Making Green Building Accessible for All: A Community Engagement Project

USGBC MA EPMA Meeting Presentation – May Meeting

Written by Alex Testa

Alex Testa presents on the process behind designing and building geodesic spheres.

Alex Testa, a Project Manager at Siena Construction, explained how she and her coworkers leveraged their industry skill sets to construct an interdisciplinary exhibit that exemplified sustainable construction.

She and a team of employees at Siena Construction combined forces with subcontractors, designers and scientists to build three geodesic spheres as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. The geodesic spheres were both aesthetic structures and interactive camera obscuras. The spheres were used as an exhibit to demonstrate how the human eye works. They played to a multitude of interests and ages–from kindergarteners to retired professors.

The 10-foot diameter structures were built using Red Grandis Eucalyptus, a sustainable, quickly regrowing tree from Uruguay. The team at Siena designed the spheres in-house, managed the construction with highly skilled millworkers, and created media resources to communicate the science and construction of the project to visitors. To learn more about the geodesic sphere’s history, building process, and materials, watch Siena’s exhibition video here.

Through active engagement and education, the spheres were used to bring the core principles of green building to the public. Alex explained how skills from the architecture-engineering-construction industry can be applied to projects outside of everyday comfort zones, and how working to engage community members outside of the construction industry can benefit everyone.

The USGBC MA Advocacy Mixer

Written by Seung-Hyeok Bae

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Emerging Professionals of Massachusetts (EPMA) hosted the “USGBC MA Advocacy Mixer,” a great networking opportunity event to connect the green building community with local advocacy groups last Thursday. The eight organizations briefly shared their sustainability missions, and how they engage and motivate our local community. There were opportunities to engage in discussions and sign up to volunteer before and after the presentations.   

350 Mass

Cory Alperstein, representative of 350 Mass, addresses the audience.

350 Mass is engaging in the “Better Future
Project” which is a Cambridge-based organizing nonprofit to help the need for a
grassroots climate network in Massachusetts. One of the important campaigns
they executed to confront the climate crisis is “Road to a Green New Deal in MA
which were protests and street performances in clown costumes targeted at important decision-makers, such as major American banks, in order to stop investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.

Clean Water Action

Laura Spark, one of the representatives of Clean Water Action, addresses the audience.

Clean Water Action organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions, and campaigns
to elect environmental candidates to solve environmental and community
problems. They are campaigning for legislation that would ban flame
retardants in building materials, children’s toys, furniture, and other
materials and products. Clean Water Action also worked closely with the USGBC
MA on speaking at the hearing for this legislature.


Drew Grande, representative of MCAN, addresses the audience.

MCAN (The Massachusetts Climate Network) works with and advocates for
Massachusetts cities and towns to be the best in the nation at addressing
climate change. MCAN recently reported that Massachusetts’ municipal light
plants need improvement to meet the state’s clean energy goals.  


Lisa Kumpf, representative of the Charles River Watershed Association, addresses the audience.

CRWA (Charles River Watershed Association) was formed in response to
concern about the environment and the health of the Charles River and its
watershed through science, advocacy, education, and engineering. By CRWA and
community’s tremendous efforts, the Charles River recently received a water
quality report card grade A-, which is considered one of the cleanest urban
rivers in the United States.    

Mothers Out Front  

Representatives from Mothers Out Front address the audience.

The mission is to build their power as mothers to ensure a livable climate
for all children. One of the big movements is to reduce the dependence of our
system on methane, a potent greenhouse gas, by promoting the shift to clean
renewable energy for heating and cooking in the built environment. They
encourage people to use an electric stove instead of a gas stove. According to
the research, using a gas stove gives us many disadvantages, such as increasing
childhood asthma rates and releasing more energy and emissions.

Sunrise Movement

Nick Raab, one of the representatives of Sunrise Movement, addresses the audience.

