Taxonomy Term en 11482 Hot Topics for Green Gurus Notes from BuildingGreen's breakfast gathering at Greenbuild for partners and Sustainable Design Directors from forward-thinking firms around the U.S.
    Overarching Issues
    Several topics seemed to permeate the conversations among all of the breakfast attendees.
    • Expanding the Reach of Green Design: Many attendees discussed how to get green design skills into the hands of more people in their firm, or how to bring these ideas to their interior designers, or even how to how to make relevant green product information available to their Asian-based design teams.
    • Understanding Building Performance: This topic came up in several forms throughout breakfast. The contexts ranged from defining what metrics to track to how to share project performance information within each firm and among firms. Everyone was interested in learning how to tell when they'd gotten it right.
    • Meeting the Architecture 2030 Challenge: This was the topic that we at BuildingGreen had brought to the breakfast, following pre-breakfast conversations with Charles Brown of sfL+a Architects and Kathy Wardle of Perkins + Will. The topic seemed to resonate on many levels with all of the breakfast attendees.
2008-01-15 n/a 11421 Part 2: Non-chemical water treatment systems It's not all about magnets. Two other nonchemical water treatment systems that have exhibited at Greenbuild for at least the last couple years are worth noting... for one reason or another. During the '06 show in Denver, I spent some time learning about the VRTX—say it "vortex"—sidestream "hydrodynamic cavitation" and filtration system. The company was there again this year. As I understand it (and please do understand that I don't claim to really understand it), it works by blasting two spinning, high-velocity cones of water into each other, which releases high localized heat, creates a strong vacuum, and generally bangs things into each other. A paper assessing an installation at the Ford Motor Company describes it like this:
The VRTX unit consists of a pressure equalizing chamber and a cavitation chamber. Inside the cavitation chamber, nozzles are positioned opposite each other at specific distances, lengths and angles. Water is pumped into the pressure-equalizing chamber at ~94 psig and then channeled into the cavitation chamber. Inside the cavitation chamber, water is forced to rotate at high velocities through the nozzles. The rotation creates a high vacuum (~ -28.5 mm Hg). The high vacuum causes micro-sized bubbles to form and grow in the water streams. The water streams in the nozzles are greatly accelerated and rotate in opposite directions. Upon exiting each nozzle, the opposing streams collide at the mid-point of the cavitation chamber where the pressure increases dramatically causing the spontaneous implosion of the micro-bubbles.
The process is claimed to induce calcium to precipitate; suck dissolved C02 out of the water, which drives up the pH, helping control scale and kill bacteria; and physically rupture the cell walls of microorganisms. Scale and biofouling prevention without chemicals, and potentially saving a lot of water through significant blowdown reduction. It's been on the market for 10, 15 years. The website has the usual compelling case histories—but, like the magnetic systems, statements are made without detailed hooks to hang the science on. (Doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't work.) Could be that it's more info than most people want... but some of us are curious that way. The company may have additional technical literature; I'm planning to ask. One striking thing about VRTX is that they provide a service package and performance contract emulating the ones that the chemical industry offers. For a fixed monthly fee, the company will provide and install their treatment and filtration system, do monthly service and water analysis, monitor bacteria, deploy corrosion coupons, and more.

And then there's—oh boy—Natural Technologies, Inc. If you've been looking for something to flip your wig, dig into this. I'm doing my level best to keep an open mind, but this is a toughie. From the manufacturer's website:
Treatment involves passing the subject water through or around the GRANDER® Technology equipment. The equipment contains sealed chambers of water that has already been placed into a coherent, highly ordered molecular condition at the manufacturing facility in Austria. Acting as a singular system, this water develops a physical field that Johann Grander describes as positive information. When the subject water comes into contact with the information field, the properties of the field are conveyed to the water through molecular resonance. Through interactions within the information field, the degree of correlation, or coherence, within the subject water is increased and the water's molecular structure is improved.
Basically, a sealed vial of magic water (from Austria, not Lourdes) is placed in the flow path. Energy fields emitted by the vial transform the process water into a self-healing state. No electricity, no magnets, no chemicals, lasts forever. (Well, they suggest an expected lifespan of 15 years—but then add, "The life span of a unit will believably continue to lengthen as the GRANDER® Technology continues to grow in the marketplace." Please tell me I'm misinterpreting that.) Yes, they have case studies. Of course they do. I asked them at the show to send me technical literature, but haven't received anything yet. I suspect, if something comes, that it will be this brochure.
