Posts Tagged ‘USGBC’

By Building Experts Team

In recent years, corporate social responsibility has moved from a nice-to-do on the part of some companies to a must-do for many, large and small alike. Some argue CSR is a distraction for other things that could be going on within a company or industry. How does this apply to the big builders?

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, “provides building owners and operators practical and measurable green (sustainable) building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.” Since its development in 2000, LEED has many rethinking the places they visit and live their lives.

Habitat Beyond LEED: What Home Builders are (Not) Doing to Better Communities

Aside from LEED, are builders doing much else to support their communities from a CSR perspective? LEED is certainly an internationally recognized bright spot for the industry’s CSR cause so Build IQ took a closer look at what the top three builders in the United States are (not) doing:

1. PulteGroup, Inc.

PulteGroup Inc. highlights concentration in internal (diversity & inclusion), environmental and charitable giving priorities among their CSR activities. The website notes following in the footsteps of founder, Bill Pulte, that “the company is committed to not only building better communities, but building a better world.”

Through charitable giving contributions, PulteGroup seeks to have the broadest reach possible with recent donations in recent years to a Virginia Tech Professorship Endowment for the Department of Building Construction; American Red Cross relief efforts; and Mercy Housing, a national affordable housing organization that serves nearly 55,000 people each day; among others.

2. D.R. Horton, Inc.

D.R. Horton is the only builder among the top three that does not proactively designate any area on their website to how there are bettering the communities where they operate.

In 2011, Horton unveiled a “micro-community” near Portland, Oregon called Division 43. Each home design is built with reclaimed and sustainable materials and share community resources. The community also boasts “reduced reliance on fossil fuels;” energy performance in focus areas of the home including energy efficient lighting, zoned heating and cooling, solar energy for common areas and ENERGY STAR® rated appliances, among other sustainable features.

3. Lennar Corp.

Lennar Corp. states the following community mission on their website regarding community involvement: “We believe in ‘doing the right thing for the right reason,’ and that we are responsible for giving back to our Community, quietly and without fanfare.

Where Lennar differs from Pulte and Horton is that they speak about their employees involvement in volunteerism. Lennar doesn’t simply just shell out cash or practice only sustainable building, they contribute personal time to programs such as Project Opportunity. Created in 1998, Project Opportunity is a unique partnership between Lennar, Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics.

Project Opportunity builds take place in one city where Lennar has homebuilding operations. “At each Project Opportunity build, Lennar Associates from all of our disciplines, build from one to eight homes in a one-week period in a local Habitat for Humanity Community, assisted by local Special Olympics Athletes.”

In short, yes the homebuilding industry is attempting to bounce back after a historic downturn but do you think they are doing enough in the realm of CSR? As these builders continue their way back, keep an eye on their CSR activities as they will not only look to increase their home starts, but at the same time look to re-establish their reputations within the communities where they do business.

LEED v4 Postponed Until 2013

By Green Experts Team

LEED logo 2 300x300 LEED v4 Postponed Until 2013 The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently announced that it will postpone plans to ballot the next version of LEED, LEED v4, until 2013. The announcement was made due to the growing concerns of architects and building industry professionals. These concerns included:

  • The proposed changes in the rating systems were too drastic (particularly during such a weak real estate market).
  • Some of the changes needed to be further developed.
  • Tools and resources necessary to obtain the credits would not be widely available until after the new LEED system would be launched in November 2012.

Although the delay frustrated many LEED volunteers who had spent years working on the proposed draft, the extra time allows building professionals time to test out the new ideas presented in LEED v4 and ensure their success in the market. Several LEED members praised the organization for being flexible in their policies and listening to the concerns of members.

The results from this plan will help to create a fifth public comment draft, which is scheduled to run from Oct. 2 to Dec. 10, 2012. USGBC assert that LEED will continue to support the highest standards of certification and promotion for transparency and avoidance of questionable chemicals will not be lessened during this extended process.

What do you think about the postponement of LEED v4? Does this affect your products or services? Do you think the U.S. is in a position to delay environmental efforts?

Sustainable Building Materials

By Green Experts Team

Where to find them and how to work them into your job

In commercial and residential construction, sustainable building materials and products that increase efficiency are in high demand.  As the trend of sustainability grows, more eco-certifications and building codes are introduced to the construction market opening the floodgates for tons of suppliers and resources for finding eco-friendly materials and products.

