Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Category Archives: Greenbuild

This Year’s Greenbuild Education Sessions

The hardest part about preparing for Greenbuild each year is choosing the education sessions you will attend. There are so many exciting ones to choose from. This year I am choosing sessions that fit into one of three categories.

1) Support my career in green building operations
2) Support my role helping students and young professionals through the Canadian Emerging Green Builders Committee
3) Inspiring topics

Here is what I have chose to see in November:

Creating Green Career Pathways at Community Colleges
Dee Patel
Jessica Gutierrez
Thomas Darling

This session will inspire innovative ways to create green career pathways at community colleges. Presenters will spark an interactive discussion on how colleges can prepare students for green careers through both curricular and co-curricular opportunities. Participants will begin to outline action plans to bring these opportunities to their communities.

Master Speaker Candy Chang
Candy Chang

Candy Chang is an artist, designer, and urban planner who explores making cities more comfortable and contemplative places. By combining street art with urban planning, social activism, and philosophy, she has been recognized as a leader in developing new strategies for the design of our cities.

The Integrative Design Process and LEED 

Bill Reed
John Boecker

The Integrative Process is now a formal LEED Credit in v2012. Participants will learn the fundamental methods and benefits of utilizing the Integrative Process to achieve enhanced environmental and project performance, cost effectiveness, and value relative to conventional approaches in project design and real estate development.

Trials of Designing a Living Building in Cold Climates 

Matthew Conti
Matthew Plecity
Larry Jones

This session will compare the challenges of designing to meet the Living Building Challenge’s net-zero criteria in two different cold climates – Alaskan and Northeastern United States. Discussion will include project concepts/goals/expectations as well as the analyses used to determine which method of design was deemed best for each climate.

GAP: Experiential Learning By Crowdsourcing a LEED Project 

Keith Schneringer
Robert Thiele
Doug Kot

The Green Assistance Program (GAP) facilitates community education about sustainable building operations while simultaneously greening an actual building. The San Diego Green Building Council has developed this innovative approach to LEED project management, combining elements of crowdsourcing and experiential learning to assemble a community-benefit LEED EBOM project team.

EcoBalance Design – measuring success through life cycles 

Kathy Zarsky
Pliny Fisk III
Gail Vittori

We explore ecoBalance Design through a biomimicry lens to integrate balance as a pragmatic performance metric, and cycles as an overarching design discipline to sustain basic life support systems across life cycles (source/process/use/re-source), both informed by ecological frameworks. The session will engage participants to test-drive concepts and gamestorm examples.

Turf Wars: Institutionalizing Green Streets in San Francisco 

Rachel Kraai
Kris Opbroek
Adam Varat

This session will explore how San Francisco’s City agencies are working to implement the City’s vision for complete, green streets through greater capital project coordination, creation of project manager resources, and development of a triple-bottom line analysis to assess design options, by leading participants in a real-life design problem.

Permaculture: Principles & Practices of Regenerative Design 

Jillian Hovey

Permaculture is more than agriculture: it is a wholistic design methodology focused on developing human settlements that have the resilient properties of natural ecosystems. Tied into the essence of regenerative systems, permaculture design principles can play an important role in the green building communities, moving us towards a sustainable future.

The Science and Design of Biophilic Urbanism 

Bert Gregory
Timothy Beatley
Judith Heerwagon

How do we create biophilic cities? Ones that are in tune with ecological systems, foster place-based relationships, and embody the attributes of nature in their design. This research paper presentation and discussion of biophilic principles will explore how to integrate these concepts into the design of our neighborhoods and cities.

Adaptive & Dynamic Buildings – The Future of Architecture 

Steve Selkowitz
Markus Zawierta
Rick Morris

What if you could design a building that could think, move, react and adapt to real-time weather conditions? What if it provided more satisfied tenants, energy savings, and enhanced aesthetics. Learn more about emerging technologies and design principles that make dynamic facades the newest standard in green building and design.


Greenbuild Bound: Thank you USGBC

Last year I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend Greenbuild in Toronto. While I was there I learned that the next year it would be in San Francisco. I was so jealous of those who would win the same scholarship for this year. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to San Francisco. I was wrong.

This week I registered for Greenbuild in San Francisco. I’m travelling with the Canadian National Emerging Green Builders Committee. I am the Ottawa Region Chapter of the CaGBC’s representative. The USGBC is allowing our group to volunteer 8 hours each in exchange for admission. This is reducing the financial strain quite substantially. I’ve also been able to book a flight using airmiles, and I found a hostel near the conference center for a steal of a deal.

The theme this year is Build Smarter, and it is no coincidence that it is being held in San Francisco. The Silicon Valley is the cradle of technology, and this years conference is focused on how to use technology and modern ideas to improve the built environment. Greenbuild is of course much more than buildings, and this year more than ever there is a focus on neighbourhoods, cities, and human behaviour.

I’m really looking forward to the networking opportunities, as well as the opportunity to meet my Morrison Hershfield colleagues from across North America. Its going to be an adventure, and when its over I’ll be able to directly apply my new knowledge in the workplace.

Nov 14th – 16th, 2012. I can’t wait!

USGBC Center For Green Schools – Spotlight on 2011 Greenbuild Scholars

I was recently featured on the United States Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools website. Read my blog entry.

My Greenbuild Presentation

Today I did a presentation to my classmates on Greenbuild and some of the key topics that were presented there. Since I attended Greenbuild as a scholarship winner it is my duty to share what I learned with my classmates and chapter. My presentation is a summary of several other presentations, and took about 40 minutes to cover all the material.

