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State lawmakers plan legislation in support of green schools

August 16, 2017
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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
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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
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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.

Register now to get funding for your Green Apple Day of Service

August 15, 2017
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Registration is open for Green Apple Day of Service, and now is the time to commit to engaging in a day of action to support sustainability at your local school, your kid’s school or a school you care about.

This year, when you link your registered project on to a donation page on, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC will chip in with matching funds to help meet your project’s goals.

Green Apple Day of Service

We’ve introduced lots of new things for the Day of Service. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting projects from previous years to give you some inspiration. We have plenty to choose from; over the past five years, we’ve seen thousands of projects in 73 countries, impacting the lives of over 7 million students.

Wondering what counts as a Green Apple Day of Service project? Check out these project ideas, look over our FAQ section for anwwers to commonly asked questions, and explore our resources page for promotional and planning tools.

Sign in to register your project

Attend a SITES workshop at Greenbuild China

August 15, 2017
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Learn how you can integrate GBCI’s SITES v2 rating system into the development and ongoing maintenance of your projects. Register for our SITES workshop at Greenbuild China on October 16, 2017.

Traditional land development and use decisions often undervalue the benefits healthy ecosystems can provide to humans and their health and productivity. Developing land sustainably it is not only cost-effective, it is better for the land and fosters resiliency. Sustainable land development can minimize resource degradation, mitigate climate change, enhance human health and well-being and save valuable resources and money.

As China and other Asian countries continue their leadership efforts on sustainability, looking beyond the building is crucial. Modeled after LEED and administered by GBCI, the Sustainable SITES Initiative (SITES) defines what a sustainable site is and elevates the value of landscapes in the built environment.

The SITES v2 Rating System is a set of guidelines and performance-based metrics that align land development and management with innovative sustainable design, covering areas such as soil, vegetation, water, materials and human health and well-being. To further drive this market change, GBCI has recently brought to market the SITES Accredited Professional (SITES AP) program, allowing practitioners to differentiate themselves as experts in sustainable land development.

Check out the workshop details below. (Please note: workshops are not included in the Greenbuild conference registration fee.)

LD01: Workshop: Exploring the SITES V2 Rating System for Sustainable Land Design and Development

When: October 16, 2017, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Where: Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Shanghai, China–W Shanghai–The Bund
Cost (USGBC members): ¥864 RMB and $125 USD (early bird pricing through September 8), ¥1036 RMB and $150 USD (standard price)
Cost (Nonmembers): ¥1035 RMB and $150 USD
GBCI continuing education hours: 4

Explore the SITES v2 rating system with real-world project examples. Discover important connections and distinctions between SITES and LEED. Engage in live discussion and application of SITES strategies with active projects. You will be among the first in China to be able to speak to the value of SITES, understand the central rating system components and themes, identify the important steps for pursuing SITES certification and set a framework to start studying for the new SITES AP exam.

Please contact us with any questions.

Register for Greenbuild China to attend the workshop

Indoor environmental quality and LEED v4

August 15, 2017
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At USGBC, we always say that every story about LEED is a story about people. When USGBC set out to create the LEED standards, we wanted to build something that helped people and made their lives better. After all, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, whether at work, school or home. Knowing this, wouldn’t we want those indoor spaces to be the healthiest and most comfortable places possible?

Better buildings, better productivity

There is also a business case to be made for healthy indoor environments, one that employers, investors, building developers and owners are discovering. A better indoor environment is better for people—and people are the most valuable resource in most organizations, typically accounting for 90 percent of business operating costs. Even a 1 percent improvement in productivity or in reduced absenteeism can have a major impact on the bottom line and competitiveness of any business. A 2012 study found that companies that adopt more rigorous environmental standards are associated with higher labor productivity, by an average of 16 percent, over non-green firms.

LEED has an entire credit category dedicated to the indoor environment: Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ), which includes prerequisites and credits for design and construction projects, interiors, homes and existing buildings.

The EQ credit category in LEED rewards decisions made by projects teams about indoor air quality and thermal, visual and acoustic comfort. Green buildings with high indoor environmental quality protect the health and comfort of building occupants, enhance productivity, decrease absenteeism, improve a building’s value and reduce liability for building designers and owners.

A holistic system for IEQ results

To have a high-quality indoor environment, you need a high-quality building—one that is holistically developed using a system like LEED. You can’t have a high-performing indoor space if the building itself is wasting energy, water and other resources. You can’t ensure health in a building that is constructed on land unsuitable for development. You can’t ensure well-being in a building that is not optimized for the systems inside. You can’t have a more comfortable indoor environment in a building that is contributing to the heat island effect. All of these components contribute to the LEED rating system and what ensures a high-performing building from the inside out.

