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Green infrastructure: Exploring solutions in LEED, SITES and Parksmart

Published on 26 Jan 2017 Written by Hannah Jane Brown

Cities are looking to green infrastructure to align sustainable development efforts and to foster social and economic development. In this article series, we have reviewed green infrastructure’s many benefits, its presence in climate action planning, ways to optimize its impact and strategies for how best to avoid social equity pitfalls.

USGBC and GBCI are well positioned to help cities incorporate these strategies into tangible green infrastructure development with market-leading tools like SITESLEED and Parksmart. These systems provide frameworks that validate best practices and that can be used as useful guides for green infrastructure development. Individually and collectively, these rating systems ensure that best practices are being strategically implemented through an array of initiatives.

These three rating systems can be used independently or in tandem to maximize a project’s green infrastructure development. For example, if you are seeking to further define, improve or demonstrate the site sustainability aspects of a project, you can benefit from pursuing both LEED and SITES certification by taking advantage of the synergies and equivalent credits between LEED and SITES.

 Driving green infrastructure through LEED

Green infrastructure is most prominently rewarded in LEED’s Sustainable Sites and Location and Transportation credit categories. The Sustainable Sites category presents opportunities to incorporate naturally functioning landscapes that increase ecosystem services. Location and Transportation credits reward projects that protect sensitive land and that encourage high-density infill development that reduces impervious surfaces.

In addition, LEED drives project teams to improve energy efficiency by investing in green infrastructure that provides shading and wind protection. For example, green roofs add insulation and extend the lifetime of roof materials, reducing both energy demand and life cycle material costs. Reduced building footprints preserve land for high-performing sites that can use permeable surfaces, catchment systems and water-efficient landscaping to reproduce natural conditions and achieve Water Efficiency credits.

LEED for Neighborhood Development advocates incorporating green infrastructure into buildings, landscapes and the many connecting spaces between. This rating system includes a Green Infrastructure and Buildings category, which accentuates the importance of green infrastructure at different scales throughout cities.

LEED for Neighborhood Development recognizes green infrastructure as a tool for creating complete and livable communities, which limit resource use and automobile dependence. Green infrastructure can support the intended outcomes for a range of credits related to habitat and sensitive land conservation, community space access, brownfield redevelopment, livable streetscapes and local food production.

Written by Hannah Jane Brown     Posted in LEED



Greenwatch Latin America: Greening the digital infrastructure

Published on 27 Jan 2017 Written by Nicolette Mueller Posted in Industry

LEED-certified data centers represent a fast-growing sector of green building in Latin America.

January is the time of year when we ask ourselves what we hope to see in the coming year. For the green building market in Latin America, we expect to see the investments in learning and early adoption of tools such as ArcLEED v4 and EDGE pay off with more green building projects across the region.

What is the one thing that building owners, LEED professionals and investors alike could do to make Latin America a little bit greener in 2017?  Get more data centers to become green buildings. There are nearly 40 data center projects participating in LEED in Latin America, with the majority of LEED-certified centers in Brazil. It’s a major area for growth, providing value to the market and impacting the environment.

Why are green data centers important for Latin America?

  1. They’re a fast-growing segment of buildings and infrastructure.According to industry experts, the number of data centers and demand for high-speed internet will see strong growth in Latin America, and may even represent the strongest growth market globally. One report found that investment in data centersrose by 12 percent in Latin America in 2014, compared to the global average of 8 percent, with investment growing regionally to 20–25%. Markets where we see the highest concentration of LEED projects are also home to a growing number of data centers in major urban and industrial centers, such as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogota and Buenos Aires.
  2. Billions of kilowatt-hours mean a big impact on traditional and renewable energy markets.“The Cloud” is now more like the Pan-American highway, connecting us to one another and to information whenever and wherever we like. But instead of roads and bridges in the landscape, and cars and trucks polluting the air, data centers are the infrastructure and the engines powering our economies. A2014 study found that U.S. data centers consumed 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity – about 2 percent of national annual energy consumption. That’s triple the amount of energy consumed in 2000.
  3. It’s a proven way to slow energy demand.2016 reportfound that electricity consumption by data centers increased only 4 percent from 2010 to 2014, demonstrating the industry’s ability to find efficiency measures and implement them to minimize demand. Instead of doubling energy use every five years, the research shows that implementing best practices can make a 620 billion kilowatt-hour difference, the equivalent of $60 billion USD.
  4. Latin America has the resources that data centers need to be green.Companies looking for places to build and invest in data centers need locations with a skilled workforce, a solid and resilient infrastructure and a source of clean and reliable power. Latin America has these things in abundance.

