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Posts Tagged ‘energy-efficient’

A goal of USGBC Central Pennsylvania

In March of 2016, USGBC Central Pennsylvania identified an opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity of Harrisburg on a rewarding project: a duplex that was going to be given to a military veteran’s family, which had suffered from a fire. The goal of the project was to provide a low-cost and healthy home that operated sustainably to keep day-to-day costs for the family very affordable.

USGBC Central Pennsylvania worked with Habitat for Humanity by providing technical consultation and identifying potential suppliers to offer discounted materials and services. Several USGBC Central Pennsylvania board members conducted site visits and provided architectural, energy-related and green-building recommendations, including:

  • Insulation types and installation methods
  • Low-usage plumbing fixtures
  • Paints with less than 50 grams per liter of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Asbestos testing
  • With new roofing and windows, and a complete remodel of the interior by Habitat for Humanity volunteers, the property will soon be a beautiful home to a happy family. The space has energy-efficient windows donated by Plygem, upcycled cabinets, and countertops from the Habitat ReStore and bamboo and cork flooring donated by Calibamboo.
  • USGBC Central Pennsylvania is looking forward to more projects in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity in the coming years.  We are also glad to support other community-focused organizations that are interested in sustainability. Please email Heidi Kunka, the community’s director, or phone 202.706.0836, if you have a project in mind.

Top four benefits of installing solar panels on your home

Published on 5 Apr 2017 Written by Taryn Holowka Posted in Industry

Solar panels are a great way to offset energy costs, reduce the environmental impact of your home and provide a host of other benefits, such as supporting local businesses and contributing to energy independence.

  1. Reduce or eliminate energy bills.

This one is pretty amazing. In Washington, D.C., which has an average amount of sun, but it’s enough to power a house of three kids and two adults at net zero energy consumption.

Even if you live somewhere cloudy, such locations typically receive more than two hours of sunlight per day, while sunny locations receive an average of 5.5 hours of sunlight per day.

Although sunny days will produce more solar energy, solar panels will continue to draw energy even when the weather is cloudy. Indirect, or diffused, sunlight will still help to power your home. Cloudy days usually produce around 10 to 20 percent of the power generated on sunny days.

  1. Earn tax credits and rebates.

To start, you will get 30 percent of total system costs back from equipment and installation as a federal income tax credit when you file your taxes. This means you would save $7,500 on a solar system worth $25,000.

Combine this with state and local rebates and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), and total costs can be cut in half. The SRECs are generated throughout the year, and you can sell them to utility companies, which generates a very impressive return on the initial investment.

The investment has a payback period of only 3.5 years, while the solar panels have a warranty of 10 years and useful life of 25 years—which means you generate free electricity and extra credits for 20+ years.

  1. Start saving from day one.

Annual energy costs can be in the thousands.

Solar panels significantly improve your resale value. Most home buyers understand what a home with solar panels means—especially because the system is already in place and they didn’t have to make the initial investment and installation. According to research, most homeowners see a $5,911 resale value increase per installed kilowatt. That means if you install a 3.1 kilowatt system, you could improve your home’s resale value by nearly $18,000.

 4. Help the environment and help us all.

Solar power systems derive clean, pure energy from the sun. Installing solar panels on your home helps combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our collective dependence on fossil fuel. Traditional electricity is sourced from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. When fossil fuels are burned to produce electricity, they emit harmful gases that are the primary cause of air pollution and global climate change. Not only are fossil fuels bad for the environment, but they are also a finite resource. Because of this, the price is constantly fluctuating and can increase in a short period of time.

Solar power also works during a drought or heat wave  During heat waves or severe droughts, electricity generation is at risk. But solar power systems do not require water to generate electricity.

In addition, solar power creates jobs in clean energy. The U.S. has been leading the world in clean energy.

