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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.


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


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.


What is energy efficiency?  

Energy efficiency is “using less energy to provide the same service”.

There are other definitions, but this is a good operational one.

The best way to understand this idea is through examples:

When you replace a single pane window in your house with an energy-efficient one, the new window prevents heat from escaping in the winter, so you save energy by using your furnace or electric heater less while still staying comfortable. In the summer, efficient windows keep the heat out, so the air conditioner does not run as often and you save electricity.

When you replace an appliance, such as a refrigerator or clothes washer, or office equipment, such as a computer or printer, with a more energy-efficient model, the new equipment provides the same service, but uses less energy. This saves you money on your energy bill, and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere.

Energy efficiency is not energy conservation.

Energy conservation is reducing or going without a service to save energy.

For example: Turning off a light is energy conservation. Replacing an incandescent lamp with a compact fluorescent lamp (which uses much less energy to produce the same amount of light) is energy efficiency.

Both efficiency and conservation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.



The Measure of a Green School: Environmental and sustainability literacy


Published on 16 Mar 2015Written by Anisa Baldwin Metzger Posted in Center for Green School

Over the past four years, the Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Award (ED-Green Ribbon Schools) has united the national green schools movement with a universal set of criteria. These criteria have the potential to inform and guide all schools toward sustainability, and not just the best of the best that have sought and will continue to seek the award.

The green schools community in the U.S. currently has a landmark opportunity to define a clear and comprehensive set of measures that all schools can use to track their progress in harmony with the three pillars of ED-Green Ribbon Schools:

Minimized environmental impact

Improved occupant health

Effective environmental and sustainability literacy for all graduates

In February 2015, the Center for Green Schools at USGBC (Center) joined with four leading organizations in the green schools movement to invite non-profits, agencies, advocates and school leaders, collectively representing 67 organizations, to contribute their expertise in three summits. These day-long events addressed how schools across the country might be able to measure their progress consistently and simply.

The North American Association of Environmental Education and The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education joined the Center in hosting 48 people from 36 organizations to begin to identify common metrics and measures shared across several frameworks of sustainability and environmental education. Among the organizations at the table, a depth of experience and educational expertise will form a strong footing for the effort to create these common measures.

Participants also acknowledged the need for an adaptable system of measures that could change over time and grow with our collective knowledge about sustainability and the natural world.

At the close of the day, participants committed to a wide range of contributions toward creating common measures for the green schools movement .  As an immediate next step, the Center committed to hosting a follow-up meeting in late spring to first identify the commonalities (the “80 percent”) between Environmental Education, Education for Sustainability, and Education for Sustainable Development frameworks and then suggest the most central impacts to measure and collectively pursue.

Anisa Baldwin Metzger

School District Sustainability Manager U.S. Green Building Council

Chapter members, Member employees, USGBC staff


Land of Lincoln leads with LEED

Published on 27 Feb 2015Written by Robb Tufts Posted  in LEED

For the second year in a row, the state of Illinois has topped the list of states with the most LEED-certified gross square footage per capita certified during the year.

In 2014, GBCI certified 174 projects with a combined total of over 42 million gross square feet—and not all of those projects are located in the upper east corner of the state.  Many of these LEED projects are located downstate in Central Illinois. There were projects certified in Peoria, Champaign, and Decatur. But the highlight of all the projects certified last year, was the West Wing of the Illinois State Capitol.

The West Wing of the capitol building undertook a major renovation that started in 2009 and finished at the end of 2013 with GBCI certifying the project in 2014. Not only did the renovation seek to restore this portion of the building to its original design, but it also protected the historic architecture of the space while including upgrades that contributed to the project’s Gold achievement under the 2009 version of LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations rating system. The project was also a recipient of the AIA’s Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture.

Robb Tufts

Specialist, Business Intelligence U.S. Green Building Council

Member employees, USGBC staff


India demonstrates leadership through LEED for existing buildings

Published on 11 Mar 2015Written by Joseph Crea Posted in LEED

USGBC and The Energy Resources Institute (TERI), has formally launched a new, technical guidance to advance LEED for existing buildings in India. This guidance will launch as part of the annual GRIHA Summit, which is being held in New Delhi.

