Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Director, Neighborhood Development
U.S. Green Building Council
San Francisco’s largest public housing site, Sunnydale, is on its way to becoming a thriving, green and vibrant mixed-income community. Recently, its master plan received conditional approval at the LEED Gold level, one of three major checkpoints on the path to certification as a LEED for Neighborhood Development project. Re-envisioned and aptly renamed Sunnydale HOPE SF, the 50 acre project, which was originally built in 1941, will be transformed into a neighborhood of choice complete with quality housing, community education and services, neighborhood parks and retail, all the while improving the lives of its current and future residents.
“Our master plan to revitalize an isolated public housing community into a healthy, mixed-income development incorporates sustainability priorities that came directly from the community members, like accessible neighborhood parks and amenities, affordable and market-rate housing, and green streets,” said Ramie Dare, project manager for Mercy Housing California and The Related Companies of California. “We are very proud of achieving LEED Gold approval for the Sunnydale HOPE SF master plan.”
Sunnydale HOPE SF is one of ten projects that were hand-selected to receive a grant from the USGBC’s Affordable Green Neighborhood Grant Program, announced at Greenbuild 2010 in Chicago, Ill. With generous support from the Bank of America Foundation, Sunnydale HOPE SF and the other grantees received a $25,000 cash award and educational resources to help each project pursue USGBC’s LEED for Neighborhood Development certification. It is the first of the grant recipients to complete one of the three-stage processes on the path to certification.
LEED for Neighborhood Development, which was recently recognized by the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation (RNRF), is transforming communities around the world into walkable,
sustainable and economically thriving communities.
Born out of the idea that everyone should have access to greener, healthier homes, buildings, schools and amenities, each selected affordable housing project not only will provide green housing for a range of income levels, demonstrated a commitment to strengthening its neighborhoods, engaging stakeholders in the development process, and the provision of green housing for a range of income level.
Visit usgbc.org/nd to learn more about LEED for Neighborhood Development.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Senior Vice President, Global Policy and Law
U.S. Green Building Council
This is the first in a series of blog entries covering the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-17) taking place Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2011, in Durban, South Africa.
Yes…domestic politics do have consequences and we all need to understand the implications of our own important national policy challenges. But no…it is not possible to ignore the larger global issues that are not discussed rationally in the narrow context of our domestic political debates.
The global community has never been as transparently interdependent as it is today. And I know that will be particularly clear for those of us in Durban, South Africa, for two weeks of international dialogue on a future pact to tackle global warming.
In fact, today marks the start of the Durban climate talks, sometimes referred to as “COP 17.” Certainly, many issues under the banner of this UN system appear awfully bureaucratic, foreign and complex—and in fact they are. But some policy decisions under consideration have the potential to channel large-scale financing to green building, energy efficiency and other green technologies aimed at reducing emissions and adapting to climate change - and that’s why USGBC is involved.
Issues I’ll be Watching
One of the topics on the front burner of the Durban talks is the structure of a new system for how clean technology can be scaled up in developing and middle-income countries, such as China, India and Brazil. It’s currently being negotiated to facilitate private-sector expertise and implementation. A lot is at stake here; the United States and other wealthy nations have committed to mobilizing $100 billion dollars per year by 2020 for this purpose. How this technology program is operationalized could provide opportunities for the global green building industry on a whole new scale– including companies in the United States.
Next, there is another tool that has been in place for years to stimulate clean technology projects using the international carbon market. This is another way to channel finance to private-sector companies involved in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector. It’s not perfect, but experts have been working for years to streamline the program, called the Clean Development Mechanism, to better address green buildings, energy efficiency projects and city-wide efforts. Institutions such as the World Bank, the UNEP Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI) and others have made progress on methodology to do just that – but this program’s fate is wrapped up in yet another thick layer of negotiations which has the world split in two: do we continue with the Kyoto Protocol, or do we negotiate something new altogether to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?