Energy-rich Latin America is betting on a renewable energy future, and so are investors. The region is prepared with a growing supply of renewable energy to meet the demand for energy from data centers.   


Nicolette Mueller Posted in Industry


Making progress in sustainability (USGBC Greater Virginia)

Published on 22 Dec 2016 Written by JOHN BEST Posted in Community

 In 2017, USGBC Greater Virginia will continue to advocate for green building and climate action.

Many green building professionals and advocates are feeling uncertainty about legislative and political accomplishments at the national level, such as the Clean Power Plan and the recently signed Paris Agreement. At USGBC Greater Virginia, we wanted to emphasize that we will continue making progress in sustainability.

Even in the face of past political roadblocks, we have always managed to make great strides in high-performance buildings and sustainable communities. Most of this progress has happened at the local level, not national, and has been led by individuals, businesses, community leaders, schools and organizations like USGBC. Furthermore, the economic arguments in favor of sustainability continue to grow stronger as technology improves and prices decrease with scale.

USGBC Greater Virginia’s commitment to resilient, safe, efficient and green communities is more determined than ever, and we know that your commitment is similarly unwavering as you work tirelessly to promote high-performing buildings and sustainable solutions in Virginia.

 Learn and educate 

Our educational initiatives are going strong this year in Virginia. Upcoming events include topics as diverse as LED lighting technology seminars, LEED v4 training, and tours of high-performance facilities. We will continue to offer education luncheons and seminars to keep you up to speed on new technologies and sustainable initiatives.

 Be an advocate 

USGBC Greater Virginia is actively advocating for programs and legislation that promote green building in the Commonwealth.  We’ll keep you posted on all opportunities to influence local leaders in a smart direction.

 Serve your communities 

USGBC offers lots of ways to directly serve your community. For instance, our Connect the Dots Green Schools Challenge calls on schools across Virginia to develop and implement the most creative, effective, no- or low-cost sustainable practices for their schools and communities. Participation this year is already up significantly from 2015.

 Be collaborative

We recognize that we cannot make real environmental impact alone, and we partner with many organizations. For example, our ADVANCE initiative in Southwest Virginia allows us to partner with local small businesses to identify energy-saving opportunities that also benefit their bottom line. Our community has long been a champion for energy efficiency, climate action and environmental protection throughout the built environment. In 2017, we will be exploring new partnerships and strategies to promote sustainability in our region and continue to further healthy building for all of our Virginia residents.

Written by JOHN BEST

Seven need-to-know building performance strategies (USGBC Wisconsin)

Published on 3 Jan 2017 Written by Doug Pearson Posted in Industry

What goes into measuring and improving building performance? Building performance strategies can cover a wide range of topics. Each strategy is important, yet each is just one aspect of what it takes to achieve a successful project.

  • Accessibility: This should go beyond the minimum as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) to address universal design, equal access and flexibility.
  • Aesthetics: The building aesthetic needs to consider design elements that fit into the community or campus, and represent the desired architectural style.
  • Cost-effectiveness: The need to be cost-effective will suggest the building materials, but also use life-cycle costing and consider nonmonetary benefits such as aesthetic, historic preservation, safety, security, flexibility, resiliency and sustainability.
  • Functionality: Make sure to account for the needs of the owner, ensure appropriate product and systems integration and meet the performance objectives.
  • Productivity: This involves integrating technology, creating audio/visual systems, promoting health and well-being of the occupants, providing comfortable environments for the intended tasks and assuring reliable systems and spaces.
  • Safety and security: Address fire safety, indoor air quality, natural hazard mitigation and security for the occupants and assets.
  • Sustainability: Optimize energy use, conserve water, use the site’s full potential, control long-term maintenance costs and reduce the impact on the environment through environmentally friendly building materials.

