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University of Cambridge Cuts HVAC Energy Costs in Half, Allocates Savings to Research

By USGBC Communications on 10/5/2017

Did you know indoor air sensors can be used to not only provide higher indoor environmental quality, but also improve energy efficiency and reduce utility costs as well?

In the face of growing energy costs, the University of Cambridge’s Hutchison/MRC Research Centre was met with the unsettling prospect of reducing life-saving cancer research to pay utility bills. After implementing a unique airside solution that allows ventilation to vary based on laboratory conditions, Hutchison/MRC reduced total natural gas costs by approximately 41 percent in the first year, and by 54 percent in year two. The total electricity bill was reduced by 9 percent. The new system, which had a payback of less than 2 years, also helped reduce carbon emissions.

The new solution would modify the center's traditional variable air volume (VAV) control in lab spaces with the demand-based Aircuity system, which allows the ventilation to vary based on conditions in each laboratory. With numerous installations at U.S. university laboratories, the Aircuity system proposed for the Hutchison/MRC Research Centre would be the first in the United Kingdom.

Aircuity, a USGBC MA Chapter Sponsor, is the smart airside efficiency company providing building owners with sustained energy savings through its intelligent measurement solutions. By addressing the inherent deficiencies in conventional approaches to energy efficient building ventilation, Aircuity's smart solutions deliver significant energy savings for a wide range of commercial, institutional and lab building applications without sacrificing occupant comfort, productivity or safety.

Aircuity's mission is to be an industry leader in the optimization of building ventilation for sustainable energy efficiency, safety, and operational performance.


Building Improvements Enhance Learning Environment at Northern Essex Community College

By USGBC Communications on 10/1/2017

Often overlooked, the design of a building can make a significant impact on health, accessibility and safety. Today, many architects, designers, planners, engineers and construction teams are looking to specific improvements to build or rennovate in ways that improve both indoor and outdoor environments of buildings.

The Northern Essex Community College (NECC) community recently celebrated the newly renovated $18 million, 80,000 SF Spurk Building, one of the most widely used academic buildings on the college’s Haverhill campus. RDK Engineers, an NV5 Company, worked alongside the project architect, DiMella Shaffer Associates, providing MEP/FP engineering design services for transforming and renovating the classroom building which plays a critical role in the success of NECC students. 

Building improvements included:

  • NECC_SpurBuilding Air Quality Improvements: The entire building will have a central ventilation system and air conditioning.
  • Accessibility Upgrades: Accessibility changes included new and renovated entrance ramps, proper door clearance, extension of the accessible parking lot toward the building, and new chairs, wheelchair spots, and companion seats.

  • Safety Advances: Life safety changes will include additional fire protection, a sprinkler room, and stairwell improvements including the enclosure of the central stairwell.

Congratulations to USGBC MA Chapter Sponsor RDK Engineers and the entire project team on the completion of the Spurk Building renovation! These upgrades will contribute to an enhanced learning environment for the entire NECC community.



AEC Leaders Converge for CREATE+CONSTRUCT Symposium on Adaptive Reuse and Rehabilitation

By USGBCMA Communications, More Green Buildings! on 10/1/2017

More than 100 experts and practitioners from across the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry converged in New York City last week for a full-day discussion on breathing new life into existing structures. Hosted by Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) on 19 September 2017, the third-annual Create + Construct symposium featured a series of conversations with engineers, architects, contractors, owners, industry representatives, and city officials on adaptive reuse and rehabilitation projects.

“There are valuable opportunities throughout New York City to reposition and reimagine existing buildings,” said Vince Cammalleri, SGH Senior Principal. “It was great to hear directly from our peers and colleagues in the field about their experiences with these types of projects and what they think these structures will look like in the future.”

Highlights from the event’s agenda include:

  • A keynote presentation by Annabelle Selldorf of Selldorf Architects on architecture and design trends affecting these projects
  • A panel discussion on the current and future state of this critical market sector moderated by Guy Geier, FXFOWLE Managing Partner and AIA New York President-Elect
  • Conversations on how project teams investigate existing structures, recognize and develop their potential value, address life safety concerns, and preserve and adapt historic structures and enclosures

Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH), a USGBC MA Chapter Sponsor, designs, investigates, and rehabilitates constructed works in the United States, Canada, and in more than thirty additional countries.  

Congratulations, SGH, on this successful event!

Welcome Embue as our Newest Sponsor!

By USGBC Communications on 9/10/2017

We are honored to announce Embue as our newest Advocate Level sponsor!

Embue is a group of engineers and entrepreneurs that are obsessive about making apartments work more efficiently through automation, remote control, and alerts. Embue delivers solutions to owners, managers and residents that meet expectations of the smartphone culture for speed, information, and mobility. The Embue team is highly engaged in creating what it means to live in, manage or own tech automated apartments.  

Embue's mission is to make apartment building operations more efficient, comfortable, and cost-effective.

The company's goal? Intelligent buildings that automate management tasks, optimize resource use, and protect against loss, while providing a healthy comfortable environment tailored to residents’ individual needs.

