Green Building

Despite frequent news accounts of Chinese cities choking on fossil-fueled air pollution the country’s renewable energy sector continues to progress. China leads the world in photovoltaic capacity, achieving 43 gigawatts in 2016. It overtook Germany for the top spot in 2015 after increasing the solar industry’s capacity at the rate of 40% per year for over a decade.

China is now racing to become the world’s biggest carbon trading market. It introduced carbon trading as a pilot project last year when 120 million tons of carbon dioxide worth 3.2 billion yuan ($463 million) had already been traded. The project will be extended to the entire country this year, and this will make China the world’s biggest market, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative for climate change affairs, said.

China’s success has attracted Apple Inc., which recently bought a 30% stake in four wind power projects owned by Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., China’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, as part of its efforts to minimize its carbon footprint.

“This is an image booster for both companies,” says Zhou Yiyi, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance based in Shanghai. “It will indirectly offset Apple’s carbon footprint linked to manufacturing in China through offsite power generation, as well as benefit Goldwind’s exports.”

Solar panel manufacturers from China have built up strong presence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia markets. Their strategy involves making large-scale investment in foreign solar farms, using their own products.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising all the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf except Iraq, offers a lucrative opportunity. GCC members in aggregate are expected to increase installed solar capacity 50-fold between 2015 and 2025. Saudi Arabia alone has announced plans for an additional 9.5 GW of renewable energy by 2030. Outside the GCC, India is targeting 175 GW by 2022, including 100 GW of solar. Li Dan, Vice Executive Secretary-General, Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, said these countries are gradually shedding their preference for western suppliers.

“Looking ahead, decisions will be based on purely commercial factors. Chinese companies can provide the quality, the capacity, and the commercial viability to put renewables at the center of the energy mix,” she said.

Inside China

The renewable sector accounts for one fourth of the total electricity production in China. Hydroelectricity took the lead contributing 20% to the total electricity generation in 2015, the last year for which detailed figures are available.

Wind farms contributed 3.3%, solar farms 0.7% and 0.9% came from biomass power plants. The government has set a target of raising non-hydro renewable power generation from five percent now to nine percent by 2020. The government wants companies to install 110 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity by 2020. China invested $100 billion on renewable energy in 2016, and plans to intensify its investments year on year.

“During the period of the 13th Five-Year Plan (from the present to 2016-2020), we assume a coordinated development of the power grid on regional and provincial levels to be able to integrate on the order of 300-350 GW of wind power and 200-220 GW of solar power,” China National Renewable Energy Centre said in its report, “China Renewable Energy Outlook 2016.”

By 2030, the China grid would basically be built out, effectively integrating all produced renewable power generation as an energy-friendly internet-like smart grid, according to the report.

Despite recent progress, there is grave dissatisfaction within China about the tardy growth in solar and wind power, which have failed to contribute enough.

These industries depend heavily on a government backed pricing mechanism, which will be phased out gradually starting with a 25% reduction in subsidies this year. Wind and solar together will lose $864 million in 2017, with deeper reductions scheduled in the following years.

Analysts cite the gradual withdrawal in subsidies as the main reason driving Chinese solar and wind power companies abroad.  Inadequate linkage with the state grid and countrywide power transmission networks is seen as one of the hurdles.

Nearly 34 billion kilowatt-hours of wind power produced in 2015 were idled for want of takers. Similarly, solar farms could not sell 5 billion kwh of generation in 2015, the government’s energy department said.

One of the major solar panel makers, ReneSola Ltd., recently unveiled an ambitious program to produce 335MW of electricity by building rooftop solar plants in major industrial units. The idea is to encourage them to meet a part of their electricity needs from the rooftop plants.  The idea is to sell power directly to end users instead of going through the state grid.

The Trump effect

The renewables business has been worried about whether U.S. President-elect Donald Trump would go ahead with his election promise to scuttle implementation of the Paris Climate Change agreement. If the U.S. follows this course, China would be under much less pressure to reduce its carbon emissions.  But Chinese officials say they will stick to their stated plans to move aggressively to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. “As we speculate about what the United States might do, I hope the international community understands that China’s position will not change,” Gou Haibo, deputy head in the Chinese delegation on climate change talks, said.

