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SITES and LEED: Pilot projects

A third of the certified projects that participated in the SITES pilot phase also achieved LEED certification.

LEED is a global movement, with about 92,000 registered and certified projects across 167 countries and territories, with 2.2 million square feet certifying every day. To complement LEED and ensure that the sustainability movement addresses all areas of the built environment, GBCI expanded with several other project certification and credentialing programs, including SITES.

With several rating systems to choose from, how does one know which is the right fit? How can specific goals be met through a variety of approaches? This article is the first part of a series explaining the relationship between the two rating systems and how projects can drive incredible results by using SITES and LEED together.

Integrating natural and built systems

Although every building project has a site, not every site has a building. Originally modeled after LEED, SITES was developed to fill the gap in addressing site sustainability. It can be used as a standalone system, but it was also developed to work with LEED to integrate natural and built systems in a more meaningful and efficient way.

A third of the certified projects that participated in the SITES pilot phase (2010–2014) also achieved LEED certification. These projects were national and local parks, commercial headquarters, botanic gardens, museums, government facilities, residential homes and more. Each helped shape the direction of the SITES program and its relationship to LEED.

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

For Richard Piacentini, Executive Director of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, pursuing SITES certification in addition to LEED was not even a question. As an early adopter of SITES, the Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) achieved the highest certification level in 2013 during the SITES pilot program. CSL was among the 150 projects that field-tested SITES during its pilot phase.

CSL also achieved LEED Platinum, the Living Building Challenge and WELL Platinum certifications. The goal was to apply systems thinking to the center, says Piacentini. “We wanted to know how we could truly integrate the building and landscape.” With the new center, “nature is now not that far away,” he explains. Sustainability is embedded in the organization’s culture and values.

Novus International

Novus International

In 2009, Novus International achieved LEED Platinum for their nine-acre corporate campus. Landscape architect Hunter Beckman recalls meeting the Novus owners soon afterward at a local USGBC event. According to Beckham, “We shared similar passions for sustainability and were fortunate enough to introduce them to what sustainable design means outside of the building, particularly improving both intellectual and physical health for anyone experiencing the property.”

After achieving SITES certification during the pilot program, the campus boasted many sustainable elements, such as a garden terrace linked by a trail and the transformation of a concrete-lined water detention pit into an amenity that not only manages stormwater, but also attracts wildlife and serves as an inviting outdoor space.

“This level of certification represents the company’s commitment to minimizing our impact on the environments in which we operate,” said former Novus President and CEO, Thad Simons, in 2012. “Our successful application of land and development practices proves that companies can achieve a healthy sustainable work environment while reducing operating costs.”

NREL Research Support Facility

National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Research Support Facility

The 30-acre Research Support Facility at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, earned both LEED and SITES certification (also during the pilot phase).

“For buildings, we tend to concentrate on LEED certification, which is great from a structure standpoint,” said Michelle Slovensky, the NREL Senior Sustainability Project Manager at the time. “Not only should your building have a sustainable and efficient design, but so should your infrastructure and your landscape. We felt that if we have the highest-performing buildings, we should look at our campus to find ways it can be used as an example of a sustainable campus and living laboratory.”

Guess what colleges empower students through sustainability and education

Published on 2 Nov 2017
Written by Mary Schrott

Learn about two honorable mention recipients of the Climate Leadership Awards.

For this year’s Climate Leadership Awards, USGBC and Second Nature received numerous applications from colleges and universities all making valiant strides toward sustainability in their classrooms and communities.

Georgia Southern University, in Statesboro, Georgia, and Bristol Community College, in Fall River, Massachusetts, received honorable mentions as four- and two-year institutions, respectively.

Student-driven sustainability at Georgia Southern

What sets Georgia Southern apart from other institutions are its efforts to empower students through sustainability initiatives. One such initiative is Georgia Southern’s Student Sustainability Fee Grant Program. More than $1.1 million has been allocated toward campus sustainability projects since the grant’s inception in 2014. This annual grant gives students the opportunity to lead personal sustainability projects with the guidance of faculty and staff. Past projects have ranged from LED lighting upgrades to solar-powered golf carts.

“Students are an incredible force,” says Dr. Lissa Leege, Professor of Biology and Director of the Center for Sustainability at Georgia Southern. “They bring many new ideas to the table from a wide range of experience and across disciplines. Give them support, guidance, and responsibility, and they will move mountains.”