2007-11-20 n/a 11424 Non-chemical water treatment systems Sometimes it's hard to suspend disbelief enough to make an unbiased judgement about a product, particularly when it's from an industry with a history of charlatanry, if not outright chicanery. For instance, chemical-free water treatment—which most people associate with sticking a speaker magnet on a pipe under the kitchen sink. The systems I'm talking about, though, are industrial-sized... used for cooling towers, boilers in big buildings, even large fountains. There were a small handful of companies offering such non-chemical systems exhibiting at this year's Greenbuild. At least three of them use advanced magnetics for at least part of the system, and that's a giant hurdle for a lot (probably most) specifying engineers and prospective clients to get past. A couple years ago, Clearwater Systems submitted their pulsed-electromagnetic Dolphin system to be considered for GreenSpec. They had case studies—impressive ones from large multinational corporations—but it's not enough for us for manufacturers (or their clients) to just say something works. We want to understand and verify the science, particularly for a product like this. To our surprise, after spending entirely too much time chasing down both the rudiments and the details of things like cellular electroporation, methods of coagulation induction, and ways to do cold pasteurization, along with interviewing hydronic engineers, plant managers, and detractors from the chemical water treatment industry, there seemed to be merit left over when all was said and done. See the Environmental Building News product review, "Non-Chemical Water Treatment for Cooling Towers." Long story short, the Dolphin is listed in GreenSpec as a nonchemical alternative where water conditions are appropriate. At Greenbuild, I learned that Evapco, which manufactures evaporative condensers and cooling towers, has introduced a remarkably similar system. Seems like a company that makes evaporative cooling systems wouldn't involve itself with a component that could screw up its mainstay. A similar product listed in GreenSpec (approved on the heels of the Dolphin) that exhibited at Greenbuild is the Superior Water Conditioner system, which uses fixed magnets with overlapping, reversed poles to induce calcium carbonate to precipitate. It was helpful in our deliberations that it had already been found effective for scale control in an ASHRAE 2002 research project. These products are not appropriate for all conditions. They have to be engineered. They are not one-size-fits-all. A monitoring and maintenance package should be included. This is a developing industry; you have to do your homework and make your wisest choice—no different than going the chemical route. 2007-11-15 n/a 11426 Some of the other as-it-happened Greenbuild 2007 coverage around the web 2007-11-14 n/a 11429 Community Leader Gail Lindsey Mark posted earlier about David Eisenberg and his organization, DCAT, getting USGBC's Organization Excellence Leadership Award at Greenbuild 2007. David has certainly been a great friend and mentor to many of us here at BuildingGreen. Personally, I have to say that no one has had more impact on my career in green building than Gail Lindsey (except, of course, BuildingGreen's fearless leader Alex). You can see a summary of her achievements in this online bio (PDF format). Gail was recognized by USGBC for her role in creating Community, which is certainly apt. She has an amazing ability to make connections—between people, ideas, projects, you name it—everywhere she goes. In conversations about specific projects, whenever there is the suggestion that a choice has to be made between two competing possibilities, Gail speaks up as the "And Police"—not "this OR that" she says, but "this AND that". Nothing can be excluded in her holistic view of the world. Another favorite inside joke is that when Gail is involved in structuring a document or event you always end up with five categories, no more and no less. Ever wonder why LEED has five topic areas? Because Gail was involved when LEED transitioned from an alphabetical list of credits to its current category structure. Gail's influence on BuildingGreen, and on me in particular, has been nothing short of profound. She was one of EBN's original advisory board members. She came to us when some defense contractors brought her a half-baked software tool in need of resuscitation, and worked with us (and with CREST) to create the Green Building Advisor. The case studies that she developed (with our input) for that tool became the basis for our work (again, with her help) on U.S. DOE's High Performance Buildings Database. And later on, when DOE asked us to manage AIA's Top Ten Green Projects competition using that database, we realized that AIA's competition was also Gail's baby, from her years as chair of the Committee on the Environment in the mid 1990s. As if that wasn't enough, it was Gail who recruited me in 2001 to chair the Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group for what we thought at the time was LEED version 3. I'm still trying to extricate myself from that role, having engaged with the development of LEED for New Construction versions 2.1 and 2.2, LEED for Core and Shell, LEED for Commercial Interiors, LEED for Existing Buildings, and a handful of other rating systems, before "LEED 3.0" was officially retired in favor of the new LEED Bookshelf nomenclature. Gail was also central to a project that I worked on for GSA called Expanding Our Approach, based Bill Reed's vision and the amazing synthesis skills of John Boecker and Joel Ann Todd, and she brought me into the Green Building Challenge initiative, through which I was able to travel to Vancouver, Maastricht, and Tokyo to participate in Sustainable Building Conferences. But perhaps most amazing of all is the fact that I'm not unique in this debt I owe to Gail. She's had this kind of influence on lots of people! Maybe we should form a club. 2007-11-13 n/a 11431 Running with the Big Dogs — at Greenbuild and Beyond In a brilliantly cruel stroke of scheduling irony, the morning after our party with the GreenSource folks at the Funky Buddha, we held a breakfast for our BuildingGreen Suite firm-wide subscribers: organizations that have an account for every person in their operation. It was some heady company to be in, with movers and shakers from the likes of Gensler, HOK, Perkins + Will, William McDonough + Partners, Sasaki, Rocky Mountain Institute, Mithun, and SmithGroup, among several others.

We don't buy these folks breakfast once a year at Greenbuild just to honor them. These are the best and brightest: Knowing what's on their minds, and what their professional information needs are, helps us help them. Plus, it's so much fun to talk with people who are at the top of their game. For more information about firm-wide subscriptions, email our Network Accounts Manager, .

