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New EPD summaries give a snapshot view of LCA data, but are limited by their document-centric paradigm.

This two-page summary of an EPD is a new format that seeks to make life-cycle assessment-based information easier to use.
Image Credit: UL Environment

Environmental product declarations (EPDs) are, in theory, the answer to our product information prayers. To the extent enabled by the appropriate Product Category Rule (PCR), a product’s EPD discloses environmental life-cycle assessment results including its ingredients and environmental impacts. If that information is validated and certified by a credible third party, so much the better. To better understand how all that works, check out BuildingGreen’s graphical EPD primer (PDF) and our feature article on product transparency (member link).

Current LCA methods are not very helpful for some key issues, such as human health, ecological toxicity, and habitat disruption, so most EPDs wisely omit those categories. Even the information that remains, however—a 20-30 page structured summary of an LCA study that might run 100 pages or more—can easily overwhelm designers and other potential users of all this information.

Brevity to the rescue

In an effort to make the key parts of this information more accessible, UL Environment (ULe) has now unveiled a new two-page “Transparency Brief” that summarizes the LCA results even further.

With AIA 2012 Inside the Beltway, There's No Dodging the Politics

Posted May 17, 2012 1:35 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: AIA Convention

The opening keynote at AIA 2012 dishes up a surprisingly politicized main event but transitions smoothly to end on a high note.

Welcome to AIA 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

A lot of things come to mind when I think about the annual AIA Convention; electoral politics isn't one of them. But today's opening keynote put politics front and center in a variety of ways. And judging by the vibes I felt coming off the standing-room-only crowd, the topic was about as welcome here as it is at Thanksgiving dinner when your crazy uncle (regardless of political persuasion) gets started with his conspiracy theories.

Perhaps the most awkward moment was when Mayor Vincent Gray, after an appropriate and lovely speech about D.C. as "a museum of historical design and a living hub of architectural innovation" couldn't resist the urge to bring up D.C. Statehood—an issue most of the people in the room were unlikely to know or care about (as a former resident of the District, I confess applauding, but I was almost alone).

No designated bike lanes in D.C. last time

Then Earl Blumenauer, Hon. AIA—U.S. Representative from Oregon and member of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus—took the stage to address a topic that's a lot closer to home for architects everywhere: livable cities. Did you know that the last time the AIA Convention was held in D.C., there were no designated bike lanes?

A Visit to the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park

Posted May 16, 2012 10:17 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: AIA Convention

BuildingGreen goes to town! On our way to D.C. for this year's AIA Convention, we stopped in NYC for a tour of the Bank of America tower that took us from the subterranean depths to the highest heights.

For a number of reasons, the Cook+Fox-designed Bank of America tower at One Bryant Park is an object lesson in how difficult it can be to compare the energy performance of buildings that don't fit neatly into a typical category (is it a data center or a commercial office? a lot of both, and it also has its own power plant).

But for four of us from BuildingGreen, today it was mainly a chance to enjoy the company of the people who care for this building—and to listen to them geek out about cogeneration, ice storage, and the importance of light for the well-being of everyone on staff (not just the people in cubicles). I snapped a few shots while we were there.

We got an incredible view from the 49th floor, where our tour began and ended.
Photo Credit: Paula Melton

During our bright and sunny lunch in a Durst Organization conference room on the 49th floor, there was a bit of chatter about the "inverse relationship between daylight and self-loathing," or something along those lines. Unfortunately, of course, the workers who run the cogen plant don't get natural daylighting in their workspace.

But, says Don Winston, P.E., vice president for technical services at Durst (which co-owns the building, along with Bank of America), these workers are not neglected. When asked about lights in maintenance hallways being on 24/7, he told us that these areas are overlighted on purpose. First, there are safety considerations, but there's also "pride of place." Staff members who don't feel like they've been confined to a dungeon or hidden away in a cave feel valued and take pride in their work.

