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Greenbuild Cultivation Event brought leaders together

By Emily Kingston on 8/1/2017

USGBC MA, USGBC, Informa and other green building professionals joined together for the Greenbuild Cultivation Luncheon Friday, July 28th 2017. This wonderful event was a celebration towards Boston being chosen to host the world's largest green building conference that is happening this November.  Regional industry leaders and sustainability VIP's came together to discuss their poignant perspectives on sustainability along with getting the opportunity to network and connect with other professionals in their field. 

USGBC President and CEO Mahesh Ramanujam came to speak about the growth and future of green buildings, both locally and globally.

Mahesh was joined by special guests Bryan Koop, Executive Vice President of Boston Properties, and Austin Blackmon, Chief of Environment of Energy & Open Space for the City of Boston. Bryan discussed Boston's innovation and growth as a leader in green buildings while Austin noted the importance of sustainable planning for Boston, a city at risk of sea level rise.

The opening remarks were made by Judy Nitsch, Founding Principal at Nitsch Engineering and Chair of the Greenbuild Host Committee, who introduced the dedicated staff and volunteers that are making Greenbuild possible. 

The work in sustainability that is accomplished now will be felt long into the future. We want to ensure we use the lessons learned and the new ideas offered to move forward with our mission for more green and net positive buildings.


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Greenbuild Boston is 100 days away!

By Emily Kingston on 7/31/2017

The Greenbuild Conference and Expo is only 100 days away! The world's largest expo and conference on green building is coming to Boston this November 8-10th in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC).

USGBC MA has been working alongside many dedicated volunteers to help make Greenbuild 2017 the biggest and best one yet.

Here's what's new with the Greenbuild Committees:

  • The Green Building Tech Program at Madison Park Vocational High School will begin in September for the Legacy Project. The USGBC MA will be introducing students to the green industry and the various career paths that exist.
  • The Greening Greenbuild Committee is working with local hotels to adopt green initiatives and is preparing a campaign on educating this year's Greenbuild attendants on recycling and waste diversion. Did you know that paper towels can't be recycled?
  • As the new school year begins, the Volunteers Committee continues to recruit and coordinate student volunteers and emerging professionals to participate in Greenbuild. If you're a student or professional under 25 and have an interest in sustainability, volunteer at Greenbuild and receive a full 3-day pass!
  • The Cultivation Event and Luncheon, supported by the Ambassador Committee, brought sustainable leaders together. Speakers included Mahesh Ramanujam (USGBC President and CEO), Bryan Koop (Executive Vice President of Boston Properties), Austin Blackmon (Chief of Environment of Energy & Open Space for the City of Boston), and Judy Nitsch (Founding Principal at Nitsch Engineering).
  • This year in Boston, Greenbuild Tours includes 30 tours and over 70 sites in Massachusetts scheduled over three days. Registration is now open!
  • Local Partners and Regional Outreach Committee is working with 12 partner organizations to provide a conference and expo that reflects regional needs and aspirations

You can always read more about what's new with Greenbuild. If you are interested in coming to Greenbuild, registration is now open. Click here to register today!

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Food Sustainability: How green is your diet?

By Ian Johnson on 7/27/2017

With today’s food options, one can quickly become overwhelmed with choices. In addition to what type of food and how trendy it may be, we should also be considering how sustainable one food choice is compared to another.

If you’ve done any research on the subject of food sustainability, you’ll see that vegetarian options are often the preferred choice, as it requires less water and energy to produce plant based meals, thus eat based food options have a much higher carbon footprint. In the past five years, we’ve seen an increase in more sustainable food options. From organic, local, GMO-Free, to an increase in Farmer’s Markets and healthier options. Whatever and wherever you get your food, there are ways to make the best selection from what is available to you. When buying food, at the store you can read the label to better understand the ingredients, ask an employee for information regarding the farm or manufacturer’s sustainability standards and criteria, or even take to your smart phone to do some digging (search online or try an app like GoodGuide, True Food, or Locavore).  

But what about when you are out to eat at a restaurant?

You can’t really ask the wait staff or chef 20 questions about the food you are about to order every time you go out. Perhaps you saw that episode of Portlandia where they end up leaving the restaurant to go to the farm to see how their chicken lived before they decide on what to order?