Oh—did I mention the view?

2007-11-12 n/a 11432 Thoughts From Chicago I haven't yet posted from Greenbuild, mostly because this was my first time at the conference, and it took most of my mental energy just to sort through the experience of 22,000 people and all of the information I was taking in. Not posting, however, has given me some space to start thinking about some of the big-picture themes of the conference. The most striking is the influence of social justice and social movements on green building, and vice versa. Social justice is, of course, the third leg of the triple-bottom-line stool. Without it, even the greenest and most economically successful buildings have failed to live up to their full potential. Buildings can be powerful tools for social change: mixed-income housing, high-performance schools, and even office buildings can change the way people interact with their environment and with one another. It felt at Greenbuild like the architecture community was being challenged (often by younger conference attendees) to think beyond the energy performance of the building, beyond its implications for stormwater runoff, and beyond indoor air quality to something much bigger. Several sessions I attended tackled the idea that buildings can be catalysts for social change. In one session, for example, the group was talking about how cohousing and intentional communities such as eco-villages can change behaviors in their residents, making it easier for them to make green choices, and often making those choices more affordable. Paul Hawken, too, spoke about the connection between the social and environmental movements. I was a little too enthralled to take good notes, but to paraphrase, he was talking about how we can no longer think about buildings as doing less harm to the environment and to society, but we must think about buildings as regenerative. The Living Buildings Challenge is leading us in this direction, and many of the projects I've seen designed to achieve certification through that program have strong social elements, extending the vision of what a building can do to include social equality, food production, community creation, and other aspects of social justice. Buildings do not exist solely to be energy efficient or water efficient or even beautiful. Buildings exist primarily to serve human needs. Those needs extend beyond daylighting or good indoor air quality. Human needs are often less tangible and impossible to capture in even the best codes, standards, and rating systems. But there are examples for us to follow: Folsom/Dore Apartments in San Francisco, Oleson Woods housing in Portland, Oregon, and many others. We all want to create buildings that save the planet. It seems like it's time to think about buildings that save the world, too. 2007-11-09 n/a 11433 Alex Wilson on Water Conservation at Greenbuild While there were lots of highlights at Greenbuild, the only way I can really be productive at such a big conference is to narrow my focus. I'm researching water conservation and water efficiency for an upcoming EBN feature article, and I made great progress on that in Chicago. First, there was doubtless lots of water saved here by not having drinking water readily available. The water jugs were often empty (and even when they still had some water in them, I have a hard time using those high-density polystyrene cups so I would go looking for a drinking fountain and usually get into a conversation before finding one)—so there was doubtless a bit of water savings here! At least there were none of those PET water bottles in the conference facility! Rachel Navaro and I had great conversations with water efficiency experts John Koeller of Yorba Linda, California and Bill Hoffman of Austin, Texas before their presentations Thursday afternoon. In the conversation with John we were joined by Mary Ann Dickinson, executive director of the brand-new Alliance for Water Efficiency (based here in Chicago). AWE opened its doors this summer as the first and only national organization focused on water conservation and water efficiency. You'll be hearing more about AWE in the forthcoming feature article. There were also lots of water-conserving products exhibited on the huge exhibit floor. Unfortunately, my available time in the expo was limited, but I did get a chance to visit with the manufacturers of several cool water-saving products. Some highlights: Sloan Valve Company's new eighth-gallon urinal was rolled out, as was their AQUS graywater system that collects wastewater from a sink and sends it to the fill-valve of a toilet next to it. And I finally got a chance to learn from the founder and president of EcoTech Water about their retrofit non-liquid check-valve for waterless urinals, their new 0.8-gallon pressure-assist toilet, and really interesting work they have been doing on air conditioning condensate recovery—that is enabling some buildings to almost disconnect the water-supply lines into the buildings. I still have lots more to learn and would love input to hear from anybody reading that knows about innovative incentives and regulations to encourage water efficiency and water conservation—things like retrofit-on-rebate and demand-offset programs. Send comments to 2007-11-09 n/a 11434 Does Wind Power Increase Carbon Emissions? I wrote earlier today about grumbling at a Greenbuild session on life-cycle assessment, and I assigned the blame to bad news delivered by Stanley Rhodes of Scientific Certification Systems. The biggest shocker might have been Stanley's analysis that a given unit of electricity produced by wind resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions compared with a unit of electricity produced by traditional fossil fuels (unfortunately he did not name the specific wind project analyzed). Because wind begins and ends abruptly and unpredictably, it delivers a fluctuating amount of electricity. Power companies therefore need to be prepared to spike the power grid with electricity from conventional power plants like those using natural gas. These plants need to be on "hot standby" to be ready for this spike, which is an inefficient way for them to operate, hence resulting in increased emissions, according to the analysis. If this is true, why would any power company use wind power? One answer would be renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain percentage of power from renewable sources. Another is customers who buy wind credits to "green their electricity" (discussed in the EBN feature article "Greening Your Electricity"). But I bet there's a lot more to this story. 