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USGBC North Carolina Emerging Professionals clean up creek

May 26, 2017
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On May 6, USGBC North Carolina's Charlotte-based Emerging Professionals lent a hand in an Adopt-a-Stream creek clean-up on Little Sugar Creek in Charlotte. Alex Kha, a dedicated Emerging Professional volunteer, led the group activity.

Fifteen volunteers from various organizations, including CBI, Little Diversified, 505 Design, Hartranft Lighting Design, and KI worked diligently to make an impact on this project and Charlotte’s natural environment.

Throughout the day, debris such as old tires, plastic wrappers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other trash and recyclables were picked up and properly disposed of through the efforts of the USGBC volunteer group.

Little Sugar Creek is part of the Catawba Watershed and provides a home to a variety of wildlife in the Charlotte area; caring for the creek is caring for Charlotte. The volunteers were encouraged by positive reinforcement from the community throughout the day.

“It was a wonderful experience that will have an impact for years to come,” said Kha of the event.

See more upcoming USGBC North Carolina events

Sandia Vista Elementary named a 2017 Green Ribbon School (USGBC New Mexico)

May 26, 2017
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On May 4, the U.S. Department of Education announced the recipients of the 2017 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS), an awards program that acknowledges a deep commitment to sustainable practices among the nation’s leading schools, districts and institutions of higher education. 

A total of 63 honorees—including 45 schools, nine post-secondary institutions and nine school districts—received the prestigious award for their demonstrated leadership across three pillars:

  1. Reduced environmental impact and costs
  2. Improved health and wellness
  3. Effective environmental and sustainability education

Now in its sixth year, the program has honored 340 schools, 56 districts and 34 post secondary institutions. One of this year’s honorees, Sandia Vista Elementary from Rio Rancho Public Schools, is the only school from New Mexico, and only the second school in the state to ever earn a Green Ribbon.

The LEED Silver Sandia Vista Elementary School enrolls nearly 630 students, about 150 of whom are in the district's preschool and elementary Montessori program. The school's comprehensive sustainability-related programs encompass both energy-saving and environmentally responsible programs and strategies to improve student and staff health and wellness and to establish lifelong healthy habits. The school has also incorporated curriculum that teaches students the fundamentals of environmental science and stewardship.

As part of this significant recognition program within the green schools movement, recipients of this year’s award model best practices for educating and inspiring the next generation of 21st century citizens. Showing the breadth of the green schools movement, 44 percent of this year’s awardees serve under-resourced communities, and 14 percent are located in rural areas. Charter, non-public and magnet schools are included, as well as career, technical and community colleges.

USGBC New Mexico congratulates Sandia Vista Elementary School on this accomplishment, and encourages other schools and institutes of higher education to emulate the school’s efforts in promoting the health and well-being of children and teachers in New Mexico.

Learn more about the 2017 Green Ribbon Schools

Presentations and sponsorships available for Sustainable Detroit Forum (USGBC Detroit)

May 25, 2017
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USGBC Detroit Region is pleased to announce its first annual Sustainable Detroit Forum, "Showcasing our Healthy High-Performance City." The event will take place on October 25, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center at Wayne State University,

Our first forum is designed to connect and cross-fertilize the sustainability communities of Detroit. The full-day event is being organized in partnership with a number of other nonprofits with green and sustainable missions, including:

  • American Institute of Architects—Detroit Chapter
  • Sierra Club
  • Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
  • EcoWorks / Youth Energy Squad
  • Elevate Energy
  • Michigan Interfaith Power and Light

The event offers a day of interactive learning, with morning and lunch keynotes followed by short presentations of projects brought to the event by nonprofit partners. These 10- to 15-minute, lightning-fast presentations of both completed and planned projects will form the bulk of the sessions, allowing as many people as possible to share their sustainability vision and actions.

Proposals for presentations are due July 14. Learn more about making a proposal

If you have a product or service you would like to share with the green building professionals who will be attending, sponsorships and exhibitor space is available. Sponsors will be recognized on social media, in program materials and emails and at the general sessions of the event. 

