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

© 2018 Owens Corning. All Rights Reserved.

EPMA Meeting Recap: The Envision Rating System

EPMA Meeting Recap: The Envision Rating System

Written by Lindsey Machamer

As a civil engineer, I feel proud to be contributing to the development of our public infrastructure which will be around for 25, 50, or even 100 years. The state of the US infrastructure is at a critical point where significant investment is needed to redevelop degraded roads, water and wastewater utilities, and energy systems. New systems need to be built to address the needs of today without jeopardizing future generations’ needs.

In my work at Pare Corporation, I have been learning and working with Envision, a rating system for infrastructure projects, similar to the LEED rating system for building projects. I was thrilled to share what I’ve learned about this system with the Emerging Professionals meeting in July. The rating system, which was released in 2012, was developed by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI), a group founded by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies, and the American Public Works Association. The system comprises of 60 credits in five categories: Quality of Life, Leadership, Resource Allocation, Natural World, and Climate and Risk.

Envision is uniquely qualified for the challenges inherent in infrastructure development. Infrastructure, being a public feature, is not owned by a single developer. It is owned, operated, used, regulated, and funded by a broad spectrum of stakeholders. Envision is designed to create a consistent approach to measuring as well as guiding a project’s contribution to economic, environmental, and social aspects of sustainability. One of the hallmarks of the system is its focus on stakeholder collaboration. The credits in the “Leadership” category are structured to facilitate input early and often to best meet the needs of all parties involved (including the natural world).

The American Society of Civil Engineers, in a statement on sustainable infrastructure, compels designers to be “the bridge between science and society.” The Envision rating system is a tool that helps us live up to that responsibility by helping to guide sustainable decision making and provide clear communication for all involved.

To learn more about the Envision rating system and to find examples of local Envision Verified Projects,  visit sustainableinfrastructure.org.

Meet our HBS 18 Sponsors

Meet our HBS 18 Sponsors

At USGBC MA, we are proud to work with a diverse community of leading companies in the Massachusetts area. Take a look below to learn a little bit more about out Healthy Building Summit 2018 Sponsors.

At SmithGroup we work to create a legacy of inspiring places that enhance the environment and enrich the human spirit. We deliver sustainable solutions to create a healthy and prosperous future for our clients and communities. Designing for the overall health of people is a fundamental responsibility.  As stewards of future generations, our work seeks to balance the needs of a thriving society, economy, and environment.

With our multidisciplinary expertise and integrative design process, SmithGroup teams collaborate with clients to identify innovative solutions, seeking synergies that can accomplish multiple goals. The integrative design process achieves sustainable community solutions that improve health and the human experience. By incorporating biophilic design elements, natural daylighting, and views to nature in our work, we seek to create a healthier human environment and design a better future.

Over the past several years, Bergmeyer has been extremely involved in the building design and construction industry’s push for increased product transparency and material ingredients reporting, and the firm is committed to eliminating the use of products and materials containing hazardous chemicals in our projects. In 2014, Bergmeyer – along with other firms across the country – issued a letter to product manufacturers pushing for greater transparency regarding chemicals and other potentially harmful substances in the materials and products architects specify. The letter served to make manufacturers aware of our preference for products with Health Product Declarations (HPDs), which provide information on building product content and associated health information. That same year, Bergmeyer’s president Mike Davis was invited by the American Institute of Architects to participate in a national task force called the AIA Materials Knowledge Working Group (MKWG). Twelve nationally-recognized architect- leaders in sustainable design were joined by an equal number of representatives from the USGBC, Architecture 2030, the Health Product Declaration Collaborative, the International Living Futures Institute, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, attorneys practicing in design and construction law, and senior AIA staff. This working group had three charges: 1) to create an educational curriculum for architects around building materials and human health; 2) to plan a communication and advocacy approach around materials transparency and disclosure documents; and 3) to develop a position statement for the AIA National Board of Directors that would endorse the pursuit of greater knowledge of building materials’ content in support of human and environmental health (adopted by the AIA Board of Directors in December 2014). Mike later went on to lead the AIA’s Materials Risk Task Group, chairing a 2015 summit on Materials Transparency and Liability Risk, and his continued involvement with the materials transparency movement has put Bergmeyer at the forefront of the product transparency and healthy building materials movement.

Building design, engineering, and architecture is a constantly evolving frontier. A greater focus on energy efficiency and  human health charges building owners to collaborate with progressive manufacturers that proactively keep on the cutting edge. Beyond this, the transparency of products is essential in ensuring the maximum health outcomes for occupants.

ASSA ABLOY, a worldwide provider of door opening solutions, is driven to provide safe, convenient, and secure products, in addition to products that reflect a sustainable, positive impact on a changing industry.

 In the spirit of education, advocacy, and product optimization, a variety of transparency documents (like EPDs, HPDs, and Declare labels) are provided by ASSA ABLOY to help their stakeholders understand where a product was made, how it was made, and what it is made of.

Further, ASSA ABLOY shows dedication to the improvement of health and wellness of building inhabitants by certifying door and accessory products for low levels of harmful chemical off-gassing. In addition, their products can be used with open architecture design, using glass solutions to provide access to daylighting and quality views.

Join ASSA ABLOY at the Healthy Building Summit to learn more about how they can offer optimal door opening solutions for your building.

ReVision Energy, your local clean energy transition company, is 100% employee owned and operated. They are always striving to find new ways to encourage their employees to be happier, healthier, and more productive every day. This past year, they became employee-owned to help give employees a greater sense of ownership for their work. With flexible work hours and management of their own schedules, the work-life balance is great for employee-owners ?.

