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California Policy Corner: Driving progress at all levels

April 20, 2017
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In this first installment of USGBC's new California Policy Corner series, see what we are doing to work with state and local government to accelerate the uptake of healthy, efficient, low-impact buildings.

While the President and Congress battle over budgets, health care and administration appointees, California is forging its own path to progress, where climate, energy, water, buildings and infrastructure are key parts of the discussion. Across the state, USGBC members and partners are working to drive policy and action across California at the state and local levels. 

At the federal level

USGBC is concerned about the future of a number of great EPA programs, including Energy Star, WaterSense and Safer Choice. In response to the proposed budget, USGBC is working with allies and members to let the key congressional appropriators know that these programs matter to American businesses. Please consider supporting these EPA programs by joining our organization sign-on letter, or by sending a comment as an individual

At the state capitol

The top issues the state legislature has been tackling this year have been related to energy, water and immigration. While these and other front-burner issues consume much of the airwaves, almost 100 bills were introduced related to green building issues. Relevant bill topics range from onsite water reuse to residential energy savings programs to sustainability districts.

After a successful 2016, USGBC has been active at the California State Assembly this year, meeting with various stakeholders to discuss green building. We have been talking about how holistic green building can address greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, the viability of more sustainable infrastructure and LEED certification as an effective metric to measure green building outcomes.

USGBC has submitted letters of support for AB 574, which proposes regulating direct potable water reuse as a viable and safe water supply option, and for SB 740, which proposes directing the Water Resources Control Board to develop guidelines for onsite, nonpotable water systems. Both bills are continuations of past efforts led by USGBC to harness alternative water sources in California’s uncertain water future. 

In addition, we're tracking clean energy legislation, such as cap and trade funding sources, the Senate pro tem’s initiatives on renewable energy (SB 584) and both the Senate and assembly’s land conservation bonds (SB 5/AB 18). We are also working to promote the value of third-party verified sustainability standards in housing and infrastructure.

USGBC has submitted comments and letters of support, in concept, for a handful of bills with upcoming hearings:

  • AB 1088, which requires more robust energy options and efficiency efforts for multifamily residential housing;
  • SB 242, which addresses administration of PACE contracts;
  • SB 424, which addresses the California Regional Environmental Education Community Network; and
  • AB 733, which addresses enhanced infrastructure financing districts.

USGBC will continue to monitor progress on these bills and others as they evolve and will keep you up to date. We’re convening panels at the Green California Summit and Expo in Sacramento on April 26 and 27. After the summit, join our Sacramento USGBC leaders for a networking event at the first LEED-certified restaurant in the city.

Looking ahead, we are in the beginning stages of planning advocacy 2017 "Policy Palooza," where we hope to have you join us in Sacramento for education, advocacy and appreciation—namely, our signature Green Hard Hat Awards for champions of green building policy. Let us know if you have a public sector leader to nominate.

At the local level

Across the state, USGBC volunteers and communities have been active in promoting green building as a solution to many of California’s challenges in development, affordability, energy and the environment. California's cities and counties are also key partners in this progress towards market transformation.

For more green building news, please subscribe to our USGBC digests as well as following your local USGBC community in California: Northern CaliforniaRedwood EmpireCentral CaliforniaCalifornia Central CoastLos AngelesOrange County, and San Diego

Sign up for updates from Advocacy and Policy

Volunteer at GreenerBuilder 2017 (USGBC Northern California)

April 19, 2017
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Join USGBC Northern California in advancing green building for all by volunteering at the annual GreenerBuilder Conference, July 13 at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, California.

GreenerBuilder gathers hundreds of Northern California professionals to learn about key trends in the green building market, to hear what owners and developers are looking for and to make important connections with fellow industry leaders. 

We will provide volunteers with complimentary admission to the event and exhibit hall, including food and beverages. It's a great opportunity to connect with Northern California's leading architects, engineers and contractors in green building. Volunteers must be reliable, committed to fulfilling their volunteer duties, comfortable in a professional setting and eager to help.

Volunteer benefits

Volunteering at the event will allow you to

  • Connect with Northern California's leading green building professionals.
  • Contribute to the success of one of Northern California's most important green building events.
  • Learn about cutting-edge green building technologies and strategies.
  • Earn GBCI continuing education credits for your volunteer hours. Up to 50 percent of your CEUs can be for volunteering.
  • Gain the opportunity for a volunteer reference.