The relationship between the indoor environment and the health and comfort of occupants is complex. Local customs and expectations, occupant activities and the building’s site, design and construction are just a few variables that make it harder to measure. However, there are many ways to quantify the direct effect of a building on its occupants. LEED balances the need for prescriptive measures with more performance-oriented credit requirements. For example, source control is addressed first in a LEED EQ prerequisite, and a later credit then specifies an indoor air quality assessment to measure the actual outcome of these strategies.

The EQ category also combines traditional approaches with emerging design strategies. Traditional approaches include ventilation and thermal control, while the emerging design techniques involve advanced lighting metrics, acoustics and a holistic emissions-based approach.

Here is the breakdown of the LEED EQ category for existing buildings:

  • Prerequisite: Minimum indoor air quality performance
  • Prerequisite: Environmental Tobacco Smoke Control
  • Prerequisite: Green cleaning policy
  • Credit (2 points); Indoor air quality management program
  • Credit (2 points): Enhanced indoor air quality strategies
  • Credit (1 point): Thermal comfort
  • Credit (2 points): Interior lighting
  • Credit (4 points): Daylight and quality views
  • Credit (1 point): Green cleaning—custodial effectiveness assessment
  • Credit (1 point): Green cleaning—products and materials
  • Credit (1 point): Green cleaning—equipment
  • Credit (2 points): Integrated pest management
  • Credit (1 point): Occupant comfort survey

To learn more about LEED, indoor environmental quality and human health, join us for Greenbuild 2017, being held this year in Boston, India and China.

In Boston, you won't want to miss USGBC’s session D14, dedicated to LEED credit strategies for healthy spaces:

Course: LEED Credit Strategies for Healthy Spaces

Thurs., November 9, 1–2 p.m.

In LEED, the Indoor Environmental Quality category addresses design strategies and environmental factors—such as air quality, lighting quality, acoustic design and control over one’s surroundings—that influence the way people learn, work and live. LEED subject matter experts will review the credits, discuss how teams can prioritize their time and present strategies for implementation.

Register for Greenbuild

How cap and trade affects green building through revenue spending

August 14, 2017
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The California legislature recently passed a 10-year extension to cap and trade. With the graphics below, USGBC gives you a closer look at the proportion of emissions being regulated in various sectors of the California economy, as well as how revenues are distributed to sustainability initiatives.

Buildings and the environment

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have many sources, including agriculture, transportation, industrial processes and fuel and electricity for buildings. This pie chart estimates the breakdown of emissions in California by sector:


California GHG emissions


This emissions profile was created combining CARB emissions data and U.S. electricity consumption data. According to the data, residential and commercial buildings are responsible for 25 precent of California’s GHG emissions. The estimate is conservative, since there are most certainly GHG-emitting buildings in the “industry” and “agriculture” categories.

So, with buildings being responsible for about a quarter of GHG emissions, how has cap and trade addressed this important sector?

Financing through the GGRF

Cap and trade is most clearly connected to buildings through Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) spending. The revenues from selling allowances in the trading scheme are collected in the GGRF and distributed to several agencies, such as Caltrans and the Air Resources Board (ARB), to invest in GHG emissions reductions in their respective sectors.

To date, a total of $3.4 billion has been allocated through GGRF to 23 different programs or initiatives since the cap-and-trade program began. The programs that have funded projects that reduce GHG emissions from buildings are summarized in the table below.

Building-Related GGRF-Funded Programs
Program Total Funding Description
Low-Income Weatherization Program $174M Finances rooftop PV, solar thermal, and weatherization measures in disadvantaged communities
Waste Diversion $71M Funding for expanding compost and recycling facilities
Water Energy Grant Program $50M Finances water conservation and efficiency measures that also have energy savings
Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings $20M Finances lighting, controls, HVAC, etc., improvements in state universities and courts
State Water Project Turbines Program $20M Invests in hydro energy turbine efficiency, which will produce electricity for building consumption
Technical Assistance $2M Funding for training in low-income communities on energy and water efficiency improvements
Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) TBD Specific projects TBD, expected to benefit buildings, transportation, green infrastructure, and land conservation
Total Building Funding $337M ($3.4B total GGRF spending)

If these building-related programs are compared to the remaining GGRF programs (leaving out TCC and administrative fees), as in the pie chart below, buildings would account for 12 percent of current GGRF funding to date. Transportation has the largest cut of the pie, with the majority of its funding being distributed to rail expansion, low-carbon transit (electric and fuel-efficient vehicles), and transit-oriented development for affordable housing.