Part of the guidance Georgia Southern provides comes from the requirement that every student take an environmental studies course before graduation. The university believes that this provides students with the critical thinking and empowerment needed to make a positive environmental change outside of the classroom. One example of hands-on, student-led programming is a solar energy project in which Georgia Southern students track data on solar radiation—data that is then used to influence solar initiatives in the community.

Georgia Southern University offers student sustainability projects

Georgia Southern also collaborates with the city of Statesboro to bring treated wastewater to campus to reuse as irrigation. The only university in the state to irrigate with reuse water, Georgia Southern is known for its water conservation measures. This reuse system conserves as much as 200,000 gallons in a single hot day in the summer and allows for adaptation during periods of drought.

Thousands of students at Georgia Southern also participate in environmental service learning projects, through which they’ve donated tens of thousands of hours of service to the environment in the local area. Georgia Southern believes that the combination of classroom learning and service experience will equip their students with the skills to implement sustainability strategies in the future.

This push for sustainability education not only empowers students but helps the university save. Leege suggests that sustainability has tremendous economic value for their university.

“Investment in sustainable technologies such as LED lighting can significantly reduce energy expenses over time, but have hidden benefits such as waste reduction and risk mitigation,” says Leege. “Sustainability is also an excellent recruitment tool and adds value well beyond its initial cost.”

Sustainability degree program implemented at BCC

USGBC and Second Nature also recognized Bristol Community College (BCC) for its dedication to combating climate change on the campus level and instilling a firm sense of stewardship among its students. Similar to Georgia Southern, BCC prioritizes education in sustainability as a tool for positive environmental change.

Recently, BCC implemented a Sustainability Studies program that allows for either a liberal arts degree or a certificate in sustainability. Joyce Brennan, Vice President of the College of Communications at BCC, says this program offers an entry into the societal challenges and opportunities offered by climate change, resource consumption, and energy use.

BCC believes that an education incorporating social science-based sustainability best prepares students for the ecological realities facing society and enables them to apply sustainability knowledge at work, at home, and in the community.

Transportation Industry is Embracing Sustainability

Washington, D.C.—(Oct. 19, 2017)—Today, USGBC released its LEED in Motion: Transportation report, which focuses on industry growth in the green building sector for transportation facilities like airport terminal buildings, train stations, bus centers, seaports, light rail stations, control towers and more. The report also highlights some of the most impressive LEED-certified transportation facilities throughout the world.

“Transportation facilities often have high operating costs, water and energy usage and waste, making their impact on our daily lives and the environment immense,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, and CEO, USGBC. “By implementing LEED green building strategies, these high-intensity buildings become efficient, cost-effective and sustainable transportation facilities that have a significant positive impact on our economy, environment, wellbeing, and productivity. As this sector continues to grow, strengthening its green footprint is imperative to ensure a sustainable future for all.”

Transportation is one of the biggest drivers of CO2 emissions and also has the highest growth in CO2 emissions from any industry sector. Globally, in 2010, the transportation sector accounted for approximately 14 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions—fourth only to the agriculture, electricity, and industrial sectors. In the U.S., transportation accounted for 27 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015—second only to electricity production.

The International Air Transport Association expects 7.2 billion passengers to fly in the year 2035—almost double the number of air passengers that traveled in 2016 (around 3.5 billion). As the number of visitors to transportation facilities continues to grow, the potential human, economic and environmental benefits of building LEED-certified transportation facilities are significant. Currently, there are airport projects registered and certified in nearly all 50 U.S. states and in more than 40 countries and territories around the world – totaling more than 201.4 million square feet of space.

The LEED in Motion: Transportation report highlights how LEED practices and strategies are flexible, easy to implement, generate impressive results and can be integrated throughout a building’s lifecycle, leading to a high performance in human and environmental health. Incorporating LEED includes sustainable site development, water conservation, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. In February 2017, USGBC and GBCI announced a new LEED green building rating system pilot designed to suit the unique needs of transit systems on a global scale. LEED v4 O+M: Transit will allow operational transit facilities to earn LEED certification.

LEED in Motion: Transportation is the latest in a series of reports from USGBC designed to provide a holistic snapshot of the green building movement in international markets. The report equips green building advocates with the insight and perspective to understand the use of the globally recognized LEED rating system and to make a strong case for sustainable building activity.

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.