BuildingMaterials Sustainable Building Materials

Image sourced from

Here’s a look at some of our preferred resources when it comes to searching for sustainable materials:

  • GreenSpec & – Whether you’re looking for sheathing, windows or caulks and adhesives, this site has the information you need.  What we like about it in particular, is the fact that not only does it provide a robust product listing, but it also provides the features and benefits of all the different options.
  • – This is a great tool whether you’re the pro building the house or the homeowner, because it offers a variety of building materials and lifestyle products.  It is the Home Depot of sustainable products (it’s not just a website, check out the store locator to find one near you).
  • – While this site covers fewer product categories than the first two on our list, it is strong when it comes to these categories: paints and coatings, flooring, and energy, water and air.  This is also another great site to find educational information the pros can share with their building owners or homeowners.
  • Reused Materials – One of the appeals of sustainable building is that it offers the opportunity to give a structure a unique look, whether it’s a restaurant, office or home.  There’s a ton of outlets where you can find these materials, but we find it’s best to look on a local or regional level.  Second Use in Seattle is a great example of this type of distributor.

There’s a lot of great resources and ways you find information on the top products when it comes to sustainable building.  Whether it’s through associations like USGBC, tradeshows such as GreenBuild or blog posts on sites like Jetson Green.

Stay tuned for more information from the GreenIQ team on sustainable building products, including Thursday’s Q&A post with Bob Dazel, Architect, LEED Green Associate and marketing manager for Strategic Accounts for Dryvit Systems.

By Green Experts Team

Although the term “green building” tends to bring to mind images of clean, modern structures or even iconic edifices like the Empire State Building, a growing trend recognizes the importance of the effects of buildings and their materials on the people who live and work within them. As the IMRE Green IQ Team found at Greenbuild 2011, the intersection of sustainable building and human health has never been more important or recognized in the industry.

In part, this trend can be accredited to highly publicized cases of disease and health problems caused by exposure to chemicals in building materials like asbestos, which have drawn public attention to the danger of such toxins in recent decades. From production to use and disposal, some building materials emit dangerous chemicals that, over time, make their way into the bodies of the people who live and work around them. The Healthy Building Network identifies a number of chemicals in commonly used building materials, such as formaldehyde, PVC, polyurethane, mercury, lead and even substances in preserved wood, that have detrimental health effects and are increasingly found within human bodies.

Today, the movement toward chemical-free buildings is being advanced by three parties in the building arena: certification systems that provide incentives for reducing harmful chemicals in buildings, architects and designers who create demand for products that meet the specifications of the certification systems, and building product manufacturers that develop the materials to fit the bill.

Certification Systems: As part of the update to the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system in 2012, the system will offer a pilot credit for avoiding chemicals of concern when specifying building materials. The Safer Chemistry pilot credit is worth one point toward LEED certification and can currently be used in new construction, schools, healthcare and commercial interiors. Pending the success of this pilot credit, the reduction of harsh chemicals in building projects may be integrated in a future edition of the LEED rating system.

KC Lab1 300x218 Green Building – What Lies Within

The Science and Technology Center includes both office and laboratory space for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 7 is LEED 2.0 Gold certified.

Architects & Designers: Architects and designers are becoming educated and empowered by resources like the Precautionary List, a database of chemicals commonly used in building products that have potential to harm human or environmental health. The list was launched by the architectural design firm Perkins+Will in 2009, and serves as a resource for architects and designers who wish to eliminate building products and materials with harmful chemicals from their projects. The firm has since expanded the list into a larger Transparency Site that also includes a list of asthma-inducing substances and flame-retardants with toxic ingredients.

Building Product Manufacturers: Driven by the incentives of certification systems and demand among architects and designers, building product manufacturers are innovating new products and developing technology that helps to not only reduce the harsh chemical content of building products, but also make them more sustainable overall. Take, for example, Iowa-based manufacturing company ReWall, which manufacturers building materials made from 100 percent recycled products while eliminating glue, water and chemicals from the manufacturing process. ReWall recycles some 2 million tons of polyethylene-coated cups and cartons that would otherwise enter U.S. landfills every year, and employs a manufacturing process that uses 86 percent less energy than the process used to create its competitor product, drywall. With the incentive of specification by green-minded architects and designers, companies like ReWall will continue to push the bounds of technology to improve product performance and reducing negative impacts, driving green building to new heights.

As the details of building products become more accessible and transparent, especially through resources like Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), the building community will be emboldened with the knowledge necessary to make informed product selections that support healthier buildings and environments. The buildings of the future will support a healthier environment and healthier people, all while reducing negative impacts on both.

