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Rebirth of green building

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/06/09 @ 11:11am

With Washington hitching our wagon to the 'green' future ($30 billion in green building provisions in the stimulus bill, anyone?), what is there left to do but find ways to invest in the biggest collective effort since we put a man on the moon? A lot of organizing, it turns out, if Northeast Ohio hopes to secure the green.

Has there ever been a better time for the Green Building Coalition to awaken from its year-long slumber and reform as the Northeast Ohio chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council?

To celebrate and acknowledge the progress Cleveland has made in adopting green building on the ground and in policies, Cleveland Green Building Coalition founder now Chief Environmental Officer for the City of Chicago Sadhu Johnston keynoted the re-organization party last week. Before Johnston wowed the crowd with why Chicago's generally considered one of the greenest cities in the world, Jason Hartke, U.S. Green Building Council policy director, provided an update on the national picture for green building.

Here's a break down of the green building provisions in the stimulus bill: $9 bil to school construction; $2.2 to state energy efficiency programs; $5 bil to weatherization (1 million homes) and billions for renewable energy that can be used in distributed generation applications such as solar panels on residential rooftops.

"Green building is at the nexus of green jobs and saving money on energy," Hartke said.

How can policy guide the federal government's massive investment? Denis Hayes, former head of the government's top renewable energy research lab, then known as the Solar Energy Research Institute, answers in a recent solar trade publication article. He calls on the government to establish tough national building standards:

We can make all new buildings carbon-neutral by 2025. The astonishing rate at which architects and developers nationwide have adopted the voluntary LEED building standards (from USGBC) suggests a deep desire to build structures that will make sense throughout their 50-year lifetimes. We need to build on that momentum to create a new generation of energy-efficient "living buildings.

His comments reflect a flurry of green building activity around the country: 2000 buildings representing six billion sq. ft. of real estate have been LEED-certified in the last eight years with another 300 million sq. ft. of real estate in the pipeline.

"We have an opportunity to offset 85 percent of this country's incremental energy demand by 2050," Hartke said, "if we're resolute and make the right choices."

Nearly 200 locations have green building policies in U.S. (cities and counties).

"Local governments have been a beacon of light in the movement," Hartke said, acknowledging the leadership of Johnston and Cleveland Office of Sustainability director, Andrew Watterson.

Watterson updated the progress Cleveland's making on its sustainability agenda:

  • A LEED-registered building going for Silver and a recreation center also aiming for LEED-Silver.
  • Green technology grant program: $150,000 for 3 years if you're doing green manufacturing
  • Garden for Greenbacks program to encourage urban agriculture
  • Teaching sustainability to city staff ? "we just got another employee who passed their LEED-AP test."
  • "We doubled our recycling rate from 5 to 12 percent since I started (that's close to a million dollars in savings ? we save $40 ton). Mostly, this was done through our commercial dumpster program.
  • Youth employment program built and installed 250 rain barrels last summer
  • Local food ? on SustainLane ranked Cleveland #2 in the country
  • Permanent status for gardens and chickens and bees legislation
  • Mandate for all city departments to reduce energy use by 10 percent -- we get monthly reports from department directors
  • Deconstruction project ? "We did four last year, and the goal is 10 this year."
  • Cleveland Green Standard in Community Development: We have green building standards for whatever funding going after in CD (LEED, HBA and Enterprise Green Communities)
  • We established a LEED-Neighborhood Development coordination team

For all of the progress at the city, much work in ramping up green building in Northeast Ohio needs to be done. The Northeast Ohio chapter has hired Michele Kilroy to steer the ship, and board chair Elaine Price offered a glimpse at the group's strategic plan. The work of the strategic plan committees, consisting of 18 members, falls into five categories (as summarized by chairs):


We're surveying awareness and needs to identify grants and educational opportunities in Ohio. We're developing a value proposition?about why you need to go green. If you don't, someone younger and faster will. If we don't have opportunities here, we'll bring them here and make sure needs are met. We want your feedback.-Wendy Bednar at Tremco

Financial angle

The new thought on economics of green building is creating efficiencies within your organization will save money. We searched the federal, state and local incentives and created a booklet on this. The stimulus act has had big impact. We're looking at holding costs and developed calculators on ongoing operational savings. Also, with resale we see value increases.-Randie Kuhn of Cuyahoga County

Building owners and operators

We're working on a Rationale Kit looking at whole lifecycle accounting. It notes the influence of CPAs in decision making and (may) include case studies, worksheets and a calculator. How to get building owners to operate more efficiently? Can LEED-Existing Building be a tool to shape your decisions on operating your building?-Todd Alexander with EarthWatch Ohio

Green Schools

Our goal is to take LEED-Silver mandate from the state of Ohio and target schools facilities and leaders and develop tool kits ? An early engagement kit, Grey to green operations kit (operations staff), Grey to green EB systems upgrade kit, and Curriculum integration kit.-Emily Baunach of Brown Flynn

Resource Center

We're focusing on making green building resources accessible. In 2009, we'll launch a Green Building Directory with a regional focus for residential, commercial and industrial. We found an opportunity to showcase regional products and services with a web-based center for now (even though we considered a physical facility).-Eric Cox of Herschman Architects

To participate in rebuilding the Northeast Ohio Green Building Council chapter, contact Michele Kilroy mkilroy@clevelandgbc.org

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