Harvard-Syracuse Demonstrate IAQ Improves Occupant Performance

Harvard-Syracuse Demonstrate IAQ Improves Occupant Performance

Where do you feel your best at work? Do you ever feel the need go for a walk outside to clear your head? If you answered those questions with, “I feel best in a room with fresh air” or “Yes, I enjoy getting out, the air helps me to think,” you are in lock step with researchers at Harvard University School of Public Health who recently issued a report confirming their findings that indoor air quality (IAQ) improves the performance of individuals in buildings.

In 2015, Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Syracuse University Center of Excellence issued a report on a double blind study providing results that indicate improved human performance measures among individuals placed in environments with better indoor air quality.

What is interesting about this study is the amount of control in the experiment’s protocols. The study included the creation of identical office environments with the ability to control air quality. Participants performed their normal work activities in these spaces. Air quality mimicked that in normal office conditions on both the lower and higher end of the spectrum. At the end of each day participants were subjected to a series of cognitive and performance tests. Neither the subjects nor the test administrators knew what air quality conditions had been provided for the day.

The results were dramatic. Cognitive performance of those who were exposed to better air quality was 60% greater than that of participants in the alternative environment!  When subjects were exposed to additional conditions simulating a higher ventilation rate, the cognitive scores were 101% higher.

Statistics such as 60% improvement and 101% improvement, when replicated over time, would give one cause to rethink the cost benefit of increased ventilation.  This enhancement is often rejected as a possible LEED credit to pursue because of its negative impact on energy performance.  While technology is providing solutions to the ventilation/energy balance initial costs and perceptions remain a factor in decision-making.  Given this study data, the formula for the cost benefit analysis when considering the potential impact on wellbeing, occupant performance and productivity, may bear a recalculation.

What of the building developer to whom direct benefits of occupant performance do not accrue? It would be unwise to advertise performance benefits of locating in such a building. A tenant whose productivity did not improve could justify a legal claim if a building developer advertised such benefits. Experiments and published results such as the Harvard/Syracuse study provide the evidence needed to make a case that is more than anecdotal. While a developer may not advertise that her building yields a more productive staff for its tenants, a tenant may seek a building with documented air quality with an understanding that such an environment could improve staff retention, worker satisfaction and performance. This could in turn improve occupancy rates, reduce vacancy durations, provide opportunities for higher rent or other benefits to building owners.

The implications of this report are significant. Its effect on the market is likely to be small for now. It is the first of many such studies that need to be done and whose results need to be broadcast. We encourage you to share this study and comment on this blog.

Lorraine Doo, LEED AP, is a partner at Doo Consulting and holds a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. The firm has used its projects in a study on the relationship between green buildings and wellbeing. Contact us if interested in exploring the relationship between buildings and health.

Nature is here to stay. Are we

Nature is here to stay. Are we?

Nature is speaking.  Will we listen?  In time? Watch these beautiful vignettes about specific elements of nature – water, the forests, soil, flowers – appreciate the glory and power of each as expressed in the narration that accompanies each gorgeous self portrait – including a feature of mother nature herself.  The message is clear.  Nature is powerful, All of nature is VERY necessary for our lives and ability to live – for the air we breath and food we eat.  But make no mistake.  We are not necessary to nature.  Not much more needs to be said.  But much needs to be done.   Does everyone understand, each in their way, in their place? can we have the conversations about what can and must be done?  Do we have the will to make reparations where they must be made?

Is our consumerism “Green-Washing” Out Earth Day? Not anymore…

Is our consumerism “Green-Washing” Out Earth Day? Not anymore…

By: Leyla Balimtas

When it comes to saving the environment, a single person can feel pretty powerless in making a change, but partnering with a group of people can make anyone feel like a lot is actually possible, even when everyone has not adopted the same opinion about conservation or environmental issues.

Earth day will be celebrating its 45th year in 2015. And over the years, it has come to represent a day to foster awareness and appreciation for environmental issues.

Earth day was inspired by a horrific oil spill in 1969, when US Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin witnessed the accident when he visited site. Soon after, a bill was passed, designating April 22nd as a national day to “celebrate the earth.” At the time, Americans were driving huge cars that used leaded gas and allowing industries to belch out smoke and sludge with impunity. With the foundation of this national holiday, Earth Day quickly became an “environmental teach in” day that inspired a much needed response to environmental problems at a grassroots level. In fact, more than 20 million demonstrators and thousands of schools and local communities participated in that first Earth Day 45 years ago. While the US honors Earth Day in April, the United Nations picked up the cause in 1971, and started the first UN Earth Day on the equinox, which occurs in March.

