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Guess what colleges empower students through sustainability and education

Published on 2 Nov 2017
Written by Mary Schrott

Learn about two honorable mention recipients of the Climate Leadership Awards.

For this year’s Climate Leadership Awards, USGBC and Second Nature received numerous applications from colleges and universities all making valiant strides toward sustainability in their classrooms and communities.

Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, Georgia, and Bristol Community College, in Fall River, Massachusetts, received honorable mentions as four- and two-year institutions, respectively.

Student-driven sustainability at Georgia Southern

What sets Georgia Southern apart from other institutions are its efforts to empower students through sustainability initiatives. One such initiative is Georgia Southern’s Student Sustainability Fee Grant Program. More than $1.1 million has been allocated toward campus sustainability projects since the grant’s inception in 2014. This annual grant gives students the opportunity to lead personal sustainability projects with the guidance of faculty and staff. Past projects have ranged from LED lighting upgrades to solar-powered golf carts.

“Students are an incredible force,” says Dr. Lissa Leege, Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Sustainability at Georgia Southern. “They bring many new ideas to the table from a wide range of experience and across disciplines. Give them support, guidance, and responsibility, and they will move mountains.”

Part of the guidance Georgia Southern provides comes from the requirement that every student take an environmental studies course before graduation. The university believes that this provides students with the critical thinking and empowerment needed to make a positive environmental change outside of the classroom. One example of hands-on, student-led programming is a solar energy project in which Georgia Southern students track data on solar radiation—data that is then used to influence solar initiatives in the community.

Georgia Southern University offers student sustainability projects

Georgia Southern also collaborates with the city of Statesboro to bring treated wastewater to campus to reuse as irrigation. The only university in the state to irrigate with reuse water, Georgia Southern is known for its water conservation measures. This reuse system conserves as much as 200,000 gallons in a single hot day in the summer and allows for adaptation during periods of drought.

Thousands of students at Georgia Southern also participate in environmental service learning projects, through which they’ve donated tens of thousands of hours of service to the environment in the local area. Georgia Southern believes that the combination of classroom learning and service experience will equip their students with the skills to implement sustainability strategies in the future.

This push for sustainability education not only empowers students but helps the university save. Leege suggests that sustainability has tremendous economic value for their university.

“Investment in sustainable technologies such as LED lighting can significantly reduce energy expenses over time, but have hidden benefits such as waste reduction and risk mitigation,” says Leege. “Sustainability is also an excellent recruitment tool and adds value well beyond its initial cost.”

Sustainability degree program implemented at BCC

USGBC and Second Nature also recognized Bristol Community College (BCC) for its dedication to combating climate change on the campus level and instilling a firm sense of stewardship among its students. Similar to Georgia Southern, BCC prioritizes education in sustainability as a tool for positive environmental change.

Recently, BCC implemented a Sustainability Studies program that allows for either a liberal arts degree or a certificate in sustainability. Joyce Brennan, Vice President of the College of Communications at BCC, says this program offers an entry into the societal challenges and opportunities offered by climate change, resource consumption, and energy use.

BCC believes that an education incorporating social science-based sustainability best prepares students for the ecological realities facing society and enables them to apply sustainability knowledge at work, at home, and in the community.

Project at Greenbuild

Greenbuild is the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building. It is the go-to place for the industry to convene and shape the future of the green building and sustainability movement.

This year, the Investor Confidence Project (ICP) and Investor Ready Energy Efficiency (IREE) certification will be featured throughout the conference. ICP is a global underwriting standard for developing and measuring energy efficiency retrofits and is administered through GBCI. Subject matter experts will be on hand and at the GBCI Certification Work Zone (booth #1238) for technical help and to answer questions about IREE certification and training. Register to attend one of the exciting sessions on energy efficiency financing:

  • Driving Investment in Energy Efficiency (Thurs., November 9, 10:30–11:30 a.m.): Whether you’re a firm looking for more financing options, an investor looking for quality, pre-certified projects or a program administrator looking to attract high-quality contractors, private investors and projects, ICP’s nearly $5 billion Investor Network is seeking projects to invest in. Hear about IREE certification and how it can help businesses and programs, and learn how ICP can help differentiate projects as leaders in the energy efficiency field.

Transportation Industry is Embracing Sustainability

Washington, D.C.—(Oct. 19, 2017)—Today, USGBC released its LEED in Motion: Transportation report, which focuses on industry growth in the green building sector for transportation facilities like airport terminal buildings, train stations, bus centers, seaports, light rail stations, control towers and more. The report also highlights some of the most impressive LEED-certified transportation facilities throughout the world.