2007-11-09 n/a 11435 Not Grumbling About Life-Cycle Assessment Based on some of the audience Q&A I think that much of the audience left grumbling after Thursday's session, "Demystifying Sustainability: A Life-Cycle Perspective," convened by the energetic Meredith Elbaum of Sasaki, with Stanley Rhodes of Scientific Certification Systems speaking along with Nancy Harrod of Sasaki and Melissa Vernon of InterfaceFlor. I put Stanley's name first because I think he was the source of the grumbling. At a conference where "Was the session inspiring?" is one of the questions asked by the educational session evaluation form, Stanley made pointed criticisms of LEED and registered alarm about consequences of carbon emissions, like oceanic acidification (he polled the audience on its awareness of this issue—which was lacking, so here's a great LA Times article on the issue). But I found Stanley's presentation exciting. He recommended the use of Environmental Performance Declarations, which have been compared to a "nutrition facts" label for building materials, buildings, electricity, or any other product with an environmental impact. Just as the nutrition facts label analyzes the nutrition of a food item, so could similar labels list impacts in numerous categories in a product's life cycle, such as greenhouse gas emissions, human health impacts, cost, durability, disposal issues, etc. Here's an example of an actual carpet sample. Stanley argued that life-cycle assessment is the best way to comprehensively understand a product's environmental performance. (For more on this topic check out the EBN feature Life-Cycle Assessment for Buildings: Seeking the Holy Grail.) I've been skeptical of this approach because it takes considerable time and expertise to understand the results of such an analysis. But Stanley introduced a variation on the nutrition facts label that shows at a glance, with a color coded bar chart, how a product stacks up against others in the same category. In this way the comparison to the nutrition label is not a good one, because that label does not offer an instant comparison (and the nutritional data isn't suited to it). Life-cycle assessment can reveal bad news (leaving people grumbling) but we need to know the true impacts of products in order to reduce them. Look for more on understanding green product certifications and the role of life-cycle assessment in the next EBN. 2007-11-09 n/a 11436 Greenbuild '07: almost done, though I'm not Though Greenbuild '07 wraps up soon (and checkout time at my hotel is at noon), I've still got a number of things to report. There will be additional Greenbuild-related posts in the coming days about products, happenings, and a probably a slight meander about social and professional hierarchies. It will be nice to have a little more time to think—a little less immediacy, a little more research, a little more sleep, a little less frenzy—but I've had a blast this week. I'm surprised that people started finding Live as quickly as they did—we gave it about the softest launch imaginable. A few people apparently stopped at our booth and said they'd stumbled across it via the BuildingGreen home page (which is the only link in) and started following it. And Timothy Latz over at the Best Green Blogs aggregator rolled us into his service on Monday or Tuesday. During the more sane times coming, I imagine there will be less frequent, and more content-rich, posts. Along with a certain amount of irreverence and goofiness. 2007-11-09 n/a 11437 The shoes of Greenbuild To follow up on another reader comment, apparent fetishist Matthew suggested that "a fun report might be documenting the types of shoes people are wearing"—so I spent a little time shoe-gazing last night at the Leadership Awards celebration in the Merchandise Mart. Shiny black shoes were The Thing for both sexes. Some of the women had pointy-toed affairs, a couple of them almost elfin in structure; mostly spike heels, not wide heels or flats. For guys, mostly tapered with a flattened nose; laced, not loafers. Leather, pleather, vinyl, imported, domestic... what do I know about shoes? I figured I'd come off as more than a little creepy if I started asking, and since I do have some measure of decorum (believe it or not), I didn't. I hope this has helped somehow. It actually was kind of fun. I'm open to additional suggestions. 2007-11-09 n/a 11438 Building Energy Analysis plugin for SketchUp In the comments on another post, Neil Finlayson of Greenspace Research over in the UK asked if I'd greet James Morrison "(all the way from Scotland)" at the Green Building Studio booth. I don't know either of these guys, and being just another dopey 'Murrican suspicious of all foreign hooligans, knew that something nefarious was afoot and that I would be taking a great risk with my health and safety to agree to this foolhardiness... but I tracked down that randy Scotsman anyway. He had infiltrated the booth of California-based (my fellow Americans) Green Building Studio, which offers time-saving web-based, 3D-CAD/BIM-integrated whole building energy analysis for any type of structure, as well as more conventional engineering consultation and service. But, darn it all, what most intrigued me was a SketchUp plugin by those scary foreigners, Greenspace Research, that Green Building Studio offers as part of their services. Called "Demeter," it can import gbXML models from Revit and Archicad, then spit out an editable SketchUp model with energy lifecycle cost and carbon footprint information. (I don't have any knowledge about the level of complexity and detail entailed in their process; something to inquire about.) Check out the demo. This also seems like it could also be a good way to generate user-friendly visual models incorporating energy and environmental information that those certain clients—you know the ones—can look at and maybe monkey around with some on their own computer. (Though that might be opening a can of worms you'll curse me for...) 2007-11-09 n/a 11441 More Plenary Tales The prospect of getting into today's plenary by Paul Hawken isn't looking good for me. The lines are about as long as they were for Clinton yesterday, probably because all the people who were standing in the registration line then are available now to stand in this one. It gets darker. There's a local-chapter guy walking up and down the line announcing that it's a ticketed event—"if you don't have a ticket, you're not getting in." A ticket wasn't included in the press registration, of course. There's also no press entrance this time, and no press pen, according to the woman standing watch at the staff entrance. I'm actually OK with not getting in, except for one thing: my friend is getting a Leadership Award, and I'd like to be able to see him get it. It's my understanding that the awards will be given out at this plenary, and then celebrated tonight at the Merchandise Mart party. Maybe out of spite, here's another scoop (like the Top-10 post) that you get to find out here, before the people in there find out: David Eisenberg, director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology, is getting an Organization Excellence leadership award. And it's about time! Scuttlebutt has it that he received the most nominations of this year's recipients. I was one of the many who nominated him. I wrote:
David's work toward the greening of building codes over the past dozen years was recently recognized by the ICC, which named him and his organization as 2007 Affiliate of the Year. His work was previously honored with an invitation to contribute a regular column in the ICBO's Building Standards magazine, and later in ICC's Building Safety Journal. He has served on the Board of Directors of the USGBC, and chaired the USGBC's "Greening of the Codes" Committee. He has reached thousands of code officials through his work, creating positive, lasting change of real magnitude. "The Development Center for Appropriate Technology works to enhance the health of the planet and our communities by promoting a shift to sustainable construction and development through leadership, strategic relationships, and education."
