Takeaways From the 2021 Greenbuild Conference

New leadership at USGBC

Two members of Doo Consulting joined our colleague from the San Diego office to attend the 2021 Greenbuild conference there. It’s an interesting year for the US Green Building Council. The organization will be electing a new president, only the fourth in nearly forty years. Attention to the leadership transition was understated. While the organization embarks on a search for new president, Peter Templeton, a long time USGBC leader and former president of GBCI, will be serving as the acting president of the organization after Mahesh Ramashanian’s departure at the end of this October. Peter has committed to undertaking a strategic review of the organization and addressing issues of leadership, culture and technology to better serve the USGBC community. If you have been frustrated by an inability to communicate with USGBC or GBCI, or by the functionality (or lack thereof) of LEED Online, there is reason to anticipate positive change. USGBC has been a leader in mobilizing the building sector including manufacturers, developers, institutions, designers, and builders toward a greener, healthier and more resilient future. Their leadership is needed now more than ever.

Reducing Carbon

In-person attendance at the conference was light. I’ve heard estimates that around 2,000 people were in attendance. Despite this, the conference was still vibrant and it was good to run into colleagues from around the world who chose to attend. I hope all who traveled to San Diego offset their carbon emission! Carbon was a common theme throughout most of the sessions whether directly or indirectly. It was definitely the elephant in the room. In my opinion, the most significant presentation was on “SE2050”, the structural engineering equivalent of Architecture 2030. Having the structural engineers onboard to address carbon reduction is huge. SE 2050 is an initiative by the Structural Engineering institute (SEI) for which over 60 firms have already signed up! An estimated 50% of new building embodied carbon is in the building’s structure. If you want a structural engineer who can help you reduce embodied carbon in your building, I encourage you to select an engineer who has signed the SE2050 Commitment or encourage your engineer to do so. For more information you can visit www.SE2050.org.

The Use of Life Cycle Assessments

There were a number of sessions on the tools and how-to of life cycle assessments. As with any modeling tool, the output is only as good as the input. For LCA modeling, consistency is key. Who was the modeler? What software did they use? Which version? To what version of which standard did you establish your baseline? All these things are important when comparing your data from project to project or between models created for the same project. This will be a growing part of building analysis going forward as Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) reporting for real estate portfolios increases.

Credit Changes and Updates in LEED v4.1

USGBC does not stand still and there are more addenda being advanced for LEED v4.1. Based on the uptake of credits, USGBC assesses how it might adjust the standard to encourage the change they are seeking in the market. For example, the Building Product Declarations and Optimization (BPDO) credits, as they were introduced in LEED v4, were the least pursued of all LEED credits. These credits were created to encourage transparency in the reporting of product material and chemical content. Through an assessment of the questions and comments that were received, the number of times the credit was pursued and achieved, and other factors, USGBC has amended these credits to provide clarifications, greater guidance and/or adjustments to the requirements. Under LEED v4.1, the BPDO credits have seen the greatest increase in pursuits and the number of Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and Health Products Declarations (HPDs) available from manufacturers has increased considerably. The last LEED addendum was issued in April of 2021. Here are a few of the credit updates we heard about at Greenbuild. For a complete update, click here.

Location and Transit

  • The High Priority Site Credit has been amended to include Economically Disadvantaged Communities based on census tract data.
  • Access to transit can now include project sponsored transit if benchmarks are met.
  • Fuel Efficient Vehicles is now Electric Vehicles – This means EVs only and the number of spaces required is now 5%. While there was discussion of the embodied carbon of EV infrastructure, this is not only a matter of the elimination of fossil fuels but also of grid harmonization. Once again, USGBC is looking to the future.

Energy and Atmosphere

  • Energy Performance now references ASHRAE 90.1-2016. Still less than code, you say? Remember, LEED is an international rating system and some places have no code. Even in the US, not all jurisdictions have adopted the latest code. The beauty of LEED is that it provides an entry point that encourages participation while there is no limit to what a project team can challenge itself to achieve.
  • Demand Control is now Grid Harmonization and includes “Case 3 – Load Flexibility and Management Strategies”.
  • Renewable energy now considers 3 tiers of renewable energy sourcing.

Materials and Resources

  • Guidance on EPDs has been updated again. Under Option 1 most EPD’s are valued as 1 whole product except for a Product Specific Type III EPD which is valued at 1.5 products for the purpose of credit achievement.
  • The number of products required for CS and Warehouse projects is reduce from 20 to 10.

There are numerous other changes in all credit categories with the goal of increasing project team engagement and accelerating positive change in the market.  I encourage you to refer to the April amendment. For assistance with your project, call us at Doo Consulting.

Building Electrification: The Key to A Net Zero Future

What is Building Electrification?

In the effort to decarbonize future energy use, building electrification has been highlighted as one of the key ways to achieve the country’s carbon zero goals. The process of building electrification involves either new buildings being built with a completely electric infrastructure or retrofitting old buildings to rely solely on electric power. This includes not only applications such as light, heat and water, but also the installation of electric equipment such as electric cook tops and boilers.