Volunteers will be provided with

  • Complimentary food and beverages.
  • Full access to all presentations.
  • A high-energy atmosphere in which to meet like-minded individuals.
  • Helpful materials and instructions emailed to you the week prior to the event.

We need your help to ensure a successful event!

Questions? Contact USGBC Northern California.

Register to volunteer at GreenerBuilder

How green buildings can help fight climate change

April 19, 2017
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Earth Day is a yearly reminder of our responsibility to protect the environment, and changing how we build is a clear chance for us to help fight climate change, the effects of which we’re already seeing today in loss of glacial ice, higher sea levels and more severe heat waves.

Buildings affect the climate

2016 was the hottest year since recording started in 1880, and the third year in a row to set that record, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The international scientific community is nearly certain that human activity is a driver of global warming. There’s over a 95 percent probability that human actions over the past 50 years have warmed our planet, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fifth Assessment Report.

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 v4 acknowledges the large impact buildings have on the environment and gives special consideration to climate change with its “Reverse Contribution to Global Climate Change” impact category (page 12).

Green buildings generate less greenhouse gas 

Green building encompasses a structure’s planning, design, construction, operations and end-of-life recycling or renewal, while considering energywaterindoor environmental qualitymaterials selection and location. Green buildings and communities reduce landfill waste, enable alternative transportation use and encourage retention and creation of vegetated land areas and roofs. 

High-performing green buildings, particularly LEED-certified buildings, provide the means to reduce the climate impacts of buildings and their inhabitants.

2014 UC Berkeley study found that by building to the LEED system, buildings contributed 50 percent fewer GHGs than conventionally constructed buildings due to water consumption, 48 percent fewer GHGs due to solid waste and 5 percent fewer GHGs due to transportation.

LEED rewards thoughtful decisions about building location, with credits that encourage compact development and connection with transit and amenities, helping lower GHGs associated with transportation.

When a building consumes less water, the energy—and GHGs—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. 

All of these strategies significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and occupants beyond what energy efficiency alone does. Providing inhabitant feedback with systems like Arc, which showcases a building’s environmental efforts and performance, can drive further reductions. 

Green buildings can be part of the solution in combating climate change. Learn more about LEED, and explore the LEED project directory to find green buildings in your area. 

For more, watch our video "What is green building?":

3 courses about the LEED rating system

April 19, 2017
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You want the best courses, and we've got them. Check out this month's selection of three courses to grow your LEED, green building and sustainability knowledge. 

In April, gain key strategies for implementing the LEED rating system. These courses are ideal for anyone working on a LEED project and those seeking LEED-specific continuing education hours.

Want to know more about the latest updates, interpretations and corrections to the LEED rating system? View the latest quarterly LEED addenda

Each course is available for individual purchase at $45. You can also access the courses through the Education @USGBC subscription.

Explore Education @USGBC

Analyzing codes for energy use and cost savings strategies (USGBC Colorado)

April 18, 2017
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With ever-increasing codes, are conservation strategies and measures changing enough over time to maintain both energy use and energy cost savings? To answer this question, a group of projects were analyzed by the Weidt Group to compare savings from old code versus new code, specifically using the 2013 code compared to projects previously completed through Xcel Energy’s Energy Design Assistance program. 

The study found that the relative impacts of many energy efficiency measures have stayed consistent, even though some of the technologies for delivering them and the overall savings potential have changed with the evolving energy codes. Even though energy codes are becoming increasingly stringent, technology is, in fact, keeping up.

Many of the top energy strategies that first became popular five to 10 years ago are still relevant today. For example, LED lighting dominates the building industry as the primary technology. Five to 10 years ago, it was fluorescents. Even though code requirements for building lighting have become significantly more stringent, LED technology is allowing teams and owners to still see energy savings and returns on their investments. 

Each building and project is unique, and that is the value of energy design assistance and whole-building modeling. To achieve project goals, energy use and energy cost savings must be simultaneously considered. Below are the top three strategies for both energy use and energy cost savings found from the project analysis in regards to the new 2013 code.