Sunrise is a movement by young people to stop climate change and create
millions of good jobs in the process. Representatives of the organization note
that “we live in a climate change era” and that action needs to be taken to
stop the effects of climate change. They are pushing for the “Green New Deal”
along with other nonprofits, like Mass 350, and pressuring local candidates
running for 2020 to support the “Green New Deal” and to not accept campaign
donations from companies like Exxon.

Living Building Challenge

Jim Newman, one of the representatives of the Living Building Challenge, addresses the audience.

The Living Building Challenge envisions a thriving and diverse community
working together for a living future. They are looking at how we build own
homes like a forest; they are not only looking for reducing our carbon
footprint, but also giving back to the surrounding environment. They challenge
everyone who is involved in the creation of the home (e.g. customer,
construction firm, materials vendor, etc) to work for the mission of Living
Building Challenge.

City of Boston

Alisha Pegan, one of the representatives of City of Boston, addresses the audience.

Their mission is to enhance the quality of life in Boston by protecting our
air, water, and land resources, while addressing climate change. They are
continuously updating the city’s climate action plan to be carbon-free by 2050
and figuring out how to achieve this goal.

We would like to give a special thanks to the organizations in attendance as well as Boston Architectural College who provided a great event venue.   


EPMA Charles River Cleanup 2019

EPMA Charles River Cleanup 2019

by Kavita Karmarkar

Every year for Earth Day, the Charles River Watershed Association mobilizes an average 3000 Bostonians to organize the annual Charles River Cleanup, which stretches from the downtown Boston up to Milford/Hopkinton in the suburbs. It is a part of the nationwide ‘National Rivers Cleanup’ organized by American Rivers – a national advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and conserving rivers. Now in its 20th year, the Charles River Cleanup has had tremendous success in the past, winning the ‘Most pounds of trash collected’ award for collecting about 100,000 pounds of trash and the ‘Most volunteers mobilized’ award last year.

This year, the EPMA committee, along with other organizations, were tasked with cleaning up the riverbank at Lederman Park, next to the Massachusetts General Hospital. Located in the heart of Boston, this park is heavily used by the community and easily accessible by public transport.

EPMA members posing with the trash they collected from the Charles River.

The day started with all volunteers meeting up at the riverbank by 9.00 am. The volunteers signed in and were given gloves and trash bags to start. We scoured the area for anything that did not belong, picking up cigarette stubs, metal pieces, coffee cups, straws, plastic, and paper. A lot of the trash going into the river often ends up entangled and collected within the rip-rap stones. The volunteers had to climb down on the rip-rap to collect trash from the crevices, which made the work harder, but even more fulfilling. The Charles River Clean Up Boat made an appearance and collected trash at various spots in the river. After about 3 hours of work, the results were starting to show as the area looked cleaner.

These events offer a great opportunity to give back to the river and to mother Earth, while meeting like-minded people who share our passion. The EPMA team wishes to thank all volunteers who showed up on this cold, windy, Saturday morning to make a difference.

Eversource and National Grid Launch Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Programs

Electrical vehicle (EV) owners will experience one less obstacle as they hit the road in Massachusetts thanks to Eversource and National Grid. During the Building Tech Forum, the two companies discussed their EV charging infrastructure offerings.

The goal of the statewide initiative is to facilitate the installation of more than 4,000 new charging stations by paying for the electrical infrastructure improvements needed beyond the meter to support EV chargers, an expense of thousands of dollars traditionally borne by the site owner. Eversource has a goal of 3,500 chargers by 2020, and National Grid has a goal of 600 chargers in their Massachusetts service territory by 2020.

“It’s forecasted that by 2030 there will be nearly 600 electric vehicle models,” said James Cater, Eversource. “One of the leading deterrents to adoption, though, is ‘range anxiety,’ or the fear of being stranded without a charging station nearby. With the EV charging infrastructure programs, both companies, Eversource and National Grid, are working with businesses and municipalities across the state to increase public charging access and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by installing electric vehicle service equipment.”

How does the initiative work?