Identify project goals early on, and coordinate the interdependencies of all building systems concurrently with the planning and programming phase. Following a defined building performance strategy can result in such performance changes as 25 percent less energy, 19 percent lower operating costs, 27 percent higher occupant satisfaction, and 36 percent fewer CO2 emissions.


Doug Pearson

Green infrastructure: Best practices for cities

Published on 10 Jan 2017 Written by Hannah Jane Brown Posted in Advocacy and policy

Next time you take a walk around your city, look around. Is there green infrastructure near you? If not, there might be soon! Green infrastructure is becoming a more widely adopted strategy for addressing city challenges and goals.

In addition to taking root in climate action planning, cities are weaving green infrastructure into sustainability efforts and throughout myriad other initiatives. Recent articles on city climate action planning and fostering equity highlighted trends and best practices.

Some leading U.S. cities have already taken steps to invest in green infrastructure in a way that ensures benefits across the triple bottom line:

  • Chicago, Illinois: The city’s climate action plancalls for 500 new green roofs each year, leading up to 2020, to help manage storm-water and the urban heat island. Chicago is well on its way already, with over 500, and it continues to be among the national leaders in green roof development. The city led by example, installing a green roof on its City Hall building in 2000. Since, green infrastructure has been further promoted through city ordinances and programs such as the Green Alley program, the Sustainable Development Policy and a storm-water ordinance.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: Since 2010, the city has been focused on reversing urban blight using green infrastructure and community spaces through the Vacants to Value Since the program launched, 700 new community-managed spaceshave been created from previously vacant properties. Complementary city-run initiatives, such as urban agriculture and arts programs, are expanding more equitable access to land and green spaces while harnessing the benefits of a greener city.
  • Portland, Oregon:The city’s climate action plan prioritizes urban forest development in underserved areas, helping to grow the urban canopy with a more equitable distribution. Unlike most plans, Portland’s sets a minimum canopy coverage target, which prioritizes underserved neighborhoods. Portland’s plan includes an initiative to revisit canopy targets in the future to ensure they better capture resiliency outcomes, equitable distribution, and biodiversity.

Guiding principles for cities

These and other city-led initiatives have some important similarities. A city’s green infrastructure initiative is most likely to be effective when it is:

  • Data-driven. 
  • Place-based.
  • Integrated with other initiatives.
  • Aligned with structural adjustments. 
  • When green infrastructure initiatives have these characteristics, they have the potential to create more resilient communities by strengthening climate adaptation and social equity at the same time.


Smart green homes make sustainability easy

Published on 17 Nov 2016 Written by Zach Williams, Kirei USA Posted in Community

With a larger percentage of home buyers being made up of millennials than ever before, high-tech and green homes seem to be on everyone’s list these days. “Smart” home features frequently pair well with eco-friendly and green building designs, because many smart features offer you greater control over areas of your home that consume energy.

Take a look at some of the hottest smart and green building features available today. Here are eight of the latest features:

Programmable thermostats

Your thermostat controls the temperature of your home, telling your HVAC system when to go on and off. Older thermostats needed to be manually adjusted, however, so if you forgot to turn down the heat before you left for work, you lost both energy and money while you weren’t there.

Newer, programmable thermostats change all that. Now you can set the temperature ahead of time for the times when you aren’t home

Smart light bulbs

How often have you left a room, only to realize that you forgot to turn off the lights? Or maybe you want to adjust the lighting in the room you’re sitting in as the daylight wanes. With smart light bulbs, which are controlled from an app on your smartphone, you can get better control over your light usage. Turn off lights in rooms that people have vacated to save money and electricity, or dim the lights to change the mood without needing to get up.

