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On the road to Boston, a look back at WaterBuild 2016

July 17, 2017
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WaterBuild 2016, the Water Summit at Greenbuild, kicked off its first of a three-year program series last year in Los Angeles. As we gear up for the 2017 Summit in Boston on November 7, here’s a look back at WaterBuild 2016.

“Water, water everywhere…”

A more sustainable built environment can address myriad water issues, from quality to quantity to equitable access. As 2016 summit keynote speaker Dr. Michael Webber said, our world is built around needing the right amount of water in the right place, at the right temperature, at the right time. Having too much, too little or water at the wrong time or in the wrong phase (ice, not water—or water, not ice), can create big, expensive and often energy-intensive consequences.

Eighteenth-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge shared wise words in his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” writing “Water, water, everywhere, / Nor any drop to drink.” The 2016 summit launched in a similar context, on the coast of the Pacific ocean, but in the midst of California’s historic drought.

Consequently, a number of discussions at the summit focused on water scarcity and how green buildings and infrastructure can help. Greenbuild 2016 also purchased Water Restoration Certificates to offset water use at the Los Angeles convention center and created a water footprint for the conference, tracking consumption from food, hotels, paper, freight fuel and venues (read more about the greening of Greenbuild 2016).

Three years of WaterBuild

WaterBuild 2016 convened changemakers in Los Angeles to workshop ideas, discuss challenges and inspire solutions for reducing water use, providing healthy drinking water and managing for water resilience. USGBC’s Chief of Engineering, Brendan Owens, introduced the summit series by detailing how WaterBuild will explore ways in which the green building industry can spur more meaningful transformation in important areas of water quality, access, efficiency and abundance.

Webber’s upbeat keynote presentation covered the gamut of water constraints and connections between energy, infrastructure and society. He gave a hopeful outlook on long-term sustainability through better water policy and pricing, collaborative integrated planning and appropriate technology deployment.

After three engaging educational sessions, the 200+ participants convened for lunch and to admire the work of the Land Art Generator Initiative, which uses public art to help the public experience water and energy infrastructure in new and beautiful ways.

At this first of three WaterBuild summits, a few dozen participants joined a unique local issue charrette. USGBC and the USGBC Los Angeles community teamed up with L.A. county and city leadership to explore policy solutions toward net-zero water. Future WaterBuild summits will repeat this opportunity to roll up your sleeves and dive into the details of a local water issue.

In a parallel track, WaterBuild featured a first-ever Pecha Kucha session. Eight presenters deftly raced through rapid-fire presentations covering topics of water quality, quantity, equity, policy, industry and equity. One presenter told a heartfelt story from Flint, Michigan, later covered in a USGBC+ article. Another highlight was an abridged version of the presenter’s TED Talk. Still another, by our beloved colleague, the late Bill Worthenfocused on on-site water treatment.

At the end of the day, WaterBuild participants joined hundreds of others for a combined closing plenary to conclude the day with celebration and make a tribute to President Obama’s eight years of leadership on green building, climate and sustainability.

Reconvening in Boston

On November 7, we’ll convene again for the second event in the WaterBuild series. This year’s focus is water resilience, so we’ll see additional attention to water-related opportunities in technology, policy and infrastructure. The format will be very much like 2016’s WaterBuild Summit, including keynotes, a practical charrette for a development site in Boston, educational sessions and the Pecha Kucha sessions, which will have even more focus of achieving ongoing impact.

USGBC staff and the volunteer organizing committee have come together to plan another impactful day that gives attendees the knowledge and ability to make positive change. 

I am honored to be part of WaterBuild 2017, as a member of the LEED Water Technical Advisory Group, my colleagues and I work to leverage our collective knowledge to contribute to one of the world’s most amazing instruments for change. We have a lot of momentum to continue to build upon, and our water future has not yet been written. Let’s write it together. I invite you to join us on our WaterBuild journey.

Learn more and register

How LEED combats climate change

July 17, 2017
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The Earth's climate is changing, and 97 percent of climate scientists agree that it is likely due to human activities. So where does that leave us and the rest of the building industry?

Buildings account for more than one-quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), according to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. Add in other infrastructure and activities, such as transportation, that are associated with buildings, and that number jumps.

By building green, we can reduce the impact our buildings have on contributing to climate change, while also building resilience into our homes and communities.