Benefits to Building Electrification

A recent Urban Land Institute article makes the business case for building electrification. All-electric equipment powered by renewable energy is one of the first steps to reducing carbon emissions. This is crucial for both government and private real estate owners aiming for their net-zero goals because of the significant amount of fossil fuels used to keep commercial and residential real estate properties running.

From the initial building process to long term use, all-electric buildings have the potential to save significant amounts of money. Building all-electric from the start has less upfront costs and prevents having to spend money to integrate electric systems with the power grid later on.

In the city of San Francisco’s New Building Electrification ordinance, building electrification is cited as a solution to public health concerns as well. Unknown to many, the burning of fossil fuels indoors through gas cook tops and boilers can have a significant effect on the health of occupants who use them for everyday tasks. The fumes given off are detrimental to indoor air quality and can increase the risk for respiratory disease.

Current Progress in Building Electrification

There are already a few properties in the US turning towards building electrification by either retrofitting older buildings with all-electric equipment or using all-electric from the start. 30 Van Ness in San Francisco, California, is Lendlease’s first all-electric mixed-use development in the United States. E-commerce website Etsy’s 200,000-square-foot headquarters in Brooklyn, New York is powered solely by renewable energy. There is even a border entry center in Columbus, New Mexico that runs on solar power and harvests rainwater through recycled concrete “sponges”. You can see all of this project’s sustainability attributes here. A net-zero emissions future is possible, and building electrification is a necessary piece to make this vision a reality.

Doo Consulting has been ahead of the curve, focusing on the construction of greener buildings since 2007. Contact us if you are also interested in joining the effort to reduce energy use and carbon emissions in buildings.

In a New Infrastructure Plan, Biden’s Department of Energy Focuses on Cleaner Building Development

The Biden administration has proposed many plans to reduce the United States’ carbon footprint since coming into office. This is becoming more concrete as the Department of Energy has released a comprehensive plan and an announcement of $30 million dollars in funding to pivot into the construction of greener buildings. What exactly does the plan consist of and does it look promising as an effort to increase energy efficiency?

An Extension of the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative

This new plan is built upon the DOE’s Better Buildings Initiative, which was launched about a decade ago. It was announced recently that the initiative had a sizeable impact by helping save $13.5 billion in energy costs and more than 130 million metric tons of carbon emissions through reduced energy and water consumption in the last year. 

To boost this initiative’s influence, the department aims for there to be an even heavier focus into cleaner buildings. Among the new partnerships with local governments are a low-carbon buildings pilot with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, efforts to increase market adoption of grid-connected heat pump water heaters in residential and commercial buildings, and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade program aspiring to improve efficiency in residential households that normally would not have access to greener solutions.

Why The Shift?

Both the Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and President of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) Paula Glover agree that the key to cutting the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions is in the energy usage of the country’s buildings. According to ASE, buildings make up about 40% of U.S. energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This fact is the reasoning behind the administration’s increased funding into greener infrastructure. 

The DOE’s report finds that one of the new aspects of the initiative, grid-interactive buildings, could decrease power sector emissions by 6% annually by 2030. These energy efficient buildings use smart technology that optimize energy use according to the needs and preferences of the grid services and its occupants. They also cite high goals such as tripling 2020’s levels of energy efficiency and demand flexibility, of the buildings sector by 2030.

Doo Consulting has been ahead of the curve, focusing on the construction of greener buildings since 2007. Among our specializations is Green Building Certification for a multitude of rating systems such as LEED, Green Globes, the International Green Construction Code, and the National Green Building Standard.  Contact us if you are also interested in joining the effort to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions in buildings. 

USGBC Maryland Wintergreen Award Winners!

Doo Consulting is proud to have contributed to two winning design teams at USGBC Maryland’s Wintergreen Awards for the innovation in LEED® sustainable building design.

The Wintergreen Awards recognize businesses and local projects that demonstrate exemplary performance in sustainability. They focus on the key attributes of sustainability: high performance building, healthy design, environmental stewardship, and community impact. They highlight these green building initiatives and achievements within the USGBC Maryland community.

JP2 Architects LEED® Certified Gold interior fit-out for their Dillon Street office won the Wintergreen award for commercial interiors. Their adaptive reuse of a long-existing building combined with their focus on occupant health highlights all of the attributes a Wintergreen Award winner should exemplify. They used only low impact materials, installed Energy Star® rated equipment and appliances, and incorporated daylighting opportunities through the installation of Solatubes – tubular daylighting devices that offer high-performance lighting and bring daylight into interiors spaces. These features helped to create an inspiring open office plan and optimal work environment.

The Richard and Virginia Holt Center in Chestertown, MD, converted a historically designated 1865 church into a new, state-of-the-art learning center for the community. With innovation in sustainable design being a primary goal, the foundation transformed the building into their office headquarters, an education center, and schooner project shop. The Holt Center is LEED® Certified Platinum, featuring a rooftop solar array that offsets 18% of the building’s total energy cost, and a 48% water-use reduction with the installation of low-flow, high-efficient plumbing fixtures. What is most impressive is how the Holt Center serves as a teaching tool for all who enter, making it the ideal winner for the Wintergreen Community Leader Award for innovation in New Construction.