Solar-reflective roofing shingles

Your roof plays a major role in how comfortable your home is year-round. Not only does it protect you from the elements, but your roof could be transferring heat into your home as well. When the sun beats down on your roof, dark-colored, traditional shingles heat up. This heat is then transferred down into your attic, which becomes super-heated in turn. Eventually, the heat makes it down into your living area, raising your energy bills. At the same time, the UV rays from the sun could also be causing your roof to deteriorate more quickly.

Solar-reflective roofing shingles prevent both of these things from happening. Instead of absorbing the heat and UV rays from the sun, they reflect them. This keeps your roof cooler, making your attic and the rest of your home cooler as well. Solar-reflective shingles may also help prevent UV-related deterioration of the shingles over time.

Monitoring systems

One of the most attractive ideas in the smart home industry is the monitoring system and the ways it can improve your home’s efficiency, energy usage and security. There are many different types of monitoring systems out there. Some use sensors to determine where you are in the home at that moment, and adjust lighting, temperature and other areas to suit.

Other monitoring systems allow you to get a peek into your home even when you’re away.

Get a smarter, greener home

Both smart home technology and green building design are on the top of many homeowners’ must-have lists these days. As companies strive to make improvements in both fields, the options keep getting better and better.

Written by Zach Williams, Kirei USA Posted in Community


Top 5 ways to create a healthy building (USGBC Northern California)

Published on 30 Nov 2016  Written by Nick Kiefer Posted in Community

There is a strong connection between the buildings where we spend the majority of our time and our personal health and wellness. There are also many aspects to a healthy building, inside and out, as well as during transition from new construction to an existing building

1) Indoor air quality

Just because indoor air quality is invisible doesn’t mean you should ignore it. The first step is to look at ventilation rates and filtration policies, which should both meet ASHRAE standards. It’s also important to evaluate the hygienic condition of the HVAC system, both in the air handling units and in the ductwork. Mold and dirt buildup are commonly found in these locations and contribute to degraded indoor air quality.

2) Active employees

Stand up! People with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs. Enable people to stand up every hour, incorporate walking meetings or use standing desks. This can go a long way toward maintaining good cardiovascular health. One great option is giving employees the choice to either purchase or make a standing desk.

3) Water

It’s no secret that water is an important resource across the country. In the West, scarcity has made headlines in California, while combined sewer overflow creates an entirely different infrastructure problem on the East Coast.  Water audits can identify where your water is being used, and water testing can determine if your building’s water is safe for drinking.

4) Sustainability

Having a sustainable building goes a long way toward ensuring that the building and its occupants, are as healthy as possible. Ensuring your building’s energy and water usage are being used as efficiently as possible, while allowing occupants to enjoy thermal comfort, proper acoustics, biophilic environments, natural light and excellent water quality will enable the building to operate profitably and occupants to remain healthy and operating at peak performance.

5) Community

This one is on the property manager. But the good thing is, most are great at doing this already! Buildings like Harvest Properties 555 12th Street in Oakland, California, which holds Earth Day events and other tenant and management gatherings, foster a sense of community and encourage tenants to learn about the ways they can leverage the building’s healthy features.

If we keep educating the public, we can increase the connection between buildings and our health and wellness. Using alternative transportation, having access to healthy food options, producing renewable energy and controlling what we do in buildings is just as important to how we build and operate buildings. It’s about focusing on what’s important to do now—and what we can contribute to improve the future.

 Written by Nick Kiefer Posted in Community

Porsche: A foundation for excellence in sustainability

Published on 6 Dec 2016 Written by Mahesh Ramanujam Posted in Industry

The name “Porsche” is often associated with the thrill of stepping on the gas, the ease of negotiating tight corners and the freedom of traveling the open road. But that is only part of the story.

Porsche is not just the name of a sports car—it is also the name of a brand devoted to excellence in performance and to bringing exceptional experiences to every customer. Porsche stands for fascinating vehicles, high-performing and resource-saving facilities, secure jobs and pioneering sustainable mobility. Porsche has set its sights on being not only the most profitable and innovative car manufacturer in the world, but also a leader in sustainability standards.

“Sustainability has always been an important guiding element in our business principles,” says the Chairman of the Executive Board of Porsche AG, Oliver Blume. “Porsche is committed to taking responsibility for people, the environment and society. The sustainable use of resources is also a key factor in remaining competitive in the long term and securing sites and jobs.”