LEED vs climate change

One of the goals that guided the development of LEED v4 was reversing a LEED building’s contribution to global climate change. High-performing green buildings, particularly LEED-certified buildings, play a key role in reducing the negative climate impacts of the built environment. For this reason, 35 of the 100 total points in LEED v4 are distributed to reward climate change mitigation strategies.

The LEED process addresses a structure’s planning, design, construction, operations and end of life as well as considering energy, water, indoor environmental quality, materials selection and location. Green buildings reduce landfill waste, enable alternative transportation use and encourage retention and creation of vegetated land areas and roofs.

LEED rewards thoughtful decisions about building location, with credits that encourage compact development and connection with transit and amenities. When a building consumes less water, the energy otherwise required to withdraw, treat and pump that water from the source to the building are avoided. Additionally, less transport of materials to and from the building cuts associated fuel consumption.

Here are some of the ways that LEED weighs the various credits and strategies so that LEED projects can mitigate their contribution to global climate change:  

  • GHG Emissions Reduction from Building Operations Energy Use: To target energy use reductions directly associated with building operations. This includes all building systems and operations within the building or associated grounds that rely on electricity or other fuel sources for energy consumption.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from Transportation Energy Use: To target energy use reductions associated with the transportation of building occupants, employees, customers, visitors, business travel, etc.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from the Embodied Energy of Materials and Water Use: To target GHG-emissions reductions associated with the energy use and processes required in the extraction, production, transportation, conveyance, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, use, posttreatment, and disposal of materials, products and processed water. Any measures that directly reduce the use of potable water, non-potable water, or raw materials (e.g. reduced packaging, building reuse) will indirectly reduce energy as well because of the embodied energy associated with these product life cycles.
  • GHG Emissions Reduction from a Cleaner Energy Supply: To target actions and measures that support a cleaner, less GHG-emissions intensive energy supply and a greater reliance on renewable sources of energy.
  • Global Warming Potential Reduction from Non-Energy Related Drivers: To address the non-energy related climate change drivers (e.g. albedo, carbon sinks, non-energy related GHG emissions) and identifies actions that reduce these contributions to climate change (e.g. land use changes, heat island reduction, reforestation, refrigerant purchases).

Some of the top credits in LEED v4 BD+C, ID+C, and O+M that are associated with mitigating global climate change:

  • LT Credit: Surrounding Density and Diverse Uses
  • LT Credit: Access to Quality Transit / Alternative Transportation
  • WE Credit: Outdoor Water Use Reduction
  • WE Credit: Indoor Water Use Reduction
  • EA Credit: Optimize Energy Performance
  • EA Credit: Renewable Energy Production / Renewable Energy and Carbon Offsets
  • EA Credit: Enhanced Refrigerant Management
  • EA Credit: Green Power and Carbon Offsets
  • MR Credit: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction / Interiors Life-Cycle Impact Reduction

To learn more about LEED and how it can help reduce the impact of global climate change, head to Greenbuild in Boston this November 8–10 (or check out our Greenbuild events in China or India). Greenbuild features LEED workshops, hundreds of green building educational sessions and inspiring speakers and events.

Register for Greenbuild

LEED v4 stories: Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City

July 17, 2017
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The LEED v4 Stories article series features the people the behind diverse LEED v4 projects. Project team members and project owners tell of their experiences—both the wins and the challenges.

Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City is home to the University of Tokyo, Chiba University and national research institution campuses. As part of the Kashiwa-no-ha International Campus Town Initiative, the goal is to build a city on this foundation that is integrated with the environment, promotes long and healthy lives and cultivates industrial innovation.

This process has a unique synergy with the goals of LEED v4 for Neighborhood Development and used LEED ND as a framework to guide the decision-making processes and set qualitative and quantitative goals for implementation. The design team at ZGF Architects LLP included Charles Kelley (AIA, principal), Yoshi Watanabe (AIA, associate partner) and Ashleigh Fischer (designer).

We spoke to the project’s sustainability engineer Amy Jarvis, an associate at ZGF Architects LLP, who also holds many credentials, including PE, LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ND and LEED AP Homes, about her experience achieving LEED:

What were the biggest differences you experienced in LEED v4? 

