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Architects across the world commit to net-zero energy buildings

Published August 25, 2014
Architects across the world commit to net-zero energy buildings

Architects from across the world unanimously adopted the 2050 Imperative, which commits them to 100 percent net-zero energy design and construction by that year.

Members of the International Union of Architects signed the document at last week's annual World Congress. Member organizations represent over 1.3 million architects in 124 countries. This is the first time in the organization's 65-year history that Architect Councils from every region of the world have signed a declaration.

Initiated and drafted by Architecture 2030, it flowed through the American Institute of Architects and then to the International World Congress.

The 2050 Imperative says, "Recognizing the architects' central role in planning and designing the built environment, and the need to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050 and provide equal access to shelter, we commit to promote the following actions."

1. Engage in research and set targets to meet the 2050 goal.

2. Plan and design cities, towns, urban developments and new buildings to be carbon neutral (net-zero energy), using no more energy over the course of a year than they produce, or import from renewable energy sources.

3. Renovate and rehabilitate existing cities, towns, urban redevelopments and buildings to be carbon neutral while respecting cultural and heritage values.

4. In those cases where net-zero isn't feasible or practical, designs will be extremely efficient, with the ability to produce or import all energy from renewable energy sources in the future.

5. Advocate and promote socially responsible architecture to the community.

Architecture 2030 recently released Roadmap to Zero Emissions plans to help member organizations meet the goals.

"We have made great strides towards a sustainable built environment, but we still need to advance the industry to make sustainable design the de facto standard for all construction projects," says Helene Combs Dreiling, president of American Institute of Architects.

Over the next 20 years, "an area roughly equal to 60 percent of the total building stock of the world is projected to be built and rebuilt in urban areas worldwide, providing an unprecedented opportunity to set the global building sector on a path to phase out carbon emissions by 2050," the document says.

Architects voted on the 2050 Imperative in advance of the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris, France next year. We want to "send a strong message to the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and to the world, that we are committed to a truly sustainable and equitable future."

California and the EU have passed laws requiring net-zero buildings.

Top image of net zero home by David Dodge/Green Energy Futures via Flickr.

Where are America's greenest buildings?

Published August 08, 2014
Where are America's greenest buildings?

It's no surprise to see Washington, D.C., or San Francisco ranked high in a list of the cities with America's greenest buildings. But Atlanta?

Georgia's capital was the only southern state to make the top 10 in the 2014 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index, released July 15 by Clean Edge. The clean-tech research firm tracks the clean tech progress of the 50 largest metro areas and the 50 states.

"A good deal of Atlanta's performance can be chalked up to the city's green-building requirements, having passed an ordinance that all new city construction and major renovations must be Silver-LEED certified," said Ron Pernick, Clean Edge managing director.

Atlanta knocked out Milwaukee to take over the No. 10 spot in the green building ranking.

The South has been notoriously slow to pursue green technology. But Atlanta is different. This is not the first time the city made Clean Edge's top 10 list. It was No. 8 in 2012, but then dropped to No. 12 in 2013, according to Pernick.

With the exception of Atlanta's re-entry, the green building list showed little change over 2013. Clean Edge attributed the lack of change to the long lead times for new construction.

This year's top spot went to Washington, D.C., driven by efficiency efforts in federal buildings. Boston and Minneapolis also made the top 10. Otherwise the usual suspects, Western cities, dominated the top slots: San Francisco, Denver, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Sacramento. The five cities at the bottom of the green building list were New Orleans, St. Louis, Memphis, Birmingham and Oklahoma City.

Why cities are important

Energy use by cities is gaining increased attention because of the dramatic population growth in metro areas. Cities accounted for almost all U.S. population growth from 2012 to 2013. Worldwide, 7 out of 10 people are expected to live in cities by 2050, up from today's 5 out 10.

Meanwhile, city leaders are increasingly pursuing green energy to attract jobs and meet carbon emissions goals. They are also looking for more control over their power supply, which is contributing to growing interest in microgrids and other forms of decentralized energy.