USGBC will be joining the World Green Building Council and its delegation of GBC Australia, GBC South Africa and Jordan GBC on the ground for this historic conference. As chair of the advocacy committee for the United Nations Environment Programme’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI), I will also be working closely with the public and private sector members of that organization. Durban may indeed present a “fork in the road” for multilateral efforts on climate change. While the Kyoto question looms large for delegates, our position is clear – that no matter what form it takes, delegates must work diligently and transparently to come to agreement on a path forward to reduce emissions; one that incorporates mechanisms like the above to rapidly finance and bring to scale clean technology solutions like energy efficiency.
How I’ll Be Participating
Of course, green buildings can and should be part of the solution. Along with Jason Hartke, USGBC’s Vice President of National Policy, I will be in Durban to advocate that message and follow the progress of the Talks. This year is the largest GBC delegation to attend the UN Climate Conference, and we have a packed schedule of events, panel discussions, tours and meetings. These opportunities in Durban provide a platform for communicating our core messages on green building to an international audience of government, businesses, financiers and NGOs – and we plan on reporting back regularly throughout the end of the conference in our blog series, Dispatches from Durban.
Some places you can find us in Durban are…
- On panels with our colleagues at Johnson Controls, Ingersoll Rand, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and more.
- Conveying the business opportunity of energy efficiency at the World Climate Summit with Kateri Callahan of Alliance to Save Energy and Jane Henley of the WorldGBC.
- On the edge of our seats at the press conference for the WorldGBC Government Leadership Awards to see which cities won the award (U.S. cities Chicago, San Francisco and New York are up for consideration!)
- Filing up on optimism at the Cato Manor low-income green home retrofit tour, where the Green Building Council of South Africa has retrofitted an entire block of low-income homes as a COP-17 legacy project, demonstrating the ability of green building strategies to cut carbon emissions and improve lives.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
U.S. Green Building Council
Congressman Russ Carnahan of Missouri is a long-time supporter of green building initiatives, and the co-chair of the House High-Performance Building Caucus. Rep. Carnahan recently introduced a new bill, the High-Performance Federal Buildings Act. We sat down with Rep. Carnahan to discuss the work he has done on behalf of green building over the past years.
You founded and serve as a co-chair of the House High-Performance Building Caucus. Can you discuss the role of the caucus and why you have taken a leadership role on building efficiency issues?
Bipartisan Congressional caucuses find consensus across party lines on important policy issues, and High-Performance Buildings are a perfect example. The caucus also actively works with those in the private sector who are invested in these issues. Many of the ideas coming from this partnership with the private sector have received broad bipartisan support in the past because they halt the waste of taxpayer dollars and reduce our energy footprint. And many of the products used in efficiency systems are manufactured here in the United States – in this economy, I think everyone can get behind that.
For those who don’t know, you’ve been able to work with a group of bipartisan legislators to advance legislation on federal buildings in previous Congresses. Can you talk about that effort?
As some of you may know, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and I started the High-Performance Buildings Caucus in 2007 after we saw an opportunity to educate and bring Members of Congress together from both sides of the aisle to make a real difference in our economy and environment. Last year, Congresswoman Biggert and I introduced the “Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act.” That piece of legislation ensures that people working on federal buildings are properly trained to do the work their job requires. This bill was signed into law at the end of 2010 and I am continuing to work with General Administration Services (GSA) to ensure its proper implementation. This bill is a great example of people working across the aisle to pass good legislation.
We greatly appreciate your work to make sure that facilities that are built and designed with high performance attributes are meeting these goals. Tell me more about how the High Performance Federal Buildings Act builds on the previous legislative work, why it is needed and how it benefits tax-payers?
I introduced the High-Performance Federal Buildings Act because we can’t be a penny wise and a pound foolish when it comes to building construction. The Act would save taxpayer dollars spent on energy costs in buildings owned by the Federal Government by allowing the government to analyze the full life-cycle cost of overall spending on a building as the basis for cost analysis, instead of short-term cost alone. The legislation will also require standard regulations for the use of energy and water in federal buildings to reflect the most current codes and standards used in the private sector. If passed, it will reduce our energy footprint, save taxpayer dollars, and make it easier to comply with mandated standards.
A number of the bill’s provisions, like updating old design plans, look to eliminate road blocks in current federal operating process. Are there other legislative initiatives or regulatory changes that could also help the federal government do more to increase the way it operates?