Proposals for sponsorships are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Learn more about sponsorship

In addition, we are seeking acoustic musicians to play interludes between presentations and to provide ambiance for the opening plenary and during lunch. Learn more.

Detroit has many exciting sustainability initiatives, from the neighborhoods to Midtown and downtown, and this event will bring them all together for a day of sharing, learning and connecting. Join us in bringing the sustainability conversation forward in Detroit.

Download the request for proposals

Capital E shares how to green your city cost-effectively [podcast]

May 25, 2017
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Through our partnership with Capital E, USGBC is pleased to offer a preview of groundbreaking research from USGBC Lifetime Achievement Awardee Greg Kats and Keith Glassbrook of Capital E. Their latest work focuses on the benefit-cost analysis of deploying “smart surfaces” at scale in three cities: Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and El Paso.

Smart surfaces include alternative roof and surface treatments—green, solar and cool roofs—as well as tree cover, permeable pavement and reflective pavement. When used strategically, these readily available technologies can transform a highly urban, paved area, benefiting cities and their residents in numerous ways. According to the study’s findings, these strategies can be used to improve health, reduce energy use and ultimately create more livable cities, all while saving billions of dollars.

The upcoming report will give stakeholders the data needed to understand and quantify the costs and benefits of smart surface technologies, and thus to support policies and practices to manage their city’s rain and sun in a way that pays back.

LEED and SITES reward these strategies, with credits for reducing heat islanding, producing on-site renewable energy, using natural vegetation and managing rainwater. USGBC is pleased to partner with Capital-E on this important step to support scaling up of proven practices that help people, protect the planet and increase profit. Capital E was also supported by the JPB Foundation. 

Stay tuned for launch of the full report later this spring. For a sneak preview, listen to our interview with Greg Kats:

For a deeper dive, watch Kats’s presentation on Education @USGBC.

3 courses about life cycle assessment

May 25, 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 May, we're featuring courses on life cycle assessment (LCA): what they cover, how to interpret them and how using life cycle at the building level can benefit material use reduction. 

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

Explore Education @USGBC

Connecting sustainability with the human experience (USGBC Colorado)

May 24, 2017
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Sustainability is an ever-evolving conversation. It’s now moved beyond resource conservation efforts to include climate change, human health and well-being, resilience, regeneration and ecosystem integrity. Such a broadened definition of sustainability today requires new perspectives in processing competing design parameters to provide a holistic solution that values the health of end users, the immediate local communities and the larger ecosystems.

The typical design process begins by looking at programming and functional needs, often executed with a kind of “check box” approach. In this approach, conversations about sustainability are sometimes delegated to footnote status or sprinkled in at the end as an afterthought. This process doesn’t allow designers and end users to look at a project holistically. Instead, it encourages pragmatic conversations that help us get from point A to point B, but exclude the most important conversation: the user experience. Literally and figuratively, we must move beyond the (check)box to a conversation about what the people inside the box really want.

Simply put, we must think beyond the building.

How do we do this?

Sustainability discussions frequently center on characteristics of environmental responsibility and resource efficiency. These are, of course, important considerations, but they stop short of asking the questions that truly help designers tailor a strategy to the needs of each individual client. Expanding these discussions allows clients to create their own set of personalized, organically derived “good-better-best” sustainability criteria that can then serve as a guideline for every environmental factor that influences the experiences of a building’s users.

Changing our approach to design means starting with conversations about how sustainability can enhance the human experience. We build buildings for people, and so these discussions should stem from people. A growing body of research shows a strong connection between the built environment and the health and well-being of those who occupy the space. When it comes to buildings, User Experience (UX) encompasses the totality of the effects felt by a user as a result of interaction with the building. This includes the influence of usability, usefulness and emotional impact during interaction, as well as savoring the memory after interaction.