“Transportation facilities often have high operating costs, water and energy usage and waste, making their impact on our daily lives and the environment immense,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, and CEO, USGBC. “By implementing LEED green building strategies, these high-intensity buildings become efficient, cost-effective and sustainable transportation facilities that have a significant positive impact on our economy, environment, wellbeing, and productivity. As this sector continues to grow, strengthening its green footprint is imperative to ensure a sustainable future for all.”

Transportation is one of the biggest drivers of CO2 emissions and also has the highest growth in CO2 emissions from any industry sector. Globally, in 2010, the transportation sector accounted for approximately 14 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions—fourth only to the agriculture, electricity, and industrial sectors. In the U.S., transportation accounted for 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015—second only to electricity production.

The International Air Transport Association expects 7.2 billion passengers to fly in the year 2035—almost double the number of air passengers that traveled in 2016 (around 3.5 billion). As the number of visitors to transportation facilities continues to grow, the potential human, economic and environmental benefits of building LEED-certified transportation facilities are significant. Currently, there are airport projects registered and certified in nearly all 50 U.S. states and in more than 40 countries and territories around the world – totaling more than 201.4 million square feet of space.

The LEED in Motion: Transportation report highlights how LEED practices and strategies are flexible, easy to implement, generate impressive results and can be integrated throughout a building’s lifecycle, leading to a high performance in human and environmental health. Incorporating LEED includes sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. In February 2017, USGBC and GBCI announced a new LEED green building rating system pilot designed to suit the unique needs of transit systems on a global scale. LEED v4 O+M: Transit will allow operational transit facilities to earn LEED certification.

LEED in Motion: Transportation is the latest in a series of reports from USGBC designed to provide a holistic snapshot of the green building movement in international markets. The report equips green building advocates with the insight and perspective to understand the use of the globally recognized LEED rating system and to make a strong case for sustainable building activity.

300 years of water management in Boston

Ahead of WaterBuild, learn a bit about the history of water management in Boston.

Water has played a critical role in shaping Boston since the city’s founding. From the earliest settlers to today’s developers of high-performance green buildings, managing water has been a consistent theme for Bostonians and for leaders of the Bay State.

At Greenbuild 2017, the WaterBuild summit digs deep into the topic of water infrastructure in Boston by keeping three themes in mind: sustainability, resilience, and risk. Attendees will discuss equity, quality and technology and how they each intersect with water and modern society. Before you join us for education and connection, here’s some background on Boston’s water history

A waterworks is born

The Pilgrims relocated from Charlestown to Boston in order to access a clean source of fresh water for their community. As the population grew and the spring could no longer supply the residents with ample resources, the first private waterworks system in the New World was created.

Using wooden pipes, reservoirs were able to supply water for everyday consumption. In 1796, entrepreneurs created the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Company with the hope of providing water to all Bostonians. The aqueduct was relatively expensive and relied on gravity for distribution, which meant that due to elevation, residents in the North End and Beacon Hill areas were at a disadvantage, as well as those who did not have the financial means to take advantage of this service. Interestingly, those at higher elevation were also at a lower risk for other water resilience hazards that are prevalent today.

Serving the public good

The 1820s marked the beginning of the discussion for implementing a public municipal water system. This conversation lasted several decades, due to competing interests, but in 1848, a municipal system was established to serve the city. It would be called Boston Water Works.

The need for safe water grew exponentially as more immigrants migrated to Boston. In 1895, the Metropolitan Water Act created a new approach for supplying water to towns within 10 miles of the state house, which was the birthplace of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA). This system continues to serve over 2.5 million people in the greater Boston area.

It wasn’t until the 21st century that the original aqueduct was reinforced with a redundant line to help supply ample water to 61 communities in and around Boston. The 17.6-mile, $665 million projects, called the Metrowest Tunnel, is now increasing water flow into Boston.

A fresh look

Boston’s water history is long and complex. At WaterBuild, professionals from Boston, across the industry, and around the world will talk about water risks and opportunities in 2017 and beyond. Join us there to learn more from some of the brightest minds in the fields of resilient and sustainable community planning, water cycle management, risk mitigation and green building.

Conserving water and energy with Green Apple Day of Service

Did you know that a significant amount of a school’s budget is dedicated to energy and water costs? Behind salaries, energy is the biggest expense for schools. Additionally, 25 percent of the energy a typical school uses is wasted, according to the EPA. Through their Green Apple Day of Service project in 2016, students at Boston Arts Academy learned about water and energy conservation. Additionally, the school wanted to explore the types of sustainable features they might include in their new building, which was in the design phase.

