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3 lessons on empathy for K–12 students

August 23, 2017
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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” —Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee.

Empathy is important to educating our youth, and Learning Lab offers lessons that support educators in helping students understand perspectives other than their own. Check out this month's selection of three lessons and envision how to incorporate them into this school year’s plans:

All these lessons are available as part of the Learning Lab subscription, which is available for $40—less for bulk purchases.

Explore Learning Lab

Join USGBC at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo

August 23, 2017
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Join USGBC at the 30th Annual Healthcare Facilities Symposium & Expo (HFSE). Established to inspire you to evoke change and the advancement of a better delivery of healthcare through the physical space, HFSE features 120 exhibitors and top-notch education sessions.

Where: Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
When: September 18-20, 2017

With an opening keynote from cutting-edge designer Marika Shioiri-Clark of SOSHL Studio, tours of area healthcare facilities, an interactive learning lounge and workshops on topics like reimagining the ED, HFSE 2017 promises to raise the bar for health facilities designers and practitioners.

This year, the National Organization for Arts and Health (NOAH) will hold their first annual conference in conjunction with HFSE. NOAH sessions are available to HFSE attendees who register for the All Access Pass.


Get 15% off your conference registration with VIP code “USGBC.”

How the solar eclipse reminded me of the importance of third-party certifications

August 21, 2017
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Every once in a while, a piece of your professional life you've come to take for granted collides with your personal life in a curious way.

In my case, it came through an Amazon email, which said the glasses I bought for my family and I to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse probably were unsafe. For my order of the glasses, which were labeled as "CE and ISO Certified - Safe Solar Viewing," Amazon's email said:

“Amazon has not received confirmation from the supplier of your order that they sourced the item from a recommended manufacturer.”

Huh? I specifically ordered a certified product, because as you might know from science class or by being outdoors: looking directly at the sun is exceedingly painful and dangerous since it can cause permanent blindness.

Risking your eyesight when protective gear exists seems foolish. Unless I was going to test the UV transmittance of glasses on my own (and I’ve looked into it) buying a certified product didn’t seem optional.

Of course, I wanted someone to have tested and verified that the screen I was putting between my daughter’s baby blues and the brightest thing we'll ever experience was going to perform the way it should. It’s appalling that the short-term financial windfall that comes with an event like a solar eclipse can bring out the worst in people. I wish I could say I was surprised that counterfeit claims were made, ultimately putting people’s health and well-being at risk – but I’m guessing you’re with me in not being surprised.

To their credit (non-cynical) or the credit of their lawyers fearing a lawsuit (cynical), Amazon notified customers of their inability to substantiate a claim that the company selling these glasses sold on their website. They took action accordingly, leaving me high and dry for the moment as far as eclipse glasses go in the process but not blind.

The existence of a credible, third-party system for ensuring the safety of these products backstopped the false claims of disreputable actors in the market. As a result, some very unwelcome outcomes were avoided. If you’re not aware of any of the background of this story, visit NASA's website, and make sure you verify the authenticity of any materials you’re planning to observe the eclipse with. Also, here’s a list of reputable vendors by the American Astronomical Society

How does this intersect with my professional life? Well, in a word, GBCI (although technically that’s four words).

I’ve understood and appreciated the value of credible, third-party certification for a while now. A large reason for this appreciation stems from my personal knowledge of the skill, integrity and professionalism of the people who work at GBCI and the work they do to ensure that LEED certification claims worldwide are both accurate and credible. It’s easy to take the validity of all third-party certification for granted when you interact with such pros on a daily basis.

I’m out of the office all next week with ISO 12312-2 certified glasses already packed for the entire family. Keep LEEDing On, and happy eclipsing!

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

August 18, 2017
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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


U.S. Green Building Council - Long Island Chapter
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Hauppauge, NY 11788