Higher Education: Truly Embracing Sustainability

Higher Education is perhaps the field which has embraced the realm of sustainability to the fullest.  Colleges/Universities have implemented curriculum, green building policies/procedures, research projects, marketing efforts, recycling programs, and campus wide sustainability efforts.  This seems to have occurred both from the students (grassroots) and from the leadership supporting the efforts resulting in massive culture change.  Higher Education is very competitive and they have found that ‘being green’ can make their campus & school more attractive to the next generation (which is all about the environment and smarter decisions).

Two years ago, The Princeton Review + USGBC teamed up to provide the guide to green colleges and universities.  You can download the latest publication here for free: http://www.princetonreview.com/green_guide_download.aspx

There is a ton of great information on each of the schools and what they have done on their campuses to become more environmentally responsible.  I personally found it pretty cool to find out that my alma mater, Catholic University (Washington, DC) was on the list.

Also an emerging trend on campuses, USGBC Student Groups are popping up all over the country!

Here is a map of the current sanctioned USGBC Student Groups (78 of them to be exact): http://centerforgreenschools.org/main-nav/higher-edu/community/usgbcstudents/findagroup.aspx

This is pretty remarkable for a program that is fairly new (two years old)… The student groups are focusing on campus sustainability initiatives, LEED AP/GA prep courses, local green building tours, research projects, engaging local leaders in green building and more.

Locally here in Central Pennsylvania, we have two official student groups: Penn State & Penn College of Technology

Three other schools have shown interest in the program and are starting the affliation process:  Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), Messiah College and Dickinson College…

Pennsylvania Higher Ed Student Roundtable:

On March 15, 2012 at GreenCon we will be holding a USGBC Student Group Roundtable discussion to share information and resources… we hope you can join us!

More Information:

If you are interested in starting a group at your college/university, here’s how to get started: http://centerforgreenschools.org/usgbcstudentsstart.aspx

If interested, here is a sustainable design competition for those that are either students or young professionals: http://dvgbc.org/sustainable-design-competition

Feel free to share your campus initiatives and green efforts here!


Join us for GREENCon – March 15, 2012 – Messiah College

Early Bird Rate is $40 Until 2/22

Join us for a great conference & expo!

USGBC Central Pennsylvania will be hosting GreenCon – A Green Building Conference & Expo on March 15, 2012 at Messiah College.

The day will feature national and local experts on green building technologies, systems and philosophies.  There will be plenty of opportunities to learn, network and witness sustainability up close and personal as Messiah College gives tours of their numerous green initiatives.  There will be several guest speakers discussing exciting, relevant and innovative topics.  You can earn credential maintenance hours and promote your business through exhibiting or sponsorship.

If you are interested in learning more about this conference, please comment below and I will be happy to send you information regarding registration/exhibiting/sponsoring.

Happy New Year!

The Future of Green Building… The Living Building Challenge

Last month in New York City, I was fortunate to attend the first east coast workshop for the Living Building Challenge. The challenge was created in 2006 by The Cascadia Green Building Council (http://cascadiagbc.org/), one of the three founding chapters and pioneers of the US Green Building Council. The Living Building Challenge has now become part of the Living Futures Institute and has no specific affiliation with LEED. It is a stand alone program that looks to push the boundaries of design, material usage and building efficiency all while focusing on true beauty and being one with nature. I wanted to introduce you to the challenge and give you some insight as to where things are headed in the world of green building.

The Living Building Challenge is exactly that… a serious CHALLENGE. For even the most savvy of green builders and designers it will serve as a formidable foe… The benchmarks are far beyond LEED… Far beyond where any of us think about when it comes to conventional design and construction. This challenge will force you to abandon your comfort zone, your means & methods and think outside of the box. For this, I love the challenge. The challenge has two large hurdles in my mind: Net Zero Water Consumption and Net Zero Energy Consumption.

It is certainly not for everyone. In my estimation, the upfront costs are significant, projecting anywhere from 10-50% more than conventional buildings, but there are virtually no utility costs and you will be among the few, the proud, the pioneers. There is something to be said for being Net Zero both from an efficiency and technology standpoint. It is not easy but just imagine all those dollars saved throughout the lifespan of the building.

There are 7 major Categories within the Living Building Challenge which they call petals. Within each petal category there are imperatives which must be met, 100% in order to receive the petal. If you are able to receive all 7 petals for your building then you will receive the Living Building Challenge Certification. They have just unveiled a lower tier of recognition which is the Petal Recognition for achieving 3 of the petal categories. My impression is this has been well received because of the rigorous and almost impossible demands of all 7 petal categories.