Green anchors: LEED-certified venues spur urban growth

Published on 22 Feb 2017 Written by Rhiannon Jacobsen Posted in LEED

From sports arenas to museums, from concert halls to theaters, venues are iconic fixtures in the built environment that engage millions of people. They are centers of innovation, culture and community pride that can represent a city, a region and even whole countries. They also serve as important catalysts for development, bringing together planners, architects, developers, local government officials and residents to invest in the future growth and health of their communities.

 Growing the community

By nature, these spaces consume considerable energy and water resources, while also producing large quantities of waste. Implementing green practices in these spaces is not only a good business model in the long run, but as more and more operators embrace the role of environmental stewards and community ambassadors, they also inspire others to be proactive in the areas of social responsibility and sustainability.

Venues, and especially sports stadiums, have outsized impacts on both the environment and the community, given their size and scope. Every year, the top 200 stadiums in the U.S. alone draw roughly 181 million visitors.

Restaurants, hotels and retail spaces pop up to serve the crowds, followed by offices and other commercial buildings, which often ultimately leads to new residential development.

 Nationals Park scores for D.C. 

You need look no further than Nationals Park, located in southeast Washington, D.C., to see the economic, social and environmental benefits. Opened in 2008, the park currently makes $35 million in annual revenue, and estimates suggest that the city generates about $100 million in annual tax revenue from redevelopment around the stadium’s Capital Riverfront area. On top of that, this remediated brownfield site is easily accessible to public transportation, and is just one of many ways that the city demonstrates green building leadership.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to come out of the park’s development is the revival of community and the resurgence of southeast D.C.’s neighborhoods, as more and more people are attracted by new residential, retail and entertainment offerings—as well as plenty of green space.

Like many other venues, Nationals Park anchors the community, spurs growth and contributes to an authentic identity that’s tied to the built environment. Beyond giving a defined purpose for city districts, venues give people a place to connect and share their experiences.


USGBC South Carolina participates in STEM Fest

Published on 3 Mar 2017 Written by Sandra Doherty Posted in Community

On February 11, the USGBC South Carolina Low Country Branch participated in the fourth annual Charleston STEM Fest 2017, an outdoor celebration of science, technology, engineering and math. Our booth was located right on the river on a beautiful 70-degree day. The group started setting up around 9 a.m., and by 10, the kids were flocking around the booth with excited faces.

 Engaging the community

At this festival, our goal was to interact with students and engage them in activities about how to be green. In addition, being an exhibitor not only gave the organization exposure, but also the an opportunity to network with other exhibitors/vendors that have a presence in Charleston that may seek to know more about USGBC. We hoped to reach students, faculty members, school board members and other leaders of the Charleston community.

Sketching out green homes

USGBC volunteers Joe, Jacquayle, Jennifer and Greg assisted the children in modeling a basic house with a door, windows and a gable roof. They acquainted parents with the sketch-up software and other computer modeling software that is all free. With up to 200 students participating, the eclectic neighborhood that came to life expressed unique color palettes, and a variety of structures from modest to ambitiously soaring.

After the volunteers highlighted the basic geometric functions to the children, most were quick learners and were excited to explore their new tech-savvy hobby at home. After each child modeled their dream home in sketch-up, volunteers would assist in creating an overhang in front of a few windows. They would demonstrate the shadow cast by the new addition to their structure and open an adjacent window with a model that demonstrated an energy efficiency profile.

The energy-efficient model, adorned with a heat-color-coded response, stirred curiosity in the children. The volunteers explained that the shading device modeled above their windows allowed for a cooler response from the building toward its environment. Adjacent trees in the energy model were pointed out, and the USGBC volunteers explained how the leaves create shade in the hot months of the year and then fall to create more opportunity for light in the colder months.

 Encouraging enthusiasm for STEM

The volunteer team was as enthusiastic about the day as the participants. Jennifer described her experience:

As a USGBC South Carolina volunteer, I am absolutely thrilled we were able to attend the Charleston STEM fest 2017. We could not have asked for a more beautiful day. With an abundant and vivacious group of exhibitors, I felt personally encouraged by the surrounding network of professionals, who are passionate about creating games to facilitate the interest of the next generation in science, engineering, math and technology.