And that doesn't even come close to saying the half of it. The most important things I've learned from David over the years are all about building, but don't necessarily have anything to do with building buildings.

David in the Exhibition Hall, yesterday.
I'm going to go see if I can sneak in, or find somebody with an unused ticket.
Argh. I went back to the Staff Entrance. There was a different person at the door. "Yes, this is the press entrance; sit on the left." Simple as that. This will be a much better world once everybody learns not to make definitive statements when they don't actually know what they're talking about. (I mean that in the most broad way possible, and include myself.) And so I'm in again. I came in while a pre-speaker speaker was exhorting powerfully to change the world with green building. Now somebody from Adobe is talking about the goodness of green building. A video clip of a little girl explaining why she likes to attend a green school. All of these things are important to hear, and hear again... but more important, some people are hearing them for the first time. Patience is a virtue. Sadly, I'm not always virtuous. You could, in theory, be watching this live at I wonder if I missed the awards. I think I might have. Sorry about that scoop thing.
2007-11-08 n/a 11442 UTC Power's Hydrogen Bus UTC Power, (the fuel cell folks), brought a hydrogen bus to Greenbuild and are giving people rides around the block.

There's only a few of these prototypes on the road. While I'm sure the company would like to make more, the viability of a hydrogen economy is dubious, according to many. What's a bus have to do with green building? Lots.
2007-11-08 n/a 11443 BuildingGreen's Top-10 products, 2007 Alex Wilson is about to begin the session presenting the Top-10 products added to GreenSpec and/or reviewed in Environmental Building News over the past year... and because I can, vested by the power of the internet, these are them, just for you, even before the standing-room-only crowd of a couple hundred here in the room gets to see them. (Only a few minutes before, but there's bragging rights involved.)

Read all the details in the press release!

Update—a view of the session, now underway:
2007-11-08 n/a 11444 BuildingGreen party at Greenbuild Last night we and the GreenSource folks had an intimate, half-crazed private party for 350 invited green builders at the Funky Buddha—a curious and amazing place of several connected rooms filled with murals, sculpture, candles, conversation niches, and atmosphere. Drinks and laughter were the order of the evening. It turns out that I'm not as young as I used to be. Here's a short slideshow of dark, grainy images One unexpected thing about this place is that one of the rooms has extensive sculpted cob seating and ornament. "Cob" is an old European term for what basically amounts to monolithic adobe. There are oodles of historic, occupied, centuries-old cob houses in Devon, England, and it's enjoying popularity in the U.S. thanks to the Cob Cottage Company in Oregon. My wife is a cobber. 2007-11-08 n/a 11446 Forest Certification Stakeholder Forum Tuesday afternoon the Materials & Resources Technical Advisory Group (MR-TAG) for LEED hosted a public session for stakeholder input into the ongoing process of reevaluating LEED's certified wood and biobased products credits (see EBN Vol 15, No. 6). The MR-TAG, which I chair, had commissioned a team from Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and Sylvatica to provide background research and tools to support the decision-making process. The Yale team posted its reports for expert review in mid-September, and stakeholders were invited to this forum to sound off about those documents before the MR-TAG uses them to form its recommendations. Ben Cashore, Director of the Yale Program on Forest Policy and Governance, set a nice tone for the event by inviting participants to "surprise us" by saying something that wasn't entirely predictable based on their established, entrenched positions. That didn't happen. Instead, representatives of each of the four forest certification programs active in North America each stated their position more or less eloquently. Most of what was said had already been submitted in writing, but we all have different learning styles, and I have to admit that hearing the arguments in person gave me a different perspective on a few points. After a break, the format went to open mike, and anyone could get up and talk. A diverse string of speakers, each got up to make the case for his or her desired outcome from the process. Among them were people from businesses large and small that have a lot at stake. Surprisingly, even though there were over 100 people in the room, only about a dozen signed up to speak, so the forum wound up a little early. Now my job is to coordinate the MR-TAG's work, supported by the Yale team and USGBC staff, to decide what changes to the LEED credit language—if any—to recommend. If all goes well, and if changes are deemed appropriate, proposed language should go out for public comment in by early Spring of 2008. 