Boston Arts Academy Green Apple Day of Service project

The Boston Arts Academy audited their school’s water and energy usage with the help of the architects for the new building, HMFH Architects. A group of environmental science students calculated their school’s water usage from everyday activities, such as flushing the toilet or washing their hands. Then, they conducted an energy audit to calculate the amount of energy wasted throughout the school, specifically when the appliances were off and compared different light sources’ efficiency.

Boston Arts Academy Green Apple Day of Service project

After gathering the data, the students decided to convert the school’s energy usage into pounds of coal. They calculated that it takes 1,300 pounds of coal to power the lights in one classroom for 180 days. The students were surprised to discover how much water and energy is wasted every year in the school, and made commitments to be more thoughtful in their water and electricity usage.

The students’ eagerness to create change within their school was carried over into the design of the school’s new building. Along with HMFH Architects, Boston Arts Academy is working to make their new building as energy- and water-efficient as possible.

Want to find out if your school could improve its water and energy usage? Check out our specific tips and resources for projects to Reduce Water Use and Reduce Energy Use.

Leadership Awards at Greenbuild China

SHANGHAI – (October 13, 2017) – Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the creators of the LEED green building program, announced Dalian Wanda Group, Shougang Group Co., Ltd., and Mr. Cai Fangming as the 2017 Greenbuild Leadership Award recipients. The awards will be presented for the first time in China as part of the inaugural Greenbuild China conference and exposition. The awards ceremony will take place at the conference in Shanghai on Oct. 18.

The Greenbuild Leadership Awards recognize exceptional organizations and individuals at the forefront of the green building movement. It recognizes contributions to China and the green building community that work to enhance environmental performance and improve quality of life.

“Dalian Wanda Group, Shougang Group Co., Ltd., and Mr. Cai Fangming are dedicated to helping transform our built environment and their efforts are an inspiration to us all,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC and Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), the organization that certifies all LEED projects worldwide. “As China continues to take bold steps to drive green growth, these leaders are encouraging the adoption of green business practices and we look forward to honoring their efforts at Greenbuild China.”

The 2017 Greenbuild China Leadership Awards recipients’ achievements include:

  • Dalian Wanda Group is the world’s largest property company and one of China’s strongest advocates of sustainable building. As a USGBC strategic partner, they are committed to advancing green and healthy buildings and cities through the use of LEED and Wanda’s Huiyun system to support efficient building management.
  • Shougang Group Co., Ltd. is one of China’s largest steel companies and a Fortune 500 company. As a USGBC and GBCI partner, the organization is working to expand LEED in China and advance green building education and workforce development. Through the adoption of LEED and the WELL Building Standard, Shougang Group hopes to achieve a “green Beijing” that serves as a national example of green innovation.
  • Mr. Cai Fangming is a driving force and advocates for the adoption of green building technology that reduces carbon emissions and conserves environmental resources. Under his leadership, the Shanghai Expo Urban Best Practices Area has emerged as a green building innovation and earned the project LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) precertification in 2013.

To support China’s pivotal sustainability efforts, Greenbuild China will bring together global industry leaders, experts and frontline professionals dedicated to sustainable building. The conference will take place October 17-18 providing two days of inspiring speakers, invaluable networking opportunities, and industry showcases. The conference provides a forum for the green building community to unite and address some of the world’s most pressing issues, including air quality, human health, energy use and global climate change. Workshops will explore the LEED green building program and its impact, as well as other GBCI green business programs, such as WELL and the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) for land design and development. Registration is open and attendees must register at http://greenbuild.usgbc.org/china.

Clean Power

Even without the CCP, energy efficiency is still the way forward.

The fate of the Clean Power Plan, the federal regulation of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel electric power plants, has taken a turn for the worse this month. The EPA has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, beginning the process to repeal the rule.

The proposal would change the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act and reflects the position of the current administration that the Clean Power Plan exceeded EPA’s authority. Litigation over this action is certain, and it will feature a debate over the legal limits on EPA regulatory power balanced against the legal mandate for EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant endangering public welfare, as found by the Supreme Court in 2009.

Market shifts away from fossil fuels

Whatever the fate of the plan, the U.S. power sector is already shifting toward less carbon-intensive energy sources. The 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook reported that since 2005, the power sector has shrunk its carbon footprint by 24 percent. A new analysis suggests that the sector’s emissions are already on track to meet the Clean Power Plan’s target of 32 percent by 2030, with a projected 27 to 35 percent reduction below 2005 levels.