By greeniq
dell childrens medical center202 2 LEED for Healthcare: Third Public Comment Period open until Sept. 5

Complements of Jetson Green and the Dell Childrens Medial Center

The proposed LEED 2009 for Healthcare New Construction & Major Renovation Rating System is currently open for public comment, but not for long. Aligning with USGBC standards, the draft, now in its third 20-day comment period will remain open until September 5, 2010 for any member of the public to review, raise concerns or provide further clarification. This unique process allows anyone to play an active role in the ongoing effort to create a sustainable built environment, specifically as it relates to healthcare facilities. Now is your chance to promote positive change within the healthcare architecture, building and design markets.

So how exactly does it work? The comment process begins with reviews by several groups including the USGBC, the Technical Advisory Group, USGBC’s Board of Directors and a LEED Steering Committee. Once completed, the new rating systems are opened for public review and comment. The first comment period is open to the public for at least 45 days. When this period closes, valid public comments are incorporated into the draft, and a second public comment period is opened. Since the second public comment period of LEED for Healthcare, there are several credits still up for review. Following is a brief rundown of these open credits in key LEED performance areas:

Sustainable Site Development

  • Light Pollution Reduction
  • Connection to the Natural World: Places of Respite

Energy Efficiency

  • Minimum energy performance

Materials Selection

  • Storage & collection of recyclables
  • Furniture & Medical Furnishings
  • PBT Source Reduction: Mercury

Environmental Quality

  • Minimum Indoor Air Quality Performance
  • Acoustic Quality
  • Environmental Quality Management Plan (EQMP): During Construction
  • Low-Emitting Materials
  • Thermal Comfort: Design & Verification
  • Daylight & Views: Daylight

Buildings range from inpatient and outpatient care facilities, long-term care facilities and medical offices to assisted living facilities and medical education centers. As stated by the USGBC, LEED for Healthcare addresses issues such as increased sensitivity to chemicals and pollutants, traveling distances from parking facilities, and access to natural spaces.

To architects, designers, contractors, facility managers and building product manufacturers alike, we propose the following: Healthcare facilities provide you with a unique opportunity to further enhance the relationship between our health and green building solutions. By measuring and highlighting the health benefits that result from high performance healthcare environments, we can inspire those in other markets to adopt the same principles.

Want to learn more? Visit for complete guidelines on submitting comments and a summary of the most recent changes to the draft of the rating system.

By greeniq

Outlook on our pending water crisis.

ocean water1219163764 Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to DrinkEnergy efficiency has managed to dominate the conversation among the green building industry, but as we highlighted in an earlier post, water efficiency is the next great resource issue we face in the U.S. today. To refresh your memory, the Environmental Protection Agency states, “about 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, but only 1% is available for human use.” That 1% is continuously being depleted, which is why it’s crucial that we understand how water issues are facing communities all over the country and to embrace water efficient practices to ensure its availability for future generations.

So what are the key factors driving our pending water crisis? According to a recent report from the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, titled Infrastructure 2010 Investment Imperative, “perhaps no other infrastructure category presents the United States with greater challenges than water.” Through this report, researchers outlined the following four basic, overlapping scenarios that our current water predicament stems from:

  • Aging Infrastructures – Our country’s outdated infrastructure is estimated to lose about 6 billion gallons of water a day, and though officials recognize this problem, funding gaps stand in the way. The report says confronting the infrastructure issue will require a “massive investment” and integrated regional planning with other land use concerns, including housing, transportation, power sources and farming. However, many budget-restricted governments have been quick to keep this growing problem “out of site out of mind.”
  • Contamination Threats – According to the report “urban road runoff – rain, oil grease and toxic chemicals – can add to the mix of potentially dangerous ingredients ending up in water supplies.” To make matters worse, these chemicals are responsible for an increase in developing cancer and other chronic illnesses that could be prevented if we address our aging waste water treatment facilities.
  • Population Growth – Our population continues to grow whether water is available or not, which places additional strain on areas with limited water supply. As these population increases are projected, so should plans to manage both the supply and demand of our water resources.
  • Failure to Conserve – Americans use the most water per capita per year, totaling more that 660,000 gallons annually, compared to China, where the average citizen’s water footprint only totals 185,000 gallons each year. Simply put, conservation is the easiest way we as consumers can aid in the effort to preserve water. The good news, as stated in the report, is that there is hope and water does not have to turn into a crisis if Americans start taking action now.