Join RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts for a conversation about how to increase reuse and recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) materials. RecyclingWorks would like to hear from architects, contractors, and other building professionals to help develop best management practices for diverting this waste from disposal.

We invite you to attend a meeting of the Boston Society of Architect’s Committee on the Environment on this subject. Topics for discussion include:
– Reuse: Connecting with salvage outlets to capture reusable materials.
– Source Separation: What materials make sense to separate on-site and at what scale of project?
– C&D Processing: Best practices for capturing high-value materials at comingled facilities

Please attend to share your experience with these or other issues related to diverting construction and demolition materials from disposal.
This meeting is open to both members of the Boston Society of Architects as well as others involved in the construction industry (contractors, C&D haulers and processors, salvage outlets, building officials, etc.)

About our speaker:
This conversation about construction and demolition waste will be facilitated by Emily Fabel, Green Business Program Lead for the Center for EcoTechnology. Emily administers two waste reduction programs funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection: RecyclingWorks in MA (for businesses and institutions) and THE GREEN TEAM (for K-12 schools). Emily has a Masters of Architecture from the University of Minnesota and entered the waste management field through hauling trash, food waste, and recyclables by bicycle for Pedal People Cooperative in Northampton.

For those who qualify, 1.5 LU/HSWs are available.

To learn more about the Committee on the Environment, visit

Click Register to attend.

Windows guru Stephen E. Selko-witz is on a new campaign to usher to market super-energy-efficient insulated-glazing units. His brainchild is a thin triple-glazed unit that can double the insulation value of a retrofitted double-glazed unit without changing its bulk or weight.

The “thin triple” retooling is based on off-the-shelf products and does not alter a double-glazed unit’s sash and frame, said Selkowitz, senior adviser for building science at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) 16th Annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held Oct. 5-7 in Los Angeles.

The goal is to have the units—a 0.028-in. outer pane and a 0.118-in. inner pane with a 0.043-in. pane between them—mainstream and widely available, first for residential buildings in cold climates, by 2020, said Selkowitz, ENR’s 2014 Award of Excellence winner (ENR 4/7/14 p. 44).

According to DOE, window-energy impacts cost U.S. owners $50 billion each year. Of that, heating energy costs are about $17 billion, said Selkowitz.

The cost to develop a thin-triple technology platform and solve some minor manufacturing issues, such as handling the thin pane, is $3 million to $4 million, Selkowitz estimates. To get the product to market, he is planning to create a consortium of stakeholders, including the U.S. Dept. of Energy, owners, builders, designers, and glass suppliers and their trade groups. “If I can get one or two of the top 10 or 15 window companies, everyone else will follow,” he said.

At Greenbuild, which had 20,000 registrants, USGBC launched its LEED green-building certification system user group for contractors. “Through a user group, we can give contractors additional bandwidth,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen, USGBC’s vice president of strategic initiatives. USGBC has user groups for industrial; retail and restaurants; hospitality and venues; and commercial real estate.

One issue for contractors—and all building-team members—is the more-stringent LEED Version 4 materials credits, which, for the first time, require environmental product declarations, materials ingredient reporting and sourcing of raw materials. The LEED v4 materials credits remain a sensitive subject, especially because LEED 2009 “sunsets” on Oct. 31.

Structure Tone, one of 14 members of the contractor group, released results of a green survey of 106 clients. “Sustainability is certainly more common but still seen as cost-prohibitive,” says the survey, which notes that 74% of the anonymous respondents say initial cost is the top barrier to greener buildings.

Two-thirds of the respondents said they incorporate green features to lower operating costs; 59% reported they are seeking outside expertise in resilient buildings; 36% said, over the next one to two years, they are looking to eliminate building materials that contain known toxins; and 8% said they plan to do an ultragreen Living Building Challenge (LBC) project in the next two years.

“I was most surprised by the 8% figure and also that 19% think of LBC as a respected third-party certification system,” said Jennifer Taranto, Structure Tone’s director of sustainability.

At the conference, USGBC announced a new technology organization, “arc,” led by CEO Scot Horst, USGBC’s current chief product officer. Arc is a digital platform that will allow any user to measure a building’s performance, make improvements and benchmark new performance against the old, said USGBC.

Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) and the Environmental Defense Fund announced they will work to develop, deliver and promote the Investor Confidence Project as a global underwriting standard for energy-efficient projects.

Impact Infrastructure and Autodesk unveiled Autocase, a web-based technology that quantifies the triple bottom-line impacts of infrastructure projects.

GBCI and the U. S. Zero Waste Business Council are formally joining forces to advance zero-waste business practices.

GRESB released updates to its Green Bond Guidelines for the Real Estate Sector, which specifically focuses on real estate market participants originating or investing in green property bonds. The 2016 version of the guidelines adds specific guidance for issuers and investors in green property bonds.

BREEAM, a European green building standard with more than 548,000 certifications in 77 countries, launched in the U.S. Certification of the multi-use BLOC retrofit in Los Angeles, the first to register for BREEAM USA In-Use, is expected by the month’s end.

BREEAM USA is for retrofits only. “BREEAM for new construction will arrive in the U.S. at some point,” said Barry Giles, CEO of BRE America LLC.

Chicago-based Invenergy is proposing to build four new wind farms and two solar farms to provide 700 megawatts of generation that would triple existing renewable energy available on Long Island. The project would be built across more than 55,000 acres in multiple states, located throughout the 12-state region of PJM, which is a regional transmission group. Four wind farms would have a capacity of 478 MW, and two solar projects would generate 223 MW. Power would be delivered by a buried high-voltage DC line that would end at a net-zero converter station in Long Island. Invenergy says the project is in response to a plan by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to generate 50% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and nearly 600 businesses from across the country today urged Congressional representatives to reject special interest efforts to repeal the law setting goals for cutting fossil fuel use in federal buildings by 2030.

In a letter sent Thursday to members of the Energy Conference Committee working to reconcile House and Senate Energy legislation, the businesses wrote that retaining Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act “is not only environmentally responsible but also fiscally prudent over the decades-long service life of a federal building.”

“Lowered operational expenses for highly efficient buildings have the potential to save the taxpayer millions of dollars over the course of a building’s life cycle,” the letter continues. But the effort to repeal Section 433 “serves to bolster the bottom line of fossil fuel interests at the expense of the federal government’s commitment to a more sustainable energy future.”

Contrary to what fossil fuel interests have been telling lawmakers, the Obama Administration is already on the record as opposing repeal of Section 433 contained in the House energy bill, the letter continues. “Producing a final piece of legislation which could risk a White House veto would jeopardize the important work done on this issue over the past months and years,” the letter concludes.

A full text of the October 26 letter can be found here.

About The American Institute of Architects

Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) have selected the top ten examples of sustainable architecture and ecological design projects that protect and enhance the environment. The projects will be honored at the 2016 AIA Convention in Philadelphia.

The COTE Top Ten Awards program, now in its 20th year, is the profession’s most rigorous recognition program for sustainable design excellence. The program celebrates projects that are the result of a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems and technology.

By conducting an in-depth study of nearly 200 COTE Top Ten Award winning projects encompassing almost 20 years in the recently released report, Lessons from the Leading Edge, it was determined that design projects recognized through this program are outpacing the industry by virtually every standard of performance.

The descriptions below give a brief summary of the projects. You can learn more about these projects by clicking on the name of the project/firm name. If you are interested in obtaining high resolution images, please contact Matt Tinder at

Biosciences Research Building (BRB); Galway, Ireland
Payette and Reddy Architecture + Urbanism

The design of the BRB embraces the moderate climate of Ireland. By locating low-load spaces along the perimeter of the building, the project is able to take advantage of natural ventilation as the sole conditioning strategy for the majority of the year and is supplemented less than 10% of the year with radiant heating. Due to this approach, 45% of this intensive research building is able to function without mechanical ventilation. This is an extremely simple, yet radical approach and is rarely implemented to even a modest extent in similar laboratories in comparable U.S. climates.

Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL); Pittsburgh
The Design Alliance Architects

The CSL is an education, research and administration facility at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Designed to be the greenest building in the world, it generates all of its own energy and treats all storm and sanitary water captured on-site. The CSL is the first and only building to meet four of the highest green certifications: the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, WELL Building Platinum, and Four-Stars Sustainable SITES. As an integral part of the Phipps visitor experience, the CSL focuses attention on the important intersection between the built and natural environments, demonstrating that human and environmental health are inextricably connected.