Green building was just one aspect of the green tech market analyzed in the detailed 49-page report. It also looked at electric vehicles, renewables, patents, policies, investment and other factors that signify progress by cities and states.

Credit: David Gallagher via Flickr

Across all categories, the top three cities were all in California: San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego, which jumped four places. California was the top state for the fifth consecutive year, with Massachusetts and Oregon repeating their No. 2 and No. 3 rankings from the 2013 state index. Vermont and Connecticut moved into the top 10 this year, while Hawaii and Minnesota dropped out.

For overall energy efficiency, California continued with the lowest annual per capita consumption, 6,704 kWh, followed closely by Hawaii with 6,767 kWh. The remaining top states were all in the Northeast, with the exception of No. 9 Alaska.

Other significant findings from this year's report

Colorado, Vermont, Oregon and Washington each exceed 100 LEED projects per million people for the first time.

Eleven states generate more than 10 percent of their electricity from non-hydro renewable energy sources, with two — Iowa and South Dakota — exceeding 25 percent. U.S. solar installations climbed more than 40 percent year-over-year.

Registrations of all-electric vehicles more than doubled from last year to nearly 220,000 nationwide.

At least eight states have more than 50 percent smart-meter market penetration; California leads with 70 percent.

"Net-zero building and energy-storage mandates and new public-private investment vehicles are just a few of the emerging policies that are dramatically shifting the energy landscape," said Clint Wilder, Clean Edge senior editor. "While there have been some regional attacks against clean-tech supportive policies, such as net metering and renewable portfolio standards, for the most part, the clean-tech industry and its allies have successfully fought off such efforts."

This article originally appeared at Learn more about new energy systems at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30. Top image of Atlanta by Jack Kennard via Flickr.

How a 'climate ribbon' will make living in Miami cooler

Published August 01, 2014
How a 'climate ribbon' will make living in Miami cooler

Can a "climate ribbon" replace air conditioning? Visitors to an open air shopping center in Miami soon will find out.

Topping the $1 billion mixed-use Brickell City Centre, which spans four blocks of waterfront, will be a 150,000-square-foot climate ribbon — an enormous overhead trellis made of steel, glass and fabric. It will cover the walkway of the shopping center, where there are open-air shops, escalators, restaurants and terraces.

It will protect visitors from oppressive heat and the odd rain shower by creating a micro-climate that stabilizes the temperature.

And how does that work?

Under the glass is an undulating design that captures cooling ocean trade winds, encouraging air flow, while hanging fabric panels act as huge Venetian blinds—- arranged to block the harshest of the sun's rays. "The orientation of a series of louvers is very specifically designed to protect the shop fronts from direct sun," said Hugh Dutton of Paris-based Hugh Dutton Associés, which participated in developing the design.

The sophisticated environmental management system allows daylight to penetrate — giving visitors the feeling that they are outdoors — and also captures rainwater for reuse at the rate of 5 million gallons a year. In the future, it also may produce solar energy.

It's designed to achieve three benefits: ventilation, so that air conditioning isn't needed in the shopping center's public places; shelter from inclement weather; and solar shading for the hottest times of the day.

But what is it, exactly?

The surface is a dynamic series of flat, inclined planes positioned at variable angles and supported by a steel frame. Positioning is the result of careful analysis of sun paths, wind patterns and the need for a flexible structure.

Credit: Hugh Dutton Associés via Flickr

The slope of each plane allows rainwater to drain easily into multiple storage cisterns for reuse. Water is stored above ground, eliminating the need for electrical pumping when it's distributed. An upper glazed "skin" provides rain protection and acts as a partial filter for solar radiation.

Inside the retail center, a continuous series of dramatic fabric "blades" provides shade. Blades vary in height and angle based on the direction of the sun's rays, while maximizing views of the sky.

This provides a sheltered, but still open-air, environment. The design floods the interior with patterns of light throughout the day.

Toward the eastern end, it gently lifts up to create a "scoop" that captures trade winds in the summer. Other parts of the structure act as deflectors or additional "scoops," ensuring that a flow of air, between 6 and 9 knots in speed, keeps the temperature comfortable throughout the public spaces.