In India, as energy consumption rises and cities grapple with some of the world’s worst air pollution, greening India’s existing building stock is paramount, and existing buildings hold incredible promise. It can take up to 80 years to make up for the environmental impacts of demolishing an old building and constructing a new one, even if the resulting building is extremely energy efficient.

Below are notable LEED-certified existing building projects in India covering a diversity of sectors.

 SRK EMPIRE-SHREE Ramkrisha ExportsLEED Gold 2015, Surat

India’s leading and state of the art diamond manufacturing facility “SRK-EMPIRE” earned LEED Gold certification with 67 points.

Oberoi Mall LimitedLEED Gold 2013, Mumbai

The first mall in India and third mall in the world to receive LEED Gold.

Pathways School Gurgaon,  LEED Platinum, Gurgaon

The first school serving all grades K-12 in the world to achieve LEED Platinum certification.

Paharpur Business CentreLEED Platinum, New Delhi

A nearly 30 year-old government building was the first LEED Platinum building in India.

 ITC Maurya HotelLEED Platinum, Mumbai

The first hotel in the world to earn LEED Platinum

 BIAL Passenger Terminal Building, LEED Silver, Bangalore

Terminal 1 at Bangalore International Airport Limited, originally built in 2008, is a LEED Silver certified structure. In 2013, the airport underwent an expansion and achieved LEED Gold certification for the expansion terminal.

 Joseph Crea

Director, International Marketing and Communications

Federal agencies and their super rad buildings

Published on 11 Mar 2015Written by Fleming Roberts Posted in Advocacy and policy

The Energy Information Administration that the federal government is consuming energy at its lowest levels since 1975. The U.S. government is the biggest consumer of energy in the nation, and their commitment to greening their building stock was critical to this advancement. The federal government has been a leader in LEED since the beginning, and with more than 2,500 certified projects, the energy and water savings are racking up.

Here are some agency highlights from across the country.

       1.   Department of Defense: Mark Center | Washington Headquarters Services

This LEED Gold project, located in Alexandria, VA, is very large and designed to house more than 6,400 DOD employees who were formerly working in different leased office spaces in Washington, D.C. The Army Corps of Engineers, New York district, managed the construction of the facility. More than 90 percent of waste from construction was recycled, which translates to saving 6 million pounds of waste from making it to a landfill. The building, which was completed early and under budget, will use 30 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than a comparable traditional building.

     2.  General Services Administration: Federal Center South Building 1202

Racking up awards from The American Institute of Architects right and left, this agency is making sure that its federal buildings are not only gorgeous and innovative, but also places where employees can be healthy and productive. Built on a transformed brownfield, the Federal Center South Building 1202, located in Seattle, WA, has stunning interiors featuring more than 190,000 board feet of timbers and 150,000 board feet of 2×6 decking salvaged from an old warehouse. The LEED Platinum facility uses rainwater (an estimated 430,000 gallons harvested annually) for irrigation and toilet flushing, resulting in a potable water use reduction of 79 percent. The project is set to use a third less energy than a comparable building.

     3.  National Aeronautics and Space Administration: Sustainability Base

It would be difficult to give an accurate description of the LEED Platinum NASA Sustainability Base in the short space allotted here, though you can imagine that it’s straight out of Star Trek. Sustainability Base is supported by an “exoskeleton” instead of traditional internal columns, which allows more daylighting and fresh air. Nearly all of the power used in the office building is generated on-site, including solar and wind technologies. There’s a 90 percent goal for potable water reduction, utilizing a forward-osmosis water recycling system and computational fluid dynamics. The facility not only showcases incredible technology developed for space travel, it’s a research center that will facilitate the development of new building control systems and greywater reuse. NASA estimates that the additional costs to make this building so high-tech will be paid back in nine years, and thereafter energy and maintenance costs will be significantly lower than a conventional equivalent building.

