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Going beyond green with green buildings

Published on 1 Apr 2015 Written by Nora Knox Posted in Industry

Initially, green buildings were intended to reduce damage to the environment and human health caused by creating and maintaining buildings and neighborhoods. As the concept of sustainability was applied to the built environment, it has become clear that doing less damage is not enough.

Leaders in the field now speak about buildings and communities that are regenerative, meaning that these sustainable environments evolve with living systems and contribute to the long-term renewal of resources and life. Some practitioners have begun to explore what it would mean to move beyond “sustainable” and participate as a positive developmental force in our ecosystems and communities. The focus is on building a comprehensive understanding of the place in which the project is located, recognizing the site’s patterns and flow of life. Accordingly, such projects contribute to the healthy coevolution of humans and all life in that place. They thrive on diversity, for example, and clean the air rather than pollute it. Regenerative projects and communities involve stakeholders and require interactivity.

Regenerative projects support the health of the local community and regional ecosystems, generate electricity and send the excess to the grid, return water to the hydrologic system cleaner than it was before use, serve as locations for food production and community networking, regenerate biodiversity, and promote many other relationships that link the projects to the whole system of life around them.

Regenerative projects strive toward “net-zero”—using no more resources than they can produce. For example, net-zero energy projects use no more energy from the grid than they generate on site. These projects may be connected to the grid, drawing electricity from it at night and contributing energy from on-site renewable energy systems during the day, such that their total energy cost is zero. Other projects strive for carbon neutrality, emitting no more carbon emissions than they can either sequester or offset. Still other projects are designed to achieve a more even water balance: they use no more water than that which falls on site as precipitation, or they produce zero waste by recycling, reusing, or composting all materials.

Not all projects can achieve those levels of performance. Nevertheless, on average, green buildings save energy, use less water, generate less waste, and provide more healthful, more comfortable indoor environments.

Getting to green and beyond requires more than learning about new technologies and strategies. Achieving true sustainability requires a new approach to creating and caring for the built environment.

Nora Knox

Digital Marketing Manager U.S. Green Building Council

Member employees, USGBC staff

 

USGBC and C40 Release Landmark Green Building City Market Briefs

Published on 2 Apr 2015 Written by Cecilia Shutters Posted in Media

(Washington, D.C.) April 2, 2015 –The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in partnership with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) and the World Green Building Council (WGBC), released a compendium of briefs that showcase the sustainability, building energy use and climate change policy work of cities across the globe.

Approximately 74 percent of the cities examined are implementing incentives for a greener built environment, 61 percent have enacted municipal green building policies and 49 percent are pursuing sustainable community policies.

“The findings within these briefs indicate that cities are making impressive investments to create more resilient and sustainable built environments, as well as impact the health and wellbeing of their citizens,” said Roger Platt, president of the U.S. Green Building Council. “Many mayors are forging the path toward a more sustainable future, and cities are the lifeblood of policy innovation. The collective impacts and outcomes showcased across these briefs show thoughtful leadership and innovation.”

The research covers an assessment of policies, plans, projects and programs in 66 C40 cities. Categories include: city-wide sustainability initiatives, private sector green building incentives, green codes, sustainable community development, energy benchmarking, green schools, green affordable housing and sustainable transportation measures. Additional data points on the uptake of green building certified projects are included where applicable. Collectively, nearly 5,000 projects in these cities have achieved LEED green building certification.

“Building energy use is a leading contributor to urban greenhouse gas emissions and therefore represents one of the greatest opportunities for cities to tackle climate change,” said Mark Watts, executive director of C40. “This report shows that C40 cities, representing 500+ million people and one quarter of the global economy, are taking bold and innovative steps to improve the long-term sustainability of their municipal and private building infrastructure, for the benefit of urban citizens.”

 Cecilia Shutters

Communications Associate

 

 

WELL Building Standard Introduced in China

Published on 24 Mar 2015Written by Marisa Long Posted in Media

(Beijing) March 24, 2015 – The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) formally introduced the WELL Building Standard in China. WELL is a system that focuses on human health and wellbeing in the built environment.