Embue aims to transform multifamily portfolio, property management and resident experience in all segments of market through thoughtful application of technology. Embue’s cloud platform delivers building automation and analytics with a portfolio-wide dashboard and in-building network of smart devices. The Embue Sensor replaces the home thermostat and can adjust household temperature according to weather, humidity, occupancy and energy use patterns. The benefit? Cut a monthly bill by up to 25 percent, by not supplying energy where, or when, it’s not needed.

With experience in real estate tech, HVAC, energy efficiency, system/network architecture, full stack engineering, hardware supply chain, and scaling internationally, Embue has 6 patents issued to date and currently works in the Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. markets.

Welcome to our sponsoring partner community, Embue. We are proud to have you as a partner and look forward to accomplishing great things together.

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Historical Renovation Creates Residential Housing for Working Families

By USGBC Communications on 8/30/2017

What do you get when you combine a mill complex, the need for affordable housing, and Keith Construction? Development of a 45-unit affordable housing complex for working individuals and families in the Pittsfield's Morningside neighborhood. Rice Silk Mill involved a historic conversion of the mill complex known as the A.H. Rice Company. Originally built in 1874, the complex played a major role in Pittsfield’s rise as a textile manufacturing center during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century.

The historically sensitive renovation resulted in various unit types, including one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, featuring modern amenities (exercise facility, community room, and wireless internet access) in a loft-type setting. Completed on a 13 month project schedule, the project challenges included re-use of existing physical resources, preservation of historic buildings, use of existing infrastructure and energy-efficient design, in a dense urban setting.

The effort has been well worth it, as the new community has contributed to the ongoing revitalization of Morningside neighborhood.

"A Building and a Landscape Should Work Together"

By USGBC Communications on 8/14/2017

Levi + Wong Design Associates (LWDA) have embraces an approach to landscape architecture that is grounded in holistic observation. LWDA creates healing gardens, courtyards, and campuses that bring landscape and building together. The firm's mission? Design with purpose, solve spatial problems with imagination, and implement solutions that are both beautiful and sustainable. LWDA works in harmony with existing natural conditions so that building and landscape work together.

The firm is able to unite building and landscape to serve as extensions of one another, creating smooth transitions between indoor and outdoor spaces.

For example, the adult day living courtyard at Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital was inspired from an idea to use the outdoors as an extension of the hospital’s physical therapy program. A former overgrown and little-used side entrance yard was transformed into a new garden that integrates everyday outdoor activities into a patient’s rehabilitation The garden now serves multiple functions including therapy, meditative, and family gathering, and the space successfully mixes patients, families and caregivers in an equitable outdoor environment. A variety of New England pavement types, sidewalks curbs, garden gates and latches, and ramps become activities patients can use to rehab and relearn everyday outdoor living: mailboxes, benches, curbs, curb ramps, outdoor handrails, plant potting, basketball, and miniature golf. Offering comfortable venues of outdoor seating and rehabilitation activities, the garden has become the centerpiece of the hospital.

The Walden Pond Visitor Center Earns LEED Gold

By USGBC Communications on 8/7/2017

This month marked the 200th Anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's birthday, and in sync with this anniversary, the new, netzero Walden Pond Visitor Center in Concord, MA has earned LEED Gold Certification.  The new facility will house interactive exhibits on writer, Henry David Thoreau, and a film about Walden Pond.  


The LEED Gold Walden Pond Visitor Center, Concord, MA.

The visitor center - a project that's been 40 years in the making - includes a high-performance exterior envelope; energy-efficient heating and cooling systems; landscaping that mimics the natural habitat, as well as wood grown and processed in Massachusetts. The A/E team anticipates the design will provide a 48% reduction in energy costs and 37% reduction in water consumption compared to baseline building.

The new state-of-the-art Walden Pond Visitor Center welcomes guests from around the world to the state reservation. Walden Pond State Reservation, which is a National Historic Landmark, was made internationally known because of the literary works of naturalist Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau, who wrote ‘Walden; or, Life in the Woods’, which reflects on his time spent over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, inspired the land conservation movement in the United States. To this day, Walden Pond State Reservation remains a heavily used state park with a popular public swimming beach, as well as other outdoor recreational opportunities such as hiking, boating, and fishing.

The new Walden Pond State Reservation Visitor Center features:

  • 5,680 net square feet, approximately two-thirds of which will be dedicated to publicly available interpretive displays related to the life and legacy of Henry David Thoreau;
  • A south-facing orientation providing a wood and glass façade to maximize solar efficiency;
  • Superinsulation with increased roof, wall, and window values to conserve energy;
  • A 9 kilowatt (kW) solar hot water system;
  • A Variable Refrigerant Flow heat pump system;
  • A low flow plumbing system to reduce water consumption; and,
  • A 100 kW solar canopy array in an adjacent parking lot that will generate more than enough clean renewable power over the course of a year for the visitor center.

Congratulations, The Green Engineer (USGBC MA Chapter Sponsor), on the achievements of this wonderful project!

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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