Exploratorium at Pier 15; San Francisco

The Exploratorium is an interactive science museum that also demonstrates innovation and sustainability in its design and construction. The building takes advantage of the historic pier shed’s natural lighting and the 800-foot-long roof provided room for a 1.3 megawatt photovoltaic array. The water of the bay is used for cooling and heating. Materials were used that are both sustainable and durable enough to withstand a harsh maritime climate. The project is certified LEED Platinum and is close to reaching its goal of being the country’s largest Net Zero energy museum and an industry model for what is possible in contemporary museums.

H-E-B at Mueller; Austin, TX
Lake|Flato Architects, H-E-B Design + Construction, Selser Schaefer Architects

H-E-B at Mueller is an 83,587-square-foot LEED Gold and Austin Energy Green Building 4-Stars retail store and fresh food market, including a pharmacy, café, community meeting room, outdoor gathering spaces, and fuel station. It serves 16 neighborhoods and is located in Mueller, a sustainable, mixed-use urban Austin community. Strategies include a collaborative research, goal-setting and design process; integrated chilled water HVAC and refrigeration systems; the first North American supermarket propane refrigeration system; optimized daylighting; 169 kW roof-top solar array; electric vehicle charging; all LED lighting; and reclaimed water use for landscape irrigation, toilets, and cooling tower make-up water.

Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation; Berkeley, CA
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects

Founded on the conviction that design can help address some of society’s most pressing challenges, the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation at UC Berkeley is devoted to introducing sustainable design innovation at the core of university life. The project provides a new interdisciplinary hub for students and teachers from across the university who work at the intersection of design and technology. It is designed as both a collaborative, project-based educational space and a symbol to the region of the University’s commitment to sustainable innovation, modelling high-density / low-carbon living and learning by reducing energy use 90% below national baseline.

Rene Cazenave Apartments; San Francisco
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects and Saida + Sullivan Design Partners, Associated Architect

This supportive housing for formerly chronically homeless individuals replaces a former parking lot and freeway off-ramp with a high density, transit oriented, and healthy living alternative. Filtered ventilation, low emitting materials, ample daylight and views combine to aid the residents, many with mental and physical disabilities. Energy costs for the residents and non-profit owner are minimized by a combination of high efficiency lighting and hydronic heating, a continuously insulated rain-screen building envelope and a roof top solar canopy with both hot water and photovoltaic panels. Water is carefully managed by a vegetated roof, smart irrigation, a courtyard storm water tank and reclaimed water piping.

The Dixon Water Foundation Josey Pavilion; Decatur, TX
Lake|Flato Architects

The Josey Pavilion is a multi-functional education and meeting center that supports the mission of the Dixon Water Foundation to promote healthy watersheds through sustainable land management. Traditionally livestock has caused more harm than good by overgrazing and not allowing native prairies to play their important role in habitat and watershed protection, and carbon sequestration. As a certified Living Building, the Josey Pavilion facilitates a deeper understanding of how grazing livestock as well as the built environment can work to do more good than harm. Just like the Heritage Live Oak that defines the site, the building tempers the climate and enhances visitor experience by shading the sun, blocking the wind, and providing protected views.

The J. Craig Venter Institute; San Diego
ZGF Architects LLP

This not-for-profit research institute, dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics, was in need of a permanent West Coast home. Their commitment to environmental stewardship led to challenging the architects to design a net-zero energy laboratory building, the first in the U.S. The result is a LEED-Platinum certified, 44,607-square-foot building comprised of a wet laboratory wing and an office / dry laboratory wing surrounding a central courtyard, all above a partially below-grade parking structure for 112 cars. The holistic approach to the design revolved around energy performance, water conservation, and sustainable materials.

University of Wyoming – Visual Arts Facility; Laramie, WY
Hacker Architects and Malone Belton Able PC

The Visual Arts Facility (VAF) consolidates the fine arts program from its scattered locations throughout the campus. The building provides a teaching and learning environment that is both state-of-the-art in occupational safety and in its concern for discharge of pollutants from building. The roof area is fitted with one of the largest solar evacuated tube installations in the U.S. Heat flows from the evacuated tubes to support the hydronic radiant floors, domestic hot water, and pretreat outside air for ventilation. The building was oriented and shaped through a process of studying the sun’s interaction with interior spaces, simultaneously distributing reflected light while eliminating solar gain.