2007-11-07 n/a 11447 Waiting for Bill Well, I'm in—standing at the back of an auditorium that seats 6,000... at an event that does seem to me now like it will exceed 20,000 attendees. The registration lines this morning were astonishing, a mythical beast with multiple tails snaking up and down the expansive corridors of this sprawling structure. I tried to take pictures, but it was one of those scenes that a lens just can't convey. The west end of the third floor of the facility was choked this morning with people waiting for the auditorium to open. I knew I wasn't going to get in, but the breakfast buffet was on the other side of all those people. I managed to find a back way around the throng by going down two floors, and after finding six escalators that were all going the wrong way (on purpose, I'm sure), discovered an elevator off in a corner that took me right to breakfast... and to the far doors to the auditorium. (I was just booted from where I was standing, which was a pretty good spot. I could have stayed if I was registered as Press. "Wait a sec," you say, "I thought..." Yeah, me too. It turns out that the badge they gave me doesn't have the press ribbon attached—doesn't give any sort of indication anywhere about what I might be—so as far as the local-chapter USGBC goons [an attractive and apologetic blonde woman] are concerned, I ain't nothin'. Heads probably oughtta roll, but I probably don't have a big enough lens on my camera to be taken seriously. And now that I'm over here in the rising mists on one distant side of this hangar, I really need some of that big glass.) The preliminary speakers have started... self-congratulations, awards, sweeping statements, slick video clips. Spontaneous, though polite-sounding, applause. Surprisingly, there are scattered seats available, and people are still filtering in. Greenbuild old-timers know that the pre-speaker speakers do gas on, even though their time in the spotlight is usually deserved. Aldo Leopold's daughter is here; Rick Fredrizzi's mom is here. Home Depot is (again this year) honored for stepping up (hopefully it starts inspiring them to really step up). Autodesk's efforts in building information modeling. Affordable green housing. Transportation issues. More prisons are LEED certified than K-12 schools. Greenbuild(365) is broadcasting this session as we speak; I'm trying to connect, and hoping you're having better luck than me. The room has a half-second echo. It's been over an hour. A few people are starting to leave.

And then...

2007-11-07 n/a 11449 Greenbuild booth swag, part 2 This may not count as booth swag either; it's just a paper handout from the EcoLogo people called The Six Sins of Greenwashing. I can't find it online (not this version, anyway), so I'm going to type it in arduously by hand... I think it's worth the effort.
Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
Focusing consumer attention on a single environmental attribute such as recycled content while ignoring additional important environmental issues such as toxics content or the impacts of the manufacturing process. Example: Paper products focusing only on recycled content and ignoring the significant impacts of the paper bleaching and manufacturing process. Sin of No Proof
Being unable or unwilling to provide proof of an environmental claim. Example: Manufacturers being unable or unwilling to provide proof of post-consumer recycled content or claims that their products do not contain any hazardous materials. Sin of Vagueness
Making broad, poorly defined environmental claims that are essentially meaningless. Example: Products claiming to be "chemical free" but even water is a chemical. Or products claiming to be 100% natural when lots of naturally occurring substances are hazardous (e.g., arsenic, formaldehyde, and hemlock). Sin of Irrelevance
Making an accurate statement that is unimportant and unhelpful for consumers seeking more environmentally responsible products. Example: Products claiming to be CFC-free even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago, or biodegradable garbage bags even though it would take thousands or years for them to degrade in a modern landfill. Sin of Fibbing
Making a blatantly false or misleading claim. Example: Products falsely claiming to be EcoLogo certified or to meet the Energy Star standard. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils
Claiming environmental benefits for products that are actually harmful or that pose significant environmental challenges. Example: Organic cigarettes.
The list appears to be based on this more thorough one—but that's OK: the author, Scot Case, works for the organization that manages the EcoLogo program.
