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California Policy Corner: The Golden State shines in Boston and Fiji

November 30, 2017
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‘Tis the season for family, community, giving thanks and giving back. We’re thankful for the support from so many outstanding members, partners and volunteers helping to move green building forward in California. We hope you will continue giving the gift of your time, expertise—and most important, your voice—as we advocate for a future full of abundance, sustainability and resilience.

To Fiji and back

We’re also thankful for California’s continued leadership on climate action at the recent COP 23 United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany, spearheaded by Governor Jerry Brown and a delegation from the state legislature. In advance of the climate conference, Gov. Brown was named Special Advisor for states and regions, boosting California’s role at the conference (hosted by Fiji, but located in Bonn).

While in Germany, a committee of the UN Environment Programme presented California with its Climate and Clean Air Award for the “most comprehensive and strongest set of targets for reducing short-lived climate pollutant emissions into state law.” (Read more about USGBC’s work at the UN climate talks and about the America's Pledge report and check out the #CAinBonn hashtag on Twitter.)

Greenbuild season

Many of us had the chance to recharge our batteries at Greenbuild in Boston a few weeks ago—another very green conference and full of spotlights on California people and projects. Here are a few items of USGBC news:

  • LEED v4.1: USGBC announced the upcoming release of LEED v4.1—a critical step in the evolution of the rating system, building on lessons learned and impact areas highlighted in LEED v4 and focused on agility and implementation.
  • CALGreen Alignment: As announced earlier this year, a significant number of LEED measures in California are now pre-approved for new commercial projects built to California code. Project teams interested in signing up for the California recognition in LEED can do so by visiting Code compliance documentation for qualifying projects will satisfy all LEED v4 BD+C prerequisites and earn up to six points. This is the culmination of a partnership with many USGBC volunteers, discussed in a 2015 report on barriers and opportunities for green codes in California.
  • Leadership Awards: A California team led by building professionals and students in the San Francisco Bay Area was among the 2017 leadership awards recipients. Its partnership with the South African education nonprofit Bottomup yielded a green educational facility in Cape Town, South Africa that won the Malcolm Lewis Impact Award. Read more about the Parkwood Technology Centre.
  • Resilience: Resilience was a big topic of discussion at the conference, from President Clinton’s remarks about USGBC’s Project Haiti to the announcement of GBCI’s adoption of the RELi design standard. Former USGBC San Diego Chapter board chair Doug Kot also participated in a roundtable for state and local government officials on the role of state governments in resilience planning and sustainable recovery, led by USGBC’s Jeremy Sigmon and the Center for Green Schools. For more on resilience, check out Education @USGBC’s new learning pathway, The Road to Resilience.
  • Honoring Bill Worthen. The green building world lost one of our brilliant champions and family members earlier this year with the passing of California’s own Bill Worthen. Bill was honored at the Leadership Awards ceremony and at various volunteer appreciation events throughout Greenbuild. Bill’s legacy lives on through the work of the William J. Worthen Foundation, which is currently soliciting feedback on the Non-Potable Water Reuse Practice Guide.

Greenbuild 2018 is headed to Chicago. Interested in presenting or being involved? The call for session proposals is open through January 5.

At the state capitol, dialogue continues about how best to solve the state’s ongoing housing crisis. Discussions around grid modernization abound, especially as SB 100 is expected to be reintroduced in early January.

On Capitol Hill, despite ongoing advocacy efforts of USGBC and our members, Congress continues to consider ways to compromise Energy Star. We’re also watching how Washington State tells a cautionary tale about how their environmental policy act is actually preventing sustainable urban development.

Call for proposals: USGBC Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Green 2018

November 30, 2017
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Proposals are now being accepted for Rocky Mountain Green 2018. The annual Rocky Mountain Green conference, hosted by USGBC Colorado, unites hundreds of green building industry leaders, experts and professionals to advance sustainable building within the region. The 2018 conference, in its 11th year, will take place May 3 in Denver.

This year, Rocky Mountain Green will take place in partnership with theGreen Schools Conference and Expo, the only national event that brings together all the players involved in making green schools a reality. This new partnership will unite experts from diverse industries within the green building world for a unique opportunity for collaboration and networking.

The Rocky Mountain Green Planning Committee is seeking presentations that inspire attendees into action while focusing on USGBC’s mission to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. View the call for proposals for full details.

Interested? Submit a proposal by December 14, 2017. You will have the opportunity to upload attachments at the end of the online submittal. Feel free to share white papers, information about past speaking engagements, references, project photos, clips of past presentations and so on. You may submit more than once, but doing so does not necessarily improve your odds of being selected. Those selected to present at the conference will be notified by December 19.