WELL, which complements green building rating programs such as LEED, Three Star and BREEAM, has come forward at a time of increased environmental awareness among the Chinese people who are looking for solutions to improve quality of life.

“Our world today is confronting massive health challenges that are assaulting our complete physical, mental and social wellbeing,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO & founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “As these challenges continue to mount, all of us have an obligation to be more purposeful when addressing how human health relates to our built environment. The WELL certification program is a powerful way to accelerate better, healthier buildings throughout China.”

The WELL Building Standard is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying and monitoring features that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Grounded in a body of medical research that explores the connection between the buildings where we spend more than 90 percent of our time and the health and wellness of the people in them, WELL certification allows building owners and employers to know their space is designed to promote health and well being and is performing as intended.

“We think there is a great market opportunity in China for companies to be at the forefront of healthy building practices,” said Paul Scialla, founder of the International WELL Building Institute. “We are excited by the strong interest and demand we have already received from companies and projects that are interested in WELL certification and merging together best practices in environmental and human sustainability.”

GBCI, as the official certifying body of both WELL and LEED, will successfully integrate the certification and credentialing processes of both systems to help project teams efficiently deliver on both their environmental and human health goals.

Marisa Long

Public Relations & Communications Director U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff

 

Relationship between the office building and its users

There is overwhelming evidence which demonstrates that the design of an office impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.  For many, that will sound so obvious it almost goes without saying. But it does need saying, loud and clear, because this evidence has not yet had a major influence on the mainstream real estate sector, and is not yet translating at scale into design, finance and leasing decisions, certainly not in all parts of the globe. Furthermore, our understanding of the health, wellbeing and productivity implications of office design is deepening, aided by advances in technology and a growing awareness amongst a small number of enlightened developers, owners and tenants. For instance, it is increasingly clear that there is a difference between office environments that are simply not harmful – i.e. the absence of ‘bad’ – and environments that positively encourage health and wellbeing, and stimulate productivity. What has been clear throughout is the importance of climatic and cultural differences to design and the working environment. Santos Headquarters, Adelaide, GBC Australia There is overwhelming evidence which demonstrates that the design of an office impacts the health, wellbeing and productivity of its occupants.

This complex relationship between health, wellbeing, productivity and ‘green building’ points to a need to reinterpret – some might say rescue – the term ‘green’ from an association purely with the environmental movement; or we may need to move ‘beyond green’ to talk much more about sustainable buildings. Either way, the goal should be buildings that maximize benefits for people, and leave the planet better off as well. Low carbon, resource efficient, healthy and productive – really what we are talking about is higher quality buildings.

If we better understand the relationship between the office, people and organizational performance, the potential for practical application is significant. This includes due diligence on new space, rent review on existing space, fit-out guidance on refurbished space, and so on. A better understanding of how buildings impact people should drive improvements in the workspace, which may be one of the most important business decisions to be made.

 

WORLD GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL

Building Performance  

A building’s location and surroundings play a key role in regulating its temperature and illumination. For example, trees, landscaping, and hills can provide shade and block wind. In cooler climates, designing northern hemisphere buildings with south facing windows and southern hemisphere buildings with north facing windows increases the amount of sun (ultimately heat energy) entering the building, minimizing energy use, by maximizing passive solar heating. Tight building design, including energy-efficient windows, well-sealed doors, and additional thermal insulation of walls, basement slabs, and foundations can reduce heat loss by 25 to 50 percent.

Dark roofs may become up to 39 C° (70 F°) hotter than the most reflective white surfaces. They transmit some of this additional heat inside the building. US Studies have shown that lightly colored roofs use 40 percent less energy for cooling than buildings with darker roofs.

Proper placement of windows and skylights as well as the use of architectural features that reflect light into a building can reduce the need for artificial lighting. Increased use of natural and task lighting has been shown by one study to increase productivity in schools and offices.