In addition to the availability of more affordable, water-saving solutions, organizations such as the USGBC are leading the way in setting benchmarks and standards, making it easier for us to conserve the limited amount of water available to us. In April, USGBC announced an update to the current LEED rating system to v2009. Among the many changes is an updated grading system for water efficiency and conservation, a previously overshadowed category in the certification program.  Some highlights, as cited by the Water Efficiency Blog, include:

  • Total water efficiency points have increased to 10
  • The Water Efficiency category has been expanded to include water use reduction, efficient landscape irrigation, innovative waste water technologies, and water use reduction.
  • The Indoor Water Efficiency credit now includes a prerequisite mandating that all LEED projects hit a 20% water savings mark (as compared to a standard baseline)
  • Points can be earned by reducing the use of potable water irrigation by 50% from a calculated midsummer baseline case.

For the complete updated report visit

Now more then ever do contractors, owners, product manufacturers and marketers have the opportunity to educate consumers on how water-efficient practices and products can contribute to improved building performance. The issue is proving to grow significantly and changing the way we do business.

By Jamie Qualk

1013 45 banner build industryinsider Green Building: Where Are We Going and How Will We Get There?

Last year was the biggest year so far for green building. This is especially true in the commercial sector, where for the first time Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) registered floor area is expected to exceed the total floor area of new construction starts. 2009 was also the year where the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which includes a National Building Code. Already, more than a dozen Federal departments, over 30 states and well over a 100 cities require LEED certification for publically funded projects, with many of those providing incentives for private developers to pursue green building. The conversation surrounding green building is now moving to “Net Zero” and a few smaller buildings have already achieved this impressive accomplishment. These and many other trends indicate that green building is now a priority that requires consideration in all decision making processes related to the design, construction and operations of buildings.

So now that the green building movement has arrived, where is it going? What will a final National Building Code look like once the Senate takes up the vote? How quickly will the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) raise the performance bar moving forward with subsequent revisions and improvements to LEED?

 Green Building: Where Are We Going and How Will We Get There?

IIDA Student Blog

While a very few still believe that green building or LEED is nothing more than a trend or a fad, the rest of us are starting to understand that what has been accomplished so far is only the beginning. The business case demonstrating the positive impacts to the bottom line related to pursuing LEED certification and overall utility use reduction strategies is well documented. But consider the fact that the use of a truly holistic and integrated design or decision making approach is rarely utilized. The process of design and construction is still pretty much the same as it has been for decades. The true potential of green building cannot be reached until the delivery of new buildings includes an approach where sustainability is one of the first programming decisions made and all stake holders in the design and construction of a building are included in the initial meeting to kick-off the project.

Voluntary and mandatory pursuits of LEED and the application of codes and standards have created broad multidimensional benefits for those who have embraced these concepts thus far. But what will it take to truly improve the process of design and construction so that no opportunity to reduce energy and materials use is overlooked or missed? Will an even greener building future come out of code requirements or mandates? Or will the change be more generational as younger architects and engineers take the lead on the projects of the future?

The tools we have at our disposal today have generated landmark results and a great deal of benefits that many might not have thought possible just a few years ago. But everything we have accomplished so far still pales in comparison to where the future of green building might take us if current trends continue. While LEED is destined to raise the bar further and codes are certain to become more widely required, we still have a long way to go before the eco-impact of our built environment is neutralized, not to mention regenerative. Technology and software that can aide in making the best choices in this process are on the way as Building Information Modeling (BIM), energy modeling software and Lifecycle Cost Analysis (LCA) is more broadly and proficiently used by project teams. A universally understood and utilized integrated design and construction approach is the next step we can strive to achieve. And who knows, we may even get to a point someday where LEED certification is no longer necessary to know if a building is green – they’ll all be green.


jqsm 150x150 Green Building: Where Are We Going and How Will We Get There? Jamie Qualk is a vice president at SSRCx, LLC and team leader of the Sustainable Solutions Group. He lectures in the Civil Engineering department of Vanderbilt University regarding sustainability and construction and also at Lipscomb University in the Institute for Sustainable Practice regarding renewable energy.


You can read more from Jamie at the environmental design + construction Enviro-Blog and follow him on Twitter.

The Best of The Best of 2009

By Building Experts Team

Do you enjoy reading year in review recaps and lists?  Well we’ve collected some of the best covering various topics, from business to social media, and all of the building industry categories in between.

Personally, I don’t like to spend too much time dwelling on the past year, or any of the past years for that matter.  Sure, you can learn a lot by looking back, but the future is ahead of us.

I once heard a wise man say, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.” That wise man was Mike Ditka.  Here’s to a healthy and happier 2010.  Lets get after it.  Now enjoy the recap.

What Twitter and Facebook’s 2009 Trends Tell Us About Ourselves

Dumbest moments in business 2009

62 Innovative Green Homes of 2009

place seattle 300x219 The Best of The Best of 2009

Place Houses Prefab in the Pacific Northwest

USGBC Announces Recipients of 2009 LEED for Homes Awards

9 Tough Breaks For The Housing Industry in 2009

The Year in Home Builder Buzzwords 2.0

Looking back at 10 housing predictions for 2009. How did they fare?