GGRF program spending categorized by the impacted sector.

The funding portfolio comes out disproportionately to the emissions profile of the sectors in the first graph. Transportation emissions are about 1.5 times greater than building emissions, yet transportation receives almost seven times as much funding.

There are a variety of complicating factors that the state must consider when allocating the funding, such as the existing programs and funding, politics, tractability and how likely it is that an investment will have an impact.

Making the money go further

Of the GGRF funds that do target buildings, it helps that they are being invested where most needed: in existing buildings. All the programs in the table above fund energy efficiency in existing buildings or renewable energy that they can use. However, the GGRF could be prioritizing energy efficiency interventions, which tend to be less expensive than renewable energy generation and also support grid reliability.

In short, GGRF proceeds alone do not equitably target building emissions; however, the programs that are funded do have a valuable impact on greening the existing building stock. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine exactly what percentage funding buildings should rightfully receive due to complicating factors.

Learn more about cap and trade in California

Examining the cost of LEED v4 (USGBC Northern California)

August 10, 2017
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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.

With the close of LEED 2009 registration, LEED v4 has become the primary version of LEED, which brings on the recurring question, “How much extra, if anything, will this cost?” At the 2017 Greenerbuilder conference, my colleague Kirstin Weeks and I presented a pair of studies that present some responses to that question.

Credit-by-credit cost estimating

Greenerbuilder seemed like the right place to preview our forthcoming study, sponsored by USGBC Northern California, that built on the excellent 2015 Cost of LEED v4 report from BuildingGreen. The basis for that study was Massachusetts, and our paper translated that research to California, focused on two big factors: construction costs are higher here, and some items are already required by code. The highlights are pretty simple:

1. Part or all of some LEED credits are required by California Codes:

  • Bike facilities
  • Cool roofing
  • Low-water landscaping
  • Advanced lighting controls
  • Solar readiness

2. Pursuing some LEED credits reduces cost.

  • Reduced parking means building fewer parking spaces, which can cost $10,000 on grade to $100,000 underground.

3. Design is a major factor.

  • California Energy Code requires sidelighting and toplighting where practical, but how much of a building it is practical for depends on design.

4. Some LEED credits can be more expensive due to high construction costs in California:

  • Rainwater harvesting systems
  • High-performance envelopes
  • Advanced HVAC controls
  • Acoustics

Case study cost comparisons

We also recently completed a study for the City and County of San Francisco to inform their decision on whether to move their internal requirement for LEED Gold municipal buildings up to LEED v4. We took two recently completed LEED Gold projects that had been done under LEED 2009 with actual construction costs, determined what they would have needed to add to maintain their Gold rating in LEED v4, and estimated the costs of those measures. Some of what they would have needed to add is required by the 2016 California Energy Code, while the buildings were built to the 2010 or 2013 code, so we left out the cost of items that would now be code-required.

The North Beach Branch Library is an exemplary public project with an integrated design team that delivered a well-optimized building envelope; many sustainable site strategies; and efficient mechanical, lighting and plumbing systems. For North Beach, they would have needed 7 more points, which would have cost $71,000, or 0.8 percent of the original $9,198,650 total project cost.

The Sunset Recreation Center is a renovation project that would have needed 17 points to maintain their Gold rating, especially in energy performance. That would have cost $255,000 in soft and hard costs, or 2.6 percent of the $9,717,916 total project cost. (That rises to 5 percent total, if they were unable to get an expanded PV system through a PPA.)

In conclusion, we suggested that LEED v4 has not shifted what professionals already know about the cost of LEED in general:

  • Can a LEED v4 building cost more? Yes, but so can marble cladding.
  • Can a LEED v4 building cost the same? Yes, with an integrated project team.
  • Can a LEED v4 Platinum building cost the same? Probably not in construction cost, but it can be far better in life cycle cost.

Please look for our complete credit-by-credit cost study coming soon from USGBC Northern California, and contact Arup if you are interested in our City and County of San Francisco case study.

2017 Sustainable Business Award finalists announced (USGBC North Carolina)

August 10, 2017
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USGBC North Carolina is pleased to announce our 2017 Sustainable Business Awards finalists. The winners will be announced at our annual Green Gala on September 21 at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte.