The tenets of Earth Day are certainly not new when looking at simple examples, such as recycling and up cycling during the Great Depression. Before the 1960’s, re-use and re-purposing were practiced by necessity, and very effectively. As the economy improved, and manufacturing expanded, those “shiny new things” replaced the useful and functional jewels of the family hearth because of the status they provided, and Americans adopted a disposable economy.

 

Earth Day Blog Image 1

Ultimately, we are all enrolled in the same, “school of Life” and have discovered that there is no “away” where we can throw our “shiny things” when they are no longer shiny. There has in fact been no answer to the question of, “where exactly is away?” So Earth Day began to have an impact, along with other programs and emerging information.

Recycling is one small example of how Earth Day has changed behavior. For example, after Earth Day’s first year, 3,000 voluntary recycling centers were established in the US; after 10 years, more than 200 cities began operating municipal recycling programs. Besides this, there are hundreds of other examples and opportunities for individuals and groups. And all of these will make a difference. Want some ideas?  Start here:

Earth day is promoting its Billion Acts of Green® (BAG), the largest civic action movement in the world. Since they’ve already EXCEEDED the billion mark with over 1.12 billion actions to date, the new goal is 2 billion Acts of Green by April 22nd.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 12.51.08 PM

Here are some things YOU can do:

  1. Just learn more about the environment. Earth Day is a good time to make a commitment to learning more about some aspect of the environment and what you can do to protect it. Borrow some library books (or an ebook or audio book) and read about something that you are curious about. Become a kid again and start asking questions:
    • Who are all the endangered species? Why are we running out of water if the ocean is so vast? What makes pollution anyway?!!
    • Discover a region of the earth you don’t know much about, such as the Arctic, the Galapagos Islands, the deserts, or the rainforests.
  2. Join a local group that is involved in activities working on issues related to the environment– like foraging, planting a community garden, cleaning a steam… find a Meet Up that is interesting in your area.
  3. Challenge yourself to “shop around the edges of the grocery store” – Buy as little as possible from the middle aisles, and avoid items that are sold in packages. Consider writing a letter to manufacturers and ask them to try to find more sustainable ways of packaging their items. Start a challenge or contest in your own company and see what happens. Blog about it. Try it at your local school.
  4. Take your drink container with you during the day; avoid disposable plates and cutlery. Challenge your co-workers to do the same.
  5. Recycle all the things you do use for the day or find other uses for things that you no longer use. Use a cloth bag for carrying things and recycle your plastic bags.
  6. Go through your home and find things that you have not used or worn for more than a year. Either make something with those items, or give them away.
  7. If you have children, and they have things they have not played with for more than a year, do the same thing with them. By giving their old toys and games to someone else – either a sibling who is younger, or to someone another person, children learn about giving to others and about reusing and recycling instead of throwing things away.
  8. Research product exchange communities in your area like Freecycle or other similar options.

If you want help getting a re-use/re-purpose or other social good program started in your company, contact our office at info@dooconsulting.net

Earth Day Blog Image 3

What do Buildings have to do with Corporate Social Responsibility

What do Buildings have to do with Corporate Social Responsibility?

By: Lorraine Doo

Not too long ago, folks were asking what buildings had to do with health. Following that question, and over the past five years, more architects, building owners, developers and manufacturers have come to understand that some of the materials or the process of manufacturing the materials that make up the building, its pipes, paints, flooring, adhesives, and furnishings are comprised of chemicals and compounds that are harmful to humans, the environment or both. Turned out that the stuff IN the building could make people sick. There WAS a connection. A small group of people continued to demand data, and to demand transparency from manufacturers. As data became available from the pioneer manufacturers willing to share the connection became clearer.   The demand for materials that do not contain such common but harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, asbestos, hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), lead, mercury, bisphenol, halogenated flame retardants (HFRs), Phthalates, Polyvinyl chloride, and arsenic (in wood) is increasing and the tipping point for change is close.

So what does social responsibility have to do with buildings?

The answer is the same. Everything is connected.