      4.  Department of Energy: National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

NREL might have been established in 1974, but DOE keeps adding incredible facilities to this campus. NREL is the only federal laboratory dedicated to the research, development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and they’re doing so in LEED Platinum style. The latest addition is the Energy Systems Integrations Facility, which is conducting groundbreaking research on energy grid systems and features one of the most energy-efficient data centers in the world. Their Research Support Facility consumes 50 percent less energy than a comparable building, and the energy used is generated on-site, making it what we in the biz call “net-zero.” It’s a living laboratory where researchers can track the energy performance of the building in real-time in order to make adjustments.

The government has committed to making iconic buildings that save taxpayer dollars while paving the way for the technology that will help define the future of low or no impact green building.

Fleming Roberts

External Relations Specialist



Lend Lease proves it’s what’s on the inside that counts

Published on 13 Mar 2015Written by Aline Peterson Posted in Industry

For Lend Lease, sustainability is a big picture concept—it’s not solely about environmental practices, social norms or economic trends, it’s about the intersection of all of these factors in support of the long-term well being of human life. Put simply, there is an understanding within the company that we belong to the planet, rather than it belonging to us, and their operations and projects reflect this belief.

With more than 13,200 employees worldwide, Lend Lease has managed over 53 million square feet of LEED-certified projects valued in excess of $16.4 billion in the United States and Mexico alone. These impressive figures point to a concrete mission and vision that support sustainable development throughout the lifetime of a building. Internally, the company aspires to operate all Lend Lease tenancies as zero net carbon, water and waste properties. They also turn this aspiration outward and aim to have all of the buildings they develop or operate meet the same standard.

The newly renovated Lend Lease New York office clearly establishes the importance of this commitment as the retrofitted 75,000 square foot office space achieved a 40% reduction in indoor potable water use, reused or repurposed 60% of the existing interior non-structural elements and features 30% salvaged, refurbished or used furniture.

Lend Lease’s New York office is a healthy reminder that companies that practice what they preach define the sustainability landscape for all of us. Those making real sacrifices to stay ahead of the sustainability curve hold the keys to the next wave of innovation and long-term prosperity. True sustainability leaders adhere to a model built on a traditional or modified triple bottom line: environment, society and economy.

Aline Peterson

Media & Communications Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff


Reaching new heights: Dunbar is the highest scoring LEED for Schools-NC project to date

Published on 6 Mar 2015Written by Aline Peterson Posted in Center for Green Schools

Something remarkable has happened in Washington, DC. Beyond the glare of the news cycle, the political positioning and the national debates, Dunbar High School, located a stone’s throw from the U.S. Capitol building, has achieved LEED Platinum certification. Not only has the school reached this milestone, it has become the highest-scoring school in the world certified under the LEED for Schools-New Construction rating system.

Scoring 91 out of 100 possible points, the newly constructed Dunbar came online in 2013 and was designed by USGBC Silver level member Perkins Eastman, an international design and architecture firm. Dunbar has a rich history; it was the first public high school in the nation for African Americans, originally founded in 1870.

Notably, Dunbar reported the highest standardized test scores of any school in the city for 2014, after just a single academic year in the new facility. The relationship between the state-of-the-art physical space and the elevated learning experience is hard to deny. Among other innovative design features, the school’s enhanced acoustics allow students and teachers to hear clearly, facilitating the back-and-forth engagement that is a critical element of a high-performance learning environment.

This masterpiece of a green learning environment encompasses a photovoltaic array that generates enough energy on a sunny summer day to power all classroom lights for eight hours. Additionally, deep below the surface of the school’s athletic fields is Washington, DC’s largest ground-source heat pump, with wells reaching down 460 feet. Two 20,000 gallon cisterns and low-flow systems help to conserve more than 1.4 million gallons of potable water each year.

The outstanding high-tech features at Dunbar are just the beginning of the story. After all, green buildings provide a framework to support new learned behaviors. Even with the very best energy and water-saving technology in place, a green building is only as effective as its occupants make it. With a legacy of leadership and strength of character, Dunbar’s students, teachers and administrators will undoubtedly demonstrate to the world that where we learn matters and that we can rise to untold heights when we are given the tools and environment to support our natural curiosity and inclination to grow.

Aline Peterson

Media & Communications Specialist U.S. Green Building Council

USGBC staff


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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.