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Reviving a school garden with Green Apple Day of Service

October 3, 2017
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Outdoor classrooms allow students to connect with nature and learn about plant cycles and wildlife habitats. Getting outside also grants teachers the opportunity to offer hands-on activities that can only take place in an outdoor setting. Green Apple Day of Service is a perfect time to create an outdoor classroom garden, or to make improvements to one you already have.

See our tips on how to create or tend a school garden for a Green Apple project.

Clover Hill Elementary School in Midlothian, Virginia, knows the importance of an outdoor space for students to connect with nature. However, their outdoor classroom had become overgrown and rarely used. The school decided to restore the space during their Green Apple Day of Service to make it more accessible to students and teachers—and to the wildlife within the space.

Clover Hill Green Apple Day of Service project

Clover Hill gathered students, parents and staff volunteers to replace overgrown weeds with native plants, mulch the area and build a podium and benches. All this work revived the outdoor classroom, creating a welcoming space for students and teachers to gather for lessons. With the hard work done, the students decided to open up the space to the community, to take what they learned about sustainability and habitat restoration and share it with their whole neighborhood.

Clover Hill Green Apple Day of Service project

The new outdoor classroom encourages students and families to spend time connecting with nature. The students’ passion in restoring their outdoor space and their dedication to sharing with the larger community have inspired the parents and project volunteers. A recent NOAA Bay Backpack article also covered the project.

Does your school need an outdoor classroom, or do you already have one that needs a makeover? For more help planning your project, check out the Green Apple Day of Service project checklist.

Create a Green Apple project

Rebuilding better: Planning for the road ahead

October 3, 2017
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The global green building community was built on the mission of creating a more sustainable built environment. In the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, the earthquake in Mexico and countless other natural disasters taking place all over the world, USGBC stands with our local communities as they begin the long, hard work of recovering from the effects of these natural disasters. Architects, builders, engineers, contractors, designers, students, innovators and many other types of leaders make up this movement, and we are ready to help in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.

It will take months, even years, to assess the damage and develop the right strategies for each of the affected regions, but we know that sustainable, resilient practices will ensure that we rebuild better. Over the next several months, at Greenbuild and beyond, USGBC will be working with our local leaders to develop action plans to help with the rebuilding efforts, and we will be sharing updates along the way.

Here are some resources immediately available to those affected or those looking to help. If you would like to add to this list, please respond in the comments section, and we will add resources as appropriate.

Cleanup resources

Community resilience

Rebuilding resources

HUD provides several rebuilding resources, including:

FEMA provides several rebuilding resources:

Other resources:

USGBC resources

Following Hurricane Katrina, USGBC led the creation of the New Orleans Principles, which were developed to help guide the planning and rebuilding efforts, with the intent of enhancing environmental, social and economic outcomes. This holistic, or “triple-bottom-line,” approach promotes environmental, economical and equitable solutions in addressing the rebuilding efforts, creating a stronger, more self-sufficient and more protected city.

Giving back

Several organizations are accepting donations in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria:

  • SEPA is organizing an internal pledge drive to raise money for Light and Hope for Puerto Rico.
  • Team Rubicon, which is made up of U.S. Army veterans, launched Operation Coquí Calling in response to Hurricane Maria. Volunteers are supporting the distribution of medical supplies and necessities in coordination with local and state authorities, conducting community needs assessments in coordination with FEMA and providing debris removal and chainsaw operations.
  • UNICEF is providing a portal to donate for the Hurricane Maria response.
  • Red Cross has a webpage for disaster relief donations.
  • The One America Appeal, launched by former U.S. presidents, is raising money for Texas, Florida and the Caribbean.

LEED Link: How does Arc fit in with LEED?

October 3, 2017
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LEED has been the leading green building rating system worldwide for a long time. Last December, USGBC introduced a new, complementary tool: Arc, a state-of-the-art digital platform for measuring and tracking building performance.

Arc allows buildings and spaces to compare performance metrics across the globe and connect them to green building strategies. LEED-certified buildings can use Arc to improve and benchmark with their peers, as well as verify LEED performance on an annual basis to keep their certification up to date.

Projects that are not yet certified can also use Arc to make sustainability improvements over time, to eventually achieve LEED certification.

Learn more about Arc

Watch our video introducing Arc:

LEED certification update: Third quarter 2017

October 2, 2017
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Earlier this year, we revitalized this recurring feature to make it more dynamic and easier to read. Now, you can check in quarterly on LEED certification activity, broken out by achievement level, rating system and location. We will remind you of this feature and the new numbers in the first week of every quarter through a USGBC article.