Effective energy-efficient building design can include the use of low cost Passive Infra Reds (PIRs) to switch-off lighting when areas are unoccupied such as toilets, corridors or even office areas out-of-hours. In addition, lux levels can be monitored using daylight sensors linked to the building’s lighting scheme to switch on/off or dim the lighting to pre-defined levels to take into account the natural light and thus reduce consumption.

Smart meters are slowly being adopted by the commercial sector to highlight to staff and for internal monitoring purposes the building’s energy usage in a dynamic presentable format. The use of Power Quality Analyzers can be introduced into an existing building to assess usage, harmonic distortion, peaks, swells and interruptions amongst others to ultimately make the building more energy-efficient.

deep energy retrofit is a whole-building analysis and construction process that uses to achieve much larger energy savings than conventional energy retrofits. Deep energy retrofits can be applied to both residential and non-residential (“commercial”) buildings. A deep energy retrofit typically results in energy savings of 30 percent or more, perhaps spread over several years, and may significantly improve the building value.

Energy retrofits, including deep, and other types undertaken in residential, commercial or industrial locations are generally supported through various forms of financing or incentives. Incentives include pre-packaged rebates where the buyer/user may not even be aware that the item being used has been rebated or “bought down”. “Upstream” or “Midstream” buy downs are common for efficient lighting products.

USGBC

Green building costs and savings

Published on 25 Mar 2015Written by Nora Knox Posted in Industry

At first glance, the additional work and alternative materials needed to build green may seem like a burdensome cost, but closer attention reveals this perception to be misleading. If sustainability is viewed as an expensive add-on to a building, we would mistake efforts to reduce energy costs or improve indoor environmental quality as comparable to specifying a better grade of countertop or a more impressive front door. Under this approach, any improvement beyond a minimally code-compliant baseline looks like an added cost.

If, however, we consider energy improvements part of an overall process, we often find that the added costs are balanced by long-term savings. The initial expenditures continue to pay back over time, like a good investment. The best returns on these investments are realized when green building is integrated into the process at the earliest stages rather than as a last-minute effort. For instance, specification of more costly, high-performance windows may allow for the use of a smaller, lower-cost heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. More fundamentally, if we view sustainable design as part of the necessary functional requirements for building an energy-efficient structure and providing a safe, healthful environment, we can compare the cost of the green building with that of other buildings in the same class, rather than against an artificially low baseline.

A landmark study by the firm Davis Langdon found no significant difference between the average cost of a LEED-certified building and other new construction in the same category: there are expensive green buildings, and there are expensive conventional buildings. Certification as a green building was not a significant indicator of construction cost.

Interestingly, the public dramatically overestimates the marginal cost of green building. A 2007 public opinion survey conducted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that respondents believed, on average, that green features added 17% to the cost of a building, whereas a study of 146 green buildings found an actual average marginal cost of less than 2%.

Green building is, however, a significant predictor of tangible improvements in building performance, and those improvements have considerable value. Studies have shown that certified green buildings command significantly higher rents. A University of California–Berkeley study analyzed 694 certified green buildings and compared them with 7,489 other office buildings, each located within a quarter-mile of a green building in the sample. The researchers found that, on average, certified green office buildings rented for 2% more than comparable nearby buildings. After adjusting for occupancy levels, they identified a 6% premium for certified buildings. The researchers calculated that at prevailing capitalization rates, this adds more than $5 million to the market value of each property.

Nora Knox

Digital Marketing ManagerU.S. Green Building Council

Member employees, USGBC staff

 

 

Tipping the scales toward health and wellness in China through WELL

Published on 24 Mar 2015Written by Paul SciallaPosted in Industry

A conversation that is rapidly emerging, and one that is especially important in a large and growing country like China, is: How can the places we build and operate contribute to the health and wellbeing of the people who work and live there?

