Construction, Energy, LEED, Uncategorized

USGBC Announces Delayed Ballot for LEED 2012

No Comments Posted on 06 June 2012 by Tiffany Broyles Yost

On Monday USGBC announced it will postpone voting on the LEED 2012 rating system (now know as LEED v4) until as late as July 2013.  The announcement came in a direct letter to members from USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chairman, Rick Fedrizzi stating “this change is 100% in response to helping our stakeholders fully understand and embrace this next big step.”

The new rating system represents a significant step forward in that there is a focus on performance metrics.  Additionally USGBC is working to better the user experience by improving educational and reference materials and streamlining the credit documentation process.  The primary differences between LEED 2009 and LEED v4 are:

  • New Market Sectors – the new system covers data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality projects, existing schools, existing retail, and mid-rise residential.
  • Increased Technical Rigor – improvements to how credits are calculated and documented based on market data, stakeholder input, and technological advancements.
  • Credit Weightings – revised point distribution more closely tied to USGBC priorities.

These changes are intended to raise the bar for performance and transform the market.  Still some long-time LEED proponents felt the change was too much, too fast.

By pushing the balloting period back, USGBC lengthens the time for projects to “test drive” LEED v4 with the hope that lessons learned from the beta period will be incorporated into the final version of the rating system. It also ensures LEED 2009 will remain available for registration through 2015, relieving concerns of those just now fully engaged with the current version.

Finally, a fifth public comment period will be opened from Oct. 10 through Dec. 10, 2012 corresponding with Greenbuild 2012 in San Francisco this November, providing an opportunity for more face-to-face discussion and feedback.

The new timeline should allow a more seamless transition to LEED v4 and help designers and manufacturers prepare their businesses for the changes.  For our part, Urban Green Council will be hosting a series of sessions covering the changes in LEED v4 and the implications on green building in New York City. Watch our calendar for updates at the end of the summer.

For a more in-depth look at the implications of this decision and the factors behind it, please see Nadiv Malin’s informative piece in BuildingGreen.


Earth Day 2011 – How will you celebrate?

No Comments Posted on 20 April 2011 by Caitlin McCusker

Cheers to Vornado for having an e-recycling bin in the lobby of our office building, in recognition of Earth Day. What are you, your company or building doing to celebrate Earth Day 2011?  The list below is just a handful of the many events in NYC:

April 1st – May 22nd
Electronic Waste Recycling: 10 events at locations around NYC!
The Lower East Side Ecology Center is holding its spring electronic waste (“e-waste”) recycling events around the five boroughs to responsibly recycle unwanted or broken electronics from New York City residents. Get your spring cleaning done while protecting the environment!

April 20th – April 29th
Columbia University | The Earth Institute

Columbia’s Earth Institute has a whole slew of lectures related to environmental colloquiums, symposiums, lectures, and events going on between now and the end of April. From the Farmer’s Market Tours, a discussion on Impacts of Dams in China, and a seminar on Environmental Engineering – they’ve got it covered.

April 28th – May 1st | 8:30am – 5:00pm
NYC Green Roof Bootcamp Series

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ mission is to increase the awareness of the economic, social, and environmental benefits of green roofs and walls and other forms of living architecture through education, advocacy, professional development and celebrations of excellence. Join the more than 400 accredited GRPs (Green Roof Professionals) and add another green building qualification to your professional standing.

April 29th | 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Pratt Sustainable Planning and Development Lecture Series:
New York State Climate Action Plan

Alan Belensz, Director of the Office of Climate Change with NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, will be presenting an update on the progress of New York State’s Climate Action Plan. The plan identifies possible ways for state government and key economic sectors to keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, help communities and businesses adapt as the climate changes and promote a thriving green economy. The lecture is free and open to the public.


An In-Depth Look at Active Design with Dr. Karen Lee

No Comments Posted on 30 March 2011 by Yetsuh Frank

Q&A with Dr. Karen Lee, Director of the Built Environment Program at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Active Design Guidelines focus on many issues that, while obviously important, might also be called common sense design issues; designing streets for people rather than cars, or designing stairs to be used rather than ignored, etc.  Why aren’t these things just done as a matter of course?  Another way of putting this is, how did get to the point where the Active Design guidelines are necessary?