The Green Gala is the sustainability event of the year in our area, with an expected attendance of over 300 industry professionals, executives, dedicated volunteers, students and others who represent the facets of sustainable building, design and construction. Please join us in celebrating the people and projects that represent excellence in sustainability in the Carolinas.

The following projects have been selected as finalists for their outstanding green building features:

Innovative Design: Interiors finalists

James Goodnight Project
Nominated by Christopher Yermal, Old School Rebuilder & Co.

James Goodnight purchased the three-story, 17,200-square-foot property at 21 S. Front Street in the center of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina, in June 2013. The property had suffered from decades of neglect. Upon purchase, the building received a massive investment of time, capital and innovation. Through the dedicated and intelligent assistance of Laurie Jackson and the rest of the team at Maurer Architecture, James Goodnight and their general contractor, the two-year project is complete. It now houses the 80-employee software development firm Untapped and its small family of associated companies as long-term tenants.

Wells Fargo Duke Energy Center 23rd Floor
Nominated by Dimple Patel, Wells Fargo

The Duke Energy Center’s 23rd floor remodel was awarded LEED Platinum certification under Commercial Interiors in February 2017, and metrics indicate the focus on sustainability is already delivering significant environmental and operational efficiency benefits, while providing a healthier workplace for team members. Further, the carbon footprint of the project was minimized and local vendors were supported by locally sourcing construction materials wherever possible. The project has set a new standard for Wells Fargo’s sustainable building efforts, which include a commitment to building LEED standards into all new construction and renovations of owned or leased properties.

LPL Financial Campus
Nominated by Marc Hirsch, tvsdesign

The new campus for LPL Financial promises to represent a new, progressive model for corporate build to suit projects founded on a strategy of inside-out/outside-in planning. Located on a 16-acre, densely wooded site adjoining the new live/work/play village of Fort Mill, South Carolina, the new LPL campus comprises three slender 150,000-square-foot buildings with outboard service and elevator cores. Designed around net-zero energy goals, the core-free 25,000-square-foot floor plate configuration maximizes workplace natural light and views to the wooded setting for all employees.

Innovative Design: New Construction BD+C finalists

City of Columbia Water Distribution and Wastewater Maintenance Facility
Nominated by Tom Watson, Watson Tate Savory

This project, which will be completed in September 2017, converts an abandoned automobile dealership into offices and warehouses for a municipal water division. A rigorous process of simplifying and separating diverse program components allowed for logical reuse of existing structures. The office building, a sustainably designed glass prism under a vegetated roof, provides daylight. New materials and details on the pre-engineered warehouses visually separate planes, with low-sloped roofs to echo the sloping site. Site improvements include reuse of existing asphalt, introduction of pervious paving, xeriscaping and rain gardens. The project is designed to achieve LEED Gold standards.

LPL Financial, Carolinas Campus
Nominated by Sara Nomellini, LPL Financial

LPL’s Carolinas campus is an extraordinary workplace that demonstrates LPL’s commitment to sustainability. With a design inspired by nature, the campus protects resources, creates pride for employees and the community and inspires teams to do great work. The Carolinas campus earned LEED Gold certification. Highlights from LPL’s scorecard include perfect or near-perfect scores in water efficiency, innovation and design processes and indoor environmental quality categories.

Long Term Acute Care and Rehabilitation Center Rooftop Therapy and Healing Garden
Nominated by Collin Brock, Bloc Design

Located on the third floor of the Long Term Acute Care and Rehabilitation Facility, the Rooftop Therapy and Healing Garden includes over 6,200 square feet of green roof area. The rehabilitation aspect of the garden is uniquely designed to assist physical therapists with training their patients and preparing them for the transition back to home living, which requires navigating their typical outdoor home environments, such as stairs, ramps and various hardscape surfaces and turf areas, all of which are included in the garden area. The healing garden component includes comfortable passive seating separated from the more active areas, as well as the use of lush aroma-based plantings.

Community Champion finalists

LS3P Associated

Architecture, interior and planning firm LS3P has developed an annual firm-wide Earth Day Competition across its eight offices, challenging staff to design projects supporting community sustainability efforts. This annual event serves as a touchstone to unite staff around LS3P’s core values and has generated diverse projects with meaningful community impact, from waterway clean-ups to outdoor classrooms to community-focused designs. Projects have increased in impact over the last three years as teams learn to maximize efforts through strategic partnerships, focused efforts and thoughtful planning. The initiative now serves as a catalyst for larger design discussions and meaningful community engagement.