Additionally, be sure to check out the suite of market briefs for your state and country, as well as our state-by-state LEED for Homes rating system brief. For project-specific information, head to the LEED project directory for a closer look at LEED projects in your area.


Attend the 2018 Green Schools Conference and Expo in Denver

October 2, 2017
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The Green Schools Conference and Expo (GSCE) is the only national event to bring together all of the players involved in making green schools a reality: people who lead, operate, build and teach in U.S. schools.

This year, the GSCE will be hosted in partnership with Rocky Mountain Green, USGBC Colorado’s regional sustainability conference. This new partnership will bring together experts from diverse industries within the green building world for a unique opportunity for collaboration and networking.

When: May 3–4, 2018
Where: Denver, Colorado

The conference features two days of programming with inspiring keynote speakers, informative workshops and breakout sessions and the chance to network with colleagues from across the country.

  • Speakers: The nation’s education, environmental and business leaders take the stage to motivate, inspire and teach our community.
  • Program: Attendees are inspired by master series speakers, who address current challenges, set goals for future action and share best practices.
  • Exhibitors: In the Exhibit Hall, attendees can discover new products and services vital to their careers, while forging relationships with vendors and service providers that last well beyond the conference. It's a must-see destination, showcasing the best of the green schools community.

A full conference pass to the event includes:

  • Thurs., May 3: Access to the opening plenary, education sessions and the Expo Hall; networking breakfast and lunch; and happy hour in the Expo Hall.
  • Fri., May 4: Access to the closing plenary, networking lunch and education sessions.

Full conference pricing:

  • USGBC member: $300 (early bird), $375 (standard)
  • USGBC nonmember: $375 (early bird), $450 (standard)
  • Discounted: (PreK–12 school or district, government or nonprofit employee) $275 (early bird), $325 (standard)
  • University/college student or emerging professional: $200 (early bird), $225 (standard)
  • Onsite: $465

Registration will open on Mon., October 30, 2017.

Learn more about the event

Commercial Interiors tours LEED Platinum Nixon Peabody offices (USGBC National Capital Region)

September 29, 2017
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Session three of USGBC National Capital Region's Commercial Interiors Task Force was held September 7 at the law offices of Nixon Peabody LLC at 799 9th Street NW, Washington D.C.

The event included a panel discussion, "The Art of the Green Deal: Navigating the Landlord-Tenant Relationship" and a tour of the firm. The Nixon Peabody office was elected 2017 Commercial Interior Project of the Year by USGBC National Capital Region.

Approximately 60 people attended the lively and engaging panel discussion. David Kay spoke on behalf of the Commercial Interior Task Force, and introduced the panel: Moderator Paul O'Brien of GHT Limited; Jeff Lesk, Partner and LEED AP, at Nixon Peabody; Sally Wilson, LEED Fellow, of NGKF; Ken Wilson, Design Principal and Design Director for Interiors for Perkins + Will; Dave Bevirt, Senior Vice President of Leasing, for Brookfield Properties; and Ben Cohen, Vice President Corporate Interiors, of Davis Construction. Each shared some of the building's features, success stories and challenges.

USGBC National Capital Region event at Nixon Peabody

As Lesk recalled, this project was unique for the law firm and pushed boundaries of both sustainability and staff engagement to shift staff mindset towards more sustainable office practices. The project achieved LEED Platinum. In addition, as Brookfield pointed out, the host building was renovated and itself achieved LEED O+M certification under LEED for Existing Buildings. Innovative and cost-saving measures included a glass storefront system, condensate capture and harvesting to irrigate the living wall. 

USGBC National Capital Region event at Nixon Peabody

In closing, USGBC National Capital Region honored Jeff Lesk with the decorative plaque for his Innovative Project of the Year, Interior Design award, announced at A Midsummer Night’s Green 2017.

Attendees broke into two groups to tour design highlights for the project, led by KGO PM, Nixon Peabody’s project management firm. Of great interest was the rooftop solar array installation, which collected solar energy and donates power to 100 low-income tenants.

Special thanks to the series sponsor, Davis Construction, and event sponsors GHT Limited and KGO PM.