This decarbonization is all without the Clean Power Plan having come into effect—but how? The power sector has been influenced by state policies and shifts in relative costs among energy sources, including cheaper natural gas, which has a significantly lower carbon impact than coal. From 2005 to 2016, according to the Factbook, the U.S. added 78GW of wind, 39GW of solar and 104GW of natural gas, while retiring 49GW of coal-fired power plants.

In the void—whether temporary or permanent—left by the federal Clean Power Plan regulation, we will continue to see market forces pushing decarbonization of power generation. Some states will move ahead with steps to accelerate that transition and to use power more efficiently, with approaches ranging from California’s cap and trade program, to a diverse set of states, including Ohio and Illinois, leveraging renewable portfolio standards. Some utilities will continue to increase their investments and transition to lower carbon generation.

States left without a critical mechanism for efficiency

Under a Clean Power Plan repeal, we will be missing a key, if imperfect, tool to incentivize robust energy efficiency programs in every state. The rule would have allowed states to leverage energy efficiency for credit by avoiding the need for electricity generation and the associated emissions, with special emphasis on low-income communities.

Although leading states have adopted policies to push efficiency and its financial benefits to various sectors, other states have lagged, especially those in the Southeast and Midwest. (See, for example, ACEEE scorecards ranking energy efficiency policies in states and major utilities.) Without state and utility structures supporting efficiency, business and residential customers will continue to spend more money on electricity than they need to, and miss out on co-benefits to health and comfort. USGBC is concerned in particular about the disproportionate impact of energy costs on low-income households.

The Clean Power Plan story is not over yet, but with or without the plan, we will continue to advocate for strong, effective state and utility policies and programs to drive improvements in energy efficiency that supports jobs, businesses and families.

Connect the Dots Green Schools Challenge

The K–12 school is a great example of how the Connect the Dots program inspires achievements in sustainability.

USGBC’s Connect the Dots program challenges K–12 schools across the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia regions to develop and implement the most creative, effective, no- or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools. Participating schools target projects that aim to lower operating maintenance costs, improve indoor air quality, conserve natural resources and more.

Schools are matched with volunteer mentors from the building and design industry to guide project implementation and development. Projects are also registered as part of USGBC’s annual Green Apple Day of Service campaign to contribute to the global impact of increasing sustainability in schools.

Registration for both schools and volunteer mentors for the 2017–2018 program is open through October 13.

Each spring, the schools that most effectively meet this challenge are recognized for their achievements at a ceremony around the time of Earth Day. In 2016, the Agnor-Hurt Elementary School in Charlottesville, Virginia, was given the Honor Award for their comprehensive approach to promoting sustainability. The school constructed its own learning gardens, using the vegetables and herbs in cooking classes to promote healthy eating. To engage the whole community in this effort, the school organized a Healthy Living Night for students and parents.

The Albermarle County School District in which Agnor-Hurt Elementary is located has also been a past recipient of USGBC’s School District Scholarship program and is currently part of a small cohort of school districts using the Arc platform to benchmark, track and take action on sustainability metrics at each school. Energy, water, waste and other data can be collected by students through hands-on auditing activities and then incorporated into STEM curriculum for ongoing engagement and action. The data is also used by school personnel to make informed decisions about school improvements.

The 2016–2017 Connect the Dots School Champions at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School were Adam Mohr, Courtney Wood, Brittany Mullinex, Marci McKenzie, Michael Thornton and Drew Craft, and their volunteer mentor was Tish Tablan, a national organizer with Generation 180.

After participating in the program, Mohr, who was also Agnor-Hurt’s multiage team leader/teacher for grades 1–3, commented, “This was a fabulous opportunity for our school and existing garden-to-table project. It helped us reflect on what successes we have had thus far, and what we still need to improve upon moving forward. Other schools should take part in this important challenge, so we can all benefit from each other’s work and share ideas.”

Tall wood buildings for high-performance

In this series, speakers from USGBC Northern California’s GreenerBuilder conference, held July 13, 2017, at the Zero Net Energy Center in San Leandro, share insights from their sessions. Interested in supporting GreenerBuilder 2018 as an event sponsor or exhibitor? Please contact Brenden McEneaney.

Building with mass timber is relatively new to the United States, and particularly in Northern California; the session served as an introduction to the material and basics of construction, set the context for the role of mass timber in sustainable design and high-performance buildings and presented lessons learned from an experienced developer.

The Basics

The term “mass timber construction” or “tall wood construction” is different from the light-wood frame, stick-frame or even heavy timber post-and-beam structures. Mass timber usually refers to timber products engineered for loads similar in strength to structural materials like concrete and steel. Fire and structural engineering methods for these materials have been well developed around the world in the last 20 years, and we are realizing the many benefits mass timber that allows us to build tall, with a lighter, natural, low-carbon and high-quality material.