I worked for quite some time with a number of different stakeholders to ensure that this bill, the High Performance Federal Buildings Act, is a comprehensive approach to increase the efficiency of federal buildings. Not only does the bill allow of updating of old design plans, but it also requires that future prospectuses submitted to Congress for construction, alteration or acquisition of a building must describe the use of life-cycle cost analysis and how its use impacts long-term costs for a facility. The bill also requires the GSA to issues regulations for the commission of buildings. As some of you probably know, commissioning is a process to evaluate buildings and systems to assure they are functioning in accordance with the design intent and the owner’s requirements. These are just two other important aspects of my bills that will vastly improve the way the federal government develops and operates federal facilities.
What can readers do to help advance causes like this?
I encourage Americans to stand up and make their voices heard -- your input will be essential to passing this bill. The best way to make progress is to contact your representatives in Congress and in the Senate. Together, we’ll pass this bill and start saving on energy.
Friday, November 18, 2011
U.S. Green Building Council
USGBC’s 79 volunteer-based chapters are consistently finding new and exciting ways to elevate green building practices and programs. Today, I’ll spotlight two chapters, whose creative and proactive advocacy initiatives advance the green building conversation and serve as great examples of how USGBC chapters are advocating for more responsible building practices in their communities.
USGBC’s Central Florida Chapter has launched a new campaign entitled Green Destination Orlando aimed at making Orlando’s hospitality industry the greenest in the world. USGBC Indiana’s new initiative – Beat the Meter Blitz – is educating the residents of Bloomington, IN to the benefits of energy efficient upgrades for their homes.
Green Destination Orlando
Green Destination Orlando (GDO) is redefining how sustainability can play an integrated role in the experience of visitors to Central Florida. For visitors, GDO strives to position Orlando as a beacon of green business and travel options. For participating hotels and other businesses that support Orlando’s hospitality industry, GDO offers not only a clear roadmap to more responsible and efficient business practices, but also a competitive advantage – both locally and regionally. After signing the pledge, GDO helps businesses conduct an initial business analysis. Many of the recommended improvements to procurement, facilities operation and equipment would put these properties on the road to certification with LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance.
But GDO doesn’t just lead to better building practices in Orlando; it will also educate every guest or conference attendee that stays at a participating resort to the healthy impact of green buildings. The scope of GDO is a great example why multi-layered advocacy campaigns make sense and advance the green building conversation.
The draw of this campaign may be best summarized by DeeDee Baggitt, Director of Engineering for program participant Rosen Hotels and Resorts. “Many of these practices also save money in the long term. In addition, our guests notice and appreciate our efforts and reward us with their loyalty, so it's a win-win situation.”
USGBC’s Indiana Chapter is making the case to local homeowners that energy efficiency at home both makes sense, and is easy to do. Called the Beat-the-Meter Blitz, this program provides free home energy assessments in exchange for a meaningful commitment: Prior consent to commit to at least some of the recommended upgrades in home energy efficiency. The Indiana Chapter ‘s Beat-the-Meter program, now in its second year, is a program in partnership with the City of Bloomington.
By focusing on both homeowner education and the benefits of home energy efficiency improvements, USGBC Indiana is not only showing residents how they can save money in the short term, but are laying the groundwork for future city programs that may harness the many benefits of cleaner, greener homes. Partnering with local governments is a great way to maximize program capacity and advance the green building conversation.
Congratulations, Central Florida and Indiana, on a job well done. Other chapters, if you are looking for your next great idea, always start by looking at what works in other states. While every state, city, and community is different, there is always enough commonality in advocacy efforts to help inspire your next great campaign. What are you doing to advance green building in your community today?
President, CEO & Founding Chairman
U.S. Green Building Council
This week, ForestEthics and others reached out to USGBC to express their views on an important issue: How LEED plays a role in forest protection. I want to thank these organizations and individuals for expressing their passionate views. Since the beginning, USGBC and the process that it set up for the ongoing development of the LEED rating system has encouraged public comment and open dialogue. There are thousands of issues that need to be addressed if we are to achieve our mission of wide-scale market transformation to a built environment that saves energy, saves water, saves precious resources, reduces waste, improves indoor environmental quality and creates jobs. BUT WE NEED YOUR VOICE AND YOUR VOTE.