Organizations that have increased their sustainability IQ’s have gained a positive return on their investments from more energy and water efficient systems. Building occupants, whether employers, employees, residents or patients have benefited from sustainable building strategies such as more effective air ventilation controls, and low VOC materials. As sustainable practices were occurring, whether based on good business sense or a concern for employees or for the environment, some organizations were also embedding social responsibility into their organizational operations – doing good things for the local community, for charitable causes, or social issues. Those companies with the greatest success where embedding that social responsibility directly into their mission statements and charters as permanent, on going programs for a charity or environmental cause.

So what does that have to do with a building?

Companies function and operate in buildings, which are embedded in communities, from which the employees are hired, and where myriad issues exist or are of a shared concern. Buildings manufacture, produce, consume and extrude things. They use energy, are responsible for carbon output, greenhouse gas, waste, and possibly toxic substances. Socially responsible companies, within those buildings, actively contribute to, and participate in the communities in which they operate. One feature that distinguishes socially responsible corporations, similar to reporting material content, is transparency in reporting sustainability performance and impact on the environment from the work their company performs – both successes and challenges. Authenticity and honesty are critical; and improvements can be reported next year, proving that the company is being managed well and has a good core of committed employees.

What are some good examples of socially responsible companies? There are thousands across the globe – but here are just a few you may know. If you know one we haven’t listed, leave a comment about that company and tell us what you admire about them. We’ll begin a list here and watch the diversity of activities.

  1. Patagonia – Supports sustainable agriculture and other food related programs. Allows purchasers to track their jacket on line to the sheep who “donated” the wool; participates in the 1% for the planet…. And much much more!
  2. Southwest Airlines – Up-cycles used leather seat coverings from the Evolve retrofit into new products to support local communities in several African nations. This pilot will create products that provide access to employment, skills, training and livelihood.  
  3. Tom’s Shoesbegan with the “one for one” campaign. Now a multi-varied program of global programs of services from water to eye glasses to assisted savings. For example, more than 780 million people don’t have access to safe water. TOMS Roasting Co. purchases support water systems in seven countries – in the same regions where they source their coffee beans.
  4. SurveyMonkey Instead of offering cash and prizes to survey takers, Survey Monkey donates 50 cents per survey completion to the taker’s charity of choice. In 2013, the company donated more than $1 million to organizations such as the Humane Society, Boys & Girls Club of America, and Teach for America.
  5. H&M – Takes any used clothing and repurposes it to make new clothes in their factories.

How does your building stack up?  Want help? Contact us today.

csr

Businesses Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility

Businesses Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility

By: Leyla Balimtas

What is it and how does it play a role in business?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a self-regulatory principle where a business monitors itself and takes the moral, ethical, and philanthropic responsibilities for its effect on the environment and impact on social welfare. As a whole, an organization’s primary responsibility is to its stockholders. And to meet this responsibility, a company’s CSR goals and its business ethics must work together to ensure that the legal and discretionary responsibilities match the values and actions of the organization.

The overall nature and concept of CSR is relatively new, having only been in use since the 1960s. At this time, with the advent of the civil rights movement, consumerism, and environmentalism, society’s expectations of business has evolved. Many people, both inside and outside of the corporations look to those companies to internalize the full cycle of their operations, spearheading solutions to issues such as waste and pollution created by their operations. Society wants businesses to use their influence in the world and their human and financial capital to “make the world a better place.

Businesses, whether local or global, affect many lives from their supply chains to their customers and downstream through the disposal of their products. It is for this reason that so many companies and industries take their corporate social responsibilities seriously. For more information on this topic, go to HERE.

Happy Chinese New Year 2015 - Year of the Green Wooden Sheep

Happy Chinese New Year 2015 – Year of the Green Wooden Sheep

Welcome to the Year of the Green Wooden Sheep. As we say farewell to the Year of the Wooden Horse (2014), with its promise of travel and movement, we hope your ride over the past twelve months took you where you wanted to go.

We welcome 2015, the Year of the Green Wooden Sheep, that corresponds to renewal, growth and balance. The Sheep brings promises of a calm, but not sedate atmosphere in which to prosper. Combined with the evergreen and renewal characteristics of wood, the Sheep’s creativity will be unleashed. This is the year for contemplating and appreciating what has already been accomplished, to think about bringing goodness to others. A steady path, generosity, and keeping the peace are this year’s mantra. The renewal characteristics of wood enable each organization’s creativity unleashed.

Year of the Green Wooden Sheep

Doo’s News

Doo Consulting has always taken pride in its individuality, and has enjoyed opportunities to share and collaborate.   In the year of the sheep, remain good to others. Remain steady, generous, and peaceful.