Sustainable activities at Porsche include the environmentally friendly use of raw materials, the development of alternative fuel vehicles and a commitment to making new models even more efficient. With every new model generation, Porsche sets a challenge to reduce the fuel consumption and average emissions by 10 percent compared to previous model.

In addition, the company’s manufacturing facilities are high-performing and sustainably developed. For example, Porsche operates one of the most efficient car plants in the world in Leipzig, Germany—the CO2 emissions there are nearly 12,000 tonnes below the yearly rate of other conventional plants.

Written by Mahesh Ramanujam Posted in Industry


LEED plays a key role in greening affordable housing

Published on 21 Nov 2016 Written by Nick Brousse Posted in Advocacy and policy

 Trends show affordable housing becoming greener across the U.S.

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program and state Qualified Allocation Plans (QAPs) that guide the distribution of tax credits have an outsized ability to promote green affordable housing in the United State. Global Green, with support from Neighbor Works America, recently released its much-anticipated 2016 report examining green building practices in each state’s QAP.

The report identifies leading policy trends, shares best practices and puts forward technical and policy options that can use the LIHTC program to promote human health and address overwhelming utility burdens. The results are clear: more state housing finance agencies are deploying LEED and other third-party green building rating systems as tools to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of sustainable building practices are brought to all.

Twenty-five state housing agencies referenced green building certification programs, including LEED, in their 2016 QAPs to provide direction to developers and confidence at the agency level that green measures are being implemented. In separate research examining 15 recently constructed or rehabbed apartment communities built to LEED or EarthCraft standards in Virginia, these communities were found to use 40 percent less energy than housing built to existing code requirements. These changes saved the average tenant $54 per month on utility bills—over $600 per year.

The new report shows that currently about half of state QAPs commit to help reduce overwhelming energy burdens for those most in need while protecting our environment. We’re pleased that LEED continues to be a key tool to help state housing finance agencies ensure that all residents, regardless of income, may enjoy the many benefits that green buildings deliver.

Written by Nick Brousse Posted in Advocacy and policy

More bike lanes and bike-parking facilities smooth the way for cyclists

Published on 9 Nov 2016 Written by Heather Benjamin Posted in LEED

As cities and individuals seek to reduce carbon emissions, bicycle lanes and parking are growing to accommodate the influx of cyclists.

One of the ways that cities worldwide try to reduce their carbon emissions is through encouraging people to ride bicycles. We may not yet reach the level of the notoriously bike-friendly Copenhagen, which has 390 kilometers of designated bike lanes, but U.S. cities are also making a big push to add lanes for cyclists. This in turn creates a need for bicycle parking facilities, as more and more commuters are taking their bicycles to central work locations.

More cyclists, more lanes

In 2012, Capital Bike Share launched in Washington, D.C., and its surrounding counties, to provide a bike-sharing system for residents and tourists alike. Four years later, there are 235 bike stations in the District alone, with a total of over 3,700 bicycles available. Cyclists with longer commutes can also load their bikes onto Metro trains and buses. The increase in cyclists on the street is changing commuting in the region.

The rise of protected bike lanes in cities has also had a major effect. People for Bikes reported in 2013 that the number of cyclists in dedicated bike lanes along Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown D.C. had grown seven times faster than the citywide average.

Among other U.S. cities, San Francisco is making protected lanes a priority, as they plan to double their current total of 13 with 26 miles of protected lanes by the end of 2017. Going beyond road striping, Chicago has begun installing curb-protected bike lanes to make commuting even safer for riders.

Bike parking gets modern

The image of the lonely bike rack in front of an occasional municipal building or school is giving way to a more modern conception of bike storage being available along every city street and in every parking garage.

2009 transportation study suggested that a combination of bike racks and showers at an office building resulted in a much greater willingness of staff to cycle to work than having bike racks alone. As employers realize that bike facilities make sense, from the point of view of both sustainability and employee wellness, they increasingly want to provide the option to their workforce.


Heather Benjamin Posted in LEED

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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.