The biggest difference is that there are separate Plan and Built certifications. LEED v4 ND is also updated to more current standards (e.g., ASHRAE 2010 in lieu of ASHRAE 2007), which better aligns with current industry thinking, codes and standards. 

Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City

What is the coolest credit in LEED v4 ND? 

Neighborhood Pattern and Design (NPD) Credit: Community Outreach and Involvement. If the community is not involved and engaged with the collective vision for the district, then the district will not meet its full potential. In particular, our community outreach involved a series of workshops and ongoing programs with a variety of stakeholder groups including residents, employees and property owners. 

How did the credits and prerequisites and credits influence the project design?

There were a number of particularly influential credits. Walkable Streets required the development of guidelines for sidewalk width, building set-back and active ground floor use, which is essential to a vibrant community. Compact Development led to increased emphasis on high floor-area ratio (FAR) and density, which complements activities on the ground floor. Connected and Open Community increased the emphasis on intersection density, which reinforces connection nodes and activity at the ground floor. Tree-lined and Shaded Streetscapes provided specific and quantified requirements for street tree placement.

Because water is not a scarce local resource (so residents are not naturally accustomed to having to save water), specific requirements around plumbing fixtures and water reuse were important for the Indoor Water Use Reduction credit. And with the site’s more than 60 inches of rain per year, the team developed guidelines around stormwater management to encourage the use of water features to activate spaces for Rainwater Management.

Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City

Any tips for other project teams?

LEED ND works as a strong, comprehensive guideline for good urban design and can help guide the decision-making process if leveraged appropriately. As the sharing economy continues to develop, building codes increase energy and water use regulations, and people move to more urban areas, LEED ND is essential for ensuring vibrant, active and sustainable communities.  

LEED has a great global following, but some people still see it as a U.S. standard. What would you say to people who want to use LEED outside of the States?

LEED can be used in an international context. Although some LEED credits are written around U.S.-based standards and ideas, our team found it helpful to focus on the credit intent rather than the specific requirements, in certain instances.

As part of our work in Japan, we learned many things that can be translated back to the U.S., and we brought U.S.-style urban development and smart city placemaking to Japan. This exchange of ideas supported the project’s LEED ND goals.

Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City

How are you preparing for LEED ND: Built certification?

To use and manage the neighborhood facilities effectively, a community-based organization called Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha (UDCK) was established. Its function is to promote community engagement, research innovative problem-solving ideas and coordinate maintenance. In addition to hosting and offering regular events and salons to strengthen and build the community, UDCK is also responsible for the stewardship of the collective vision for this district. This includes acting as a conduit to connect key stakeholders as well as overseeing the development of the LEED ND Site and Building Performance Guidelines as buildings are designed, built and operated.  

Learn more about LEED ND

A Midsummer Night’s Green connects you with people working for sustainability (USGBC National Capital Region)

July 14, 2017
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People who choose careers in the built environment work for something more than just a paycheck. I believe that we choose to work in this field out of a genuine desire to improve the living conditions of our buildings for our fellow citizens, as well as reduce their impact on the environment.

For us, this is about improving the built environment and the lives of everyone in it. Although there is a lot we can each do in our work and our everyday lives to pursue this goal, organizations like USGBC and its sister organizations around the world provide a focus for our efforts and a way to accomplish goals that none of us could do by ourselves.

I joined USGBC to show my commitment to improving the sustainability of buildings and to spend my time among like-minded individuals who are truly committed to moving to a more efficient, greener future. The people I have met and the USGBC National Capital Region events I’ve participated in have inspired me to do more to realize this goal.

Volunteering with the Midsummer Night’s Green planning committee is, for me, time well spent. This event on July 20 honors members and companies from all sectors of the building industry and serves as a reminder to us of all of the good work that is being done throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area. By showcasing the achievements of our local contractors, architects, engineers and others, we show our commitment to a more sustainable future and provide inspiration for future projects. 

Ultimately, however, this event is really about people. It brings together people who truly care about something larger than themselves and provides a forum for sharing ideas and for having a good time. The only way for us to succeed is by doing this together, and I cannot imagine a group of people I’d rather work with.