2007-11-07 n/a 11450 Friends of Bill Bill Clinton's keynote is this morning, and it's likely to be a madhouse. There are 13,000 pre-registrants for Greenbuild this year. In past years, up to 40% of attendees registered on-site. Yesterday morning at Member Day, USGBC honcho Rick Fedrizzi said that he expects 25,000 people. "My staff cringes every time I say that number," he joked, going on after the briefest pause to explain that "there isn't enough yogurt." I'm not sure that's the reason his staff is cringing; 25,000 is optimistic by any standard. He's a shoot-for-the-moon kinda guy, though—and he just might end up being right. He's had outlandish predictions come true before. Chances are good that I'm not going to be in the auditorium for Clinton's speech—I'm registered for Greenbuild as Press, and there are some rules and limitations to that... including Only One Press Person Per Organization Can Attend The Clinton Keynote. Of the dozen of us BuildingGreen folks here this year, I'm one of three with a press pass. That said, I may find my way in anyway. I do that sort of thing sometimes. If I get caught, I'll watch it from the Press Room, or maybe from jail, on closed-circuit. And you can do pretty much the same: hop over to GreenBuild(365) and watch it live! Though there's nothing there yet that I can find, there will at some point also be stories from Greenbuild on the gb.07 journal: "Two USGBC staffers are on your source for what's happening on the ground. They'll be sharing what they find, and a few things they didn't expect. Lauren Kuritz will be taking the unstructured route of a first-timer and attending as many different types of sessions as she can. Doug Smeath will remain focused on his role as writer for, and will concentrate his journal entries on sessions concerning green homes. Check back often for updates on the excitement in Chicago." 2007-11-07 n/a 11451 USGBC Educator Summit I attended the USGBC Educator Summit this morning with a great group of green design educators. The opening speaker was Rachel Gutter, manager of the LEED for Schools program I believe. Rachel told us that children, especially the children at green schools, are "Sustainability Natives" while we are all "Sustainability Immigrants." She says that we all have to remind ourselves to do such things as bring a to-go cup to the coffee shop or ask for no bag at the store, while it is second nature to these children. Jim Wasley from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee spoke about the Society of Building Science Educators Carbon Neutral Studio initiative. Basically, a bunch of really wonderful and intelligent architecture studio professors are sharing resources to design a carbon neutral design curriculum. Their goal is to achieve the goals of the 2010 Imperative, I am really excited to see what comes out of this. Jim showed a great slide put together by Ted Shelton from University of Tennessee of the carbon footprints that they calculated for a group of models. These are the designers of tomorrow, and I am really excited to how they influence the design world. The final speaker was Forrest Meggers, an architecture student in Switzerland with a BS and MS in mechanical engineering. I was happy to know that I wasn't the only one in the room with a BS in engineering, but unfortunately my electrical engineering background didn't go enough into thermodynamics and one of his topics: exergy. He explained that exergy takes into account the quality of energy, not just the quantity. He explained just enough to grab my attention and I have been pondering it all day. 2007-11-07 n/a 11452 Greenbuild booth swag, part 1 We may already have a winner for the best, smartest booth swag at Greenbuild '07: the "rethink the dress code—CLO.08" t-shirt from Big Ass Fans. Technically, these shirts may not be booth swag, since they 'cost' the very special Greenbuild price of a one-dollar donation—which funds are met in kind by the Big Assers and used to support ASHRAE Research on Standard 55: Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. CLO.08? It's the thermal insulation value of a t-shirt as defined by ASHRAE. Still don't get it? Yeah, I wasn't a big enough geek to figure it out either... but now I'm in the club, and you can be too. I'm going to quote straight from their website for the explanation, because I couldn't possibly say it any better than they have:
LOSE THE TIE. TOSS THE JACKET. DROP THE TROUSERS. Okay, keep your pants on. But do take it all off right down to your clo.08 (the clothing thermal comfort value of a t-shirt). Big Ass Fans knows that dressing appropriately for your environment means less energy is needed to keep people comfortable. Fewer clothes; bigger energy savings. We like the sound of that. NEED PROOF? Ever heard of a little island nation called Japan? In the land of the rising sun the government mandates thermostats in all public buildings to be set at 82 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months. The working men and women are urged to abandon their traditional business suits and don skimpier attire to stay comfortable. The result of this clothing optional approach has been a 1.14 million ton reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? To show our commitment to the cause of under-dressing, we are contributing 100% of the donations from our clo.08 t-shirts to ASHRAE Research on Standard 55 - Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy. Go ahead, save money and look charitable. You know you want to.
I also got Josh Eddy, their Engineering Sales Manager, to spell it out for me on tape (1.7MB mp3 file). You can order these gems at the normal $5 rate from their website. Still really cheap! And if you can make it to Chicago in the next couple days, the little plastic donkeys are free.
2007-11-07 n/a 11453 LEED for Everything 1.0 Big news from Member Day at Greenbuild '07—the LEED ratings programs are... going away. I'll be updating this post in the next hour or so after listening to the session again, but it boils down to this: there will be a "bookshelf" of credits, and when a project application is made, a custom rating system will be generated. There's a lot more development, public comment periods, and hair-pulling to come, but they hope to roll this out in less than two years. Check back here in about an hour for more details.
This is my early understanding, which may be flawed. In the wake of significant outreach both within and without the USGBC community to identify the shortcomings and opportunities for improvement in the growing numbers of LEED rating systems, the decision has been made to stop the development of those systems in favor of a simpler, more elegant-yet-thorough process. All of the credits in the existing systems will be extracted and combined into "library" of points and ideas from which to draw to create an appropriate program for each project addressing lifecycle, carbon, and regionalism. A fourth important aspect is how these areas are weighted. For example, a project in the desert southwest will have greater weighting on water conservation than one in the Pacific Northwest. I'm going to abandon listening to this recording for the time being; there's a lot of noise down the hall, making it difficult to hear. I'm going to check it out. Still more on this later—maybe today.