Here are the 7 petals and their imperatives (requirements):

I.) Site

01 – Limits to growth

02 – Urban Agriculture

03 – Habitat/Land exchange

04 – Car Free Living

II.) Water

05 – Net Zero Water

06 – Ecological Water Flow

III.) Energy

07 – Net Zero Energy

Note: No combustion allowed

IV.) Health

08 – Civilized Environment (fresh air and daylight are priorities)

09 – Healthy Air

10 – Biophilia (Reference – http://biomimicryinstitute.org/about-us/what-is-biomimicry.html)

V.) Materials

11 – Red list (DO NOT USE List)

12 – Embodied carbon footprint

13 – Responsible industry

14 – Appropriate Sourcing – FSC Pure, Salvaged or Timber from on site

15 – Conservation + Resource

Note: Only petal which currently requires significant documentation

VI.) Equity

16 – Human Scale + Humane Places

17 – Democracy + Social Justice

18 – Rights to nature – Do not impede others access to natural light, water, etc.

VII.) Beauty

19 – Beauty + Spirit (Nature, delight, joy)

20 – Inspiration + Education

A New Horizon:

I am extremely encouraged by this challenge and the fact that there is someone raising the bar on the design and construction industry. USGBC did this with LEED some 15 years ago. When LEED first arrived, people complained about how hard it was to have 5 different material containers on-site for recycling and how it was impossible to get people to sort their waste. Now it is virtually impossible to find a job that doesn’t recycle its waste. We must continue to push for net zero and challenge people to think outside of the box to get it accomplished. We have a tall task ahead of us and limited resources which are being depleted more every day… let us not forget this.

Photo Of Omega Center, NY

More Information:

For a more in depth look at the Living Building Challenge imperatives/requirements, please go here: https://ilbi.org/lbc/LBC%20Documents/LBC2-0.pdf

For a look at the cost comparison of a living building vs. LEED Gold, please review this extraordinary cost matrix: https://ilbi.org/education/Resources-Documents/Reports-Docs/ProcessDocs/LB_FinancialStudy_Comparison_Matrix.pdf

If you would like a presentation, please contact me for more information and we will be sure to assist you with this.

LEED Credentials: More Valuable Today Than Ever Before…

The Business Case
Clients that are building and renovating today want to do so responsibly and for the least amount of money.  They are beginning to evaluate their building projects not only as long-term investments but they are also taking a closer look at the sustainability of their choices (life-cycle cost analysis, environmental impact, impact on occupant productivity).  They also have employees, customers and shareholders that are all asking “What can we do to be green?”.  Someone with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) credentials can assist in both the evaluation and implementation of green building practices.

The credentials make a clear statement:  I understand and I am committed to building green.


There are two types of credentials available from The Green Building Certification Institute.  LEED Accredited Professional (AP) and LEED Green Associate (GA). These credentials have been established to be somewhat of a clearing house for those working in either the design or construction of green buildings.  Both require a significant amount of material to study and sitting for a third party exam.

Of course, just having the “LEED AP” behind your name doesn’t make you an expert but it does indicate that you have a certain amount of knowledge and experience in LEED.GBCI/USGBC did catch some flack under the old exam (prior to 2009) because you didn’t need any experience to sit for it.  The market was certainly flooded with new LEED AP’s… and the question was raised “Do these LEED AP’s know what they are talking about or did they just memorize the material?”

They have since modified the criteria and to sit for the LEED AP exam now you must have worked on at least one LEED project.  This does somewhat differentiate the candidates although you cannot guarantee the exact level of experience.  For more information on becoming a LEED AP, check out the various handbooks here: http://www.gbci.org/main-nav/professional-credentials/candidate-handbooks.aspx

LEED Green Associate:
For those without the opportunity to work on a LEED Project, GBCI also created the LEED Green Associate exam.  Although the credential may not carry as much weight in the industry as the AP designation, it certainly denotes a level of understanding and commitment for the candidate.  I highly recommend if you have an interest in green building pursuing this credential.  Not only will it allow you a great foundation for your career, it is a great way for anyone to differentiate themselves and gain a competitive edge in this competitive job market.  This would also be a great way for college students to add a critical piece to their resume. For the Green Associate handbook, go here: http://www.gbci.org/Files/Candidate-Handbooks/LEED-Green-Associate.pdf

Credential Maintenance:
For both the LEED AP and the LEED Green Associate professionals there is continuing education required.  Every two years each LEED AP and GA will need to record 30 and 15 hours of continuing education respectively.  A certain number of these hours must be LEED focused.  This encourages the professionals to continually strive for improvement and to validate their credentials on an ongoing basis.  Check with your local USGBC Chapter for seminars, courses and green building tours which can help you with this process.  Here is the credential maintenance handbook: http://www.gbci.org/Files/cmp_guide.pdf

The Ultimate Goal: A Better Finished Product
The more LEED AP’s you can have working on a project the more well rounded the project will be.  Everyone on the team will understand the “rules of the game” per-say.  Every team member whether it be the owners representative, the architect, the mechanical engineer, or the construction manager should understand the synergies of the credits and how each system integrates into the functionality and ultimately the sustainability of the building.

Throughout the design & construction of any project, many variables need to be evaluated: Cost, Quality, Environmental Impact and Life Cycle Analysis.  Each member of the team should be able to speak to these traits given their area of expertise and weigh in accordingly on all critical decisions such as systems, products, design aspects, etc.  Ultimately the goal is to complete a building that in the long run uses the least amount of energy, reduces the impact on the environment and is comfortable for the owner and the building occupants.