West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library; Berkeley, CA
Harley Ellis Devereaux

The new 9,500-square-foot West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library is the first certified Living Building Challenge zero net energy public library in California. The building’s energy footprint was minimized through integrated strategies for daylighting (the building is 97% daylit), natural ventilation and a high performance building envelope. An innovative wind chimney provides cross-ventilation while protecting the library interior from street noise. Renewable energy on site includes photovoltaic panels and solar thermal panels for radiant heating and cooling and domestic hot water. The library exceeds the 2030 Challenge and complies with Berkeley’s recently-enacted Climate Action Plan.

The 2016 COTE Top Ten Green Projects jury includes: Larry Strain, FAIA, LEED AP, Siegel & Strain Architects; Luke Leung, PE, LEED Fellow, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; Judith Heerwagen, PhD, U.S. General Services Administration; Margaret Montgomery, FAIA, LEED AP, NBBJ and Anne Fougeron, FAIA, Fougeron Architecture.

About The American Institute of Architects
Founded in 1857, the American Institute of Architects consistently works to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings, neighborhoods, and communities. Through nearly 300 state and local chapters, the AIA advocates for public policies that promote economic vitality and public wellbeing. Members adhere to a code of ethics and conduct to ensure the highest professional standards. The AIA provides members with tools and resources to assist them in their careers and business as well as engaging civic and government leaders and the public to find solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit

Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released LEED in Motion: Brazil, a report showing significant gains in the green building market in Brazil and year-over-year growth in LEED certifications in the country. The report comes at a time when the Brazilian green building industry is hosting South America’s premier green building conference, GreenBuilding Brasil International Conference and Expo, taking place this week.

“Building with LEED certification has helped Brazil grow its green economy. We’re proud of the fact that the boom in green building has successfully sparked this multiplier effect across the country’s economy,” said Roger Platt, president, USGBC. “As the international standard in sustainable design and green building, LEED helps enterprising Brazilian companies attract new sources of foreign direct investment, increase the competitiveness of their real estate portfolio and position themselves as leaders in the green economy of the future.”

Buildings account for 30 percent or more of total carbon emissions, and many countries look to building retrofits to reduce their footprint and spur job creation. Last month, USGBC announced that Brazil is in the top five countries for LEED green building. Brazil has moved up in the annual ranking of the Top 10 Countries for LEED —an international ranking intended to celebrate the countries and regions outside of the U.S. that have shown leadership in the green building industry through wide-scale adoption of LEED.

Brazil received widespread international praise last year as the nation with the largest drop in greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Based on this commendable track record and its position as a global leader in green building, Brazil is poised to enter the U.N.’s COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris later this year as a model of sustainable economic development.

There are more than 1,000 projects participating in LEED and approximately 24.5 million gross square meters (GSM) of LEED-certified space in Brazil. Brazil’s increasingly prominent green building industry carries regional significance due to the country’s position as South America’s economic anchor. The steady rise of LEED in Brazil, even in the face of what is currently a challenging economic environment in the country, is poised to bolster green building in neighboring countries.

“We are very proud and optimistic for the future of LEED green building in Brazil based on the diversity of project types that are now certifying across the country,” said Felipe Faria, executive director, Green Building Council Brasil. “LEED certification has become more popular for all types of projects, from commercial buildings, industrial plants and shopping centers to retail stores, schools, public buildings, homes and sporting venues. These projects represent a diverse group of private and public stakeholders, associations and NGOs that are engaged in a collaborative effort aimed at promoting green building practices, and we believe that this positive atmosphere will accelerate the transformation that must take place.”

As noted in the report, USGBC has a strong membership base in Brazil, and a growing number of companies and organizations in the country are looking to the world’s most popular green building rating system as a means of demonstrating their commitment to social responsibility, broadening their environmental sustainability agenda and bolstering their economic competiveness. There are also more than 270 LEED professionals in Brazil.


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