Please contact Kris Wilson or Annie Hall if you have any questions.

Submit a proposal

Join a 2018 Greenbuild India or Greenbuild China program working group

November 29, 2017
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Are you interested in helping develop educational programming intended to meet the needs of international Greenbuild conference attendees?

USGBC is seeking green building professionals who are passionate about sustainable design, construction and operations for buildings and communities to serve on the 2018 Greenbuild India and Greenbuild China program working groups.

Applications are due by Thurs., January 4, 2018 at 5 p.m. EST.

  • The Greenbuild India Program Working Group oversees the development and delivery of educational programming intended to meet the needs of attendees at the Greenbuild India International Conference and Expo. Submit the interest form for Greenbuild India.

  • The Greenbuild China Program Working Group oversees the development and delivery of educational programming intended to meet the needs of attendees at the Greenbuild China International Conference. Submit the interest form for Greenbuild China.

It's a great time to get involved—submit your self-nomination to be a part of these events. All committee terms begin in January 2018.

Please email us with any questions relating to Greenbuild India or Greenbuild China.

Expand your knowledge and earn free CE hours

November 27, 2017
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A LEED professional credential denotes proficiency in today’s sustainable design, construction and operations standards. Part of that proficiency is staying up to date on the latest industry innovations. LEED professionals are thus required to maintain their credential through continuing education.

Education @USGBC is your one-stop shop for credential maintenance. With automatic reporting to GBCI and 650+ hours of continuing education, a subscription to Education @USGBC is a no-brainer. There are even curated playlists with exactly the continuing education hours you need for each LEED credential.

Want to get a taste of what you can expect on Education @USGBC? Check out these free courses, all eligible for GBCI CE hours:

Subscribe to Education @USGBC

Community buildings take center stage at Greenbuild Boston (USGBC Northern California)

November 22, 2017
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Feature image: Parkwood Tech Centre team members Morgan Abbett (HDR), Marveliz Santos (Plant Construction), Adrienne Johnson (Point Energy Innovations), and Christine Li (Lucid) receiving the Malcolm Lewis IMPACT! Award at Greenbuild in Boston on November 9, 2017.

As a San Francisco resident and young professional in the AEC industry, I find myself captivated by the megaprojects going up all around me. With ambitious environmental and human health goals, buildings like the Transbay Terminal and Salesforce Tower seem like the sustainable projects of the future.

But after the recent week at Greenbuild 2017, I am reminded that these skyline-changing projects only make up one piece of the growing green building portfolio. Sustainability is just as important for smaller, humbler buildings that provide critically important services, like homes for low-income families, workspaces for small and medium-sized enterprises and centers for community organizations. These buildings are the anchors of our neighborhoods, and they were highlighted throughout Greenbuild’s educational sessions, keynote presentations and a summit dedicated to the topic of communities and affordable homes.

I owe my own trip to Greenbuild in Boston to a sustainable community building. The Parkwood Tech Centre is a net-positive energy computer center in South Africa that I helped bring to life alongside Bay Area AEC professionals Adrienne Johnson, Christine Li and Marveliz Santos. While attending Stanford, our team of all-women engineers learned of Bottomup, an education nonprofit in Cape Town that needed a safe, healthy space at a local school to run its impactful programs.

Adrienne Johnson and Morgan Abbett at the Parkwood Tech Centre

Adrienne Johnson and Morgan Abbett on site at the Parkwood Tech Centre in November 2017.

Over the next three years, we designed a new building, raised funds for our $80,000 budget, and managed construction of the center, which opened its doors in February 2017. Thanks to votes from the USGBC Northern California community, we won the 2017 Malcolm Lewis IMPACT! Award at Greenbuild.

As part of the award, anonymous friends of Malcolm Lewis gave the project $8,000, the largest annual contribution since the IMPACT! award started. This donation will allow us to outfit the center with laptops and provide young learners—and an entire community—with the first public computer access in their neighborhood.

Parkwood Tech Centre

Solar PV system on the rooftop of the Parkwood Tech Centre in Cape Town, with Parkwood Primary School learners below.

In addition to the award ceremony, I attended the Communities and Affordable Homes Summit, an all-day event that focused on strategies to improve equity and resiliency in the disadvantaged neighborhoods that need it most. I learned about the innovative work being done at Sonoma Academy, a private high school in the North Bay that provides more financial aid than any similar institution in the area.

Students at Parkwood Tech Centre

Students at Parkwood Tech Centre.

