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Archive for May, 2015

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




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


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.