There are five elements in the Chinese zodiac: wood, fire, earth, metal, water which are associated with their own “life force” or “chi”. This energy blends with a corresponding animal to determine that year’s fortune. In 2015, the corresponding element is wood. Wood by its very nature, is the element associated with all living things, the spring or life renewal process. Wood relates to trees, which relate to the color green. We hope this means good fortune for green businesses!

Our own ride in 2014 was eventful. We consolidated the LEED consulting services of TerraLogos EcoArchitecture, pc with Doo Consulting creating a broader and stronger practice in this service area. We partnered with some awesome teammates to successfully win the Baltimore City Schools Program Sustainability Consulting contract, MGM National Harbor Casino & Hotel, LEED certification of the Oriole Park at Camden Yard Complex and a 730 bed STEM Residence Hall at University of Connecticut.  One of the most fascinating and enjoyable experiences of the year was the extremely successful facilitation of a multi-day Living Building Challenge project charrette for the Lemur Conservation Foundation in Myakka City, Florida. This is our second hands-on experience with a LBC project. We are also assisting in the DC Affordable Living Design Competition where we will serve on a team charrette panel and the jury! We look forward to 2015, Year of the Wooden Sheep.

Lemur Conservation FoundationLemurs

Hot Picks

This year Doo Consulting brings you links to interesting apps that can help ease and advance sustainability goals for your clients and yourselves. WeSpire and One Small Act help track and measure the cumulative impact of collective energy and water savings and other lifestyle actions such as walking or bicycling to work, carrying your own water bottle and other small acts (hence the name). The Green Button is a tool that can be used by homeowners and commercial building managers alike to manage energy use. Happ-y Year of the Sheep!  Read on and enjoy

WeSpire and One Small Act are web based engagement programs that can help individuals and organizations realize sustainability or social responsibility targets and measure their impact. Engagement is one of the greatest challenges when attempting to initiate change individually or within an organization. Tracking and measuring impact is another. WeSpire and One Small Act attack these challenges by engaging people in networks with others, establishing teams and tapping into people’s inherent desire to improve and compete. Think that your individual efforts don’t make a difference? Think again.

WESpirewespire-roi-calc

The Green Button Your energy data is just a click away!

The Green Button Initiative is a government sponsored, industry-led effort that provides utility customers with easy and secure access to their energy usage information in a consumer-friendly and computer-friendly format. In late 2012 and early 2013, the Green Button had been adopted by utilities and electric suppliers who made energy data available to individuals and commercial building owners with a simple click of a literal “Green Button” on electric utilities’ websites. With their own data in hand, consumers can take advantage of a growing array of online services to help them manage energy use and save on their bills.

To date, a total over 50 utilities and electricity suppliers have signed on to the initiative. In total, these commitments ensure that over 60 million homes and businesses will be able to securely access their own energy information in a standard format. The following utilities have already committed to Green Button: American Electric Power, Austin Energy, Baltimore Gas & Electric, CenterPoint Energy, Chattanooga EPB, Commonwealth Edison, Glendale Water and Power, National Grid, NSTAR, Oncor, Pacific Power, Pepco Holdings, PG&E, PECO, Portland General Electric, PPL Electric Utilities, Reliant, Rocky Mountain Power, SDG&E, Southern California Edison, TXU Energy, and Virginia Dominion Power.

GreenButtonGreen_Download_265

Apps, apps, apps! At last check, there were more than 60 Green Button apps available, offering a range of capabilities and services.   We have provided a link to the site so you can test drive any of the apps yourself. We’ve provided a few apps here for fun. To see a full list of applications, visit the open innovation challenge site HERE.

WattzOn Comprehensive Energy Management Platform to save money & Energy

This name seems to be a play on IBM’s Watson and Watts – related to the term energy. The app is a comprehensive energy management platform designed to help people save money by saving energy. The app analyzes usage by room, equipment and time of day. Can also analyze information at the community level for larger scale projects.

wattzon_logo

WattzOn Screen

Energy Tipper – Makes Energy Data Beautiful

Loved this one. Its goal is to make energy data beautiful – and accessible. The app is virtually all images with few words, yet it also uses the Green Button to pull in data, analyze it and generate warnings, recommendations and tips.   The images are amusing, but they do work with the phrases or guidance. The website is under construction but check out their YouTube video.

energy tipper

Simple Energy.