Top three energy use saving strategies (new code, 2013)

  1. High-efficiency heating equipment (responsible for approximately 30 percent of total annual energy use savings): Code minimums are still 80 percent thermally efficient, and high-efficiency boilers have become an industry standard. Although they are usually one of the top mechanical strategies with the highest potential for conservation, this is purely from an energy use perspective. The lower cost of natural gas means that the energy savings potential and return on investments appear lower.
  1. Interior lighting controls package (responsible for approximately 20 percent of total annual energy use savings)
  1. Interior lighting power reductions (responsible for approximately 15 percent of total annual energy use savings)

Top three energy cost saving strategies (new code, 2013)

  1. Interior lighting controls package (responsible for approximately 25 percent of total annual energy cost savings): This strategy is considered from a lighting controls package perspective, not individual controls in specific spaces. Lighting controls packages can easily account for 25 percent of kWh savings or higher, depending on project scope, as well as 25–35 percent of peak kW demand savings. LED technology is the driving force behind these cost savings. Although code allowances are getting ever more stringent, the technology still makes it possible to achieve good savings relative to baseline.
  1. High-efficiency cooling equipment (responsible for approximately 15 percent of total annual energy cost savings)
  1. Interior lighting power reductions (responsible for approximately 15 percent of total annual energy cost savings)

These findings serve to demonstrate that when energy use and energy cost savings are considered together, the most effective strategies overall are interior lighting controls packages and interior lighting power reductions. High-efficiency heating and cooling equipment have significant energy use and energy cost savings, respectively, but their tradeoffs mean a lower overall return on investment.

The Sankey diagram below was built in reference to the 2013 projects:

Celebrate Earth Day with USGBC Wisconsin

April 18, 2017
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At USGBC Wisconsin, we like to think that every day is Earth Day, but we have some extra special opportunities planned in April to allow all of our volunteers and members to celebrate with us. Whether you prefer volunteering to clean and care for Wisconsin's parks and riverfront, studying for your LEED Green Associate exam or supporting our new Green Veterans initiative, we have options for you. We are also partnering with other Wisconsin organizations on these events.

Come show your appreciation for the environment and dedication to sustainability, and celebrate Earth Day with us!

LEED Green Associate study group
Get prepped for the exam during this last session of the six-session study group. The session topic is "Regional Priority, Summary and Review." You can attend in person (USGBC Wisconsin office) or online (WebEx).

Tues., April 18, 6–7:30 p.m.
USGBC Wisconsin, 2123 W. Michigan Street, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233. 

USGBC Wisconsin at Milwaukee Riverkeeper's 22nd Annual Spring Cleanup
We are looking for volunteers to join our USGBC Wisconsin team at the Milwaukee Riverkeeper's 22nd Annual Spring Cleanup.  Sign up for our team, fill out the waiver, and we will handle the rest! (Like registering our group with Riverkeeper's). Just show up at the selected site along the Milwaukee River ready to work!

Sat., April 22, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
Work site: Lincoln Creek at Green Bay Ave cleanup: Meet in the green space lot at the corner of Green Bay Ave and Lawn Street on the east side of Green Bay Avenue, across from Eastbrook Church at 5385 N. Green Bay Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Green Vets at Rock the Green's 6th Annual Earth Day Celebration 
Come visit the Green Veterans info booth, hosted by USGBC Wisconsin, in Picnic Area 8 at Rock the Green's 6th Annual Earth Day Celebration. The celebration immediately follows the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Spring River Cleanup, is free to attend, and features food, music and fun.

Sat., April 22, 12–2 p.m.
Estabrook Park, 4400 N. Estabrook Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53212.

See more USGBC Wisconsin events

LEED Link: The LEED project directory

April 18, 2017
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Did you know that over 100,000 LEED-certified projects are searchable in our project directory on Sortable by rating system and keyword, the directory showcases many of the projects that have achieved LEED over the years, their location and their green features. You can also sort by newness to see the latest LEED certifications and recertifications. This can be an interesting way to browse the LEED projects in your city.

For example, right here in Washington, D.C., the Tower Companies recently recertified 1828 L St. NW, the first building to recertify to LEED Gold under LEED v4 standards. The Scorecard tab under the project profile shows what points the project achieved under the various credit categories.

If you have worked on a LEED project of your own, unless you selected it to be confidential, when you achieved certification, it was automatically added. You can easily enhance your basic project profile with a description and photos like the one above. Follow these steps to add to your project profile.

Visit the project directory

Help USGBC Nevada advocate for sustainability

April 17, 2017
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In preparation for its Day at the Legislature on April 25, USGBC Nevada has laid out its policy priorities for the 79th Session, and your help is needed. The most urgent issues are utility incentives for improved energy efficiency, financing programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy and revisions to the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard.