Register for A Midsummer Night's Green

Legislative update: Successes for USGBC Nevada

July 14, 2017
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The Nevada legislature may have adjourned until 2019, but the recent legislative session saw the successful passage of several of USGBC Nevada’s priority bills. Thanks to a successful day of visiting state legislators in April and the continued support of our local community, USGBC Nevada helped to secure support for each of these bills, which collectively support the market expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency:

  • AB 5, a PACE financing bill, which provides for the creation of local improvement districts that include an energy efficiency improvement project or a renewable energy project, was signed by the governor on June 1.
  • AB 405, a bill that reinstates the economic value to net metering in Nevada and establishes a renewable energy bill of rights for all customers, was signed by the governor on June 15.
  • SB 407, a bill that establishes the Nevada Clean Energy Fund to provide funding for qualified clean energy projects, was signed by the governor June 15.
  • SB 150, a bill that requires regulated utilities to set annual goals for energy savings resulting from energy efficiency programs, was signed by the governor June 15.

USGBC Nevada appreciates the local support we saw in pushing these critical bills forward into law. By contacting your local legislators, you solidified the important of clean energy, energy efficiency and sustainability in Nevada. We hope to continually advance our message and mission, which is the business case for a more sustainable and resilient built environment.

Unfortunately, not all of our priority bills were enacted this past session. Here is an update on bills that were not approved this session, but which we will continue to promote:

  • SB 392, a bill that would have augmented the state’s existing solar energy systems incentive program, was vetoed by the governor on June 16.
  • AB 206, a bill that would have increased the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), was vetoed by the governor on June 16.
  • AB 270, a bill that would have brought back retail rates for rooftop solar installations, died in committee following multiple hearings. However many of its provisions were ultimately included in AB 405, which was signed by the governor on June 15.

Thanks to our strong Nevada community, we helped advance renewable energy and energy efficiency measure statewide. We look forward to building on this progress in the next legislative session in 2019.

Advocacy alert: Extend California's cap-and-trade program

July 14, 2017
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Globally, nationally and in the states, 2017 has introduced both uncertainty and renewed enthusiasm for the future of climate action policy and finance. The next week provides an important opportunity for California to emerge, once again, as a global leader... but not without your help.

The fate of California’s cap-and-trade program (which is destined to essentially expire in 2020) will be decided by California state legislators in Sacramento. Governor Jerry Brown has brokered a breakthrough set of bills that are our best bet for a strong future for cap-and-trade beyond 2020, if a two-thirds majority is achieved. 

The proposed bills, AB 398 and AB 617, provide clear market signals about greenhouse gas emissions, protections for low-income communities, and a framework for generating the capital needed to achieve our full sustainability potential.

Failure to pass this package of bills this week could cripple California’s ability to make a meaningful cap-and-trade program work beyond 2020, and limit our ability to maintain climate leadership on the global stage. Please contact your members of the general assembly to urge approval, using our easy link.

More on this topic:

Urge approval of an extension to cap-and-trade

LEED addenda update: July 2017

July 14, 2017
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The July 2017 quarterly LEED rating system and reference guide addenda is now available.

To view the changes:


Six new interpretations were published (LI 10460–10465).


Corrections were released for the LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction and LEED v4 for Interior Design and Construction reference guides to clarify guidance on Structure and Enclosure materials in all Materials and Resources Building Product Disclosure and Optimization credits. 

Corrections were released for the LEED v4 for Homes Design and Construction reference guide to reflect and align with recently updated Energy Star for Homes requirements.

Corrections were released for the LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction and LEED v4 for Building Operations and Maintenance reference guides to clarify guidance for group and campus projects. 

To see all corrections, download the reference guide tables.

Pilot credit updates

The following pilot credits were added to the pilot credit library this quarter: 

Courses to watch on Education@USGBC

View courses to grow your LEED, green building and sustainability knowledge.

Visit the addenda database

K–12 curriculum: Teaching science to high schoolers through a biomimicry lens

July 13, 2017
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Learning Lab Education Partner EcoRise collaborated with the Biomimicry Institute to create a new curricular program, “Biomimicry and Science: Applying Nature’s Strategies” for high school students. Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies.

The program includes 23 lessons for grades 9–12 that emphasize real-world applications, and the “Biomimicry Design Challenge” module is available for free, so check it out now.  

The authors of "Biomimicry and Science" share why teaching and learning with biomimicry is a win-win for students and teachers:

How does "Biomimicry and Science" engage students in learning and the world around them?