Grifols Therapeutics Incorporated

Grifols has developed specific environmental programs that define targets and objectives for each business area. In particular, the Clayton, North Carolina, facility has had an incredibly positive environmental impact in Johnston County. They have constructed the first two LEED-certified buildings in the County, benefited the school systems by supporting environmental learning programs, actively protected wildlife habitats on their site and encouraged employees to be environmentally conscious.

City of Greensboro

Operation Bed Roll aims to teach residents about the non-recyclability of plastic bags in residential recycling containers. To spread this message in a unique way, Recycling Educator Tori Carle designed a workshop to train residents to turn plastic bags into portable sleeping surfaces for the homeless. They are a better alternative to traditional blankets because they are lightweight and easy to clean and don’t attract unwanted insects. In 2016, over 3,000 residents participated, 211 bed rolls we created and an estimated 147,700 plastic bags were kept out of landfills. An additional 56 bed rolls have been donated in 2017 as the project continues.

Green Schools finalists

Horry County Schools
Nominated by Andrew LaRowe, EduCon Energy
Team: SfL+a Architects/Firstfloor Energy Positive

With the opening of five new Energy Positive schools in Myrtle Beach, Horry County Schools is becoming a national leader of incorporating sustainable building design for educational facilities. The new schools were developed by SfL+a Architects and Firstfloor Energy Positive located in Fayetteville. Each of the state-of-the-art facilities are high performance, safe and secure learning environments that will provide the district significant energy savings. A notable part of the overall plan includes a student based energy education program called “EnergyWise”, developed by EduCon Energy. The education program is closely aligned with the Green Apple Day of Service.

Isaac Dickson Elementary School
Nominated by Elm Engineering & Innovative Design

Isaac Dickson Elementary School is the first net-zero energy, LEED Platinum K–5 elementary school located in Asheville, North Carolina. The school has achieved LEED Platinum status through many sustainable features. Not only is the school “green” on the outside, the key stakeholders promote sustainability from the inside by providing an enhanced and experiential hands-on learning environment; teaching about sustainability principles by featuring solar panels with a solar hot-water system, storm water management, sundial, a dinosaur fossil, student-grown produce, daylighting and a bi-directional cascading chiller plant; and by giving back to their immediate community through promoting volunteerism.

Briggs Elementary School
Nominated by Representative Terry Alexander

Briggs Elementary School continues to create innovative initiatives to enhance the student learning experience through programs like “Project Lead the Way” (a STEM-initiated program), which is implemented in all of their science classrooms; and various extracurricular programs to enrich the lives of students, such as before- and after-school academic programs; clubs that focus on physical fitness, art, music, good news, dance and 4H; and “Our Mentoring Matters Program,” which served over 20 students this year and established a firm foundation for a long lasting relationship with community members.

Innovative Design: Residential finalists

Ellison Passive House
Nominated by Lucien Ellison, Ellison Building Company

The Ellison Passive House in Wilmington, North Carolina, is the third certified passive house in the state. Passive house is a rigorous energy efficiency standard that also incorporates stringent standards for water management and indoor air quality. Born in North America in the 1970s and refined in Germany through the 1990s and 2000s, the passive house movement has spread across the globe. There are over 25,000 passive houses around the world, but only 120 certified passive houses in the US. 

Lark & Leigh: An Off-Grid Airstream Tiny Home
Nominated by Jenny Vallimont, Gökotta

After moving to Charlotte and buying their first home, the Vallimonts realized their once big house, was now intimate and cozy with the addition of three large dogs and two kids. With no easy way to accommodate guests, they purchased a 26-foot, 1976 Airstream to create a 150-square-foot tiny home named Lark & Leigh. They have continued the previous owner’s vision of creating a completely off-grid home and have just about finished. Salvaged, retrofitted, invented and efficient components make this not only one of the most beautiful tiny homes but also one of the most innovative green homes created.

Ted Van Dyk Home
Nominated by: Edward Rubio, American Craftsmen Inc.

The homeowner was inspired to build a home for his family that was resistant to termites, mold, fire, high winds and high impacts, as well as premium indoor air quality and a high degree of sustainability. The home also features net zero design by incorporating geothermal and PV solar, matched with a high thermal envelope to eliminate or significantly reduce dependence on the fossil fuels. American Craftsmen was contracted to panelize the entire 4,800-square-foot home, using the patented ACI Precast system in the wall, floor and roof for complete envelope application.