Both Baltimore’s JP2 Architects and Chestertown’s Sultana Education Foundation are both owners that value a holistic design approach to construct efficient, high-performance buildings. Through their work they will continue to inspire the sustainable design community here in Maryland. Congratulations to both teams!

Lorraine Doo achieves WELL Building Accreditation

Lorraine Doo achieves WELL Building Accreditation

WELL AP

WELL AP

Lorraine Doo has achieved WELL Building accreditation. The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is a performance based building certification program that focuses on attributes that contribute to human health and well being. WELL is a building certification similar in some ways to LEED certification, but focused much more on the human health elements of the built environment, measuring building performance across seven categories, called “concepts,” which include air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

Under each of the concepts within the WELL Building standard®, there are a number of features – either required (preconditions) or optional (optimizations). In total there are over 100 features, with examples such as lighting levels, daylighting, protecting against volatile organic compounds, ensuring the use of healthy materials, access to clean water, use of sound absorbing materials, access to fitness resources, employee benefits, material transparency and biophilia.

Image of plant

Biophilic image

It is a complex and engaging standard, and any conversations regarding the features will likely lead to enhancements in the building.

As a public health professional and long time advocate of the health benefits of green building, Lorraine is one of only a few WELL accredited professionals in the region. As of May of this year, only 119 professionals were accredited worldwide.
The WELL Building Standard® is designed to work in concert with the LEED Rating System, the Living Building Challenge and other green building standards. The WELL Building Standard® was created to use best practices in design and construction with other health and wellness interventions. In its handbook, the goal is to use the built environment as a vehicle to support human health, well-being and comfort: “the intent of the WELL Certification system for buildings is to help improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep, comfort and performance of its occupants.” According to the maintainers of this standard, this is achieved in part by implementing strategies, programs and technologies designed to encourage healthy, more active lifestyles and reducing occupant exposure to harmful chemicals and pollutants.
The WELL Building Standard ® was pioneered by Delos, and is administered by the International WELL Building Institute™(IWBI™).  Certification is conducted through IWBI’s collaboration with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which is the same certification body used for LEED.
Doo Consulting provides services to companies and organizations pursuing their sustainability goals including green building certifications such as LEED, Living Building Challenge, GreenGlobes, and WELL. For more information on WELL certification or the WELL program in general, feel free to contact us at info@dooconsulting, lorraine@dooconsulting.net or peter@dooconsulting.net.

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Living Heroes from Doo's crew receive Medals

Living Heroes from Doo’s crew receive Medals!

Living Building Challenge Heroes!

Peter and Lorraine Doo were both honored at the 2016 “unconference” of the Living Future Institute as Living Building Challenge Heroes (http://living-future.org/living-building-challenge/about/people/living-building-challenge-heroes) for their efforts in inspiring change in the way buildings are designed, built and operated. Their work on the Gaddy House in Maryland and the Charlotte Lovejoy Conservation Residence Hall in Florida,  both Living Building Challenge projects, have been opportunities to assist in exploring and finding creative solutions as these projects pursue Living Building Challenge certification. Read more

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.

Doos New Year Innovation Blog

Doos New Year Innovation Blog

THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE RED FIRE MONKEY!  We all know that the monkey is a clever and playful animal who can be an effective problem solver but also a trickster.  Year of the monkeyAs we celebrate 2016’s Year of the Red Fire Monkey, there should be exuberance, entertainment and time for devoted entrepreneurs to carry on their innovative ways.  However, those looking for quick and easy solutions could get duped as some monkey spirits will be on the ball, and quick to have their fun and games.

Doo Consulting wishes all of its colleagues, clients and friends the very best in 2016. Though it is the year of the Fire Monkey, according to Chinese Five Elements Horoscopes, Monkey also contains Metal and Water. Metal is connected to gold. Water is connected to wisdom and danger. Therefore, we will deal with more financial events in the year of the Monkey. Metal is also connected to the Wind. That implies the status of events could change very quickly. Think twice before you leap when making changes for your finance, career, business or personal relationships in 2016. Your individual prospects for the year can be found here.

DOO’S NEWS

We want to thank everyone who is a part of our ever expanding network. Our portfolio grew in geographic and economic breadth. We returned to our consulting roots with the opportunity to work on the development of sustainability plans for the City of Bowie, Maryland, and the Broadmead Retirement Community. A new accreditation in the WELL Building Standard

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What’s the Buzz about Buildings being WELL

What’s the Buzz about Buildings being WELL™?

WELL Buildings are suddenly the rage among designers! Once upon a time, you could barely get LEED from their lips.  So this is good news in some ways; and a little odd in other ways.  Are you part of the movement to incorporate health and well being in your design and development decisions? Are you getting questions from your clients and tenants and potential partners about wellness initiatives? Engagement in personal health issues is popular with the millennial and the “Z” generations, and the boomers are interested in fitness, nutrition, food quality, and transparency (show me).
outdoors
This is a nation of amazing contradictions, paradoxes and ironies. In the United States, there is an extreme hyper consciousness about allergies to foods and food groups that did not exist 40 years ago – for example, Read more

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.

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