The design strategies you mention used to be a “matter of course!” We used to have to rely on our own bodies to move ourselves between buildings, within buildings, and during play and recreation. With technological advances (and in the name of “convenience”), over the past few decades we have managed to design such movement out of our daily lives. Today it’s possible for people to leave their houses, get into their cars, park at their destination and step right onto an elevator or escalator – leaving them with almost no physical activity in their daily lives.

Today we are facing an unprecedented epidemic of obesity, along with related chronic diseases such as diabetes. Heart disease and strokes continue to be the leading cause of death in NYC and the U.S. and recently overtook infectious diseases as the leading cause of death globally. Here in New York, approximately 60% of adults and 40% of children are overweight or obese, and 75% of deaths in the city are due to chronic diseases. We sometimes refer to these as “diseases of energy” – since today people are consuming more and more calories, and at the same replacing physical activity with devices that consume large amounts of petrochemical fuels and electricity (cars, elevators, escalators, televisions, etc.). The result is a negative impact on our health, and on our planet.

Luckily, New York City is taking the lead to reverse these trends through initiatives like the Active Design Guidelines (also referred to as “ADGs” – you can download a free electronic copy). We’re seeing a parallel surge of national programs, including Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. With these efforts, we’re beginning to change our built environment and our culture to increase opportunities for daily physical activity, and begin reducing our reliance on so much petrochemical fuel and electricity.

Continue Reading


Hyper Local Design Activism

No Comments Posted on 22 March 2011 by Yetsuh Frank

Astoria Scum River Bridge

I dare you to watch this video and NOT be inspired to tackle some local social issue through design. No, I triple dog dare you!



Speak Green

2 Comments Posted on 16 February 2011 by Yetsuh Frank

Today Urban Green Council is very excited to announce a one-day conference in June on exploring the messaging and marketing of green building: Speak Green.

Those familiar with Urban Green Council’s high-caliber programs might ask: why this subject and not something more technical, something more directly relevant to building performance or energy efficiency?  Our answer is simple: we believe that green building is on the cusp of breaking into the mainstream of the building industry and we want to make sure it’s done right.  To that end, effective messaging is of the highest relevance.

By most measures green building has been enormously successful in a very short period of time.  The solutions proposed by the green building community, and incentivized by LEED, have gained broad acceptance among the innovators and early adopters of the building industry.  This is true across most sectors; from commercial to residential to health care to schools.  Much of this success has been possible because the less risk-averse in the building industry were persuaded to adopt new solutions.  From architects to owners to tenants, those willing to innovate have taken up the call and pushed green building into the forefront of the conversation.  But there is much work to be done, with green building still only making up a small percentage of construction in the United States.

Continue Reading


You are a whale, literally

No Comments Posted on 11 January 2011 by Yetsuh Frank

Drew Avery

I’ve been meaning to point people to this fascinating piece about the physicist Geoffrey West in the New York Times magazine last month.  West has developed a series of equations that describe a basically constant relationship between the population of a city and other issues like violent crime or economic growth.  The city as mathematical equation.  Back in 2009 the Times had a great piece on their Opinionator blog illustrating some of the same points.  Like large mammals, cities enjoy fundamental economies of scale as they grow larger.  Bigger is greener.  There are plenty of examples, like the Criterion Planners research noted by Kaid Benfield at NRDC, here.

Fascinating stuff.  But it was the following description from West about our impact on the planet stopped me in my tracks.

West [translates] human life into watts. “A human being at rest runs on 90 watts,” he says. “That’s how much power you need just to lie down. And if you’re a hunter-gatherer and you live in the Amazon, you’ll need about 250 watts. That’s how much energy it takes to run about and find food. So how much energy does our lifestyle [in America] require? Well, when you add up all our calories and then you add up the energy needed to run the computer and the air-conditioner, you get an incredibly large number, somewhere around 11,000 watts. Now you can ask yourself: What kind of animal requires 11,000 watts to live? And what you find is that we have created a lifestyle where we need more watts than a blue whale. We require more energy than the biggest animal that has ever existed. That is why our lifestyle is unsustainable. We can’t have seven billion blue whales on this planet. It’s not even clear that we can afford to have 300 million blue whales.”