Building owners, managers, or operators apply to become site hosts. Once approved, Eversource and National Grid, cover all of the infrastructure costs and implementation needed to install the charging stations – which generally accounts for 50-90 percent of total costs associated with installing EV charging stations.  The site host is then responsible for purchasing and installing the charging stations. However, some site hosts take advantage of Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program Grants to offset or completely cover the costs of the charging stations.

If a site is within an eligible Environmental Justice Community, the companies will also pay for the chargers and their installation. Both Eversource and National Grid have earmarked 10 percent of sites to be in Environmental Justice Communities.

Who is an ideal site host?

Businesses or municipalities with large parking areas or where people are likely to be parked for a while such as public parking spaces, apartment complexes, places of employment, universities, and hospitals are ideal site hosts. The initiative also supports the installation of a limited number of Level III “DC Fast” chargers along travel corridors.

Are new construction projects eligible?

Yes! Planning for EV charging access at the construction phase of a new building makes it easier to make the needed electrical infrastructure improvements and counts toward LEED v4 Green Building certification.

For more information about EV charging stations and how to become a site host, please visit or

4 Predictions for Healthy Buildings in 2019

In 1984, the World Health Organization (WHO) coined the term “sick building syndrome.” That same year, a WHO Committee report suggested that up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide might be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality.1

As times change, so does the way people think about buildings. Today, the focus has shifted from concerns about sick buildings to creating healthy environments for buildings’ occupants. This focus on wellness was on display at last week’s USGBC-Massachusetts Healthy Building Summit.  Advances in building science, more certifications that evaluate the life cycle impact of building products, and even shifts in workforce demographics are shaping how the AEC community approaches the relationship between a building and its occupants.

And while no one can predict the future with certainty, following are some predictions for how the healthy building conversation may continue to evolve in 2019.


  1. Increased Focus on the Occupant Experience – By their nature, buildings serve occupants engaged in varied experiences and with differing environmental concerns. For example in a hospital environment, privacy, indoor air quality, acoustics, and access to nature are being evaluated in context with patient experiences and even outcomes.  Viewed in this context, insulation used in the enclosure should be considered in terms of its acoustic as well as thermal performance and ingredient composition. Acoustics and indoor environmental quality are also top concerns for school districts.
  2. A System Approach to the Building Enclosure – Strategic design and mindful materials will continue to converge into a system approach to the building enclosure.  From below-grade garages to green rooftops and throughout the wall system–a system approach can manage the potential for moisture accumulation, meet energy expectations and support indoor environmental quality efforts. The system approach also applies to the life safety systems within the enclosure.


With nearly a half-century of experience, the Owens Corning® and Thermafiber® Insulation teams continue to be one of the pioneers in passive life safety systems. Thermafiber® recently became the first insulation to earn the SAFETY Act designation, providing powerful liability protection to architects, OEMs, fire stop contractors, building owners and other stakeholders in the unfortunate event of an act of terror.  


  1. Green Without Compromise –In 2011, Owens Corning changed the manufacturing platform to remove formaldehyde from commercial and residential fiberglass insulation, replacing it with a bio-based binder, and continues to do so in the Thermafiber product line.  As a product’s energy efficiency and environmental profile should not come at the expense of product performance, Owens Corning pledges that new products will perform at the same level or better than earlier versions. This philosophy is referred to as “green without compromise.” More information on this approach to sustainability is available here.


  1. Appealing to Generation Z – Competition for top talent is especially rigorous in a tight labor market. Generation Z workers just entering the market have a strong desire for authenticity, presenting an opportunity for manufacturers to provide transparency and describe products in terms of their life cycle impact. The recently launched Owens Corning Building Science Solutions Center’s “Sustainability” section makes it easy for AEC professionals to access research and white papers on product health and safety.


Owens Corning is proud to be a sponsor of the USGBC Healthy Building Summit. More information on Owens Corning’s  commitment to sustainability – including an online learning center is available at the Building Science Solutions Center.

1 United States Environmental Protection Agency, Air and Radiation (6609J) Research and Development, Environmental Protection (MD-56) Agency February 1991

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