Top Products from the Greenbuild Expo Floor: Part 2

Posted October 26, 2011 1:43 PM by Brent Ehrlich
Related Categories: AIA Convention, GreenSpec Insights
Mem's NaturHemp insulation offers comparable R-values to other batt insulations and is made from rapidly renewable hemp. It is made in Canada, where industrial hemp can be grown legally.

 

More new products from Greenbuild! This week we introduce you to some water-saving fixtures, recycled content products, a residential rainscreen system, and hemp insulation.

A couple weeks after Greenbuild, and we are still looking at products from a productive show.

Major manufacturers have the budgets for large exhibits on the expo floor to show off their latest offerings. I always enjoy these "booths" because the products are usually well tested and ready for market, but if you want to glimpse some of the real innovators in the industry, it is also worth touring the outer perimeter, where the smaller vendors set up shop.

International Green Construction Code: Adoptable, Useable, Enforceable*

Posted May 19, 2011 3:14 PM by Paula Melton
Related Categories: AIA Convention

The IGCC is designed to implement green building on a massive scale--not to replace LEED.

There are many challenges with mandating daylighting within an international code framework. This illustrates one of them: geography plays a huge role in daylighting, but established climate zones do not overlap with daylight availability, so separate zones had to be established.

It's pretty exciting that local and state governments throughout the U.S. are leaping to adopt the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) before the code is even completed. That says a lot.

But as I sat down for Allan Bilka's talk about the code at the AIA Convention last week, one of his first comments said a lot too: "I think we're very far in any of these documents from producing a building that is truly sustainable." Ouch.

Sustaining the Existing Building Stock

Posted March 3, 2009 1:23 PM by Tristan Roberts
Related Categories: AIA Convention
Greening our existing building stock has taken new prominence recently, both as the green building community grapples with the general economic slowdown along with the new construction slowdown, and as we get more real about what it will take for the building sector to slash our carbon emissions. If you're coming to the AIA convention in San Francisco April 29 – May 2, I want to invite you to a workshop I"m involved that will provide a great opportunity to discuss these issues and learn from each other. The session, "Sustaining the Existing Building Stock: The Greatest Challenge of Architecture 2030," is described in the convention program as follows:
7.5 LUs-Intermediate Level The imperatives of Architecture 2030 demand that the environmental footprint of the existing building stock profoundly be transformed.

AIA: Part of the Problem, or Part of the Solution?

Posted May 28, 2008 3:03 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: AIA Convention, Books & Media, Events, Op-Ed, The Industry
In some of the posts I wrote during the recent AIA convention, I was coming down pretty hard on "credit-chasers" in the ranks. (AIA members are required to earn 18 "learning unit" hours annually, with at least eight about health, safety, and/or welfare.) The conferences I typically attend are smaller and more focused than the AIA behemoth, and the people who come to them are eager to wring out every bit of information from the sessions that they can. At AIA, on the other hand, people began streaming out of most of the sessions I attended as soon as it was clear that the presentation was nearly over.

Making vs. Assembling

Posted May 19, 2008 3:46 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: AIA Convention, Events, Nature & Nurture, Op-Ed
I have a huge amount of appreciation and respect for (and some jealousy of) people plying artisan trades, and had a couple good conversations with AIA'08 exhibitors offering that sort of thing. The John Canning Painting & Conservation Studios goes beyond artisan; check out the featured projects on their website. In my capacity as poster boy for the A Little Knowledge Club, we chatted a bit about lime plaster and mortar while I stood in awe of their portfolio.

COTE's Top Ten Green Projects Presentation at AIA'08

Posted May 17, 2008 11:00 AM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: AIA Convention, Awards, Case Studies, Events, LEED
Michael Wentz being interviewed after the presentation
The AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Top Ten Green Projects awards for sustainable design excellence is a big deal, and the nearly hour-and-a-half presentation was standing room only.

Overheard at AIA'08

Posted May 16, 2008 4:19 PM by Mark Piepkorn
Related Categories: AIA Convention, Events, Product Talk
"I kinda liked the expo this year. There seemed to be a lot of stuff." —a guy to another guy
A piece of it. Just a piece.

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