Why is LEED so darn hard?

I was in a progress meeting for a LEED project the other day, and the owner’s rep was looking through our updated LEED checklist.  He read aloud a couple of the credits, like SSc2 (Development Density and Community Connectivity) and MRc1.1 (Building Reuse) and made a scoffing comment about the fact that our project cannot pursue those credits.  It just isn’t possible due to the nature of our project. The truth is, we don’t have enough points to feel comfortable that we can achieve the level of certification that we are aiming for.  We were searching for credits we could tack-on to add more points to the project. The disappointing fact is that we originally identified enough credits to have a comfy 5 to 8 point cushion.  That was BEFORE design even began.  And somehow during the design process, 3 of the design credits did not get incorporated into the project’s design, costing us 5 points. On top of that, a couple other credits were determined to be “unnecessary”. So here we are, nearing the end of the project, and the owner doesn’t understand why we are struggling to come up with enough credits. I looked him in the eye  Continue Reading »

What you should know before calling your project “LEED Certifiable”

There seems to be an increasing number of green building projects that are adopting the design and construction principles of the U.S. Green Building Council’s® LEED® green building program while opting to forgo pursuing actual certification.  From a purely environmental perspective, this is great news.  More buildings are being designed and built to have a reduced negative impact on the natural environment.  From a marketing standpoint, these project teams could be shooting themselves in the foot, or worse, violating trademark and branding policies set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). USGBC has clear and explicit guidelines for using the LEED acronym and the accompanying logos.  USGBC’s Trademark Policy and Branding Guidelines outline just how to word references to LEED registered and certified projects, sizing and color specifications for logo use, and proper acknowledgment of trademark ownership and permissions.  The violation that appears to be most common, however, is not related to projects that have achieved or hope to achieve LEED certification.  Many projects are being referred to as LEED Certifiable, LEED Compliant, LEED Qualified, LEED Equivalent, or some variation that attempts to indicate that the building was designed and constructed in accordance to the LEED green building program  Continue Reading »

Defining Sustainability: Triple Bottom Line

This article was adapted from this original article by New Leaf founder, Laura Bailey. A common sentiment among business execs is that being green is too expensive.  Well of course it is too expensive when you take the stance that in order for a corporation to be “sustainable”, it must focus solely on conserving natural resources regardless of costs.  Let’s take a look at a different approach for defining sustainability:  The Triple Bottom Line. Sometimes referred to as TBL, 3BL, The Three Pillars, or The Three Ps (People, Profit, Planet), it all boils down to the same basic concept:  success should be measured using economic, ecological, and societal criteria rather than profit alone.  Therefore, a sustainable business is one that operates at the intersection of Economic Growth, Social Equity, and Environmental Stewardship.  Rather than having a separate “Sustainability Strategy”, this balanced approach guides the organization to align its sustainability goals with its business strategy, or better yet, to integrate sustainability into its business strategy. The Triple Bottom Line is a powerful business philosophy.  A corporation that is sustainable by this definition enjoys profits while improving the lives of the people it is connected to and protecting the environment.   While a  Continue Reading »

IBM Using Technology to Improve Water Sustainability

Written by Owain Jones, MBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis Some things that people may take for granted on a day-to-day basis is the availability of freshwater. Our world is made up of massive amounts of water, however, the majority of this is salt water, about 97.5%. The remaining 2.5% is freshwater but only 30% of these freshwater sources are groundwater, the main source of water for human consumption. For a world population that is continually growing and consuming more and more resources, this staggeringly small amount of available freshwater cannot sustain it. This is highlighted by the fact that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with an extremely scarce water supply (UN Water Statistics). Thus, a need is created to be able to better utilize our current freshwater resources and improve the sustainability of these resources. The root of water resource sustainability is water conservation, preached and advocated for all over the world. International Business Machines, most commonly referred to as IBM, has been developing computers and technologies for businesses for many years and has grown into one of the largest companies in the US. Currently, IBM has pushed a business solutions focus that involves analytics,  Continue Reading »

CSR: Going Beyond Compliance, Risk Management, and Philanthropy

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) focuses on the “people” and “planet” aspects of the Triple Bottom Line.  This is a corporation’s initiatives to take a proactive approach to managing its impacts on the environment and society.  Proactive being the keyword, meaning that the business implements programs to lessen harmful impacts and amplify positive impacts before it is forced to by regulation, industry, or its constituents. Beyond Compliance CSR programs are voluntary and are not enforceable by regulating agencies.  In fact, a strong CSR program goes above and beyond what regulation requires.  A simple example of this would be an organization that uses the Clean Water Act as a benchmark and sets goals to reduce contaminating releases to a set standard below what the act allows.  A more robust program would also implement a program that educates employees on the effects of pollution and partners with organizations that work to protect local bodies of water. Beyond Risk Management While Corporate Social Responsibility could be looked at as a form of risk management in that it keeps an organization ahead of the curve in terms of changing regulation and customer demands, CSR goes beyond risk management in the traditional sense.  Generally speaking, risk  Continue Reading »