The children and parents came out with overwhelming interest. The kids were patient and quick learners who were all extremely engaged. It was a great success.

Occupant-aware buildings or building-aware occupants?

Published on 1 Mar 2017 Written by Tom Marseille Posted in Industry

 Efficiency is in the occupant’s hands

At one end of the spectrum, effectively leveraging passive design and daylighting usually depends on occupants changing the indoor environment to fit their needs (e.g., opening and closing windows or raising and lowering blinds). Essentially, occupants are asked to become more aware and more educated about how their buildings are meant to operate to provide the most benefit.

Buildings that are designed and built to current market standards increasingly include more indoor sensors to control mechanical HVAC or artificial lighting. But occupants can easily manipulate these tools, and do so frequently, typically in response to a lack of control over the space. Occupant education can help in setting expectations and encouraging behavioral changes, but it is challenging to execute, and the knowledge does not stay constant during inevitable staff turnover.

Customizing building information, and making it accessible via individual workstations or smartphones, is a reality today. But it remains to be seen whether occupant interest and active engagement can be sustained in the long term. Early findings are not particularly encouraging except in cases where there is a strong motivating factor. Does this mean having effective building-aware occupants is an aspiration that may not be achievable?

 Your building can sense you

Everyone, from tech developers to futurists to politicos, have latched onto the idea of smart buildings within smart cities, of making sense of big data collected from new information conduits available through the internet of things and new sensory technology. Smart buildings stand to benefit the broad spectrum of building stakeholders.

Developers looking for a quick and profitable sale can tout the latest approach to building technology and use it as a lever to fulfill energy efficiency code mandates. Building owners could enjoy lower operating costs through a fully and continually tuned, optimized building, and be poised to better track and retain tenants. Tenants may see improved productivity from employees through a healthier, more comfortable environment, which could contribute in turn to reduced staff turnover. Smart sensors gathering data on occupancy trends may inform future workplace strategies, enabling planning for reduced leased space requirements without compromising employee comfort and productivity.

It is a powerful idea, but it raises some questions, because—if we are willing—buildings will soon know our preferences, where we are and when they can expect us to arrive or depart. Buildings can potentially make choices for us to optimize (based on the trended algorithms) occupant experience and performance.

Does this mean that eventually, your building may know more about you than you are comfortable with, even though you are more comfortable in your building? Is the next generation of high performance for building stock only possible at the expense of personal privacy? And can we truly rely on this additional layer of systems complexity to be reliable, affordable, maintainable and secure?

For now, we can still consider the other option of educating people to “do it themselves,” to emphasize and enable the building-aware occupant in a simpler building, arming them with information that helps them consume less and enjoy an admittedly lower tech building more.



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



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

Promoting sustainability and equity through Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda

Published on 17 Oct 2016 Written by Grant Olear Posted in Advocacy and policy

The U.N. Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development looks to use its New Urban Agenda to establish a common vision for sustainable and equitable urban developments.

UN-Habitat, the formal United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, looks to establish a common vision for sustainable and equitable urban developments. UN Habitat conferences take place every 20 years, with the first two taking place in 1976 and 1996, in Vancouver and Istanbul, respectively.

Habitat III began October 17, 2016, in Quito, Ecuador, and is especially timely in helping the nations of the world align increasing urbanization with the newly entered Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals adopted last year.

With its focus on the nexus of development with sustainability, equity, prosperity, dialogues and partnerships, Habitat III will align significantly with USGBC®’s mission. USGBC participated in the conference with global partners such as the World Resources Institute and ICLEI, advancing our community’s suite of sustainability tools.

The primary goals of Habitat III are to renew nations’ commitments to sustainable urban development and to address new and emerging challenges, resulting in adoption of the New Urban Agenda. The agenda outlines commitments and a common vision for future urban development. The culmination of a series of issue papers, the official draft was agreed upon at the Habitat III Informal Intergovernmental Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Sept. 10.