Given that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, the time has come to elevate human health to the forefront of building practices and reinvent buildings that are not only good for the environment—but also for people. And China, which is home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s population and one of the fastest growing real estate markets, has a tremendous opportunity to position itself at the forefront of healthy building practices. That’s why we’re pleased to introduce the WELL Building Standard® today in Beijing.

As an evidence-based system that has been developed in tandem with scientists and physicians at leading research institutions such as Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, the WELL Building Standard gives the industry in China a performance benchmark and a powerful tool for contributing to occupant health. The first standard to focus exclusively on the health and wellness of the people in buildings, WELL also gives voice to the Chinese people who are increasingly looking for solutions to improve the environment as well as their quality of life. Indeed, living, working and playing in a building that supports personal wellbeing is fundamental to what each of us needs to be healthy, happy and productive individuals.

Laying out best practices in areas from indoor air quality and lighting to materials and monitoring, WELL has the potential to help China make great strides in its efforts to overcome serious environmental issues that also affect human health. We already know that the natural environment is directly connected to the health and wellbeing of human society.It follows that designing for health and wellness in the built environment has the potential to reshape public health, wellbeing and productivity. It makes sense, right? You can’t have a WELL building without healthy indoor air.

Very importantly, WELL complements green building rating programs such as LEED, Three Star and BREEAM, and is third-party certified by the Green Building Certification Institute—the same body that administers 10+ billion square feet of LEED buildings globally. We’re excited to bring LEED and WELL together and build on USGBC’s commitment and leadership.

Wer’e also proud to note that we’re already seeing strong interest in WELL by companies in China seeking to merge best practices in environmental and human sustainability. One of our projects, Haworth Inc.’s head office in Shanghai, is registered to pursue WELL Pilot Certification. With its new Asia Pacific showroom space, Haworth is playing a leading role in product solutions, knowledge and design. Fully demonstrating Haworth’s Organic Spaces vision for its employees and its clients, the space will be an example of wellness, sustainability, creative thinking and beautiful design.

What China does, the world follows. It has proven its ability to innovate on a mass scale. Now, we are confident that at a critical juncture, WELL can be a key partner and have a strong say in tipping the scales in favor of human health and wellbeing.

Paul Scialla

Founder

 

ULTRA-EFFICIENT HOMES  

Ultra-efficient home design combines state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction, appliances, and lighting with commercially available renewable energy systems, such as solar water heating and solar electricity. By taking advantage of local climate and site conditions, designers can incorporate passive solar heating and cooling and energy-efficient landscaping strategies. The intent is to reduce home energy use as cost-effectively as possible, and then meet the reduced requirements with on-site renewable energy systems. To learn more about the details of designing and building an ultra-efficient home, visit Building America Resources for Energy-Efficient Homes.

Another strategy for achieving an ultra-efficient home is to build or remodel to the rigorous, voluntary Passive House standard. The result is an extremely well insulated, airtight structure with dramatically reduced heating and cooling requirements.

In many parts of the country, homeowners can recoup some of the costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades through rebates and other financial incentives. Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for a current list of incentives in your area.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

  • Lower energy bills and improved comfort
  • Energy reliability and security
  • Environmental sustainability

 USGBC

Green Revolving Funds Support Campus Efficiency Upgrades

03/17/15  –   Alliance to Save Energy : Daniel Rossman

Many colleges and universities strive to reduce energy waste, become more energy efficient and effectively reduce their environmental impact, but find it difficult to do so without access to a sufficient amount of initial financial capital. The relatively new concept of a green revolving fund (GRF) seeks to solve this problem.

According to Green Revolving Funds: An Introductory Guide to Implementation and Management, a GRF, “is an internal fund that provides financing to parties within an organization to implement energy efficiency, renewable energy and other sustainability projects that generate cost-savings. These savings are tracked and used to replenish the fund for the next round of green investments.” The end result is a self-sustaining fund that can cut costs and reduce environmental impact.

