This article is written by Scott Andrews, LEED AP BD+C, Director, Aclima, Inc. In this series, speakers from USGBC Northern California’s GreenerBuilder conference, held July 13, 2017, at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, share insights from their sessions. Interested in supporting GreenerBuilder 2018 as an event sponsor or exhibitor? Please contact Brenden McEneaney.

USGBC’s Pacific Regional Director, Brenden McEneaney, and the President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI, Mahesh Ramanujam, kicked off GreenerBuilder 2017 with two very important concepts: First, that we must remember that green buildings are always about people, and second, that data is a natural resource in itself. Therefore, it was fitting that the first session of the morning, "Science and Practice of Measuring Human Performance in Buildings," focused on the collection and application of environmental data to improve our buildings for people, who spend up to 90 percent of their days living, working and learning indoors.

Recent research shows that there is an undeniable correlation between measurable indoor air quality (IAQ) conditions and human cognition. This unleashes an entirely new set of economic considerations in managing commercial property. With new definitions of what constitutes an optimal indoor environment, tenants are beginning to look past aesthetics to the sizeable economic gains that healthier office environments can offer. This session, which included Lane Burt (North America Lead for Buildings Alive), Simon Turner (President and CEO of Healthy Buildings), and moderator Scott Andrews (a director at Aclima), took the audience through the science to the economics and into practice.

And fortunately, just as the deep relationship between IAQ and human health and wellness is becoming more widely understood, so too are our desires and abilities to empower facility managers to gather reliable, hyper-local data to optimize building environments for health and well-being. The panel explored the question of how we will design, construct and operate buildings in five years. It was proposed that buildings might look more like a computer, with software controlling the building and adjusting to climate, health and other conditions in real time to optimize spaces for our most important resource: our people.

Although the panel agreed that some version of this new era of smart buildings may soon be a reality for many properties, thanks to the democratization of data that companies like Aclima are delivering to the marketplace, it will remain an imperative to train our facility managers. After all, not all aspects of a building can be automated, and this newly available data is only as valuable as the people and systems in place to analyze and apply it. FMs, along with their consultants and internal teams, represent the critical last-mile delivery service for applying data analytics to make IAQ improvements and co-optimize the indoor environment and energy performance.

Distributed real-time sensor networks with parameters like CO2, VOCs, and comfort indicators such as temperature and sound levels represent the missing meter to measure how our buildings turn energy and water inputs into desired outputs. This includes a close review of building systems and potential outside factors that could impact IAQ, which can also be measured with on-site outdoor sensing equipment. There is a need to connect good intentions with measured outcomes, and new products and services are making this possible like never before.


U.S. Green Building Council - Long Island Chapter
150 Motor Parkway - Suite LL80
Hauppauge, NY 11788