2007-11-06 n/a 11455 I hate to nitpick, but...
Electric resistance heaters, outside, at the hotel. I guess the towel- and sheet-reuse program makes room for this kind of thing. (Nice place, though.)

"Saying that electric heating is 100 percent efficient is like saying that a Cadillac is 100 percent efficient because it burns up all the gasoline pumped into it."  —Lawrence Solomon, quoted in the 1993 book Greenhome, by Wayne Grady. Read the EBN review.
2007-11-06 n/a 11457 What Greenbuild is Bringing to Chicago GreenerBuildings put together a nicely thorough intro to Greenbuild '07. Their article "What Greenbuild is Bringing to Chicago" includes us:
In what has become a much-anticipated annual feature of the Greenbuild conference, BuildingGreen, the publishers of the GreenSpec Manual and Environmental Building News will announce its top 10 green building products of 2007 on Thursday. Last year's list included lumber salvaged from beneath man-made lakes; electronic, tint-on-demand glass for windows and skylights; water-conserving showerheads and irrigation controls; high-tech evaporative air conditioners and more.
Watch for more info about this year's Top-10 here on Thursday.
2007-11-03 n/a 11409 How Green is Greenbuild?

Here in the office, we've been gearing up for Greenbuild, the 6th annual trade show of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). We're there every year—stop in and see us at booth 849. Fully half of our staff will be attending. I'll be snooping around; tune in here for the next best thing to being there. There will be over 850 exhibitor booths on the expo floor, and more than 100 educational sessions ranging from design to commissioning. There will be tours of local green buildings, LEED workshops, dozens of independent networking events (from working breakfasts to thumping late-night parties), post-conference seminars, even a film festival. Former president Bill Clinton is giving the keynote. More than 18,000 people are anticipated to come to Chicago to attend the three-day program. But is Greenbuild green? Sidestepping the semantic morass of what the word means to begin with, how could something like Greenbuild possibly be green? The lighting energy alone in a conference center is stunning; now toss in the HVAC. There's elevators, escalators, sliding doors. Consider facility maintenance—vacuums, floor polishers, cleaning chemicals. There will be 850 exhibitors from all over the continent and beyond, handing out literal tons of paper and booth swag to 18,000 people that are out soiling sheets and using towels when they're not busy at the convention flushing the toilets and eating catered brunches—chilled California grapes and Wisconsin cheese, Maine lobster, Italian pasta, hot coffee and tea from Brazil and China and England. That's 18,000 people that have to get to Chicago, get around in Chicago, and get back home. This is a story with endless gaps; you can easily come up with a dozen more examples without breaking a sweat, thoughtful person that you are. The USGBC has thought about these things, too, of course. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're not stupid. Spend a few minutes looking over the Greening Greenbuild page on their website. I'll wait. OK. There are things on that list that might seem so insignificant as to be almost ridiculous—the caterers not prefilling water glasses at meals, the convention center providing paper towels and toilet paper with a minimum of 20% recycled content. Isn't that just like green building, though? We look for the big bang, and every so often we find it; but generally, it's the aggregate of smaller details and decisions that add up to the LEED plaque by the front entrance. It's the nickels and dimes adding up to a lot of nickels and dimes. Where the USGBC appears to have hit a home run in making Greenbuild greener is the Cleaner and Greener certification. It goes like this: Using information about the facility, activities, and participants, a third party—Leonardo Academy—calculates the emissions (including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, among others) associated with an event, and coordinates the purchase of offsets from a range of Green-e certified organizations and initiatives, mostly in the form of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs). One nice surprise is that while this certification / offset program delves into the impacts of the local event (including things like food prep and cleanup, and electric use in hotel rooms), it isn't just about point-sources: participant travel to and from the event are included, vehicle and air miles calculated based on the numbers of local, regional, national, and international attendees. The USGBC says that it offsets in excess of 100% of the emissions caused by Greenbuild with this program. That seems worth a Platinum. That said, there are smarter people than me who think the Leonardo Academy program lacks rigor. I phoned the Leonardo people, asking if I could have a look at the guts of the program—its standards and formulas. No go. So I can't defend either side of the issue. The skeptic in me rises up, squinty-eyed and edging toward the detractors. But on the shoulder of my inner skeptic, a tiny angel whispers sweetly in its ear, "Hey—at least it's something." Maybe I'll be able to get some deeper information during Greenbuild: there will be a briefing by a Leonardo Academy rep or two on Wednesday, 11:00, at table #3 in the Exhibit Hall. Among other things, the agenda includes "Draft American National Standard for Trial Use: LEO-5000-2001 - Standard for Emissions Inventories, Reduction Credits & Offsets." If you're going to Greenbuild and would like to take responsibility for your own emissions, you can. The USGBC has posted Greening the Conference case studies for each year of the conference: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006.

2007-10-31 n/a