The New Urban Agenda seeks to meet the challenges and opportunities of sustained, inclusive economic growth, leveraging urbanization for structure transformation, high productivity, value-added activities and resource efficiency. It stresses inclusion—across different levels of government as well as in gender.

There is much to like about the New Urban Agenda, which encompasses a broad array of commitments relating to smart cities, protecting ecosystem services, reducing waste, strengthening resilience and resource-efficiency of materials, among others. We see many connections with our suite of tools, and will reinforce these opportunities as the agenda moves forward.

Written by Grant Olear

High-performing buildings offer solutions for Virginia’s Climate Action Challenge

Published on 31 Aug 2016 Written by Nick Brousse Posted in Advocacy and policy

The state of Virginia continues to up the ante in its energy efficiency initiatives.

Earlier this summer, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took a bold step toward combating climate change in the Commonwealth. To reduce carbon pollution from the state’s power plants, Gov. McAuliffe signed Executive Order 57, setting in motion a process to accelerate efforts to improve energy efficiency and expand the state’s clean energy portfolio.

The Commonwealth is off to a running start, recently announcing the issuing of permits for two utility-scale solar facilities that will power nearly 6,000 homes. However, when it comes to helping residents achieve the benefits of living in energy-efficient homes to help achieve carbon reduction goals, Virginia’s leaders need not look further than the state’s own Housing Development Authority (VHDA).

In recent years, VHDA has implemented some of the nation’s most impressive standards for energy efficiency in affordable housing, relying on third-party green building standards like LEED® and EarthCraft. The Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech found that over the past five years, every applicant receiving highly sought-after Low Income Housing Tax Credits managed by VHDA have been committed to meeting these two green building standards.

The payback has been huge. Research examining 15 recently constructed or rehabbed apartment communities throughout the state built to these higher standards were found to use 40 percent less energy than housing built to existing code requirements. The average tenant in these communities saved 464 kilowatt hours of energy per month, equaling $54 per month on utility bills—a savings of over $600 per year. For seniors and families struggling to make ends meet, savings from energy efficiency is a lifeline.

With more than 1,000 LEED-certified projects encompassing nearly 135 million square feet in the commonwealth, Virginia businesses and residents recognize the benefits of LEED. By allowing lower utility expenses, reduced operations and maintenance costs and third-party verification providing assurance, LEED is helping Virginia scale up and enjoy the benefits of environmentally sustainable design. As the state looks for additional policies to drive energy efficiency even further across the economy.

Nick Brousse

Virginia will improve energy efficiency to cut carbon emissions

Published on 30 Jun 2016Written by Nick Brousse Posted in Advocacy and policy

Virginia’s Executive Order 57 aims to reduce carbon pollution from state power plants.

On June 28, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed Executive Order 57, a major step forward in combating climate change by reducing carbon pollution from the state’s power plants. The order directs Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward to convene a workgroup that will recommend steps to build upon existing efforts to improve energy efficiency and expand the state’s clean energy portfolio.

In a nod to the power of energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions and utility bills, Gov. McAuliffe said, “We all understand that the cheapest kilowatt of energy is the one we do not consume.” The state has more than 1,000 LEED-certified projects encompassing nearly 135 million square feet of commercial, residential, manufacturing, educational, health care and other facility space. Virginia residents recognize the benefits of LEED and the positive impact green construction has on the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit. 

“Energy efficiency creates jobs, saves families and businesses money, and helps reduce pollution and carbon emissions—all benefits that the Commonwealth deserves from economic, energy and environmental initiatives like Executive Order 57,” the Governor continued.

The 2015 Green Building Economic Impact Study found that the green building sector in the U.S. is outpacing conventional construction growth and will account for more than 2.3 million American jobs this year. According to the report, LEED-certified construction in the Commonwealth alone is projected to account for 107,000 jobs and to contribute $9.39 billion in gross domestic product between 2015 and 2018.

Nick Brousse

Advocacy & Policy Project Manager


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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.