More succinctly, good UX design is one that creates a positive emotional and psychological connection to the location. Our goal should be to focus on the experience first, and then create a sustainable building around that experience. My colleague Shona O’Dea and I believe we can do this by Viewing Architecture through the Lens of User Experience for Sustainability, or by taking a VALUESTM approach. This solution, adaptable and scalable, evaluates sustainable design and its impact on user experience.

What does this look like in the real world?

I have seen this approach play out firsthand during on the visioning sessions for the new Agua Fria High School in Arizona. The integrated design team, including various end user representatives such as faculty, district leadership, community members and students, participated in a Co-Lab to explore values related to key sustainability aspects of building design, construction, and operation.

Five broad categories were explored: Environmental Stewardship, the Indoor Environment, Indoor Air Quality / Health of Occupants, Student-Centric Design, and Beyond Buildings (site, concrete, bike paths, etc.). Under each category, a set of topics were introduced, with examples explaining the concept and reinforcing their importance. The team also prioritized each category based on UX on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being critically important to the success of the school.

Through the phases of facility visioning, program verification and early design, it became clear that the District’s vision for “all students, college- and career-ready” would rally the stakeholders to amplify existing success and cultivate instructional evolution. Driven by this vision, our design progressed from a concept to include many design strategies that impact UX, the end result of which will be a well-thought-out, 21st century learning facility that not only encourages high-energy, spontaneous collaboration between students and teachers, but also propels human health, resource conservation and an ecological future.

Using a VALUES framework, we can create such facilities, and also place value on end user success and the meaningful experiences these buildings can create.

Piedmont-Triad Branch works on home weatherization project (USGBC North Carolina)

May 24, 2017
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On May 6, USGBC North Carolina's Piedmont Triad Branch took part in a home weatherization project, Operation Inasmuch, with Community Housing Solutions (CHS).

The overall project focused on about 15 homes clustered on two neighborhood streets, not far from the church that served as the central gathering place. About 150 volunteers participated, making indoor and outdoor repairs, painting, installing toilet replacements, doing deck repairs and constructing accessible ramps.

Our group worked on seven homes that were identified ahead of time by CHS and Jim Fields for weatherization improvements. For each one, the volunteers provided exterior caulking around windows, foam plates behind outlet and switch covers and weatherstripping at exterior doors, all to stop air leaks. We also replaced light bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs and left some extras with many of the homeowners. 

The Community Housing Solutions staff did a great job of organizing the event in partnership with the local community (City of High Point, churches and the neighborhood association). All volunteers were given red T-shirts or hats to wear, making it easy for the homeowners to recognize and trust those offering help. The opening gathering and remarks at the church included recognition of Piedmont-Triad Branch as a first-time participants.

The event went very smoothly, and the homeowners were all appreciative of the help from the community.

See more events from USGBC North Carolina

Advocacy alert: Help advance clean energy bills in Nevada (USGBC Nevada)

May 24, 2017
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Following our successful day visiting state legislators in April, USGBC Nevada has seen favorable progress on all of our priority bills. Each of these pieces of legislation would strengthen access to renewable energy and energy efficiency across the state.

Here’s a snapshot of the bills USGBC Nevada is pursuing that have seen recent movement:

  • SB 150 was passed by the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.
  • SB 407 had a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs.
  • AB 5 was approved by the Senate Committee on Government Affairs.
  • AB 206 had a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.
  • AB 270 has been rolled into AB 405, a bill focused on consumer protection for solar, which was approved by the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor.

In addition, USGBC Nevada members may be interested in following SB 392, a bill that could help accelerate community solar statewide.

USGBC Nevada is proud to have helped these critical bills along thus far.  We still need your support to continue to push them forward, though.

Please urge Nevada legislators today to support any or all of these measures. To do so, visit the Nevada legislature website, select the bill number, click that your comment is “for,” and add any additional comments you may have.

This only takes a moment, and legislators have specifically told us how much they value this forum for public comment. There are only a few days left in this legislative session, before an 18-month pause. Please share your comments to help advance clean energy in the state.