A turbulent year for the multifamily industry

Top Green Architecture Stories of 2009

wwwinhabitat 300x235 The Best of The Best of 2009

Credit inhabitat

2009 AIA Honor Awards

Interior Design Top News Stories of 2009

The 20 Most Popular Green Stories of 2009

19 Green Building Innovations of 2009

Top 10 Green Building Products of 2009

ENR Annual Photo Contest 2009: The Submissions

enr photo contest 300x214 The Best of The Best of 2009

Photo by Gary DeJolie

Digg’s Top 10 Most Popular Stories of 2009

2009 As Seen Through Twitter Hashtags

Facebook Memology: Top Status Trends of 2009’s 10 Most Read Stories of 2009

Life Cycle Assessments 101

By greeniq

The new face of long-term building performance

pct top 02 Life Cycle Assessments 101

Courtesy of Pioneer

Last week we introduced the USGBC’s new Building Performance Initiative, a method of pinpointing performance gaps within building systems year over year. With this initiative in place, green building certification must not simply be achieved, but measured and maintained over time. Life Cycle Assessments are a key technique for assessing a product’s performance within a building system over the long term, ensuring the continued development of the highest performing buildings.

Not sure where to begin? Let the experts at BuildIntel walk you through the ins and outs of LCA’s so you can continue to make better sustainable decisions in your building practices.

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

According to the EPA, LCA’s are a technique to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process, or service by:

· Compiling an inventory to relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases

· Evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with identified inputs and releases

· Interpreting the results to help make a more informed decision about he human health and environmental impacts of products, processes, and activities

Life Cycle Assessments look at products from “cradle-to-grave”, meaning all stages of a product’s life are taken into consideration. It begins with the raw materials needed to produce the product, the manufacturing of the product, including packaging and transportation, use of the product and disposal of the product after it’s used.

Conducting an LCA

The LCA process is broken down into four main phases:

· Goals and Scoping – Defines the product and determines which processes will be included, which environmental concerns will be addressed and what economic or social good is provided by the product.

· Inventory Analysis – Identifies and measures all environmental inputs and outputs from all parts of a product’s life

· Impact Assessment – Assesses the potential human and ecological effects of energy, water and material usage and the environmental releases identified in the inventory analysis

· Interpretation – An analysis of impact data, which determines whether the goals and scope can be met

The Following software programs can be used to complete lifestyle assessments

· SimaPro7

· GaBi Software

What can conducting a LCA do for you?

As the demand for green in the building marketplace increases, LCAs are a strategic tool for promoting the positive environmental impact that a product may have. From a marketing standpoint, completing a Life Cycle Assessment enables building product manufacturers to bolster their marketing claims with quantifiable results, which then improves your product’s image and credibility. Also, LCAs may lead to finding better ways to design or manufacture a product that will reduce it’s impact to the environment.

Whole systems thinking is becoming a bigger and bigger trend, and architects are demanding products that will perform in that system over time. Similarly, thinking about a building performance over the long term is now a requirement to maintain LEED certification. Be sure to check out these other helpful LCA resources to ensure that your long-term building performance is truly sustainable.

· Integrating LCA Tools in LEED: First Steps

· Life-Cycle Assessment (EPA)

· Conducting a Life-Cycle Assessment

By Christine Costa

Over the past two months we have seen major news sources like the New York Times, question the performance of LEED certified green buildings over the long term. Articles like this have spurred USGBC to announce new initiatives, like its Building Performance Initiative that will develop a comprehensive data collection and analysis methodology to identify performance gaps year over year. Buildings that do not meet the LEED standards year over year will be at risk of de-certification.

What does this mean for building product manufacturers?

  • LEED Product Handbooks are out, and full Life Cycle Assessments are in

  • Before an architect specs your product s/he needs to understand how a product will affect a building system’s performance long term
  • Architects are tightly scrutinizing every green claim made by building product manufacturers so honesty, above all, is most important

When leading architects at Gensler and HOK were asked how marketing green products changed during a breakout session at West Coast Green last month, they answered, “everyone is claiming they contribute to the most LEED points and this is a problem.”

Key takeaways:

  • Thinking about a building performance over the long term is now a requirement to maintain LEED certification
  • LCA’s allow architects to understand how the product will perform within a building system over time
  • The trend is toward whole system thinking as opposed to fragmented thinking
  • Long-term building performance is a cornerstone of a sustainable building

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