With their team of in-house solar and heat pump specialists (engineers, designers, installers) they have built over 7,000 solar energy plus systems in the region. They also are a Certified B Corp, striving to be one of the best businesses for the world, and are always hiring. Just recently announced, ReVision Energy became #1 in New England for rooftop solar systems for the second year in a row. ReVision Energy is helping to educate and empower business owners to create healthier environments in their workplaces through energy-efficient technologies. To learn more about their work, stop by their booth and talk with Malcolm or Brittany at the Healthy Building Summit.

Today more than half of the world’s population, over 54%, is living in urbanized areas. On average we are spending around 80%-90% of our time indoors and, astonishing though this may sound, this is estimated to only increase. No wonder there is a growing focus on the quality of our indoor environment, while the attention given to green architecture and healthy buildings also continues to increase in prominence. Not single products, but the building as a whole, is now in the center of environmental rating systems like LEED or the WELL building standard.

As our floors are part of the indoor environment in which people live, meet and work, it is our mission to design and offer products that contribute in a positive way to the health and comfort of the individual. “Committed to the health of one” introduces our commitment to sustainability that centers around all aspects that concern your health, well-being and comfort in relation to our products and services today as well as for future generations.

Learn about Structuretone


Learn About Ellenzweig


Learn about DriTac


Learn about The Green Engineer

Baseball and Rooftop Farms: A Tour of Fenway Park

Baseball and Rooftop Farms: A Tour of Fenway Park

Written by Julie Salvatoriello

USGBC EPMA, alongside Net Impact Boston, took a tour of the Fenway Rooftop Garden lead by Jessie Banhazl from Green City Growers and Brendan Shea from Recover Green Roofs.
The 2,400sqft Fenway Rooftop Garden is in its fourth year of operation. It grows 30+ types of produce, and produces 6,000lbs of organic, food safe certified produce annually, making up approx. 35% of the produce used by the Dell EMC club (with overflow going to other places in the park food network, including the concessions stands). Everything in this rooftop container garden is grown in Vermont Compost Company soil who were generous sponsors of this event.

This garden gets exposed to 1/2 million people every year, including the 15,000 that take a Fenway tour each week. In fact, Fenway is the #1 tourist attraction in New England. Jessie noted that many tour goers have never seen urban agriculture systems in person and the rooftop garden inspires people to question, investigate and act upon their food sources and supply chains.

Green City Growers and Recover Roofs also showed us the adjoining Vineyard Vines Club. This open-air rooftop space was also built upon a previously underutilized rooftop space and transformed into a gathering and socializing area filled with edible landscaping. Center planters were planted with Kale and with some cucumber vines hanging over the side. Produce grown in the Vineyard Vines Club is donated to local food rescue: Lovin’ Spoonfuls, based in Brookline, MA.

If you love all of this, Jessie and Brendan also told us a bit about how we could create some of these systems in our own backyards and rooftops (if it’s sturdy enough and not too slanted). The Fenway Rooftop Garden is planted entirely in standard square milk crates lined with 13x13x13in square pot planter liners; all sitting upon an artificial turf roof. The milk crates are set up with a drip irrigation system with irrigation spikes to send water straight to the roots. The garden is highly productive, light and easy to move. The liners are filled with The Vermont Compost Company’s Fort Light mix and amended with their Compost Plus.

We learned from our tour that Fenway is committed to sustainability. It is the oldest ballpark in the country and the first ballpark to install solar panels. It was been lowering its electricity load over the past decade, reducing it by 11% since 2011.

The USGBC Emerging Professionals of Massachusetts are so grateful to Fenway for their sustainability efforts and for leading these tours. Thank you to Jessie and Brendan from Green City Growers and Recover Green Roofs for your work and the wonderful tour. This was my first tour of Fenway and now I absolutely have to go back and bring my family.

City of Boston’s Climate Action: EPMA Meeting Recap

City of Boston’s Climate Action: EPMA Meeting Recap


After graduating college, Alisha Pegan really wanted to understand how sustainability initiatives were being pushed in city government. Who were making decisions and why did progress feel so slow? She joined the City of Boston’s Environment Department last September working on energy efficiency and climate resiliency, while also observing bottlenecks and leverage points within local government. She is now completing district scale studies, gathering resources to change zoning, supporting extreme temperature planning, collaborating with other departments on developing resiliency guidelines, and planning the future of the Climate Leaders program. Most things are in development, and few are completed. Alisha identified six potential bottlenecks.

First, people’s attention. When Bostonians are concerned and eager about a certain topic, e.g. coastal flooding during the winter, then there is more media attention on the department’s work. Leaders and employees in the department are more prone to respond with an action.
Second, grant cycles. A majority of the City’s initiatives are grant funding by the State or foundations. So, a lot of projects will complete a deliverable after a year.
Third, lack of in-house expertise. There are certain things City employees do not have in-depth knowledge on, e.g. engineering specifications for a raised road. Gathering that knowledge can slow down an action. Finding and hiring an expert is a 2-5 month process.
Fourth, divergent timetables. Most action items called out in the Climate Ready Boston report require collaboration with other agencies. Every agency has different projects and timelines, which can make it harder to coordinate.
Fifth, political turnover. When a mayor leaves, most of his/her chiefs and commissioners (the leadership) also leave. This destabilizes the department’s groove, and getting it back takes several months.
Sixth, the web of approval. In this system, any major action will need the approval of citizens, state agencies, foundations, businesses, partner agencies, the Mayor, department heads, and coworkers to convince.
Alisha highlighted that there is not a clear set of guidelines on how to be resilient. Figuring it out and doing it equitably takes time.