Many partners weaving the ribbon

At a cost of $20 million, it's a collaborative effort among developer Swire Properties, German design firm Gartner (which is building the structure), project architect Arquitectonica, Cardiff University of Wales and Carnegie Mellon.

"From its initial conception, the Climate Ribbon has provided an architectural shade system to protect visitors, so it's gratifying now to see the dynamic evolution of the structure to include so many climate management features," said Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties. "We feel this element will become a distinctive design emblem of Miami and will be reason alone for people to visit and experience Brickell City Centre."

Swire has registered it as a LEED for Neighborhood Development because it's part of a larger project that has residential and commercial elements. The project is an expansion of Brickell, a shorefront development constructed in the 1980s.

Top image of aerial rendering of Brickell CityCentre via Wikimedia under Creative Commons license. This article first appeared at

How the 49ers are upping the game by going green

Published August 01, 2014
How the 49ers are upping the game by going green

Professional sports leagues are not known to be green champions. But that is starting to change. Just recently, the National Hockey League presented its first sustainability report, sizing up its carbon footprint and showing ways to improve it.

When Super Bowl 50 descends onto the Bay Area in 2016, there will be a lot of talk about sustainability, too. In fact, host franchise San Francisco 49ers already praises its brand-new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara as the most technologically advanced venue of its kind and the new standard for green sports arenas in the country.

"When people see our technology in action, they are going to start to ask questions: Why isn't our stadium like this?" said 49ers CEO Jed York at the recent Green Sports Alliance Summit in Santa Clara. "When your fans start asking that, you better deliver what consumers want."

According to him, what the fans want is a greener, more ecologically conscious experience — solar panels on the roof and vegan hot dogs at the concession stands included. Perhaps MetLife Stadium's composting, recycling and renewable energy at the most recent Super Bowl have gotten fans interested.

49ers dig LEED Gold

Besides a 400kW photovoltaic installation and locally sourced food choices, the 49ers' $1.2 billion state-of-the-art facility uses 50 percent less water to keep up the grass and recycles 85 percent of its overall water consumed. Wherever possible, recycled or reclaimed building materials were used and the stadium features a 27,000-square-foot green roof. All of these measures led to a LEED Gold certification, the first for a U.S. sports venue of this magnitude, with seating for nearly 69,000 fans.

"People don't understand that there are a lot of economically feasible ways to build green," York said. "There might not be cost savings at day one, but over the first five years of the building we will save tens of millions of dollars — if not more — from the payback of what we have done in being green and being sustainable. You just have to have that vision. You have to understand that it will pay itself back."

Credit: Jay Peeples via FlickrOther returns of investment might not be that obvious. For example, the Super Bowl 50 host committee jumped at the chance to engage a new kind of sponsor by creating a sustainability category. "Many companies have great sustainability programs nobody has ever heard about," committee CEO and president Keith Bruce said. "We want to drag them out in the open." It is working well, according to Bruce, especially as the lion's share of Super Bowl 50 corporate partners so far are headquartered in the Bay Area.

Getting sustainability into the end zone

What we are seeing is the result of a long process initiated some years ago, said Jack Groh, director of NFL's environmental program: "Specifically, the Olympics had done a fantastic job activating their sponsors around sustainability issues. So we felt we were way behind the curve on that." But while the league was gaining expertise in the sustainability field, it did not mean that its own sustainability champions were allowed a seat at the table when new sponsorships were negotiated.

"The idea that the sustainability idiot was talking to a sponsor was not on anybody's radar for a long time," Bruce said. "They didn't want to take any chances: What is this guy going to say, what is he going to do? Is he going to upset our delicate sponsor relationships?" The only way he finally could secure himself and his colleagues a place at the table was by promising not to ask for money.

So he would talk strictly sustainability issues after looking very closely at the company's sustainability reports. Which then lead to an offer, as Bruce described: "Can you teach us some of the things that you were doing and then we'll find a way to activate that agenda around Super Bowl?" Very gradually, the door for the topic of sustainability started to open.

Bruce is convinced that the paradigm shift will go even further: "Right now things are shifting from an operational disadvantage to a competitive advantage. We believe [sustainability] is a competitive advantage."

