Lessons In Green Building From Africa’s First LEED-Certified Hospital

Read the full story in Fast Company.

When Ghana commissioned a new hospital for its capital city Accra, the West African nation hoped to earn LEED certification, a prestigious rating of environmentally minded buildings. But “they believed there was very little hope for us to achieve it,” says Pat Bosch, design director of Perkins + Will’s Miami office and the project’s lead architect. Much of the infrastructure that supports green building in the U.S. and Canada, where LEED is most common, doesn’t exist in Ghana. But by rethinking the parameters of what a building should be, the architects were able to complete Africa’s first LEED for Health Care–certified hospital.

France bans pesticides in public green spaces

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

French children will soon be able to frolic in the grass without risk of intoxication.

Pesticides will be banned in all public green spaces from Sunday while non-professional gardeners will no longer be able to buy pesticides over the counter.


Webinar: Sustainability with Trees: Community Canopy Project

Thu, Jan 19, 2017 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CST
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8202861798347091460

In this webinar we will explore how distributing trees through a community canopy project can fit with your sustainability efforts, help maximize energy efficiency and engage homeowners within your community.

Kristen Bousquet, from the Arbor Day Foundation, and program partner Ian Jurgensen with the city of Orlando, will discuss how a tree distribution to homeowners offers the ability to positively interact with your community, educate on strategic tree planting, and promote green infrastructure leading to measured environmental benefits (such as air quality, storm water management, carbon sequestration, and energy efficiency).

These benefits are all quantified through meaningful data using a turnkey program that offers technology to assist with automated tree reservations, education, tree tracking, continued communication to the participants, and data/metrics showing the impact of trees planted.

Webinar: Efficiency Treasure Chest: How Cities, Manufacturers and Retailers are Unlocking Energy Savings in Warehouses and Distribution

Tue, Jan 10, 2017 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CST
Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3486526459115811842

Hear how Better Buildings partners are addressing energy use in warehouses and distribution centers and gain ideas for you to take back to your buildings.

Climate Change: Improved Federal Coordination Could Facilitate Use of Forward-Looking Climate Information in Design Standards, Building Codes, and Certifications

Download the document.

What GAO Found

Selected standards-developing organizations generally have not used forward-looking climate information—such as projected rainfall rates—in design standards, building codes, and voluntary certifications and instead have relied on historical observations. Further, some organizations periodically update climate information in standards, codes, and certifications, but others do not. Some standards-developing organizations have taken preliminary steps that may lead to the use of forward-looking climate information. For example, in 2015, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a paper that recommended engineers work with scientists to better understand future climate extremes.

Standards-developing organizations face institutional and technical challenges to using the best available forward-looking climate information in design standards, building codes, and voluntary certifications, according to reports, representatives of these organizations, and federal officials. Institutional challenges include a standards-developing process that must balance various interests and can be slow to change. For example, representatives of some standards-developing organizations told GAO that their members have not expressed interest in standards that use forward-looking climate information. Technical challenges include difficulties in identifying the best available forward-looking climate information and incorporating it into standards, codes, and certifications. For example, representatives from one organization said that climate models provide a wide range of possible temperatures that is difficult to use in their standards.

Agencies have initiated some actions and could take more to help standards-developing organizations address challenges, according to various reports, representatives of standards-developing organizations, and agency officials. For example, in 2015, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) convened a panel that seeks to identify gaps in standards and codes to make infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather. In addition, officials from the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP)—which coordinates research across 13 federal agencies—told GAO they have begun discussions with representatives of standards-developing organizations on their climate information needs. In 2015, the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MitFLG)—which coordinates hazard mitigation efforts—issued a draft strategy to encourage federal support for more resilient standards and codes. Opportunities exist for additional agency actions that may help address the challenges organizations identified to using forward-looking climate information. Specifically, agencies that address climate issues could improve interagency coordination to help standards-developing organizations address institutional challenges and could provide the best available forward-looking climate information to help them address technical challenges. Federal policy directs agency standards executives—senior-level officials who coordinate agency participation in standards organizations—to coordinate their views when they participate in the same standards activities so as to present, whenever feasible, a single, unified position. The policy also directs the Secretary of Commerce, who has delegated the responsibility to NIST, to coordinate and foster executive branch implementation of the policy governing federal participation in the development of voluntary consensus standards. A governmentwide effort could also present a benefit by reducing the federal fiscal exposure to the effects of climate change.

Why GAO Did This Study

Over the last decade, extreme weather cost the federal government more than $320 billion for, among other things, repairs to federal infrastructure, and according to the President’s 2017 budget request, these costs may rise as the climate continues to change. GAO’s prior work found that using the best available climate information, including forward-looking projections, can help manage climate-related risks.

Federal, state, local, and private decision makers use design standards, building codes, and voluntary certifications in the construction of infrastructure. Standards-developing organizations, such as professional engineering societies, issue standards, model codes, and certifications.