This is an extreme version of what many of us today want to do as we become more informed about certain criteria worth considering before ordering.

So, since many of you will be eating out quite a bit while in Boston for Greenbuild 2017, the “Greening Greenbuild” team has created some criteria to help you make the most sustainable food choices while in town.

How can you find food options that go beyond industry standards? Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

Does this restaurant have options that are:

  • Locally Sourced?
  • Organic?
  • Non-GMO?
  • Vegetarian? Or Vegan?
  • Sustainably Sourced/Fair Trade?

Does the restaurant:

  • Compost food waste?
  • Have a certification from the Green Restaurant Association?
  • Have they participated in the Real Food Challenge?
  • Use other sustainable practices? (Renewable energy or offsets)

As part of our goal to “green” Greenbuild, our team has performed research on Boston based restaurants to understand what makes one restaurant more sustainable than another. Currently, we’ve compiled a list of restaurants and criteria to make choosing a sustainable option easy for you while in town. We hope that our work can help you to make even just a few more sustainable choices while you are in town and help to support businesses that are pushing for more sustainable food. You’ll not only be able to enjoy a delicious meal, but also feel confident that you made a bigger impact through selecting a meal with a lower carbon footprint.

You’ll be able to check out the full list of the restaurant research during the conference. For now, here are a few of the restaurants that stood out:

-Tam Bistro & Bar
-Sebastian’s Café
-75 on Liberty Wharf
-Sweet Green
-Bon Me


About the Author: Ian Johnson is the Principal at Signature Sustainability, a sustainability consulting services firm located in Cambridge, MA.

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Ultra-Efficient, Economical Apartments Now In South Boston Are Part Of 'Big Wave'

By Fred Bever on 7/26/2017

You may have heard about passive housing: residences built to achieve ultra-low energy use. Imported from Germany, it's been kind of a boutique-y thing here until recently, with eco-minded homeowners making costly upfront investments to downsize their carbon footprints. But now, New England is joining a surge in large-scale passive housing development.

The Bayside Anchor, a big, green, somewhat boxy-looking four-story building that overlooks a tidal cove in Portland, Maine, has joined the trend.

'Ultra-Efficient' And Environmentally Friendly

Architect Jesse Thompson says the 45-unit project had to meet a lot of goals: Construction had to be cost-effective enough to get financed by public and affordable housing groups; it needed common areas and office space for Head Start and a community policing station; it had to be ultra, ultra-efficient.

And, finally, it had to meet the needs of tenants like Peter Janes, who was one of the first to move in this winter.

"I know it had great insulation. I had to shut off my heat in February," Janes says. "It was too hot."

The building does have great insulation — extra-great. Thompson says the exterior walls are several inches thicker than basic code would require.

"It's recycled newsprint: it's 10 inches thick, you know, really well done. And there's triple-glazed windows. So you can sit next to the window in the middle of winter in a T-shirt and you won't be cold. And that allows us to really radically downsize the heating system," Thompson says.

There isn't a central heating system at all. Instead, each apartment has a small baseboard electric heater with an estimated electricity cost of just $125 a year.

It takes more than thick walls to achieve those energy savings. It also takes a near-perfect seal on the building's envelope and a high-tech ventilation system to purge moisture while keeping warm or cool air in, depending on the season. Thompson calls it the building's "lungs."

"So all the bad air, all the bad smells go out. But the heat stays in," he explains. "The fancy technical name is a 'heat recovery ventilator.' But they feel like magic to us."

There are other environmentally friendly features: a roof-full of solar panels, and underneath the ground floor's polished concrete slab, instead of a basement crammed with heating systems, big retention tanks allow rainwater to filter slowly into surrounding land, bypassing the city's overworked storm water system.

And all for a cost that's low for Portland's go-go development scene. Thompson said prices for high-efficiency materials and systems are dropping fast. And, he says, public housing agencies are beginning to embrace the long-term savings gained through lower energy and maintenance costs.

"Everyone is starting to see how the economics are working," he says. "They are giving extra points for meeting these energy goals. So we're going to see a big wave coming in the next five years."

A Treat For Southie Developers

It's reached South Boston now.