Volunteer Leadership Award finalists

Traci Rose Rider, PhD
Design Initiative for Sustainability and Health | Research Associate at North Carolina State University

Dr. Traci Rose Rider is the Coordinator for the Design Initiative for Sustainability and Health, Research Associate, Research Assistant Professor of Architecture, and PhD faculty at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. Rider’s research has focused on the relationship between the design culture and the notion of sustainability, exploring factors impacting environmental attitudes of designers. She teaches courses focusing on sustainability and beyond for the School of Architecture, such as the issues of existing buildings and operations and the WELL Building Standard and Living Building Challenge. Rider has been a dedicated volunteer for USGBC North Carolina for nearly a decade. Recently, she was awarded a substantial grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to further purse an initiative designed to better serve the occupant health of lower income families in multifamily housing.

Irene Vogelsong
Senior Interior Project Designer, Perkins + Will

Irene Vogelsong is engaged in the Charlotte Chamber, serving her second term on its executive committee. As chair of the engagement group, she provides leadership in serving the community through seven chapters and growth opportunities aimed at young professionals and emerging leaders. Vogelsong brings a unique perspective and engages in thoughtful dialogue that is key to ensuring the chamber leadership makes decisions that move the community forward. She has devoted countless hours to diversity small business efforts and overall engagement in the mission, which is to connect, innovate and grow opportunity for all who do business in Charlotte.

Robin Turner
Director of Sales at O’Leary Group

Robin Turner joined USGBC in 2009 and has served on the membership committee since that time. She is serving her third term on the Charlotte Leadership Group, and her focus has been largely on partner recruitment and retention. In 2015, Turner developed the monthly Partner Spotlight and leads a monthly luncheon segment involving an informal talk-show-style interview with partners. Robin’s other community roles include involvement with CREW Charlotte, USGBC North Carolina, BOMA Charlotte, IREM, Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, CCIM Mecklenburg County WOWbiz Wipe Out Waste Business Recycling and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Green Works.

Exceptional Implementation of Sustainability Technology finalists

Ted Van Dyk Home
Nominated by Edward Rubio, American Craftsmen Inc.

See description above.

Catawba College Campus Solar Energy Installation Project Green Step 2030
Nominated by Karen Alexander, City of Salisbury

Catawba College completed a landmark solar energy project in 2016. The project produced more solar electricity than other North Carolina colleges and universities combined as a whole. The nearly one-megawatt project, which involved installations of photovoltaic panels, reroofing and building efficiency improvements on most of the campus facilities, brought about a transformation in the college’s energy production and consumption. The installation is projected to save the college in excess of $3 million over the next 20 years and nearly $7 million over 30 years. It will also reduce carbon emissions by almost 1,020 metric tons annually.

Stanley Building Ice Storage Technology for Building Cooling
Nominated by Jim Fields, Superior Mechanical Systems

The partial storage system can shift 60 percent of the maximum cooling load during peak hours to off-peak hours. During lower-load conditions, the system has been shifting 100 percent of the load to off-peak times. The system consists of one 300-ton, high-efficiency chiller and nine Calmac storage tanks and has the capacity to shift 1,458 ton hours of load during on-peak hours to off-peak hours. It replaced a cooling system with chillers, towers and pumps that used much more energy. This allows Duke Power to generate the power required for off-peak times and to use higher efficiency instead of low-efficiency power generation plants, thus cutting carbon emissions. It also reduces the requirement for additional power generating plants, due to better ability for load management.

The USGBC North Carolina community is proud of all of the finalists. We hope you can join us on September 21 at the Ritz Carlton in celebrating these exceptional examples of dedicated professionals and green buildings throughout the Carolinas.

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LEED Green Associate Playbook: How to register for the exam

August 10, 2017
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Looking for a career boost? Consider taking the LEED Green Associate exam.

The LEED Green Associate is a foundational credential signifying core competency in green building design, construction and operations. It’s ideal for those newer to sustainability, plus product manufacturers, students, real estate professionals and contractors.

With the upswing in green jobs, employers are looking to hire qualified staff fluent in today’s sustainability methodology and practices. Tens of thousands of professionals have earned their LEED Green Associate credential as a way to demonstrate their green building expertise.

Exam rescheduling and cancellations are allowed up to three days before your scheduled date, but some fees may apply.

If you’re already studying for the test, check out a list of test prep resources recommended by USGBC staff.

Register for the LEED Green Associate exam


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