Fin MacDonald

Information on me and my current projects

Tag Archives: USGBC

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!

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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)

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)

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!

Greenbuild NEXT Scholarship

When I heard that Greenbuild was being held in Canada (the first time ever outside of the US) this year Oct 4-7th I thought this is my chance to see the world leaders in the green building industry in action. I was overwhelmed by the conference cost so I explored other options. Students are allowed to volunteer 8 hours in exchange for admission. Getting to Toronto would be a big expense, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to afford it. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) had scholarships available, but as far as I could tell they were for US citizens.

About a month ago I found out at the last minute that the Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) was handing out 10 scholarships on behalf of the USGBC since they were the host country this year. Subsequently the Atlantic chapter was handing out at least one of them. I scrambled to put together an application, but I felt as though I still did an excellent job. As time went buy I assumed I didn’t win because I still hadn’t heard anything.

Recently I was notified that I was one of the recipients, and honestly I’m still kind of in shock. The scholarship includes conference admission, airfare to Toronto, and 3 nights accommodations at one of the conference hotels. I also get to meet and have my picture taken with Rick Fedrizzi, who is the CEO and founding chairman of the USGBC.

This is Greenbuild’s tenth anniversary and the theme will be “Whats Next for Green Building.” The conference will feature a job fair with green employers looking to network with green job seekers. There will also be a green job summit to discuss how to accelerate the creation of green jobs in the economy. Educational sessions will take up most  of the time during the 3 day event. I will get to choose from a wide array of topics, but I will focus my attention on presentations related to green building operations & maintenance and LEED for homes. Between education sessions I can browse the exhibit hall where over 900 companies will have info booths set up showcasing green building products and services. There will be lots of guest speakers, one of whom will be Michael Bloomberg the mayor of New York City.

Part of the deal is that I have to deliver a presentation to share what I learned. I will also use my blog to document the experience and share knowledge with the rest of the world.

Let the Studying Begin: LEED AP (Operations and Maintenance)

I have started studying for my next LEED exam. I am planning to write the LEED Accredited Professional exam with the Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance specialty. It was a tough decision between this and the LEED for Homes specialty, which I still plan to earn someday. LEED Operations and Maintenance is a rating system that certifies that an existing building is operated and maintained in an environmentally sustainable way. This differs from the other LEED rating systems that deal with the construction of the building only.

Buildings that certify under the Operations & Maintenance program need to stay current, and re-certify at least every five years. Buildings earn credits in the following categories:
– Sustainable Sites
– Water Efficiency
– Energy and Atmosphere
– Materials and Resources
– Indoor Environmental Quality
– Innovation in Design

The key areas of difference are the Energy and Atmosphere and Indoor Environmental Quality. Building energy systems need to be commissioned regularly to make sure they are working the way that they were originally intended too. This is often not done once, let alone every 5 years. Buildings can also earn points for using environmentally friendly cleaning products and equipment. There is even a point available for using sustainable and local food sources for the food court or cafeteria of the building.

The reference manual for LEED EB:O&M is 542 pages long. This is significantly larger than the book for the LEED Green Associate exam. I am giving myself a year to prepare for and write this exam. I’m planning to take it slow and study hard. By the time I graduate from NSCC I plan to be a LEED AP.

Studying hard for my LEED AP exam