Emerson Helps Milwaukee Turn Waste into Energy

Written by Owain Jones, MBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis Recently, Emerson Electric Company has been airing a fairly strong television advertisement campaign on many channels again, resurrected from a few years ago. The gist of the advertisements is that Emerson is providing cities and companies with solutions to problems that have “never been done before.” Originally these commercials were developed back in 2009 as the “It’s Never Been Done Before” campaign and they can be seen on Emerson’s YouTube Channel and explained in this Emerson news release. As it relates to sustainability, there is one very intriguing part of this campaign that seemed very out of the ordinary. It was the way in which Emerson has helped the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin increase its initiative to produce a substantial amount of electricity through its wastewater program. What the City of Milwaukee had developed was a methane producing system in its wastewater treatment plants to create electricity. Microbes are introduced into the wastewater tanks, where they digest the sewage to expel methane. The methane is then captured and turned into energy. This process is nothing new and Emerson was not the one to develop this for Milwaukee. However, what Emerson did was show  Continue Reading »

The Bluesign Standard

Written by Owain Jones, MBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis Since sustainability initiatives are beginning to become very common, almost all industries are trying to figure how or what they can do. With this comes the rise in other businesses designed to help those attain their sustainability goals and New Leaf is one of them. It is a great opportunity for businesses to be able to have access to experts who they would otherwise have to hire or train, which can prove to be time consuming and more expensive than consulting firms. However, there has been an increase in large companies specifically hiring sustainability personnel because they feel it is worth their while and sustainability is not just a fad, it is important and here to stay. But when a company needs to dramatically overhaul their product line to become more sustainable, an outside organization can prove to be an easy route. For the textile industry, Bluesign is just that organization. A Swiss scientist, Dr. Peter Waeber, began to develop sustainable products in the 1980s, with a project for the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) to create a “green” cotton. Throughout the development of this and the introduction of sustainable dyes, finally  Continue Reading »

The Larger Costs of Sustainability: The Shipping Industry

Written by Owain Jones, MBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis It is obvious that doing the little things to become sustainable, like reducing energy and paper consumption and trash reduction, can be very rewarding and cost relatively little to implement. However, what about the major operations that can end up costing billions of dollars to implement substantial sustainability initiatives in their sector? The transportation sector has been able to implement more fuel efficient vehicles in their fleets to help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, but there is still an even bigger energy user that may be commonly overlooked. Almost all consumer goods are shipped from their manufacturing origin to their destinations by overseas shipping, something many may not usually think about. As you recall these massive shipping vessels, you may clue in to how much fuel it may take to transport those thousands of shipping containers processed at ports around the US a day. This then represents a very massive area of human existence that is extremely unsustainable. As with many of the sustainability problems, this one does have solutions that have been developed through modern technology to create more sustainable overseas shipping. However, it is not as simple as  Continue Reading »

The Concept of Natural Capital

Written by Owain Jones, MBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis Every company deals with capital when figuring out how to operate their business and observing how the business is performing. Companies in the United States operate under a capitalist economic system, where capital goods are owned by individuals who use them to create a product or service to sell for a profit. This is nothing new of course, but it then feeds in to how some people feel that the dwindling free natural resources of the world need to be accounted for economically. This brings about the concept of natural capital, which was first foreshadowed by President Roosevelt in 1937 when he talked about how the Earth’s permanent capital, natural resources, were being transformed into wealth faster than the real wealth was being replaced. The term natural capital was first used by E.F. Schumacher in 1973 in his book “Small is Beautiful.” What natural capital does is essentially place a value on the things we amass from the Earth for free, like clean water, air, and trees. In the dollars of today, a 1997 research group valued the entire biosphere at $47 trillion dollars. It seems like this notion has been  Continue Reading »

Banning Hard to Recycle Materials

Written by Owain Jones, MBA in Sustainability student at University of Saint Francis As we all know, there are materials out there that are so synthetic and manufactured that breaking them down into something that can be reused again is very difficult. The ability for these materials to even breakdown over time in landfills is barely there. This then provides a significant obstacle to sustainability initiatives, namely zero waste ones. However, most big businesses can easily do away with the materials to achieve zero waste because they control what comes in. But what about public facilities or whole cities that are attempting to step up their sustainability and lessen their impact on the environment? The much discussed Mayor of New York City (NYC) has proposed a solution to this, on top of his already highly publicized handling of high sugar beverages and smoking. In his last State of the City Address on February 14, 2013, Mayor Bloomberg proposed a ban on polystyrene foam, or the trade named Styrofoam. What this will do for NYC, Bloomberg proposes, is dramatically decrease the cost to taxpayers while increasing the sustainability and decreasing the overall environmental impact. NYC currently has to absorb the cost to collect and house  Continue Reading »