York agreed: "If you are not sustainably focused, you are not going to resonate with consumers." And he is convinced that the franchise's example will fuel competition in the league and throughout sports in general. "We hope that we are somebody that is copied. We hope people try to one-up it and get the LEED Platinum."

Top image of football by David Lee via Shutterstock.

GreenWizard speeds green building product research

By Heather Clancy
Published May 22, 2014
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Tags: Building Design, Computers & Electronics, More... Building Design, Computers & Electronics, Materials
GreenWizard speeds green building product research

Figuring out which building products and materials comply with certain environmental certifications and health declarations is a notoriously tedious task. GreenWizard hopes its software will make this research significantly less time consuming.

Over the past five years, the developer methodically has compiled a massive directory that covers 145,000 green building products from about 1,300 manufacturers.

The tool enables architects, engineers and contractors to seek products that fit certain criteria, such as whether they carry Green Seal, Forest Stewardship Council, Cradle to Cradle or other eco-credentials. The software also tracks how these materials might affect a specific green building project's LEED construction status.

GreenWizard's approach apparently is catching on: The company works with seven of the top 15 U.S. design firms and four of the top 10 commercial contractors. So far, the platform has been used to source and evaluate materials for projects valued at more than $23.8 billion.

"GreenWizard acts as the collective wisdom of the green buildings industry, where we are free for manufacturers to load complete product listings, and any user can also search for free," said Adam Bernholz, CEO of the Charleston, S.C.-based company.

There's a subscription, however, for the tools that help manage this information, a process traditionally handled with spreadsheets. Pricing generally ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 for an average firm or about $1,000 for a single seat, he said. Each seat can be used for dozens of projects.

GreenWizard's clients include the likes of Perkins+Wills, Skanska, Turner and ZGF Architects.

"It really allows our folks to become more literate with the idea of materials transparency," said Ed Clark, an associate with ZGF in Seattle. "All this information was squirreled away with individuals before, and now we have a centralized data set."

ZGF's team consults the GreenWizard software on an almost daily basis to help weigh the advantages and cost implications of using one product versus another, maximize water conservation design features or improve the level of daylight spectrum experience by occupants in its buildings. It even uses the information to understand more about design elements or materials for which there are no good "green surrogates," Clark said. "Collectively, as people research aspects, the tool becomes more personalized toward our values."

Previously, the research was undertaken by young professionals in ZGF's five offices. GreenWizard now helps raise the collective awareness of green building progress, Clark said.

Competitors to GreenWizard include EcoScoreCard, which covers about 30,000 products; SWEETS, which covers 20,000; and Autodesk Seek, which includes 65,000 building information management objects.

Building image by ixpert via Shutterstock.



Singapore takes the lead on green building in Asia

By Mike Ives
Published January 23, 2014
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Tags: Architecture & Design, Building Design
Singapore takes the lead on green building in Asia

This article originally appeared at Yale e360.

At street level, 313@somerset looks like any other glittering mall in downtown Singapore. But on closer inspection the eight-story building has skylights, solar panels, energy-saving elevators and escalators, highly efficient air-conditioning units and software that monitors the building’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Across town, a new hotel, Parkroyal on Pickering (pictured left and below), displays its green credentials in the form of an artfully tiered façade dotted with tropical ferns and creeping vines. Along with an efficient cooling system, its green perks include rainwater harvesting, lighting sensors and high-performance window glass and hot water pumps. Entering the wood-paneled lobby, which has a wall of tropical mosses, a visitor is reminded of a rainforest — no matter that the building lies in the heart of the banking capital of Southeast Asia.

These structures underscore Singapore’s commitment to greening its built environment through generous incentive schemes and a building rating tool that encourages such improvements as sun-shading exteriors, water-efficient fittings, computer modeling of energy flows and carbon emissions, and highly efficient air conditioning and ventilation systems. Since the rating tool launched in 2005, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has certified 1,534 new buildings and 215 pre-existing ones. Together they account for more than a fifth of gross floor area in this island city-state, which has a population of 5 million and is roughly half the size of New York City.