Combines a Social media platform (Facebook) with an incentive game and energy tips along with the data. The foundation for this program is based on scientific research that indicates that different people respond differently to things, and differently to different things. This program relies on consumer engagement, so it offers a variety of experiences to attract more individuals. The activities have frequent interactions, and include incentives to serve as motivators. The more interaction there is with the customer, the more the experience improves, and the greater the engagement becomes.   Take a look!

SimpleEnergy

In addition to providing LEED project administration services, Doo Consulting, LLC assists businesses meet their broader sustainability goals.  Let us know if we can help you!

EcoDistricts - Hype or Opportunity for Change in Baltimore

EcoDistricts – Hype or Opportunity for Change in Baltimore?

Talk of establishing an EcoDistrict in Baltimore has gained traction over the past year, with proponents suggesting the locations of Harbor Point, Lexington Market and the State Center project. The articles so far have focused on the potential for energy savings and storm water management at the district level. These benefits are obviously positive for the developments at first glance, but what are the broader implications for the city and people of Baltimore? By establishing an EcoDistict in Baltimore, the city has the potential not just to save energy and costs, but to improve the lives of the people living there, and to catalyze sustainable development throughout the city.

What Is An EcoDistrict? 

Simply put, an EcoDistrict is a neighborhood or district within a city committed to sustainability through programs including community-scale energy generation, recycling, and low-carbon transportation options. On a larger scale, the EcoDistrict approach, developed by the EcoDistrict Initiative out of Portland, OR, is a framework to develop sustainable and ecologically diverse cities from the neighborhood up. Cities and communities around the country have established EcoDistricts, including one in DCs Southwest Waterfront. All have sustainability at their core, but the projects range from downtown business districts to affordable housing communities.

SW ecodistrict Rendering

Economic and Social Benefits

The up front benefits of an EcoDistrict from an economic standpoint are clear. Operational efficiencies for multiple systems create cost savings for energy and water almost immediately. Ecodistrics either create or tap into existing district energy distribution systems which save on energy costs by using a central plant to heat and cool buildings in the district. Buildings achieve water use savings with central wastewater plants and district storm water management. Over the life of the project, communities will see savings in public health costs, waste management, and operations costs.

The long term benefits ultimately go to the users of the project and residents of the neighborhood. When cities provide infrastructure and opportunity, people are able to conserve energy use, reduce and manage water, and reduce outputs of waste. Providing urban agriculture and gardens allows residents to produce at least some of their own food. Overall, Baltimore can improve the ecology and social economy of neighborhoods by incorporating natural systems and ways for residents to manage their ecological and financial costs.

While the benefits go to the users, this can be an economic boost for the city of Baltimore as people and businesses choose to locate in the district to take advantage of the cost savings and  culture of sustainable living. Increased attraction to the neighborhood from businesses and people create long-term economic health for the city.

Ecodistric

Making Baltimore More Livable for Current and Future Generations

These benefits may keep Baltimore City desirable for the next quarter century and beyond. As more and more people from several generations (the millennial generation most notably, but baby boomers too) move back into cities and push demand for housing and resources, the shortcomings of cities are coming back into focus.

The problems that have always existed in cities, like overcrowding, unhealthy conditions, and lack of natural and green space are being rediscovered by a generation raised in the suburbs. Many people are choosing to live in the city now, in part because of the access to cultural and lifestyle amenities and a short multi-modal commute.

The way we develop downtown today may determine whether urbanites choose to remain for the next decade – whether the pros of living downtown will continue to outweigh the cons. By shaping new development to fit within an EcoDistrict framework, we have the opportunity to make the city more desirable by giving residents a chance to manage their own resources and create livable communities. With stakeholder buy-in to the EcoDistrict concept, Baltimore could gradually transform into a hub of urban agriculture, economic activity, and social equity.

In addition to thinking about how to get people to make Baltimore their home, it is time to start thinking about how to keep them here and improve conditions for everyone.

Living City Block - Doo Consulting Blog

There’s no place like home in a green city…follow the sustainable brick road…

Planet earth is home to 7.2 Billion people with no signs of a slow down in growth. On any given day, we celebrate more than 35,000 births and see rituals for 15,000 deaths. The staggering numbers however did not appear until after the industrial revolution: The world’s population did not reach one billion until the year 1800 – thousands and thousands and thousands of years after the birth of the earth. The second billion-population milestone was hit 130 years later, in 1930; the third billion occurred in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987). It’s rather mind boggling to watch our numbers grow every second – but you can do it, real time, around the globe, on the website WorldoMeters. The numbers of births, deaths, population growth today and year to date, as well as the top largest countries are available, along with a variety of other statistics to dramatize the state of the world population.