If your company is not already a member of USGBC
Because this is an issue of high interest, we invite you to follow me on Twitter at @rickfedrizzi
Thanks for taking the time to voice your opinion.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Technical Policy Director
U.S. Green Building Council
As a movement, we knew we had come a long way when President Obama announced the Better Buildings Initiative in February, establishing the goal of slashing energy consumption in commercial buildings 20 percent by 2020. Groups like USGBC, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Real Estate Roundtable (RER) applauded the plan. But articulating the goal and achieving it are two different things, and we all realize that so much of the initiative hinges on coordinating and communicating as we are pursuing building improvements and smart policy changes. That’s why we have again joined with NRDC and RER to launch the Coalition for Better Buildings (www.C4BB.org), an action network dedicated to improving energy efficiency of commercial and multi-family buildings. The website went live last week and new members are joining daily.
With representatives across the building industries, we are stepping up to tell all who will listen how everyone benefits from better buildings and what changes are needed to realize those benefits. Whether it's for job creation, energy and water savings, health improvements, increased productivity, or other reasons, we are once again coming together to show why we care about better buildings.
- Building owners want to stop wasteful energy consumption. They want access to their building energy information so they can start making improvements. They want to see investments in their buildings lead to higher value. And they want access to financing so they can start the improvements immediately.
- Building operators want support to implement the money saving solutions they identify. They want to be able to get the data so they can show how much they are improving the buildings.
- Tenants want to make efficiency upgrades in their spaces and make sure their bills actually go down. They want to work with the owner on upgrades that will improve the entire building.
- Lenders want to get the information they need to understand the savings that will occur and risk of the project before they lend.
- Architecture and engineering firms want to design and sell better building systems.
- Builders want to see their best buildings in high demand on the market.
- Manufacturers want to sell their best, most efficient products that they have researched and brought to the market.
- Energy service companies want to increase opportunities to scale their low risk, high reward services.
- Commissioning companies want more jobs tuning building systems so that they operate as they were designed.
- Affordable housing providers need solutions to the same problems they find in multi-family buildings.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. And if you look at the C4BB mission and member list, you'll see that's exactly what these companies are saying.
We know you care about better buildings, too, so have your company join us in C4BB as we coordinate to tear down the barriers that are keeping us from achieving impressive reductions in energy consumption even before 2020. Let’s get started.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Advocacy Lead, Center for Green Schools
U.S. Green Building Council
Just weeks after the Department of Education released the framework for the Green Ribbon Schools award, 22 states have announced their participation in this voluntary program. From Pennsylvania to California, red to blue, states are realizing the Green Ribbon Schools program is a way to achieve current goals around the improvement of their education systems. In case you’ve missed the buzz, the Green Ribbon Schools program is an initiative from the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with other federal agencies, to recognize and award schools demonstrating excellence across three categories: healthy learning environments, building efficiency and environmental education.
The Center has been supportive of Green Ribbon Schools since the concept was introduced, in large part because the program provides a clear connection point for the many federal programs and initiatives relating to healthy, high performing schools, as well as the many non-governmental organizations working to advance the green schools movement. And since the launch of this program, there has been a tremendous outpouring of support from the NGO community to assist schools and states interested in pursuing the Green Ribbon Award.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commended the Center’s work with Green Ribbon at the Sustainability Summit saying, “the U.S. Green Building Council is working with school districts and universities to incorporate green technology into schools. These schools not only are good for the environment, they provide a better learning environment for students—and they are cost efficient. The council is bringing together the nation's strongest advocates for education—representing more than 10 million members across the country to build a national infrastructure of healthy, high-performance schools that are conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money.”
States are viewing their participation in Green Ribbon as a way to use their existing standards, resources and grants to achieve sustainable goals – reduce operational costs, increase STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) learning, and improve student and staff health. Moreover, state departments of education are realizing they’re not alone in these efforts – there is a host of existing federal resources to help ensure schools can be high performing in the standards that Green Ribbon sets out.