"As we become more and more urbanized, we want to make sure our built environment is sustainable," says John Keung, the BCA’s chief executive.

Development specialists agree that promoting green building in Asia has the potential to produce large energy savings and make polluted cities more habitable while partially mitigating the impacts of global warming. The United Nations reports that 40 percent of people in the Asia-Pacific region already live in cities, and by 2050 the figure could reach two-thirds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that in the coming decades, Asian countries will lead increases across the developing world in building-sector emissions from energy use. In China alone, according to the global consultancy McKinsey and Company, the urban population may expand from 572 million in 2005 to 926 million by 2025, requiring the construction of 4 million to 5 million new buildings.

Against this backdrop, Singapore has emerged as a model of green building for planners and developers across much of the Asia-Pacific region, where poor design reigns and developers historically have seen little incentive to invest in sustainability, according to Asia-based architects and sustainability experts. Singapore’s BCA is now marketing its rating tool, Green Mark, as a brand in Southeast Asia, China and parts of tropical Africa — even in countries, such as neighboring Malaysia, where local rating tools offer competing certification systems. Some consultants say the rise of Green Mark is a direct challenge to LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the rating tool of the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED also is expanding in Asia.

In the fight to reduce carbon emissions, the economic boom in Asia underscores the importance — and the limits — of reducing energy use in commercial and residential buildings. Even with Singapore’s aggressive push in the green building sector, non-industrial electricity consumption in Singapore increased by roughly 23 percent from 2005 to 2011. That growth was due largely to robust economic expansion, with Singapore’s GDP doubling during that time. The government aims to achieve a 35 percent reduction [PDF] in the energy intensity of its economy by 2030, which — depending on the rate of economic growth — does not necessarily mean the city-state will be using less electricity overall by that date.

The phrase "green building" suggests basic universal characteristics, such as an attention to energy use and attempts to bring a building in tune with its environment. However, it is also a somewhat fluid concept, and certifiers define green buildings differently in Singapore from the United States or Europe. Notably, Green Mark places a comparatively larger emphasis on installation of technologically intensive cooling units, arguing that reducing energy consumption is essential in a tropical city where air-conditioning represents a large part of electricity demand.

But some experts wonder if Singapore’s approach eventually will encourage an unsustainable dependence on air conditioning as an essential design component. Country-specific rating tools under development in Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, they say, may be more effective at promoting vernacular designs that emphasize passive technologies — such as optimization of shading and ventilation — and a sensitivity to a building's carbon life cycle.

"Ultimately, the goal in these tools is to reduce the (environmental) footprint," says Deo Prasad, a professor of architecture at the University of New South Wales in Australia who has studied sustainable building policies across the Asia-Pacific region. As Green Mark matures, he adds, an open question for Singapore is: "Are you getting hooked into the energy consumption being absolutely necessary for comfort?"

Singapore, which gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, long has styled itself as a "garden city." The city-state was built on swampland that has few energy resources, and its founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, made a point of prioritizing environmental conservation. In 2005, the government extended its hands-on urban development policies to its building sector. The centerpiece of that policy shift was Green Mark, a rating tool modeled partly on LEED guidelines. But unlike LEED, which emerged in the private sector and is based on a flexible set of sustainable design principles, Green Mark was launched by a government agency and designed largely to reduce energy and water consumption.

The BCA markets Green Mark as a win-win for businesses and the environment. A recent study by the government and researchers at the National University of Singapore found that a sample of office buildings designed to meet Green Mark standards shaved about 11.6 percent off total operating expenses on average while boosting a building's capital value by 2.3 percent. The BCA also reports that while new Green Mark buildings typically cost up to 5 percent more, most developers recoup their initial investment within seven years through energy savings. It helps that in 2009 the agency pledged 100 million Singapore dollars, or about $80 million, to landlords over five years to pay for efficiency audits and install energy-efficient cooling units, motion sensors and shading devices.