Watching numbers can be fun, if you are a statistician, but the increase in world population, and the move towards urban centers, highlights the critical importance of ensuring that the cities are designed to support a low carbon footprint–and to teach individuals to adopt sustainable living as a simple matter of fact, as early in life as possible.  Fortunately, many cities are transforming themselves to reduce their carbon footprint. A critical part of that transformation includes behavior changes through engagement of the population.

Greening of cities has become a prominent priority for planners, and both innovative and familiar strategies have been implemented to improve energy efficiency – targeting both systems and sources. Transportation has also been addressed so that access to useful public modes of transport, and safer bike and pedestrian options reduce reliance on individual cars.  While infrastructure and technology are the foundation for greening our cities, the other key element is citizen behavior. And not only changes in behavior to support the implemented strategies, but changes that will create additional improvements.

_Living-City-Block

The National Earth Day Campaign works throughout the year to help cities and citizens accelerate their transition to a cleaner, healthier and more economically viable future through improvements in efficiency, investments in renewable technology, and regulation reform. On April 21-22, 2014, The New York Times hosted its second annual conference on “Cities for Tomorrow,” bringing together public policy makers and C-suite executives in energy, technology, building and transportation, along with filmmakers, craftspeople and innovators, to discuss strategies for creating an urban environment that meets the needs of its citizens and runs cleanly and efficiently – in the world of tomorrow.

We have to be optimistic – as Pete Seeger said – “There is hardly anything bad in the world that doesn’t have something good connected to it.” So here are some interesting things to think about for Energy, Green Buildings and Transportation…

Energy: Within the United States and in other countries, there is continued reliance on outdated electric generation structures. To become more sustainable, the current systems must be redesigned and transitioned to renewable energy sources. Solutions for the 21st century must be embraced and implemented.

Looking towards the future, imagine communities sharing solar grids, or solar sidewalks such as the one recently installed at George Washington University, or micro grids and smart grids that integrate and function seamlessly. The projects underway at CASE (Center for Architecture Science and Ecology) are a sampling of the potential in this area.

Green Buildings: Buildings account for nearly one third of all global greenhouse gas emissions. As efficiency and design improve performance as a base standard, emissions will decrease dramatically. But this must occur across the construction industry, across the globe, and particularly in highly built up regions. Cities must update ordinances, switch to performance based building codes, and improve financing options.

In the future, we can expect that homes and other buildings will operate as living organisms. They will monitor performance and adapt to our needs in real time, saving us energy and money. Food will be available from the walls of our homes or foraged from the landscapes around any building.

Transportation: Transportation is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. More than 75% of these emissions come from road vehicles. To reduce emissions and smog, local governments must develop stricter standards for emissions, while providing more options for public transportation and greater investments for alternative transportation, walkability and bikeability.

Imagine a future not just with smart cars, but with smart electric bicycles. TheSmart Wheel,” was created by start-up in New York City. It is a motorized bicycle wheel that fits onto almost any bike and contains a battery-powered motor in its wheel hub. The “smartwheel” connects to a smartphone through Bluetooth and monitors speed, distance, location and route. Over time, with enough data, the company will be able to learn where to build bike lanes and how to improve bike-friendliness in cities. According to the makers, “We want to make cities more livable, and make them more people—not car—friendly

The Earth Day 2014 website offers a host of toolkits and resource materials to support those interested in developing Green Cities campaigns. To find out more, send an email to greencities@earthday.org.

Maryland has made a priority of greening its cities and communities for many years.  Governor O’Malley kicked off the State’s Smart, Green and Growing initiative in 2009 to “provide a place for citizens, businesses, organizations and governments to strengthen the economy, protect the environment, and improve the quality of life – components of a more sustainable future.” Doo Consulting provides information from a cross section of the State in this blog. If we’ve missed a city, county or municipality, please let us know by sending an email to info@dooconsulting.net, with the subject line, “Another Maryland Sustainability Plan.” Everything will be posted on our site in a Municipal sustainability strategies section, along with resources we can offer for the municipalities to help with their planning, implementation and metrics tracking or reporting.