The progress of the Green Ribbon Schools program to date has been nothing short of extraordinary. Rarely do multi-agency initiatives come together with the speed – and careful quality – demonstrated by the launch of Green Ribbon. And with this week’s release of the Proceedings Report from the 2010 Sustainability in Education Summit, we’re reminded that the Department of Education is also following through on one of the summit’s key recommendations: demonstrating their strong commitment to improving sustainability in education, and ultimately ensuring the vision of every child in a green school.
For more information, and to view the proceedings report, visit:http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/strat/sustainability/summit-2010.doc
“IN A TOUGH ECONOMY, IT’S A REALLY BAD IDEA TO SET FIRE TO MONEY. THAT’S PRETTY MUCH WHAT WE DO WHEN WE WASTE ENERGY.”
U.S. Green Building Council
The Role of Energy Efficiency
Now that I have your attention, I will admit that this metaphor is not an original of my own, but rather a provocative and common sense remark made by Peter Molinaro, Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs at the Dow Chemical Company, during a Capitol Hill briefing yesterday on energy efficiency jobs.
Monday, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition hosted a Congressional briefing on the “Economic Impacts of Energy Efficiency Policies and Investments.” An expert panel, including the aforementioned Peter Molinaro; Harvey Bernstein, Vice President of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw Hill Construction; Kevin Crawford, Senior Vice President of Orion Energy Systems; Malcolm Woolf, Director of the Maryland Energy Administration and Chair of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO); and Paul Hamilton, Vice President of Government Affairs, addressed a full room about the role of energy efficiency in job creation and economic recovery.
In an economy where construction activities, and consequently jobs, are at an all time low, green construction has maintained its level of economic activity and has even increased in many sectors from 2008 levels. These figures come from the findings of McGraw Hill Construction’s latest research venture on the green building construction, which revealed that the green building market supports 661,000 jobs in the U.S. and represents a third of the design and construction workforce.
In addition to the employment benefits of green building and energy efficiency, let’s think about its effect on American consumers: “The average American household spends $2175 a year on home heating, cooling and electricity. Over $5000 if you add the cost of transportation,” according to Molinaro. He continued, “If we can get every household in America to save 10%, that’s $25 billion available for other things…If we can save 30%, eminently doable with existing technology, that’s $74 billion in additional discretionary spending.”
The facts and figures are clear and real. Energy efficiency is a growing industry with astronomical potential. Energy efficiency supports both job creation and workforce transformation within a rapidly globalizing economy, allowing the U.S. to maintain international competitiveness. Paul Hamilton of Schneider Electric included a graph in his presentation with the caveat that energy management and the goals of energy efficiency support a “food chain of jobs.” And Molinaro reminded us of how this discussion is more timely and pertinent than ever. The “Occupy Movement” nationwide is concerned with the ever-widening income disparity between classes in the U.S. Energy efficiency is an opportunity to rebuild the middle class and put Americans back to work.
The speakers add that the low-hanging fruit of energy efficiency is often overlooked as a financial opportunity by consumers. Government policies and incentives are critical to supporting this sector, and no, that does not mean subsidies!! We need policies that remove barriers for innovative private sector finance, such as Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE, and policies that facilitate data access and transparency. Training and certification programs are also essential to transforming the existing workforce and assisting our students and recent graduates to find a competitive job.
Harvey Bernstein had a final remark that resonated with me, “We are on the verge of another Industrial Revolution.” If the prospect of continued rapid global population growth and resource scarcity is not enough to prompt you to action, how about something closer to home? In a tough economy, why are we setting fire to money when energy efficiency can help alleviate unemployment, rebuild the U.S. economy and restore our global competitiveness?
More information on the briefing and the individual presentations can be found on EESI’s website »
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Manager, Neighborhood Development
U.S. Green Building Council
Do you know of a community planning a development project with an eye toward sustainability? Spread the word: A new program providing no-cost technical assistance to select communities could help to turn that vision into action, and the application is only open until Nov. 23, 6 p.m. PT.