Singapore-based CapitaLand, Southeast Asia's largest developer, says investments in green building technologies have played a central role in reductions since 2008 of 11.7 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively, in the company’s energy and water consumption, and a 16 percent reduction in its carbon emissions — all for a savings of about $28 million. "Our sustainability objectives are guided by the belief that lowering the environmental footprint of our developments through innovation creates value for our stakeholders," says Tan Seng Chai, CapitaLand's group chief corporate officer.

The BCA says it plans to certify 80 percent of the city’s buildings by 2030, and several consultants say the goal is realistic. However, the BCA has struggled to incentivize efficiency upgrades in existing buildings, and Green Mark's success may slow when its five-year incentive scheme for those buildings ends next year, according to Ng Eng Kiong, president of the Singapore Green Building Council, a consortium of 450 building professionals and suppliers of green products and services.

"In Singapore, everything is driven by the economy," Ng says, and a future economic downturn as serious as the 2008 financial crisis potentially could reverse some of Singapore’s green building gains. The BCA reports that some of the city-state’s older buildings have a lifespan of just 10 to 15 years — a fact that further could deter long-term investments in sustainability.

Energy consultants say Singapore, which sits on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, lately has emerged as a testing ground for ventilation and air-conditioning technologies that Western and Asian manufacturers plan to sell in China and the rest of Asia. Green Mark's success, the consultants add, is also a boon for some local businesses and an encouraging example for neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, that are just beginning to green their building sectors. More than 400 Green Mark-certified buildings exist in Asia and Africa, according to the BCA's John Keung. Officers at four green building associations across Southeast Asia say Green Mark's success partially has influenced how they developed their local rating tools.

However, Green Mark is a system designed exclusively for a prosperous urban metropolis, and it may not be directly applicable in countries with different political systems, environmental conditions and standards of living, say green building experts.

"So if you have a house made out of bamboo, it may be the greenest house ever, but using that particular rating tool, you can't get certified," explains Ar Sarly Adre Sarkum, vice president of the Malaysia Green Building Confederation. With this in mind, a few rating tools have emerged in recent years that attempt to capture country-specific nuances. For example, a new tool in Indonesia pays more attention to a developer's choice of building materials, many of which are typically sourced from within the country.

Sustainability experts say that for the moment it is too early to tell how these local tools will fare, and their success will depend partly on the degree to which local governments offer related incentives to developers. Muiz Murad, CEO of Green Earth Design Solution, an environmental consultancy in Kuala Lumpur, says that in all likelihood there will be a healthy coexistence, with a few developers choosing to certify through both a local and an outside rating system. Green Mark is currently very popular in Brunei, he adds, but in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, the international rating tool of choice is LEED. That, he says, is largely because multinational corporations have internal policies that require them to choose LEED.

Hotel facade image courtesy of Parkroyal on Pickering.



Why GE led a $22M investment round for a smart-building startup

By Marc Gunther
Published October 16, 2012
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Tags: Architecture & Design, Buildings, More... Architecture & Design, Buildings, Entrepreneurship, VERGE
Why GE led a $22M investment round for a smart-building startup

Editor's Note: To learn more about energy-efficient buildings, be sure to check out VERGE@Greenbuild November 12-13.

Ann Hand, the CEO of smart-building startup Project Frog did not begin her career in a green job. As an executive in training with Mobil, she ran gas stations in inner city Philadelphia. “I can tell you about the adjacencies of Kool Menthol and Orange Crush,” she says. She went on to spend about 19 years in the oil industry with ExxonMobil, Amoco and BP, where she lead global marketing around “Beyond Petroleum.”

Now Ann is in charge of Project Frog, a green-business startup which, despite the cutesy name, is serious about shaking up the construction industry. Project Frog aims not only to create better buildings -- buildings that are attractive, energy-efficient and pleasant places to work -- but also to change the way buildings are made. Its structures are “component buildings,” put together from pre-fab kits of parts, shipped by truck and assembled onsite. It’s as if you could buy a building from IKEA.

We’re trying to change the game,” Ann says. “We give people a better-looking building in half the time at the same cost or less.” Better, faster, greener and cheaper is how the company puts it. Which is a whole lot better than just greener.