Sustainable Endowments Institute, one of the publishers of the Guide, also sponsors The Billion Dollar Green Challenge. The Challenge, launched in 2011, supports colleges and non-profits in reaching $1 billion of investments in self-managed GRFs to finance efficiency improvements. There are three distinct ways an institution can join the Challenge, the primary one being the establishment of a fund of $1 million or 1 percent of the endowment of the institution within four years.

According to the Campus Sustainability Revolving Loan Funds database, which is run by The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education — the other publisher of Green Revolving Funds — there are a total of 84 loan funds in 80 different institutions throughout the United States, totaling $118,737,518. Of these 80 institutions, 40 are part of the Billion Dollar Challenge, with funds reaching $73,375,000.

The two largest funds are the University of Vermont’s Energy Revolving Fund, totaling $13 million, and the Harvard Green Loan Fund, totaling $12 million. Harvard’s Green Revolving Fund has supported almost 200 projects. The Fund provides the initial capital to a particular department, which must repay the initial loan via the energy savings within 11 years. The end result for the participating department is an efficiency upgrade without any financial cost.

From lighting upgrades to occupancy sensors, there are hundreds of projects available for institutions to take on. With colleges’ “green” statuses having a greater influence on students’ decisions on which to attend, more institutions will undoubtedly begin to use green revolving funds in coming years. Green revolving funds provide a non-traditional avenue for higher educational institutions to commit to increasing energy efficiency with minimal cost.

 

Elevating Energy Efficiency

03/04/15   Alliance to Save Energy : Anna Hahnemann

Building energy efficiency has been a hot topic of discussion for quite some time. Efficiency advocates are all too familiar with the fact that 40 percent of the nation’s energy demand comes from buildings. However, people seem to be less familiar with the significant impact elevators can have on buildings’ consumption.

While idle, elevators account for 2 to 5 percent of buildings’ total energy use. Five percent of building energy usage may not seem significant, but elevators in the U.S. consume enough energy annually to power Washington, D.C. for 5 years. During peak operational times, such as lunchtime and end of business day, their consumption can rise to as much as 50 percent.

Fortunately, there are opportunities for increased efficiency. A recent study published by theAmerican Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) and United Technologies Corporation (UTC) shows we currently have the technology to cut elevators energy use by up to 75 percent.  Before building owners start to consider modernizing their facilities’ elevators, there is a lot of work that must be done. At this time, the tools to measure efficiency savings and the information needed to help building owners find the most suitable technology for their buildings are not readily available — making the implementation of energy saving elevator technologies low or non-exist.

As the study highlights, the lack of standardized methods to measure energy savings and absence of ratings systems to identify more efficient models act as barriers. Without these structures in place, building managers may be skeptical or unware of the benefits of adopting a more energy efficient elevator system. Even relatively small and inexpensive upgrades, such as reducing standby power, can have a major impact in cutting total energy use. In addition to energy savings and reduced costs, adopting such technologies will result in improved performance, reduced sound, increased comfort and more.

History has shown that common standards are highly successful in pushing energy efficiency forward. Since 1974, the Department of Energy has issued minimum energy conservation standards for over 50 categories of appliances and equipment — including water heaters,refrigerators and freezers and HVAC systems. These minimum efficiency standards have produced savings of more than $55 billion in 2013 alone. Once standardized measures for evaluation are established, utilities and government agencies can offer incentives, such as rebates or tax credits, to drive increased adoption of more efficient equipment. Green building programs, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program, could also help increase the market adoption of more energy efficient elevators by including them as part of the criteria for awarding certifications. Unfortunately, under the current LEED program, there are no direct credits for installing more efficient elevator systems.

In order to advance elevator efficiency, we must first acknowledge its potential. Thus, increasing the visibility of efficiency opportunities and benefits should be a priority within the government, energy and building sectors. Manufacturers, public programs, utility incentives, voluntary labels and government forces can work together and play an important role in creating public interest in energy saving elevator technologies and further innovation.

 

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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.