"I don't want to be embarrassing about this, but it's a kind of miracle," says developer Fred Gordon. On the site of a 19th-century waterfront rum distillery, Gordon is renting up the first apartments in what will eventually be a 65-unit passive housing building.

"I could stand and look at this building all day long. I just eat it up. It's like having a new girlfriend," he says.

It's very much like the one in Portland: super-tight envelope, high-tech ventilation and no central heating system. But there's also an important difference. In this case, Gordon isn't relying on government incentives for affordable housing. He's going market-rate and plans eventually to sell the units.

In Southie's hot housing market, Gordon's got one advantage: He bought an entire city block there back in 1984, when land was considerably cheaper.

But he insists that the distillery project proves any developer can radically reduce a building's carbon output and still make a buck. Gordon says renters and buyers are willing to pay a 10 or 15 percent premium for passive housing features.

"It's getting to the point where as an investment decision ... [it's] increasingly attractive," Gordon says. "That's what we want to do. We want to make it so that if a building is not a passive house, then people say, 'Oh, well, that's a real negative, I would rather do something that is a passive house: it's just better.' "

Officials at the Chicago-based Passive Housing Institute say it's still a big ask to finance market-rate units that won't realize full energy-efficiency savings for decades. But momentum for large-scale passive housing really did start gaining last year, when the number of buildings the institute certified doubled.

And that number is on course to more than double again this year, with projects getting bigger and bigger, including a 350-unit New York City high-rise.

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International WELL Building Institute, An organization working towards healthier buildings

By Tatyana Frid on 7/25/2017

Various organizations are working towards healthier buildings all over the world today. An innovative company whose goal is to create more sustainable buildings worldwide is WELL. Currently, there are over 100 million square feet of buildings that are WELL certified in more than 30 countries worldwide. With the recent growth of the International WELL Building Institute, WELL is able to constantly work on new programs and resources that can help create more sustainable buildings, especially where they are needed most. WELL has recently published a new video on their website showcasing some of there talented innovators that have helped WELL become a pioneering organization with a global market.

Additionally, WELL has recently created a new app called Build WELL , which features up to date articles on WELL along with other members of the sustainable buildings community. This innovative app also serves as an on-the-go tool to help buildings be WELL certified anytime, anywhere.

You can check out more information on how WELL is working towards their mission through this link. 


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Board Member Andrea Love featured in Boston Globe News Article

By Courtney Humphries on 7/24/2017

Our own board chair, Andrea Love, was featured in a news article written by Courtney Humphries for the Boston Globe. The article Boston wants to fight climate change. So why is every new building made of glass? talks about the many of the lesser known issues that glass buildings possess. Andrea mentions that a glass building requires more indoor heat because of the cold surface of the glass, therefore wasting more energy that could have been sustained otherwise. 

"What’s so problematic about glass walls? In Boston’s climate, the biggest problem is a lack of insulation. Unlike opaque walls, glass allows heat to pass in and out easily. A 2014 report from the Urban Green Council in New York found that glass buildings have insulation values equivalent to medieval half-timber houses. “You have to now put more heat in your building to make up for that glass,” says Andrea Love, director of building science at Boston architecture firm Payette. On a cold day, glass walls will make you feel chilly, even if the air temperature in the room is comfortable, because your body loses heat to the cold surface. And as Love explains, they create a chill-inducing draft, as warmed air hits the top of the glass wall and falls. Perimeter heating systems are often needed to make up for these discomforts. In the summer, solar energy heats up surfaces inside, requiring more air conditioning. All-glass buildings often need constant heating or cooling to maintain comfortable temperatures. In an extended power failure, temperatures in a glass high-rise could quickly rise or fall to dangerous levels."

If you are interested in reading the rest of the article, feel free to check out the link below.


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July 2017 EPMA Meeting; Earning and Maintaining LEED & WELL Credentials

By Manuel Esquivel on 7/24/2017

Whether you already have or are preparing to obtain LEED and WELL certifications, there are many easily-forgotten but key-to-remember details. During our July 2017 EPMA Meeting, Brian Fontaine presented on earning and maintaining LEED and WELL credentials.