I met recently with Ann Hand at a clean-tech event in Washington. Project Frog would like to position itself as a technology company, and not as a construction company or an architecture and design firm, although it employs designers, architects and experts in construction. Based in San Francisco, Project Frog has about 35 employees and it has built about 25 buildings, mostly schools, health-care facilities and government buildings.

The company was founded in 2006, and Ann, who is 44, joined as CEO at the end of 2009. Interesting aside: She got the job after meeting Chuck McDermott, a venture capitalist at Rockport Capital Partners, which has invested in Project Frog, at the FORTUNE Brainstorm Green conference.

While Project Frog is small, it has some impressive backers. There’s Rockport, a leading clean tech venture firm based in Boston. And, a year ago, General Electric led a $22 million investment round in the company and bought one of Project Frog’s buildings for its Crotonville learning center.

Photo of Green City. Urban Background. Environment. provided by vectorgirl via Shutterstock

Next page: Cutting costs, boosting quality

Also in The Gunther Report Blog:

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Hearst Tower in NYC, Perkins+Will in Atlanta earn top LEED ratings

By Leslie Guevarra
Published March 07, 2012
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Tags: Building Design, Energy Efficiency, More... Building Design, Energy Efficiency, Retrofits, Standards & Certification, Waste Reduction & Recycling, Water Efficiency & Conservation
Hearst Tower in NYC, Perkins+Will in Atlanta earn top LEED ratings

The Hearst Corporation's striking addition to the New York skyline and Perkins+Will's office on Atlanta's historic main street have earned LEED-Platinum certification, the high level of recognition awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Executives for the companies announced their green building achievements this week. For the Hearst Corporation, news of LEED-Platinum certification comes as the company marks its 125th year in business.

For design firm Perkins+Will, whose building also houses the Museum of Design of Atlanta and a branch of the public library, the certification recognizes not only the firm's green building efforts but also its work to promote community and sustainability in Atlanta for a third of a century.

Hearst Tower

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and Hearst Tower was certified at the LEED-Gold level (the second highest of four designations) as a newly constructed building soon after its completion in 2006. Its new certification, based on LEED standards for the maintenance and operation of existing buildings, is an indication of how well the building is performing and whether it is meeting its design expectations.

Here some stats that support the platinum rating:

More information on Hearst Tower is available here

The Perkins+Will Building in Atlanta

Earning its certification with a score of 95 of a possible 100 baseline points, the Perkins+Will office in Atlanta now claims bragging rights as the top-scoring new construction LEED project in the Northern Hemisphere.

The firm, which has had an office on Atlanta's main thoroughfare for more than 33 years, bought the 1985 building at 1315 Peachtree Street in 2009 and renovated it so extensively that qualified for LEED consideration as new construction.

There's a picture of the building, above, and another, below, of a conference room.

USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi  lauded the retrofitting and repurposing of the building so it accommodates the design firm and two organizations that serve the public. "Perkins+Will has designed a showpiece building," Fedrizzi said in a statement. "1315 Peachtree Street exemplifies the kind of environmentally sustainable measures that can be taken during a building retrofit."

Design elements and efficiencies built into the property cut energy consumption by 58 percent and slash use of municipally supplied potable water by 78 percent. The building features:

Next Page: Office Depot's latest green building project.


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DC Heads USGBC Top 10 List of States with LEED-Rated Buildings

By Leslie Guevarra
Published January 20, 2012
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Tags: Building Design, Buildings, More... Building Design, Buildings, Retrofits, Standards & Certification
DC Heads USGBC Top 10 List of States with LEED-Rated Buildings

The District of Columbia again leads the U.S. Green Building Council's list of states with the highest concentration of LEED-rated buildings per capita based on certifications earned during the past year.

In Washington, D.C., 18,954,022 square feet of commercial and institutional space earned green building certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard in 2011.

That comes to 31.5 square feet per capita, far and away the highest ratio found in the USGBC's tally. Colorado comes in at a distant second with 2.74 square feet of LEED-certified space per capita. Illinois is third on the list with 2.69 square feet of LEED-certified space per capita.