There are several products in the mass timber family. Nail-laminated timber (NLT), glued-laminated timber (GLT), and cross-laminated timber (CLT) are some of the most common. Each product is engineered to provide strength in different ways, and the way we use them varies accordingly. CLT is particularly versatile, and it presents strong opportunities for Northern California.

Why wood?

Building with wood is an opportunity to realize complementary performance benefits contributing to environmental, social and economic goals at all scales.

The use of mass timber helps with our shift to renewable resources, necessary as part of large-scale climate adaptation and mitigation. Mass timber supports very efficient and high-performing envelopes, and the precision manufacturing process creates extremely airtight buildings that can support good passive strategies for high-quality and comfortable operation.

Economic benefits include off-site fabrication, making construction schedules shorter and limiting financing time. Wood is a lighter material compared to concrete, allowing for a reduction in the size of footings and an associated reduction in costs. In addition, mass timber often means smaller crews and simpler tools.

Aesthetically, the natural qualities of wood lead to increased occupant satisfaction. Humans are attracted to natural shapes, forms, and textures, and wood is widely understood as a material that contributes to our sense of well-being in spaces and that can be a very healthy alternative to other finishes as an exposed surface on the interior.

Finally, mass timber is being used around the world to contribute to local and global climate action goals. It has a place in policy at all scales of governance as many jurisdictions recognize wood as an integral part of a low-carbon development, tying it directly to economic development, research initiatives, and emissions goals. Local expertise with the material is growing, and many resources exist to support developers, designers and construction professionals.

Lessons from experience

The benefits of building with CLT in the United States is demonstrated by Lend Lease’s Redstone Arsenal hotel project in Huntsville, Alabama. Completed 37 percent faster than traditional steel frame construction, and first-cost neutral, this example was a success that is being replicated in support of positively disrupting traditional construction methods. Analysis indicates that this approach could be optimal in the current residential, hospitality and office market sectors for mid-rise buildings of between six and 12 stories.

Challenges in the industry include a limited supply of CLT within North America, limited industry experience, lack of testing data and explicit support in building codes. Although it is currently possible to overcome regulatory barriers, early adopters like Lend Lease are supporting fire, blast and seismic testing to demonstrate acceptable performance parameters to regulators and authorities. Moreover, new U.S suppliers of CLT are becoming available, and other mass timber products can be accessed through numerous suppliers across the country.

To accelerate adoption, emphasis on demonstrating that this approach is effective for mass market development is most important.

WaterSmart

USGBC has partnered with the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and Exposition (WSI) to accelerate sustainable solutions for the water and building industries. This collaboration has made possible a two-part education series hosted at WSI and the WaterBuild Summit at Greenbuild Boston.

The sessions, “Towards Net Zero Water in LEED: A Forum on Whole Project Water Use,” explore LEED v4’s newest pathway for teams to demonstrate reductions in water consumption, the pilot credit Whole Project Water Use Reduction.

Depending on the building type and use, LEED may not previously have addressed all water use within a project boundary. This pilot credit rewards projects that take a holistic approach to water management and reduce total potable water consumption within a project boundary.

Participants at the session will hear from USGBC staff and LEED project teams how the whole-building water balance methodology provides projects with diverse water needs a practical solution for achieving LEED points in the Water Efficiency credit category and how it aligns with the LEED v4 rating system’s focus on performance.

Part I at WaterSmart

Part I of the series, hosted at WSI, will introduce the whole project methodology and project types using the pilot credit. The WSI session will not require a conference registration and will be held Wed., October 4 at the South Point Hotel and Conference Center.

Taking place October 4–6, the 10th annual WSI will feature more than 100 professional sessions, an expo hall showcasing water-efficient products and services and technical tours to venues illustrating Southern Nevada’s commitment to water efficiency.

Part II at WaterBuild

Part II of the series, hosted at the WaterBuild Summit at Greenbuild on November 7, will feature case studies presented by sustainability practitioners working in hospital, retail and data center projects. Attendees will learn the value of-of whole-building water balance modeling as a design and operations tool and have the opportunity to discuss water efficiency technologies and strategies that can be implemented at the building scale.

The summit will explore ways in which the green building industry can spur more meaningful transformation in important areas of water quality, access, efficiency, resilience, and abundance. It will focus on innovative infrastructure solutions that equip communities to resiliently respond to environmental challenges and stresses.

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LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.