On Thursday, I listened to Bill Clinton give a keynote speech that advised us to “always get caught trying.” It took that spirit of perseverance and pushing boundaries to complete the Parkwood Tech Centre. I know that the USGBC Northern California community is full of determined professionals who live by that philosophy and strive to make a positive difference in our neighborhoods, no matter what critics say.

After the past week at Greenbuild, I feel especially proud to be part of the progressive, generous USGBC community here. And I am more inspired than ever to keep working to honor Malcolm Lewis, Bill Worthen and other philanthropic community leaders who have paved the way for projects like ours.

Green Apple Day of Service spotlight: Mary Lin Elementary in Atlanta

November 22, 2017
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Mary Lin Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia, is so dedicated to Green Apple Day of Service that in 2016 the school leaders stretched it out into a whole "Go Green Week." This weeklong event raised awareness and funds for the school’s outdoor classroom and learning garden. Students, parents, and staff were involved in activities to promote sustainability in school and at home.

On Monday, the students took a pledge to go green and were given challenges throughout the week, such as bringing a lunch and snack consisting of no waste; wearing clothes that were either recycled, vintage or secondhand; and creating a fashion show using trash.

Mary Lin used its recycling fundraiser, “Turn Trash into Ca$h,” to support construction of the outdoor classroom and garden. Working electronic waste (such as cell phones, smart phones and iPads) were sent to a company who recycled the e-waste and gave the school the proceeds.

The Saturday after Go Green Week, students and families of Mary Lin gathered to clean up their existing outdoor garden. Volunteers split into two groups, one to clean up the garden and the other to install and paint outdoor chalkboards for the playground. After the day’s work, the garden had been revitalized into a beautiful learning space.

Mary Lin Elementary Green Apple Day of Service project

The following spring, Mary Lin began the construction of the new outdoor classroom. Though the school has many more plans to improve the area, the volunteers completed the first of four phases of their outdoor classroom. The addition contains a garden that can serve a new garden club, expanding students’ ability to participate throughout the year. The outdoor classroom was unveiled in September 2017 to the public, for the community to see the product of their fundraising efforts. Mary Lin plans to continue building their outdoor classroom in the upcoming year.

Creating an outdoor classroom or school garden is a great way to involve the community in your own Green Apple Day of Service project. To get started, read Green Apple Day of Service’s create or tend a garden page. To fund your project, consider having an educator at your school ask for materials and supplies through If your project is registered on, the Center for Green Schools will match funds raised through, up to $200 per project.

Register a Green Apple project

Building a brighter tomorrow in India with EDGE

November 21, 2017
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This article was originally published in the November issue of The Neptune Glitz magazine, a monthly magazine on architecture and interior design. Read the original version (PDF).

The concept of sustainable development is not& new to India, and in recent years, the nation has continued to take on a greater leadership role in the global sustainability movement. At the last COP 21 conference, India made a bold commitment to reduce its emissions by 33 to 35 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

To achieve this, India has set high targets on renewable energy, efficiency and carbon reduction, committing to increasing its nonfossil-based power capacity from 30 to 40 percent and reducing carbon by almost three billion tons by 2030. In addition, the national government has promised to provide reliable power to all and is becoming a leader in the production and manufacturing of renewable energy technology.

India has also shown tremendous leadership in the smart cities movement with efforts such as the 100 Smart Cities Project. An integral part of this effort is sustainable development and green building. Over the last several years, green building in the country has already seen a dramatic increase as India has become an engine of green growth.

However, there is still work to be done if we are going to create a sustainable future for everyone in India – a future anyone can participate in regardless of their social or economic means. This means a future in which the built environment continues to prioritize affordable and environmentally conscious housing and commercial buildings as an integrated strategy to spur economic growth and development. The cost of development cannot come at the cost of social welfare. This is why we need to focus our resources on bringing in more builders and developers who are committed to sustainable development and make green building more practical, accessible and affordable for a larger audience than ever before.

Continue reading the article (PDF)

Join Seventhwave for two construction and energy efficiency events

November 17, 2017
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Seventhwave as a nonprofit focused on advancing energy efficiency, lives its mission through research, consulting, program administration and education. Improve your technical know-how and join Seventhwave at these upcoming events.

Affordable Housing New Construction Summit

When: Tues., December 5, 7–11:45 a.m. Central
Where: Ivy Room, 12 East Ohio Street #100, Chicago, Illinois
Cost: $29

Event hosted by ComEd Energy Efficiency Program, in partnership with AIA Chicago, Illinois Green Alliance, Illinois Housing Council and Passive House Alliance Chicago.