There are two levels of LEED credentials which anyone can seek to attain, LEED Green Associate and LEED Accredited Professional with Specialty (AP Specialty). There is one WELL certification, WELL Accredited Professional. Although no prior practical experience is required to obtain the LEED Green Associate, it is highly recommended that you gain exposure to LEED and Green Building concepts through a combination of education, work experience, and volunteering. To obtain the LEED AP Specialty certificate no formal documentation of experience is required, but prior work on a LEED-registered or certified projected is directly assessed within the exam. The WELL Accredited Professional certification does not require prior experience.  

You can learn about LEED and WELL exam registration procedures and costs in Brian’s presentation. LEED exam premiums are lower for USGBC members, so check if your organization is a member before making your payment. There is a LEED Green Associate / LEED AP Specialty combined exam at a lower price than the added costs of the two separate exams. WELL exam premiums are lower for USGBC members, ASID members, and those with LEED certifications.   

There are both print and digital guides to help you prepare for the exams, which typically range from zero to $250. Popular resource for study guides, practice exams, and flashcards include Green Building Education Services (GBES), Poplar Network, and GreenStep.

Once you pass the exams make sure to maintain your credentials! This includes logging a certain number of Continuing Education hours and paying a maintenance fee every two years. There are many ways to obtain your Continuing Education hours, including hosting Lunch and Learns at your organization using USGBC approved presentations, attending EPMA meetings, and acquiring LEED and WELL project experience. You can find the specific number of hours needed for each certification, more options to fulfill the hours, and maintenance fees in Brian’s presentation.

If you need further support to prepare for your exam or have other creative ideas on how to earn Continuing Education hours, join us during the upcoming monthly EPMA meeting and share your thoughts.     


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SGH, a Chapter Sponsor of Ours, Doing Big Things!

By Ryan Duffy, Communications Fellow on 9/16/2016

We are thrilled to report that bronze-level Sponsor Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) received the 2016 Gold Engineering Excellence Award from The American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts (ACEC/MA). This award was for their work on the China Pavillion Expo at the 2015 Milan Expo held in Milan, Italy.  The Expo was themed “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” and focused on sustainability and agriculture. 

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger was the structural engineer and consulted on the schematic building enclosure design for China Pavilion. The pavilion celebrates the Expo's theme, "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” by focusing on sustainability and the coexistence of nature and city. The structure's 4,000-sq-m undulating roof transitions from sharp angles on its northern side replicating the urban skyline, to flowing curves on the southern side symbolizing China’s rolling landscape. 

ACEC/MA President David Vivilecchia said: “The winning projects exemplify ingenuity and professionalism and represent the breadth of engineering’s contribution to our everyday lives”. “They are outstanding examples of how engineers connect communities, provide safe and reliable water and energy, and make our buildings safe and efficient. The professional engineers and their colleagues at our member firms are dedicated to working on quality infrastructure, which wouldn’t otherwise exist. These outstanding projects are but a few examples of the quality work designed by Massachusetts (and Rhode Island) engineering firms.”

See more about SGH on their website.

Photos taken from SGH's website. 

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USGBC's Founder Re: Human/Planetary Loss and Opportunity Costs of Environmental Degradation

By Ryan Duffy, Communications Fellow on 9/12/2016

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6-- Sustainable Development-- of Greenthink: How Profit can Save the Planet, by USGBC's co-founder and current CEO, Rick Fedrizzi. The preceding section of the chapter discussed China's unilateral turn to cleaner energy as well as the historic climate announcement between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. This section discusses environmental damage in different parts of the developing world.

Global environmental devastation is upending the macroeconomic fundamentals not only in China, but also throughout the developing world. It's easy to see why. Just like in China, pollution now has a measurable impact on the economies in developing nations.

In India, for example, 80 percent of the country's sewage flows right into its rivers, including its main sources of drinking water.  Air pollution in India is 6 times worse than it was in 2000, and it kills an estimated 620,000 people each year. Researchers at the World Bank estimate that the environmental damage cost India about $80 billion in 2009, the equivalent of 5.7 percent of its GDP.

As you might imagine, the situation is just as dire elsewhere.  Throughout the 2000s, the World Bank published a series of Country Environmental Analyses (CEAs), each of which looked to quantify the effect of environmental devastation on an individual country's economy.  And while the data comes from all around the world, and came across multiple years, the results are shockingly--horrifyingly--similar. 

