Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Greenbuild Report to the USGBC

The Scholarship Experience

The experience of being a Greenbuild Scholarship winner was quite sensational. There were about 30 of us from all over the world. As a group we got together each morning for breakfast and to talk about what we learned so far. It was great to be around like-minded individuals who share my passion for green buildings. I feel like I made new friends all over the world.

Linda Sorrento was our conference host and she made sure we knew where to be and when, and what to expect each day. The gang at USGBC really took care of us. We even got to have our picture taken with Rick Fedrizzi the CEO and founding chairman. Kimberley Lewis who is the VP of Conferences and Events at the USGBC took us out for a fabulous dinner on our last night in Toronto. Scott Hurst who is the Senior Vice President of LEED talked to us during the dinner.

I look forward to returning to Greenbuild soon, and hope to see Linda and some of my scholarship friends there again.

There were scholarship winners from Canada, the US, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, South Africa, and India. I feel like I have friends in all these countries now. We have established a network to continue to communicate after the conference and I can’t wait to see where our careers lead us all.

My Chapter Representation

As a new member of my local Canadian Green Building Council chapter, I haven’t had much opportunity to network with other members. Since Greenbuild was in Canada this year several members of the Atlantic Chapter of the CaGBC were present. Lara Ryan our executive director did a great job getting us all together each day. Some of the people I knew already but most were new to me and it was a great opportunity to get acquainted.

Emerging Green Builders

As a young professional just finishing up school I am a member of the CaGBC Emerging Green Builders. I am volunteering with the Ottawa Chapter EGB committee as I expect to relocate there once I finish school. At Greenbuild I attended a meeting of the National EGB members. We were able to meet with George Hayward who is the head of USGBC’s Emerging Professionals and learn from his experiences. I’m sure his insight will help shape our movement.

So What’s NEXT?

LEED 2012

LEED is designed to guide market transformation, and needs to stay one step ahead of the market to be effective. As manufacturers and builders adapt it is the responsibility of LEED to tighten the reigns and become even harder to achieve. Several changes have been proposed for LEED 2012. The challenge is how to make things harder without discouraging builders from pursuing. Challenges beyond LEED now exist for buildings very serious about sustainability.

Greener strategies for Homes and Beyond

LEED is great at dealing with the broader green strategies related to the construction of a building, and the Passive House standard deals with extreme energy efficiency. The two work very well together to develop a building that is comfortable, healthy, and not harmful to the environment.

Passive house is not just an energy standard, it is an integrated concept assuring the highest level of comfort. The building is designed to work with passive air circulation, which saves energy.

The energy requirements of passive house are:

Heating: 15 kWh/m2 each year
– or –
Peak Load: 10 W/m2
– and –
Total primary energy use: 120 kWh/m2 each year
– and –
Air tightness less that 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals

The building practices associated with Passive House are:

  • Super insulate and use a down comforter for the slab.
  • Specify really good windows that gain heat, not loose it. Triple glazing is the norm.
  • No thermal bridges.
  • Seal all air leaks.

There is a misconception that PassivHaus needs to be a house. “Haus” in German means building and this can be anything from a school to an office building, not just a house. Passive House works in all climates, from humid to dry and cold to hot. There is even a Passive House in Alaska.

Since Passive House works so well with LEED there are efforts to provide prescriptive pathways. Someday it may be possible to earn a number of energy and atmosphere credits in LEED by building to Passive House standards. Passive House is the link between where LEED is right now and where we need to go with the Living Building Challenge.

Living Building Challenge

The Living Building Challenge is the strictest building certification in the world. The symbol of a living building is the sunflower and there are 7 petals that make up the rating system:

  • Site
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Health
  • Materials
  • Equity
  • Beauty

You can obtain petal recognition by meeting the requirements of individual petals.

Requirements for living buildings:

  • Harvest all energy and water.
  • Adapted to their climate and site.
  • Operates pollution fee (no combustion on site).
  • Based on actual performance, not modeled performance.

Since the rating is based on actual performance and not modeled performance nobody is allowed to drop the shovels and run. Contractors are responsible for up to a year after construction to ensure building operates as it was designed to.

Some buildings have been certified as living buildings so far. They are:

  • Hawaii Preparatory Academy
  • Tyson Living Learning Center, Eureka, MO
  • Omega Center for Sustainable Living, Rhineback, NY
  • The Baird Residence, Victoria BC (Petal recognition for 4 petals)

Ecodistricts

The concept of Net Zero makes sense, but for every building to be net zero is not practical. Some buildings have a better solar resource then others, and some have more access to wind. The ability to generate on site energy is affected by location. By integrating the needs of buildings within a designated area, all buildings can benefit and achieve more with less. This concept combined with smart growth urban planning can build truly sustainable communities. Smart growth involves ensuring each area has all the businesses and amenities it needs to be self sufficient, which means less travel outside the area. The Canadian Green Building Council is working hard to bring eco-districts to Canada.

My Future

Greenbuild renewed my passion and inspired me to make a difference in my green building community. Everyone at Greenbuild including the presenters were so willing to talk and share knowledge and answer questions. I was really impressed. This is the field I want to work in. I am going to write my LEED AP for Existing Buildings and seek out a job where I can make a difference in the built environment. I am working towards learning as much as I can about approaches to green construction used throughout the world. I am becoming more active with my local chapter of the CaGBC, and creating inroads into other chapters. I can’t wait to see where I end up.

Works Cited

My Greenbuild report was created based on my experiences at Greenbuild. I used information from some of the sessions I attended when created it. The ones I took information from were:

  1. PassivHaus (Bronwyn Barry, Ross Elliot, H Prudence Ferreira)
  2. Performance Metrics from the First Five Living Buildings (Living Building Challenge)
  3. LEED 2012 (USGBC)

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