Campus Square Building Wins National Award

It was truly a pleasure to be involved in the design and construction process of one of the most sustainable buildings in the region. Campus Square is located in Midtown Harrisburg which has undergone a complete revitalization in the last 5 years.  The revitalization has been the vision of GreenWorks Development and their commitment to responsible development has definitely paid off. Campus Square has gone on to win a USGBC Central Pennsylvania Project Of The Year Award, ABC Keystone Chapter Project of The Year Award and most recently an ABC National Pyramid Award. These are all landmark achievements for this project.

Campus Square is a great example of blending high performance technologies, urban revitalization, flexibility and sustainable building products.

Some of the green building aspects of Campus Square include:

  • Geothermal (Ground Source) Heating & Cooling – 46 Geothermal Wells Under The Building – Designed & Installed by McClure Company
  • 42kw PV Solar Array with battery backup for emergency power – Designed by groSolar and installed by GR Sponaugle
  • White TPO Roofing by Carlisle Syntec Roofing installed by Houck Group
  • Energy Star Windows provided by Pella installed by Wohlsen Construction
  • Over 30% of all the materials used in the building is recycled content
  • Over 40% of materials were made within 500 miles
  • Over 98% of the construction debris was recycled

The Green Center of Central Pennsylvania is located in Campus Square as well. The Green Center is open to the public and teaches people about the various aspects of sustainability.

Here is a great video which tells the story about the building and the transformation of Midtown Harrisburg:

If you have questions or comments, feel free to post them.

Harrisburg Green Living Fair – April 21, 2011

On April 21, 2011, the Green Center of Central PA will be hosting a Green Living Fair for the public. The fair will include exhibitors from many different companies throughout the region that offer green/sustainable services. General Services Administration (GSA) is helping to put this event together in conjunction with GreenWorks Development, PPL and HACC to promote the new courthouse which is planned for construction in 2012.

GSA has been a true leader in the area of sustainability and has even mandated that all of their new construction projects must be LEED Gold or higher. For more information on their sustainable programs (including a revolutionary sustainable facilities tool) visit: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/104462

The federal courthouse to be located at 6th & Riely Streets in Harrisburg will have many sustainable features and will be a great addition to the several green projects which have recently been completed in the area.   It should also give a much needed boost to the economic development in the city of Harrisburg.

The architect for the project is Ennead Architects LLP (formerly Polshek Partnership).

They have a long list of impressive projects including the Frank Sinatra School of The Arts in Queens, NY:

More details for the federal courthouse project can be found here: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/102089

If you are interested in exhibiting at this venue, please contact Julia Knight, Executive Director for The Green Center of Central Pa, at jpknight@hacc.edu.

10 Reasons Why You Should Join the Green Movement…

  1. Further your career – If this is something you are passionate about, then become an expert or attain a credential.  In the area of sustainability, there is a void with regard to experts.  You have an opportunity to fill that void.  If you are in Real Estate, Engineering, Architecture, Construction or Law – I suggest you start here – LEED Green Associate.
  2. Gain a competitive advantage in your industry - Every business is looking for an edge. Green could quite possibly be that competitive advantage your business is looking for.  Whether it is marketability or profitability, green can help your bottom line.  Interface Flor has made it part of their culture and it helps them to stand out amongst competition.
  3. Help the environment – The environment needs us now more than ever.  We have been heading down a treachorous path for centuries and we have become a wasteful society.  We need to change our habits and begin living as if nothing were disposable.
  4. Help future generations – We have limited resources which are rapidly running out:  Fossil Fuels, Land, Water, Trees.  Sustainability is all about the responsible use of what resources we have left.  My goal is for our great-grandchildren to have plenty of each when they grow up.
  5. Gain a sense of purpose – Let’s face it, when people join forces to propel an issue larger than themselves, it can be immensely powerful.  The earth is an amazing place… let’s keep it that way.
  6. Be cool & cutting edge – Green products and technologies are emerging every day.  Connecting with others who are interested in sustainability will ensure that you remain ahead of the curve when it comes to these technologies and their implementation.  Not to mention you may be able to invent your very own green product or technology.
  7. Expand your mind – If you take the time to read and study about environmental related issues, you will be astounded by what you learn and the people which you come across.  Their passion and yearning for knowledge is contageous and it helps you to expand your mind and your outlook on life.
  8. Be a leader – As far as history is concerned.  We are currently at a crossroads… For centuries we have taken from the environment through the use and consumption of materials.  It is time for us to reverse that cycle and begin a more regenerative cycle of living.  One where we give back more than we consume.  You can be a pioneer with this way of thinking/living.
  9. Give back – In order for the green movement to continue, one must teach others what they have learned.  There are several schools and communities out there who would love to hear about ways that they can have a positive impact.  Take what you learn and give back.
  10. Live Healthier – By understanding the products we consume and digging a little deeper,  we can make smarter and healthier decisions.  Check out this great website to help us evaluate various products: http://www.goodguide.com/