This curriculum gets students thinking differently about nature and what we can learn from its examples. Students explore a variety of science concepts through the lens of biomimicry and begin to see how nature's "technology" is applicable to human design. Then, they take on the role of innovators in a design challenge and experience what it's like to use a biomimicry design process to develop sustainable solutions to a problem.

Why is biomimicry a good lens for teaching science? 

Biomimicry is a fascinating "hook" that can get students interested in exploring and understanding the natural world. The compelling narratives and fascinating natural phenomena behind biomimetic innovations provide a refreshing point of entry into many of the core scientific concepts educators are already teaching.

If you only have time right now to check out one lesson, which one should it be?

Physics Lesson 2: Built for Brilliance: Structural Color": This lesson brings physics to life, showing how the properties of light are manipulated in nature to create dazzling, nontoxic colors, and how innovators are applying the same principles in new technologies.

Explore the biomimicry course

LEED Green Associate Playbook Quiz: How well do you know green building?

July 13, 2017
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Designing and developing buildings so they’re healthier, more sustainable and more resource-efficient is what green building is all about. It’s a process that applies to a building’s entire development and operations, from its planning and design to its maintenance to its end-of-life recycling.

How well do you know green building? Test your knowledge of common terms and trends by taking this short quiz.

LEED Green Associates are specialists in today’s green building standards and practices. Tens of thousands of professionals have taken the exam as a way to validate their expertise and demonstrate their commitment to sustainable development.

Already studying for the LEED Green Associate exam? Check out a list of test prep resources, including study plans and publications, recommended by staff at USGBC headquarters.

Register for the LEED Green Associate Exam

USGBC Kentucky tours LEED ND-seeking Sheppard Square

July 12, 2017
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On June 16, USGBC Kentucky community members gathered for a tour of Louisville’s Sheppard Square, Kentucky’s first affordable housing project to seek LEED for Neighborhood Development (ND) status.

Norma Ward, of the Louisville Metro Housing Authority, with the help of Chris Zitelli, of Ecos Materials and Services, provided an informative presentation on the initial planning of the site and the fundamentals of the project. A $22 million HUD HOPE VI Revitalization grant was awarded in 2011, and with an additional $75 million in public and private funds, construction began in earnest in 2012. The project includes over 300 total units, with a mix of affordable housing, market-rate rentals and owner-occupied units.

Sheppard Square

Sheppard Square Hope VI Revitalization. Photo credit: Samantha Castro.

One of the most interesting pieces of the project was the rehabilitation of the historic Presbyterian Community Center. This building long acted as the heart of the community, so in preparing for the revitalization project, the city of Louisville and the project’s designers, Sherman Carter Barnhart and Urban Design Associates, knew that it would be critical to maintain the historic building as an element of continuity. Today, the building provides special rental units for veterans, the elderly and people with disabilities. Also, it will be the future site of a large community hall (currently being restored). The addition includes a green roof that has taken off in just a year’s time and which features spectacular views of the city.

Tour participants learned that all of the residential units were constructed according to Enterprise Green Community (EGC) standards, showing significant health, economic and environmental benefits to families at all income levels. This is in addition to the requirements for a community to be certified as LEED ND, which includes elements such as walkability, access to transit, water conservation and access to open space.

Community center green roof

View from the green roof of the Presbyterian Community Center to Downtown Louisville. Photo credit: Samantha Castro.

Green elements of Sheppard Square

  • Around 75 percent of demolition materials were either recycled or reused on site.
  • Solar power is harvested through PVC panels on several of the buildings.
  • Recycling is collected, and organic waste is composted at stations throughout the neighborhood.
  • Solar tubes provide light to interior hallways or rooms with no window access, lowering electric bills.
  • Hard surfaces are pervious to rainwater, including some of the parking areas.
  • Electric charging stations are provided throughout the neighborhood.
  • Energy Star appliances and compliant roofing and pavement are used throughout.
  • Only native and adaptive plantings were selected for landscaping, in conjunction with water-efficient irrigation systems.
  • All residents are able to sign up for plots in the local community garden.

All residents are provided a manual about their new home and the community and given training on these new green features, so they can better understand the sustainable features of their homes and how they can be active participants in elements like the composting program.

Learn more about Sheppard Square


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