What's happening

  • Utility incentives for improved energy efficiency: USGBC Nevada supports the adoption of incentives for increased levels of energy efficiency achieved by utilities, as proposed by SB 150. This bill will instruct the Public Utility Commission of Nevada to establish goals for energy savings through 2025 and to establish performance-based incentives for utilities who meet or exceed annual goals for energy savings.
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy financing programs: USGBC Nevada backs financing programs that encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy. AB 5, legislation that enables Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) statewide, and SB 145, a bill to establish a green bank in Nevada, would be instrumental in providing opportunities for energy-minded Nevadans.
  • Revisions to the Renewable Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard: USGBC Nevada supports revisions to the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). AB 206 would incrementally increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50 percent by 2040, and would require the State Energy Plan to be updated at least once every two years.

What you can do

USGBC Nevada will be in Carson City to meet with legislators on these issues and more on April 25, and we are seeking USGBC members, industry leaders and volunteers to join us.

Whether or not you can be present at our Day at the Legislature, we encourage you to use the Nevada Legislature Opinion Feature. As an individual, you can submit your comments at any time. Please share your opinion on the bills above, as well as your support for LEED and green buildings, with your state lawmakers. By making your voice heard, our representatives in the Capitol will be empowered to act in support of critical mechanisms for energy efficiency, renewable energy and green buildings.

In addition to the Day at the Legislature, you are invited to two upcoming stakeholder meetings being held by the governor’s Office of Energy to discuss proposed changes to the Green Building Tax Abatement Program:

  • April 20 in Las Vegas, from 1–4 p.m. at The Innevation Center
  • May 2 in Carson City, from 1–4 p.m. at the Governor’s Office of Energy

To attend either of these meetings, please contact Robin Isaacs or call 775.687.1850. Call-in information for these meetings may be available.

To join USGBC Nevada on Advocacy Day or to advocate for green buildings in Nevada in general, please email us for more information.

Contact USGBC Nevada

2017 School Sustainability Leaders' Summit shared goals and successes

April 17, 2017
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Every year, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC convenes approximately 50 sustainability and energy leaders from around the world for the K–12 School District Sustainability Leaders’ Summit—one and a half days of professional development training. Hosted just after the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, the 2017 summit built off the energy and learning that took place during the conference.

The summit provides a dedicated and supportive space for sustainability leaders to focus on bigger programming goals, learn best practices from their peers and engage in hands-on activities led by expert presenters.

Learning from the best

At this year’s summit, participants heard from industry experts in the fields of marketing, curriculum development and educational leadership—all of whom helped clarify thinking and messaging on sustainability. Peer-to-peer learning is also an important part of the summit, and best practice examples from nine different districts were shared, covering topics such as communicating sustainability goals at the district level, using data to tell compelling stories and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. 

“I really appreciate having the space and time to take a step back from my day-to-day, think broadly about the goals I have for my district and develop a road map for how to get there. I lose sight of that in my daily work and this annual event refocuses and energizes my work,” comented Kristen Trovillion, of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Ghita Carroll, of Boulder Valley School District, agreed: “The Center for Green Schools has really dialed it in to deliver content that is exactly what is needed to support school district sustainability staff."

Staying involved

Until next year's summit, participants can continue their learning through the School District Sustainability Leaders Network. The Center supports this cohort of over 100 leaders all year long, by facilitating conversations and resource sharing through an online social network, hosting quarterly webcasts and offering Green School District Scholarship opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more about the summit or joining the District Sustainability Leaders Network, contact Phoebe Beierle.

Check out the slideshow video of the summit

Executive luncheon launches Greenbuild China

April 17, 2017
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On March 31, USGBC hosted a Greenbuild China executive luncheon at the Shanghai Westin Hotel. This luncheon officially launched the Greenbuild China conference coming to Shanghai on Oct. 17–18, 2017. Nearly 100 guests were invited, including government officials, thought leaders, executives and other stakeholders, to celebrate the announcement of the world’s most influential green building event coming to China.

Attendees at the executive luncheon.

Sarah Alexander, vice president, certification, GBCI, updated the audience on the latest progress from USGBC and LEED in the global market and in China. China is now the largest market for LEED outside the United States. Based on the latest research, there are over 1,000 LEED-certified projects in mainland China.

USGBC's Stacia Murray and Lauren Sturgis with a guest.

China has an opportunity to drive sustainability at a global scale. The launch of Greenbuild China will help to accelerate the market transformation and China’s 13th five-year plan by providing the platform for professionals around Asia to exchange advanced concepts, products and technology related to green building.

Registration will open in June. Learn more about Greenbuild China, and watch our video:


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