Maryland’s Success Stories in Sustainability: Greening across the State.

Baltimore City’s Office of Sustainability: In 2014, the BoS used a public process to develop a comprehensive Disaster Preparedness and Planning document (DP3). That document and process is now being vetted with hundreds of citizens through a comprehensive outreach program.

The City of Bel Air: To encourage the purchase and use of sustainable products and local merchants, rebates are offered for the purchase of green products.Baltimore County: In an effort to promote more efficient transportation choices, the county is providing Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the county garages; four more have been added this year

.Howard County: In addition to its many Sustainability initiatives for transportation, green buildings and energy incentives, Howard County encourages communities to adopt a green neighborhood program. They provide a “how to” document which is a guide to how to meet each requirement.

Frederick County: There are a variety of initiatives in Frederick County, from the Refrigerator Exchange program to Solarize Frederick. The Green Homes Challenge was featured this year, and the winners were just recently announced.

Maryland’s Sustainable Communities Program: Now there are more than 33 communities across Maryland named under this program that recognizes communities that have met certain requirements for sustainability, including more transportation choices, equitable, affordable housing, economic competitiveness, healthy, safe and walk able neighborhoods, and mixed use development.  Read about them at the Department of Housing and Community Development, and perhaps find your own community there – or a reason to get started on the application!

Finally, if you are looking for more information on what to do on Earth Day, or other times during the year, check out this website.

Not So Fast - Doo Consulting Blog

Not So Fast

IgccAt recent blog post on the Green Building Law Update titled “Maryland Sidesteps LEED in Favor of the IgCC” suggests that “fewer, if any, Maryland state and local government projects will be LEED certified in the future.” But, I say, “Not so fast!” Yes, the Maryland legislature just passed an amendment to the State’s green building law that will allow the IgCC to be used as a compliance path to green building in addition to current compliance paths which are LEED Silver or other “nationally accepted numeric rating systems reviewed and recommended by the Maryland Green Building Council and approved by the Secretaries of Budget and Management and General Services.”

To date, the Maryland Green Building Council (MGBC) has not recommended any alternative rating system; hence, the pressure to adopt some alternative compliance path. The timing of the adoption of the IgCC as a code in the state of Maryland is perfect. Not only does it present a viable option to LEED that the Council can accept but, it coincides with other concerns about LEED v4 as well as interest in other numeric rating systems for schools.

I have seen a draft of the version of the IgCC that the MGBC is working on. There is nothing definitive as it is a work in progress but, the current version states that a Green Building certification equivalent to a LEED Silver rating would exempt one from IgCC compliance.

Remember that a Code is a minimum standard. What is good about this for green building is that it sets a minimum performance standard for all buildings and, as a code, requires compliance. The IgCC can be “tuned” to meet the priorities of a particular jurisdiction. For Maryland, the adopted version of the IgCC can advance State priorities for energy use reduction, water quality and other goals.

LEED, on the other hand, is a rating system that rewards green building efforts by awarding points for specified actions or “credits” that the project delivers. The more credits you accumulate, the higher your score. Selection of those credits is up to the discretion of the design team. The State has no control over the credits that a project team will pursue, other than requiring the level of certification (LEED Silver). So, while a group of buildings may all be LEED Silver certified, there is unlikely to be any consistency in the energy performance of those buildings.

Let’s be absolutely clear; the State’s version of the IgCC has NOT yet been fully drafted, let alone approved. Whether State agencies and their architects will find it easier to comply with the IgCC and its required performance targets or pursue a LEED certification where they can pick and choose the credits to achieve is unclear. Certainly, the design and construction industry is familiar with LEED and, in some cases, may find it advantageous to not have to comply with the IgCC. Additionally, with the implementation of LEED v4 this summer, USGBC will re-establish LEED as an aspirational rating system. Certainly the LEED moniker has a market cache that “code compliant” cannot match.

I agree with Stewart, author of “Maryland Sidesteps LEED,” that the adoption and implementation of the IgCC will be good for green building and good for the State overall. I do not agree that the State is “sidestepping LEED,” rather it is complementing this numeric rating system with a code to cover more buildings and advance green building.

Happy 40th Birthday EPA - Doo Consulting Blog

Happy 40th Birthday EPA!

Happy New Year To You and Happy 40th Birthday to the EPA.