Support this legislation

California Policy Corner: May advocacy update

May 24, 2017
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April was a busy month for USGBC’s advocacy and policy work in California. The Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo (MGBCE) held in Los Angeles provided Southern California building advocates with their annual opportunity to dive deep into green building practice and policy. A popular topic of discussion at MGBCE was L.A.’s Existing Building Energy and Water Efficiency (EBEWE) ordinance. USGBC Los Angeles continues to host events to support compliance, with the next one coming up on June 2.

Meetings in the Sacramento area

In early May, the USGBC team connected in Sacramento to meet with legislative staff on priority bills and to meet with several agency officials to explore how USGBC and our community can better support state implementation of leading state programs and policies.

After almost a dozen meetings, the day ended with a social event at the LEED-certified restaurant Hot Italian. There, we heard about the new Archnexus office in Sacramento—a LEED Platinum building certified under LEED v4 for New Construction, and the first building in California anticipating full Living Building Challenge certification.

USGBC met with the following:

  • California Air Resources Board
  • California Building Standards Commission
  • California Energy Commission
  • Office of Governor Brown
  • Office of Sen. Skinner, representing Berkeley, San Leandro
  • Office of Sen. Weiner, representing San Francisco, Daly City, San Mateo
  • Office of Asm. Berman, representing East Palo Alto, Half Moon Bay, Sunnyvale
  • Office of Asm. Cervantes, representing Riverside, Corona, Jurupa Valley
  • Office of Asm. Eggman, representing Stockton, Thornton
  • Office of Asm. Ting, representing San Francisco

Our visits coincided with the annual Green California Summit in Sacramento, where USGBC Vice President Jamie Statter convened two panels. The first panel focused on drought management and sustainable landscapes, featuring a representative from the governor’s office and a sustainability expert from the City of Santa Monica, and including discussion on the value of the LEED and SITES programs.

The second panel focused on what’s next in the transformation of the power grid, featuring an expert from California-based Advanced Microgrid Systems and an expert from Texas-based Pecan Street, who made multiple references to California utility programs and energy policy, as well as information and opportunities available through the PEER program.

Updates from the legislature

It’s crunch time for the legislature and their bills as they move from one house to another. Since our last update, we have put in comment letters on several additional bills.

Although this year’s session ends on September 15, the thousands of bills currently in play will be reduced by about a half by the end of May. All bills that USGBC is supporting are currently on track or will be heard before the next big deadline in late May.

One major measure to watch is Senator Wieckowksi’s SB 775. The bill proposes a new cap-and-trade program that tracks with achieving the 2030 statewide emissions goal and also prohibits the use of carbon offsets, includes a price floor and price ceiling (“price collar”) and fully separates the trading periods.

Senate Pro Tem. De Leon’s SB 100, an effort to set a 100 percent renewable energy standard for California by 2045, is another measure to watch. The bill includes a ramp-up over the next 25 or more years and lists a number of possible sources for renewable energy, including biogas and biomethane.

Join us for the Green Hard Hat Awards

We look forward to the annual statewide policy leaders recognition event on June 21: our signature Green Hard Hat Awards. The ceremony is open to all.  We’ll also take a tour of the LEED Platinum Golden1 Center. Earlier in the day, we will also be hosting a green building briefing for state lawmakers. We hope you will join us for the event.

Register to attend the awards

Register for the AASHE Student Summit by May 31 for early bird rates

May 23, 2017
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Last year, more than 450 students attended the Student Summit at the AASHE Conference and Expo. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education offers this platform annually for student sustainability leaders to network with hundreds of other like-minded students from around the globe. 

On October 15, 2017, we hope you will join USGBC, AASHE and your peers in San Antonio, Texas, as we examine how the campus sustainability community can break down walls, build bridges and continue to make progress toward a healthy and equitable future for all. Together, we are "Stronger in Solidarity."

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Innovative workshops with organizations, including USGBC, working to advance sustainability Inspirational keynote speakers who are champions in their field
  • Share ideas and network with peers
  • Learn tactics and strategies for your campus from successful student initiatives

Register by May 31 to take advantage of early bird rates.

Register for the Student Summit


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