GAO was asked to review the use of forward-looking climate information by standards-developing organizations. This report examines (1) what is known about the use of such information in standards, codes, and certifications; (2) challenges standards organizations face to using climate information; and (3) actions federal agencies have taken to address such challenges and additional actions they could take. GAO analyzed laws and policies, reviewed reports, and interviewed representatives from 17 selected organizations and officials from agencies that address climate issues.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that NIST, in consultation with USGCRP and MitFLG, convene an ongoing governmentwide effort to provide forward-looking climate information to standards organizations. Commerce neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO’s recommendation.

The Best Home Decor That Doesn’t Ruin The Environment

Read the full story in Fast Company.

In the fight against climate change, every action helps, especially the everyday choices you make at the cash register. A study published earlier this year in the International Journal of Environmental Policy and Decision Making found that consumers are becoming more conscious about the carbon footprint of their products they buy and use. Considering that the building industry is responsible for over 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions and on top of that there’s the carbon footprint of all the stuff you buy to fill those buildings, now’s a great time to buy products that are friendlier to the environment at some point in their lifecycle, whether its in how they’re made or how they perform.

10 smart salting tips that protect Minnesota waters

Via the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Although this is targeted toward Minnesota residents, the suggestions apply more broadly.

As Minnesota endures heavy snowfall and bitter cold temperatures, most of us will rely on a crucial tool to clear the roads and sidewalks: salt. It is estimated that we toss more than 350,000 tons of salt on the metro area roads annually.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MCPA) recommends a low-salt diet for our lakes, streams, and rivers. Rock salt, which contains chloride, is the most commonly used de-icer. But, much like table salt, rock salt’s benefits are peppered with danger. Salt helps keep our roads free from ice and safe for drivers, but can have the opposite effect on the nearby environment. Its public safety benefits come with environmental drawbacks like polluted waters and poisoned aquatic wildlife. Governor Mark Dayton has declared a Year of Water Action in Minnesota, which makes this winter an ideal time to learn more about the impact of salt on Minnesota’s lakes and streams.

How does salt get into the water?

The primary source of chloride, particularly in urban areas, is salt applied in the winter months to roads, parking lots and sidewalks. A secondary source of chloride, particularly in more rural areas, is water softeners.

The state of Minnesota has thousands of miles of roads to maintain and managing ice and snow is necessary to the safety of residents. The use of salt, primarily sodium chloride, is currently the common method for ice control during the winter. However, when snow and ice melt, the salt goes with it, washing into our lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.

Why does it matter?

High levels of salt can be harmful to fish and other freshwater aquatic life and can also negatively affect infrastructure, vehicles, plants, soil, pets, wildlife as well as groundwater and drinking water supplies.

Roughly 75% of Minnesotans rely on groundwater for their drinking water. The MPCA has found 30% of the shallow monitoring wells, often in urban areas, have exceeded the state standard for salt levels. As water moves from shallow to deeper aquifers, the salt contamination could penetrate our sources of drinking water.

Once in the water, chloride becomes a permanent pollutant and continues to accumulate in the environment over time. The only known method of removing chloride in groundwater and wastewater is through reverse osmosis, which can be a costly and challenging large scale treatment process.

What is happening with salt in the water?

There are currently 47 waterbodies in Minnesota that tested above the water quality standard for chloride, with 39 in the metro. An additional 39 surface waters in the metro are near the chloride standard and many others are unknown. The data show that salt concentrations are continuing to increase in both surface waters and groundwater across the state.

How can you make a difference?

How can we protect our waters, maintain safe roads in the winter and have desirable water in our homes? Currently, there are not environmentally safe, effective and inexpensive alternatives to salt. However, we can reduce salt at the source through smart salting application strategies. Smart salting will also save money as well as reduce damage to infrastructure, vehicles, plants and water supplies.

Each person contributes to the attitudes and practices that have created a high and steadily growing volume of salt to be used each year. Shifting public attitude toward more sustainable salt application is required to meet demands. You can do your part to prevent chloride pollution by following these simple tips.

Winter Safety – a few ideas to reduce salt use

  • Support local and state winter maintenance crews in their efforts to reduce their salt use.
  • Work together with local government, businesses, schools, churches and non-profits to find ways to reduce salt use in your community. Shovel. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it will be.
  • 15 degrees F is too cold for salt. Most salts stop working at this temperature. Use sand instead for traction, but remember that sand does not melt ice.
  • Slow down. Drive for the conditions and make sure to give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work. Consider purchasing winter (snow) tires.
  • Be patient. Just because you don’t see salt on the road doesn’t mean it hasn’t been applied. These products take time to work.
  • Apply less. More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than 4 pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet. One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. Leave about a 3-inch space between granules. Consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to help y9ou apply a consistent amount.
  • Sweep up extra. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away. Use this salt or sand somewhere else or throw it away.
  • Hire a certified Smart Salting contractor, visit the MPCA website for a list of certified contractors: https://www.pca.state.mn.us/water/training
  • Watch a video. This video, produced by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, provides tips to homeowners about more environmentally friendly snow and ice removal: Improved Winter Maintenance: Good Choices for Clean Water
  • For more information about Governor Dayton’s Year of Water Action, visit mn.gov/governor.