View other upcoming events

Students learn about wetlands for Green Apple Day of Service (USGBC Central Pennsylvania)

September 29, 2017
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Every day on my commute, I pass my local school district, Susquenita, and then the mighty Susquehanna River. The Susquehanna is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the nation’s largest estuary—and the Susquenita school district has wetlands on its property that are directly connected to the river and the bay. This connection gave me the idea for a Green Apple Day of Service project for USGBC Central Pennsylvania.

As an environmental scientist, my husband Greg performs wetland delineations, so I decided to recruit him to lead a mock wetland delineation for students at our local school district. I also found a biology teacher at the middle school who was interested in helping me coordinate this activity for a Green Apple event.

On September 21, Greg, along with his coworker Melissa, joined me for the event at Susquenita School District. Fifteen students participated from middle and high school. We described to the students the paths of our careers in the environmental industry. Since career pathways are part of pillar three in the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program, it was important to have that preliminary discussion.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania wetlands Green Apple project

Next, Greg and Melissa talked about why wetlands are important and how to identify them. Wetlands are not only a habitat for animals, but also a natural filtration system for water before it enters our rivers. They also help to control floods. Students learned the criteria for defining a wetland: 1) water, or signs of water; 2) hydrophytic vegetation (plants that love water), and 3) hydric soils (they show signs of being wet and without oxygen, or anoxic environments).

Armed with this knowledge, as well as site-specific plant identification guides created by Greg, the students went out onto their school property to observe a wetland firsthand. Greg and Melissa showed the students how to use an auger to dig down into the soil and observe its profile for signs of hydric soils (reddish colors, similar to rust, occur where oxygen is not present). They also helped the students identify the wetland plants and place delineation flags in the ground to identify the boundaries of the wetland.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania wetlands Green Apple project

To close out our wetland delineation, I reminded students that everything is connected in this great “circle of life”—that this wetland on their school property connects to the Susquehanna River, which is in turn part of the largest estuary in the United States. It is my hope that the students will remember our activity and how important wetlands are, motivating them to be caretakers of this planet.

Green Apple events will be occurring at K–12 schools in Central Pennsylvania through April 2018. If your company, organization or school is interested in organizing a Green Apple Day of Service event, please email Heidi Kunka or call 202.706.0836, and we’d be glad to assist.

Learn more about Green Apple projects

California Policy Corner: Leadership from Sacramento

September 29, 2017
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Things moved quickly in Sacramento once the legislature concluded its summer recess. After a spring that was consumed with narrowing down a list of nearly 2,500 bills, and then focusing legislative attention on the budget, a transportation package and the extension of the cap-and-trade program, there were a number of important issues left on the table for action this month.

Addressing the state’s housing crisis

Among the biggest legislative priorities was a concerted effort to address the state’s housing crisis (read last month’s article and this draft statewide housing assessment from the Department of Housing and Community Development for more). An important package did pass, which includes the following bills:

  • SB 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, will collect a $75 fee, and up to $225 on some real estate transactions, that will feed into a fund for affordable housing statewide.
  • SB 3, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act, authorizes the issuance of $4 billion in bond measures for affordable housing ($1 billion of which is carved out to support veterans specifically).
  • SB 35 creates a streamlining process for affordable housing projects, urban infill and transit-oriented development.

USGBC distributed a memo at the end of August to help steer legislative efforts on housing toward taking full advantage of green, affordable and decent-quality housing. The bills that did pass are far from a remedy to the housing crisis, but they do offer a good first step (see Southern California Public Radio's article for more).

Nine out of 14 ain’t bad

It wasn’t until after midnight on September 15 that the legislature finally wrapped up its work for the year. Here’s how the Los Angeles Times summed it up.

USGBC batted over .600, with nine of the 14 bills we prioritized making it over the outfield wall. Our partnership with Ecoconsult in 2017 has helped make it another fruitful and productive year for green building in California.

A last-minute replacement bill for AB 246, initiated by the State Building and Construction Trades Council, ended up adding a 14th bill to our support list this year. The bill builds on AB 900 of 2011, which offered expedited environmental review for large, priority projects, as determined by the governor and certain parameters. Among other things, the new law increases the LEED requirement to Gold certification under LEED v4, and extends the program by two years (to 2021).

See also the most recent article in our series on green building and California’s cap-and-trade program, which focuses on the interaction between subsidies, mandates and markets in driving down greenhouse gas emissions.

Below is a helpful review of the 14 bills we supported during the 2017 legislative session.

On the horizon

Even as the legislature closed for official business until next January, state agencies and the governor’s office continue to labor on in the development and administration of programs that support and expand green building in the state. Indeed, Governor Jerry Brown’s continued focus on climate action, particularly through the Under 2 MOU, provides promising avenues for green buildings to be a key part of any solution.