Local governments are at the forefront of the green movement, uniquely positioned to change policies and regulations and articulate community goals. And they have found numerous ways to make LEED work for them: 442 localities already reference LEED in a variety of ways in their initiatives. USGBC is pleased to partner with Global Green, a national non-profit organization, to provide yet another way for local governments to use LEED to achieve their sustainability goals.
The LEED for Neighborhood Development Technical Assistance Program, administered through Global Green, will offer no-cost sustainable neighborhood design technical assistance based on the LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system. LEED for Neighborhood Development provides a nationally recognized method for creating neighborhoods that are walkable, bikeable, and resource-efficient. The local governments who apply should have a target neighborhood (recommended at 10-250 acres in size) where significant redevelopment or infrastructure improvements will be occurring and that could benefit from the application of LEED for Neighborhood Development criteria to this district context or to a planning process. This free assistance is being provided under a grant to Global Green from the US EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.
Change at the local level can be powerful, yet local governments are often faced with staff and budget hurdles that present challenges to sustainability initiatives. If you know of or work for a local government that could benefit from hands-on assistance to bridge the gap, apply today.
USGBC and GBC Brasil Urge Governments to “Build the Green Economy from the Ground Up” with Submission to Rio +20 Conference
U.S. Green Building Council
On Oct. 31, the U.S. Green Building Council and the Green Building Council Brasil submitted a joint position paper on sustainability in the built environment for consideration of governments around the world and the U.N. governing body heading up next year’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20.
The Rio+20 conference will be held in June 2012 and marks the 20th anniversary of the first-ever Earth Summit. There were 172 governments represented at the 1992 meeting, which resulted in several environmental treaties, including the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the foremost international forum for tackling climate change. Expectations run high for the Rio+20 conference, which is seen by many as the next glimmer of hope for global progress on the environment.
The themes of the Rio+20 conference are: The green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and an institutional framework for sustainable development. Both of these themes are compatible with the goals and missions of USGBC and GBC Brasil. The joint paper, “Building the Green Economy from the Ground Up: Sustainable Cities and the Built Environment,” outlines the importance of sustainable urban infrastructure and planning. The proper planning of green communities and neighborhoods can facilitate sustainable economic and social development without further contributing to the acceleration of climate change. Developing countries are rapidly growing and cities now accommodate more than 50% of the world’s population. In a world of more than 7 billion people, we must chart a sustainable path that promotes economic prosperity and security for all while protecting the environment.
In addition to well-planned, high-density neighborhoods, the paper explains the importance and benefits of green homes and schools. Not only do green homes and schools contribute to our global environmental goals, but they also improve health and quality of life. Key case studies from around the globe, including developing countries, demonstrate the affordability of a green built environment and urban infrastructure. The additional benefits of green communities, homes and schools, coupled with their viability and affordability address the crucial theme of poverty eradication under sustainable development.
Finally, the joint paper addresses the need for resiliency as a conscious goal for sustainable development. Climate change is imminent and two fold—sustainable development can assist mitigation efforts; however, it is crucial that these efforts are pursued in conjunction with resiliency in order to address adaptation needs. The vulnerability of Haiti and other developing nations demonstrate the devastating potential of climate change as well as the unquestionable need for resiliency in urban infrastructure.
USGBC would like to thank GBC Brasil for their assistance in the development of this joint paper, particularly for making the findings and policy recommendations relevant to Brazil and other rapidly developing nations. The report is available on the GLOBE Alliance Resources page.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Manager, Building Codes Advocacy
U.S. Green Building Council
Just yesterday, the International Code Council’s membership of code officials put the final touches on the 2012 version of the International Green Construction Code (IGCC). For David Eisenberg – Executive Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT), former USGBC Board member, and long time chair of USGBC’s Codes Committee – it was a very clear culmination of a chapter in his life story, and the product of nearly two decades of work.
“I've spent the last 17 years trying to get people to notice that there are other hazards that may dwarf the ones that we're focused on,” David said to me over dinner last week in Phoenix after a full day of public hearings on the IGCC. “These hazards,” he continued, “will do major harm in the long run, and will affect – in overwhelming ways – our children and our children's children.”