I video taped the presentation so I could share it with people who were not able to attend.

This was the first time I’ve ever recorded myself presenting. By watching myself present I was able to get a better understanding of my presentation style. I’ve noticed some bad habits I would like to eliminate and I will work on improving them.

Greenbuild Scholarship Group Photo

I recently received my Greenbuild Scholarship group photo in the mail. I wanted to post it here so everyone can see it. I am in the back row center directly to the right of S. Richard Fedrizzi, who is the CEO of the United States Green Building Council.

2011 Greenbuild Scholarship Group

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)


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)

Innovative Products I Discovered in the Greenbuild Expo Hall

Before I went to Greenbuild NEXT in Toronto I mapped out the Expo Hall so I wouldn’t waste too much time in there. They had over 900 exhibitors so I made a list of the ones I wanted to visit before I got there. Of the 90 that I narrowed my list down to there were two that I was really impressed by. I want to share some details with you below.

BioNova Natural Pool

BioNova makes home swimming pools that do not use chemicals to condition the water. Their pools are naturally purified using a built in water garden adjacent to the pool. Plants are chosen for their water regeneration capabilities and other are chosen for their  decorative appeal. More info at their website.

A BioNova Natural Pool

EcoVéa: The World’s Most Intelligent Shower

This shower saves up to 80% of the water and energy used by a standard shower. It does this by analyzing the drain water to determine what is clean and what is dirty. The clean water is filtered, treated, and returned to the shower head. This reuses the water and the heat it contains.  This takes it a step beyond drainwater heat recovery system which just reuse the heat but waste the water. More info at their website.

Greenbuild is Green

Tomorrow I will be leaving for Greenbuild and I wanted to talk a little bit about the green features that the conference will have. When you register for the conference you need to enter how far you will be travelling to get to Greenbuild, and your method of transportation. This is because Greenbuild will be offsetting the carbon associated with the travel as one of its green initiatives. Most of the conference hotels are within walking distance of the event. If you are staying at one of the few that are too far to walk you will receive a complementary 3-day transit pass with your registration.

The conference will be held at the Metro Toronto Convention Center (MTCC) in the heart of downtown Toronto. The MTCC will ensure that it is a zero waste event and will reuse or recycle 97% of all waste generated. Volunteers will be at all the waste stations helping attendees sort their waste. The event will also be powered using renewable energy. The energy will be generated off site and guaranteed available on the grid through renewable energy certificates. The menu for the event will all be locally sourced. Food, beer and wine available on-site will be from within 100 miles of the conference.

Maroon 5 will be headlining the opening celebration. The band practices green touring and travel using a bio-diesel powered tour bus. The band members also live on an organic food diet.

Exhibitors will be encouraged to be as green as possible when developing their displays. Green Exhibitor awards will be available to those who exceed the standards developed for the expo hall.

When it comes to being green Greenbuild is a winner. They certainly walk the walk. I’m excited to see all the green initiatives in action this week!

What is next for Green Building?

The theme of Greenbuild in Toronto this year is “What is next for green building.” With that in mind I have been thinking a lot about just what the future will hold. The LEED construction rating systems don’t contain any requirements for green building operations after construction. The LEED Operations and Maintenance rating system was created to remedy this, however right now it is under utilized. I think one of the things that will happen next is that more buildings will seek the operations certification as well. Recently the Empire State Building as well as Toronto’s TD Bank tower have both obtained LEED Gold certification under this rating system. These iconic buildings set a fine example for others and prove that LEED is not just for new buildings. By greening our existing buildings we move one step closer to the ultimate goal of green cities.

Green cities are another thing that will happen next. Both the USGBC and the CaGBC have buildings in their strategic plan as being a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of green cities. Before we can have this outcome we will face some significant hurdles. City infrastructure will need to be improved to allow buildings to share resources. The notion of net-zero will need to shift from the scope of the building to the scope of the city and this will require more advanced water and electrical facilities. I have no doubt that LEED will eventually develop a rating system or guide for green cities.

People will be a big part of what is next. I believe Emerging Green Builders (EGB) will play a significant role in the future. EGBs are young professionals less than 5 years into their careers or students. I am an EGB and our group was educated with sustainability in mind. We are freshly starting out and have our whole careers ahead of us. It is safe to say that we will be involved in whatever happens next for Green Building. I’m excited to be a part of it!

Mapping the Greenbuild Expo Hall

This years Greenbuild will bring over 900 different exhibitors to Toronto and fill two halls with booths at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. This is easily the largest event I have ever attended. Since I want to get the most out of my experience I have taken the time to research which booths I would like to visit. I only have 11 hours to myself during my 4 day trip to Toronto and this is the only time I have available to visit exhibits. I would like to have as much left over to see some sights in Toronto so it is extremely important that I develop a plan of attack for the exhibit hall.

My main interests lie in new and innovative products and technologies. I am looking to be impressed! I am also going to be visiting several companies that I have targeted for employment once I graduate. It will be a great chance to have someone from the company tell me about what they do and how they like working there.

I was able to narrow the 940 exhibitors down to a list of 89 that I would like to see. The majority of them are in the north exhibit hall so I will visit that on the first night and try to get that out of the way. The Greenbuild website has a really useful tool that allows you to select the booths you want to visit and print a map so you can take the most optimum route through the hall. I’ll be keeping the ones I’ve chosen to myself for now but watch for an update after the conference to see which ones impressed me.

A picture of the exhibit hall from a previous Greenbuild Expo