A 2006 report states, "In Colombia, lack of access to clean water, poor or nonexistent sanitation services, and indoor air pollution are among the principal causes of illness and death, predominantly for children and women in poor households.  The effects of these principal causes of environmental degradation are estimated to cost more than 3.7 percent of Colombia's GDP." 

Meanwhile, that same year, Pakistan's CEA reported, "Conservative estimates presented in this report suggest that environmental degradation costs the country at least 6 percent of its GDP."

The following year, the CEA for Ghana stated, "Recent estimates of the cost of natural resource and environmental degradation suggest that the equivalent of 9.6 percent of GDP is lost annually through unsustainable management of the country's forest and land resources and through health costs related to water supply and sanitation, and indoor and outdoor air pollution." 

The 2008 Nepal CEA reads: "these environmental risk factors have resulted in premature death and disease, especially among the poor and vulnerable groups, and are placing increased health costs and a significant economic burden on the country, estimated at close to US$258 million or nearly 3.5 percent of the country's GDP." 

I could keep going, but you get the idea. Pollution is directly impacting prosperity in parts of the world where prosperity is desperately needed. And the scale of the impact is terrifying.  There are nearly 200 countries in the world. Imagine adding up the global cost of pollution and environmental devastation--an analysis that, to my surprise, no one has yet performed.  We can easily guess the outcome.  The tally would be trillions of dollars--dollars that are literally going up in smoke. 

It's clear that the old model of economic growth is no longer viable. In fact, in aggregate, the old model is a measurable drag on growth that essentially amounts to a global environmental depression

But imagine for a moment that these costs don't exist.  Imagine that we've eliminated millions of unnecessary, pre-mature deaths. Imagine that black smoke and yellow smog became clear blue sky, that industrial chemicals are cleansed from the water, that a century of carbon emissions are sucked out of the air. Imagine a world in which bull markets can throw off the yoke of pollution and run even faster. Imagine that people around the world can breathe clean air and drink clean water, not just some days, but every day. Imagine how these people--no longer being poisoned and sometimes killed by pollution-- will need goods and services and jobs and businesses to provide all three.  Never mind the environmental transformation.  Think about the human transformation. Think about the economic transformation: trillions of dollars of economic stimulus, just by eliminating pollution

A world without pollution is a world in which opportunity is our must abundant natural resource-- a world in which everything is going full speed because the light is always green. A decade ago, this might have been a fantasy, a pipe dream. But not anymore.  The world is changing.  And while a pollution-free future is a long way off, a significantly cleaner, healthier, and even more profitable future is not. 

Developing countries have every right to grow, to prosper, and to meet the urgent needs of their citizens. Pollution has been the by-product of this growth--an acceptable by-product, you might argue, considering that growth wouldn't have existed without it.  Today, however, the equation is shifting. Pollution is increasingly a barrier to growth in the developing world.  Sure enough, political leaders in developing countries are slowly awakening to the fact that profit and the planet are no longer mutually exclusive-- that they're symbiotic, part of the same ecosystem. 

In the wake of COP21, and with sustainable and energy efficient technologies becoming rapidly more cost-effective, scalable, and profitable, this is a particuarly prescient and confident statement.  You can buy the book on Amazon new for $12.99. Fun fact: each copy of the book is made after the order is placed so as to reduce waste and ineffiency!

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WELL Exam: Have you started preparing?

By Ritchie Lafaille, Office Associate on 8/25/2016

Don't let your goal of becoming a WELL Accredited Professional get pushed back! There's still time to get ahead of the curve by getting certified with the newest building standard.

Wednesday, September 14 from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
50 Milk Street, Boston ("Hemingway" Conference Room , Floor 18)

Register here or below.

In this full-day course, we'll be going over topics you'll see on the AP exam, and you'll meet local professionals with whom you can form study groups. A light breakfast, full lunch, and snacks will be provided throughout the day, and a hard-copy exam study guide will be provided to all students.

We also have other dates for WELL Exam Prep sessions, if this doesn't fit your schedule! Check out our Eventbrite page!


Other helpful links:
WELL Intro + Discussion
What is WELL? What does it mean for the building industry? Is it worth your time? Get all your questions answered at our introductory session!

WELL AP Exam Registration

Learn more about WELL


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