Seven billion blue whales.  A incredible illustration of how greatly we are overburdening the planet.


Passive Solar Death Ray

No Comments Posted on 05 January 2011 by Yetsuh Frank

Well, not really.  Just a story about reflected sunlight being focused by a curved glass facade into an uncomfortably hot beam at a Vegas hotel.  Preservationists might see one more reason to dislike glass buildings.  The more puritan among us might see one more reason to stay away from Sin City.  I simply saw a story that, while it has almost nothing to do with green building, I couldn’t help but post about.


Greenbuild 2010 Picks

No Comments Posted on 16 November 2010 by Yetsuh Frank

Greenbuild is upon us again and I find myself using a different strategy this year, trolling the sessions for people rather than subjects.   Not surprisingly, I’ve found that interesting speakers are the source of unexpected subjects and some more frequently surprising connections.  Thankfully, Greenbuild still offers a great opportunity to hear from an unparalleled variety of them.

Highest on my list of people to see is Paul Hawken and his talk at the closing plenary this year.  Hawken is the author or co-author of several books that have quite literally transformed the culture of the sustainability community.  If you haven’t already read them, I recommend Natural Capitalism, The Ecology of Commerce, and Blessed Unrest, to name a few.  Hawken has spoken before at Greenbuild, but unlike some even very good speakers, he is not the sort to trot out the same bullet points each time.  This year, there are signs that he will speak about a tremendously exciting project to develop an inexpensive PV product based on green chemistry and biomimicry principles.

Biomimicry is a very quickly moving field with an enormous amount of potential.  As a result I will be front and center for the Evolution of the Biomimicry Approach session featuring Jane Suri from IDEO and Karen Davis Smith from Jones + Jones, people I wouldn’t normally get a chance to hear from.

Money remains the dominant factor in almost all human endeavors as it is the resource that allows our big ideas to move forward.  But the different languages spoken by the green building and finance industries are still a huge hurdle.  Roger Platt of the USGBC will moderate a panel tackling this subject head-on through the prism of Responsible Property Investing (RPI). The panel, Investing in Green, includes Lauren Miller from UNEP’s Principles for Responsible Investment group and David Wood from the Hauser Center at Harvard.

Because New York City has lately had its share of innovative affordable housing projects, I sometimes forget that other people are doing great work in the field as well. I am interested in hearing about some Chicago success stories at the LEED for Neighborhood Development: Creating Green Affordable Housing Neighborhoods session, moderated by the remarkable Doug Farr, author of Sustainable Urbanism.

I will try to provide updates throughout the conference, so please drop by our booth (#291) if you have a moment.


$1.5 Billion to Mitigate Sewage Overflow

No Comments Posted on 13 October 2010 by Yetsuh Frank

Hopefully this, will lead to less of this:

Gowanus Canal Raw Sewage Overflow

Video here.


NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities)

No Comments Posted on 25 March 2010 by Yetsuh Frank

On the topic of diverse communities- Urban Omnibus provides an overview of NORCs, or Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. I first learned of this concept from Rick Cook at Cook + Fox Architects and have been enormously intrigued by the notion ever since. The gist is that, rather than encouraging seniors to live in purpose-built senior centers, we recognize senior communities that have collected organically in a building or neighborhood. The Urban Omnibus piece mentions that these communities are recognized by local governments and are therefore eligible for support services funds- which is really fantastic. Also fantastic is the chance to use words like INNORCORATION.

Urban Ominbus are working on a book called NORCS IN NYC, from which the image above was borrowed. Both the image and the concept remind me of Christopher Alexander’s strange and inspiring book, A Pattern Language- required reading at the University of Oregon, where I studied Architecture. One of the “patterns” advocated for in the book is “Old People Everywhere.” Setting aside the jarring title from the pre-politically-correct-speech era (old people?) it basically encouraged diversity within communities; diversity of color, and culture, and income, and, yes, age. Not so radical a concept but certainly something nearly lost in recent years and now supported by models like NORCs.

© 2010 Urban Green Blog.