As I reflect on 2010, I am aware that December 2, 2010, was the 40th birthday of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The turn of the year is a time of reflection as is the fortieth birthday of an organization. In spite of the challenging economy of the last few years, the rising attention to the environment and the business response has been astounding. The term “LOHAS” (Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability), describes a group of consumers attracted to a marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living. An estimate of this market in 2008 was $290 billion and growing. This year, the total volume of LEED certified buildings exceeded one billion square feet globally. People are increasingly aware of the environmental challenges before us and are clearly voting with their wallets.

Given this, the New Year seems a good time to celebrate the 40th birthday of the EPA and to reflect on its creation, accomplishments and future goals.

In the 1960’s the cumulative effects of our false presumption that our environment was limitless and self-cleaning; that we could dump our waste into our air, water and land and that it would “flush” itself, were brought sharply to our attention.

In 1962 Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring”, documenting the effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly birds. Becoming a best-seller, this book raised public concern about pollution in our environment and its effects on animals and man. DDT sprayed into the air and on plants to kill mosquitoes and other insects, poisoned the food supply for birds and other creatures. The question was, “Could it poison us?”

In 1969 the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire, and not for the first time. Filled with sludge and debris, river fires in the Cuyahoga had become a regular occurrence beginning in 1868. A river fire in 1952 caused over 1.5 million dollars in damage. The 1969 fire caused Congress to pass the Clean Water Act and inspired the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In April of 1970 the first Earth Day was held. Originally focusing on the United States, Earth Day is now celebrated in over 175 countries every year.

On December 2, of 1970, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was founded. One of its first acts was to ban DDT, the chemical pesticide that was the subject of Rachel Carson’s book in 1962. Growing public concern about the state of the environment, reinforced by the first Earth Day celebration in April 1970, led President Richard M. Nixon to call on Congress to reorganize the federal government’s approach to the environment by “pulling together into one agency a variety of research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities now scattered through several departments and agencies.”

In his special message to Congress which he transmitted in July 1970, Nixon wrote, “Our national government today is not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants which debase the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that grows our food…. Despite its complexity, for pollution control purposes the environment must be perceived as a single, interrelated system.”

10 of EPA’s Accomplishments

The Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization, recently published a report [pdf] that details 10 ways the EPA has strengthened America over the past 40 years. Those accomplishments include:

  1. Banning the widespread use of DDT
  2. Removing the acid from acid rain
  3. Rethinking waste as materials (drawing energy from waste streams and reusing materials to get more value from them before their final disposal)
  4. Removing lead from gasoline–and from the air
  5. Clearing secondhand smoke (by classifying secondhand smoke as a known cause of cancer in humans, and banning smoking in indoor public spaces
  6. Increasing vehicle efficiency and controlling emissions
  7. Working for environmental justice and a cleaner environment for all Americans
  8. Controlling toxic substances
  9. Achieving cleaner water
  10. Enforcing community right-to-know laws and improving public information about the chemicals and/or pollutants to which Americans may be exposed in their daily lives

Today, the EPA continues in its mission to protect our environment.

 

Seven Priorities for EPA’s Future

In the next 40 years and beyond, EPA commits to making strides in those issues that most affect the environment and communities we live in:

  1. Taking action on climate change
  2. Improving air quality
  3. Assuring the safety of chemicals
  4. Cleaning up our communities
  5. Protecting America’s waters
  6. Expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice
  7. Building strong state and tribal partnerships

It is interesting to point out that the environment has never been the partisan issue it seems to have become. Strong leadership for environmental protection from both parties is evident in past legislation. Under Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt, and a Democratic Congress, the United States government created the National Parks system.  Again, under a Republican President, Richard Nixon, and a Democratic Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency was born. As someone once said, “Conservation is conservative,” and that is a conservative notion that, I’m confident, liberals can live with.

Challenges to our environment must continue to be addressed on a bipartisan basis. The challenges before us and the potential costs or benefits to our communities will not recognize State or national borders or political party. The EPA’s agenda for the future targets those challenges that have the broadest affect on our communities. The stated priorities of the EPA are built around their mission to protect human health and the environment for all Americans. We now understand that protecting the environment and protecting our health are one and the same. For those who would suggest that “It costs too much” or “It will cost American jobs,” it is clear that all that we have comes, in one way or another, from the Earth. There is no economy without the environment. Let’s keep it healthy for our jobs, ourselves and our children.

Happy Birthday EPA and keep up the good work!