This fall, we look forward to continuing conversations with relevant agencies, and to connecting with USGBC members about this year’s policy and advocacy work as we gear up for 2018.

Be a green building hero with a net zero building

September 28, 2017
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Your mission

As we celebrate World Green Building Week, we challenge you: Make your next project a "green building hero" by pushing it toward zero carbon.

Earlier this year, USGBC joined with the World Green Building Council and other green building councils around the globe to call for all buildings to be net zero by 2050. This goal follows from projections that, to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees (in line with the Paris Agreement), we need to decrease the average energy intensity of the global building stock by 80 percent by 2050 through low- and zero-carbon strategies.

How will we reach this critical milestone? The only way we can—start with the building, community or city you are in. Measure your current carbon emissions, see how close you are to net zero and select the best strategy to lower your impact.

Connect and act

To get to net zero carbon, we must start by knowing where we are. When we developed the Arc platform, we saw the opportunity to connect people with their buildings, connect people with other people and make those connections meaningful by helping teams collaborate to achieve continuous improvement.

Within a year of its launch, there are close to a billion square feet of space participating in Arc. The platform is helping to connect those project teams with actions to reduce their impact on the climate, via integrated carbon analytics and benchmarking across a portfolio or across the globe. Arc’s global scores for energy and transportation are already providing users with carbon outcomes: A perfect Arc score aligns with net zero carbon.

You’re already on your way

Today, net zero carbon is possible for many buildings, a result of the efforts of our green building community, made up of people like you, on thousands of LEED projects.

In fact, two-thirds of LEED credits support the goal of reducing buildings’ contribution to climate change. Each project that pushes to try a new strategy and to achieve the highest score has created this new paradigm. And in the U.S., more than half of buildings that have been recognized as net zero are also LEED-certified.

Your work has also created a virtual treasure trove of knowledge on how to design, build and operate net zero buildings, through over 50 courses on net zero and carbon reduction strategies on our Education @USGBC platform, and dozens of sessions planned for Greenbuild 2017, along with the annual Net Zero Zone showcasing a zero energy microgrid on the Expo Hall floor.

Measuring progress toward net zero carbon

Your next project or existing building is an opportunity to create a new hero. Know your building’s impact, and use as many carbon impact-reducing and regenerative strategies as you can.

Here are a few examples of how your green building can move toward net zero and earn LEED credits:

  • Green infrastructure: Maximize green infrastructure and site vegetation to absorb carbon and reduce heat retention.
  • Water: Minimize indoor and outdoor potable water consumption.
  • Energy: Optimize energy efficiency and peak energy demand, which tends to be dirtiest; use low-carbon technologies such as geothermal; generate on-site solar or wind, if possible; use demand response and smart technologies to reduce grid impact.
  • Waste: Minimize construction and operation waste for disposal; reduce creation of other materials requiring transport (such as for recycling).
  • Transportation: Site your project near public transit, or advocate for transit additions; make it easy to use mass transit through such tactics as shuttles or attractive walkways; promote alternative transportation with bike racks and showers.

Soon, you will be able to know with certainty when you achieve net zero carbon. As a partner in the Advancing Net Zero program, USGBC is developing a verification for projects that achieve net zero carbon emissions in Arc for energy and transportation.

As the call for net zero green buildings gets louder, we are excited to see what our amazing green building movement can do. We are just getting started.

Attend a workshop about Arc in Qatar

September 28, 2017
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You may know Arc to be a state-of-the-art online platform for building owners and operators to collect, manage and benchmark their building data to improve sustainability performance. All projects, whether LEED-certified or not, can use the Arc platform to measure and communicate portfolio-level sustainability performance. Are you ready to apply Arc to your building, neighborhood or city?

Join Qatar Green Building Council, a USGBC Education Partner, for a morning session, "Introduction to Arc," exploring the foundation of the Arc platform. At the end of this session, attendees will be able to define the main features of the Arc platform and understand the Arc application process, as well as identify the opportunity to apply Arc to existing buildings and plan for key considerations and requirements for certification documentation.

Introduction to Arc

When: Tues., October 3, 8–10:30 a.m.
Where: QGBC Villa, Doha, Qatar

Interested in learning more about performance and green buildings? Follow USGBC's Education channel and the USGBC Events page to learn about education events happening in your region.

Learn more and register


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