We were in Phoenix reflecting on, as Jerry Garcia would surely have said, what a long, strange trip it’s been in the evolution of code guidance for better, healthier, safer, greener building practice. David, a Tucson native and a self-described “recovering contractor,” has made it his life’s work to understand and communicate a far more comprehensive picture of what risks each of us should understand about our built world as we know it. His work with code officials began in Phoenix 14 years ago.
In the fall of 1997, David was already three years deep into this new work and passion. He was invited by Bob Fowler - Pasadena building official, friend, and visionary in the building safety profession - to present alongside him at the annual convention for the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) in Phoenix. It would be David’s first time addressing a group of code officials with his revolutionary message. Fowler had invited Eisenberg to call his community of code officials to a higher purpose – to discover the full potential of their charge to “safeguard public health, safety and general welfare from fire... and other hazards attributed to the built environment” as one of the most honorable roles in society.
|David Eisenberg, Executive Director of DCAT, former USGBC Board member, and chair of USGBC’s Codes Committee|
He asked a question of the gallery of a thousand or so code officials. “What goes through your mind when someone comes into your jurisdiction seeking to do something crazy like build a house out of bales of straw? Or… harvest water off the roof and drink it…?
“…My guess is,” he continued, “that your first thought is: ‘These people need to be protected from themselves.’ Your next thought is probably: ‘Not in my jurisdiction!’”
David then challenged the audience of code officials to think differently about the risks they were managing for the public good by illuminating that, “The vast majority of the people who come in wanting to do these things have made a critical discovery. They have realized that their lifestyle choices have consequences, many – if not most – of which are negative. Not negative for themselves, but negative for their children and grandchildren… and my children… and your children. These people are trying to take responsibility for the consequences of their choices.”
“Is there anyone in this room who thinks this is a bad thing?” he asked.
Fourteen years later, most of us in this country still do not have this clarity of view. For the building safety professionals in Phoenix last week, it was clear that this recognition of purpose is still struggling to take root.
David’s final question to that audience in 1997: “So what is your job as a building official? Is it to keep those people from pursuing their goal of taking responsibility for what they do? Or is it to help them find a way to do it well and safely?”
His ’97 remarks were recognized by a loud and prolonged applause - an applause that I could still hear last week in Phoenix as this extended community of code officials brought in their first green construction code. This code will provide communities the opportunity to define minimally acceptable construction practice for commercial (unfortunately, not low-rise residential) buildings through a code framework that embraces the many tenets of green building. It is a watershed event that a national model code (and its Standard 189.1 compliance path) now explicitly charges designers, builders and code officials alike with a certain degree of responsibility to safeguard human and environmental health, and our collective future, too.
Congratulations, David. And thank you, Mr. Fowler, for enabling one of our movement’s most prolific visionaries. There’s good reason to celebrate, and yet still so much work left to do.
You can read David’s full account of his first formal experience with ICBO (a legacy code organization that merged with others to found the International Code Council) in the August 2003 edition of Building Safety Journal. David’s column was appropriately titled, “Building Codes for a Small Planet.”
For more information on Bob Fowler, read this powerful January 2000 interview of Bob Fowler by David Eisenberg in Building Standards magazine. For more information on USGBC’s work with DCAT and the USGBC Codes Committee, read Greening the Codes.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
U.S. Green Building Council
Increasing utility costs and tightening budgets have led many colleges and universities across the country to rethink the way they manage their energy consumption. Take Western Michigan University for example: Their facilities team has installed 718 sub-meters across 151 campus buildings, allowing the team to closely measure, track and analyze their energy and water consumption on a building-by-building basis. They even went a step further and created an online dashboard which displays this data to the public for added transparency. Pretty impressive, to say the least.
For a number of reasons, not all higher education institutions have the capacity to install sub-meters on campus buildings. The majority of institutions use one or two central meters to track total campus energy and water consumption. However, it doesn’t matter whether your energy management strategy involves tracking performance data at the building level or at the campus level. There are a number of free online tools available to help you along the way. Check out the tools below to get started.