Here is the full list:

The roster was conceived as a list of the Top 10 states for per capita LEED square footage. However, the leader of the pack is not a state, resulting in a list of 11 contenders. Among the states listed, California, Texas and New York had the most square footage certified during 2011.

Washington, D.C., also led the USGBC's first Top 10 List, which was issued last year. The District of Columbia logged 25.15 square feet of certified space per capita in 2010. Coming in next were Nevada with 10.92 square feet per capita and New Mexico with 6.35 square feet per capita.

Although Washington's per capita ratio grew significantly during 2011, a reflection of the government's efforts to green its facilities, the ratios of the states fell, a sign of persisting hard times.

As green building expert and "LEED founding father" Rob Watson noted in his most recent Green Building Market and Impact Report for GreenBiz, sustainable design and retrofits are nevertheless the bright spots for the building industry overall. LEED's reach grew in 2011, albeit more slowly than in previous years. In all, more than 1.7 billion square feet of commercial space has been certified to date.

The chart below from the USGBC shows recent progress.

Photo of Washington, D.C., skyline and Pennsylvania Avenue via Charts courtesy of the USGBC.


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How Companies Can Make Buildings Greener and Better

By Melissa O'Mara and Cam Williams
Published January 20, 2012
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Tags: Buildings, Energy Efficiency, More... Buildings, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Management Systems (EMS), Smarter Buildings, Standards & Certification, VERGE
How Companies Can Make Buildings Greener and Better

The need for global efficiency within buildings – one of the largest generators of greenhouse gases in the world – has been recognized for quite some time.

Over the last several years, our industry has been actively greening both commercial and residential buildings, in order to mitigate the environmental impact of building and managing these structures.

These actions include a wide variety of voluntary programs and evolution of building codes and standards, enabled by technology and interoperability standards and protocols.  In addition to programs aimed at improving building design and construction, there is also a proliferation of building metrics, building labeling, and benchmarking programs, aimed at validating the actual performance of “better buildings.”

All of these combined actions are synergistic, with new ideas, standards and programs emerging every year, as our industry uncovers new strategies and overcomes complex obstacles to whole building performance and lifecycle optimization. 

Though there have been multiple approaches to helping buildings implement practical and measurable solutions, one of the most effective and widely sought-after approaches has been gaining certification through industry standards for energy efficient buildings.

It is essential for companies to be proactive in shaping and implementing voluntary initiatives, code development and standard evolution in order to accelerate the pace and pave the path for high performance green buildings of tomorrow. This is both a business decision and a principled one, but only by practicing what we preach are we able to gain valuable insight into our overall energy management, which when added up, makes a difference in how the whole system works.

Today’s Standards

Perhaps one of the best known green building initiatives is a voluntary certification program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council known as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program. This voluntary program started in 1998 and today consists of nine rating systems in design and construction, development of new buildings, and retrofit and operations of existing buildings. It is a dominant catalyst in both in the U.S. and worldwide with more than 35,000 projects currently participating in the LEED system in 91 countries.

This year, two additional global building initiatives were introduced to the market: the ZigBee Building Automation Standard and the ISO 50001 certification program. These most recent initiatives demonstrate the dynamic nature of the market and the continued need for development of program standards of many different types that help builders and owners translate high performance and sustainable buildings goals into practical and actionable measures on the ground. All three programs meet different needs in the market, but they all have the same goal –helping owners and builders develop energy-efficient buildings.

The ZigBee Building Automation standard, announced just a few months ago, addresses a specific challenge for high performance buildings: how to ensure interoperable, secure, and reliable monitoring and control of building systems. It is the only BACnet-compatible wireless mesh network standard for commercial buildings, is vendor-neutral, and can ultimately be used to help organizations contribute toward LEED credits. BACnet is an ASHRAE, ANSI and ISO standard protocol that enables communication between building automation and control devices independent of service. BACnet’s open and nonproprietary protocol enables easy expansion and integration, and because it began development in 1987, is a widely-deployed system. ZigBee enables new green buildings or retrofit of existing buildings to green buildings by providing pervasive sensing and control in places costly to wire, such as the living space.

Next Page: What companies can do.


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