As a member of the affordable housing design and development community, you have an opportunity to make a big impact on the environment, energy use and residents’ quality of life. Big impacts require lofty goals that can seem daunting. Discuss how to take incremental steps to realize deep energy savings. Learn from those on the forefront about innovations in affordable housing new construction, with an emphasis on multi-family buildings. Interact with your peers to identify common obstacles and brainstorm creative solutions to achieve the next level in energy efficiency. Finally, hear energy efficiency and sustainability program updates designed to help turn your goals into reality.

Learn more and register.

2018 Better Buildings: Better Business Conference

When: February 14–16, 2018
Where: Kalahari Resort and Convention Center, 1305 Kalahari Drive, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

Position yourself as a market leader. The Better Buildings: Better Business Conference provides one central hub where builders, suppliers, manufacturers, contractors and the industry can find out what they need to know to stay current and ahead of trends. The conference is powered by Seventhwave and the Wisconsin Builders Foundation (WBF). Seventhwave brings nationally recognized expertise in quality construction, energy efficiency and building science for health, while the WBF brings Wisconsin's most successful home builders and leading suppliers.

Builders, remodelers, architects, building performance consultants, code officials, contractors, designers, educators, government officials, home inspectors, HVAC contractors, realtors, renewable energy contractors, manufacturers, multifamily owners and managers, researchers, students, suppliers, utility representatives, weatherization specialists and anyone involved in the residential building community should attend.

Learn more and register.

The benefits of early-stage energy modeling (USGBC Colorado)

November 17, 2017
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According to the National Institute of Building Sciences, the demand for high-performing buildings is increasing. That demand compels key stakeholders to consider all available sustainable methodologies and technologies at their disposal. One powerful technique for assessing the performance of a building is whole-building energy modeling. It can provide substantial value to project teams because it simulates and evaluates potential energy performance, leading to better-informed design decisions, compliance certification for local energy codes and easier pathways to building certification requirements.
Energy modeling can assess the potential energy savings of a project at any point in the design. However, it is much easier to incorporate recommended or even necessary changes when they are recognized early in the design process. Modeling analyses and results can lead the way toward the project’s energy goals and construction objectives.

Substantial opportunity for increased use

For energy modeling to translate easily into energy savings, its results and analyses should be applied early in the design process. It is estimated that building energy modeling is currently used for design in “20 percent of commercial new construction projects, with lower use in commercial interior, retrofit, and residential projects.” This figure signals a large opportunity for future use of energy modeling in 80 percent of commercial new construction projects, and even more in other projects.
Working with a design team early in the project can help a project team explore a panoply of design parameters and alternatives that might not otherwise be considered, including passive design elements such as building orientation, size of facility, function of the design, geometry/shape, building envelope materiality, window-to-wall ratio, shading and daylighting, among other elements.
Incorporating these features, as well as heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) strategies, into an early-stage design energy model can optimize whole-building performance and aid in meeting project energy goals. This approach can also reduce redesign time and costs that could otherwise arise when incorporating energy modeling later in the project.

Schematic design energy modeling benefits

But what clear benefits can a project team expect to see by implementing energy modeling early in the design process? The benefits are actually multiple and diverse, including:

  • Energy efficiency and certification goals are achieved more easily, due to more-informed design decisions.
  • Risks, delays and setbacks are mitigated through the elimination of redesign later in the project.
  • Different components and systems can be compared in order to choose those that will optimize energy efficiency and meet performance targets.
  • Energy modeling in the pre-design phase can allow a project to achieve 45 percent average savings per project compared to a baseline building.

Proponent for schematic design energy modeling

NORESCO, as one of the largest energy service companies in the United States, can attest to the benefits of schematic design energy modeling based on its experience with clients. The organization has provided early-stage modeling for projects during the conceptual and schematic design phases, with energy goals ranging from those under LEED Silver to near-net zero energy use.
To begin schematic design energy modeling, all that is needed are the preliminary building geometry and building operation schedules. The first step is to analyze the energy end-use breakout to identify the areas with the largest design impact. For one college campus dormitory project, early phase modeling revealed that the ventilation strategy was one of the largest end uses and needed careful design.
For an office building project, the window-to-wall ratio was investigated in detail to provide the client’s desired views. Other strategies that can be researched early include HVAC planning, such as variable air volume reheat strategies (electric versus hot water) or steam heating versus natural gas. While all end-uses—from building envelope to lighting—can be considered, part of the process is to prioritize which to investigate first to garner the largest energy savings.

The future looks bright

As building systems, technological components and designs increase in complexity, the benefits of early stage energy modeling should only continue to grow. An industry shift from established convention cannot be expected to occur immediately; however, thanks to the noticeable benefits of early-stage energy modeling, the industry is poised to pivot toward expanded use in the years ahead and building owners and occupants may reap the rewards.


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