Tag Archives: Sustainability

Advancing Sustainability Through Innovation

A recent Ceres report analyzed 613 of the largest publicly traded corporations in the United States to reveal that while a growing contingent of companies are steadily building sustainability into their business operations, the vast majority are not. As detailed in the report, hundreds of companies are taking steps to reduce their green house gas emissions, but most have not set clear time line goals for these programs. Ceres’ corporate program vice president Andrea Moffat summarized the report by saying, “We’re seeing a change, but not fast enough and not to the extent that we think is really possible for US companies. We are not seeing the scale of change that we really need.”

The intention and action is there, but many corporations still struggle to advance the sustainability of their products and production methods. Many companies who make sustainability a priority have turned to eco-labels to provide third-party accreditation to validate their sustainability efforts. Yet, nearly all eco-labels focus solely on identifying performance within a specific product or service category and therefore cannot offer a holistic sustainability platform or incentive for continual improvement. Other problems with traditional eco-labels can lead consumers to question the true meaning of the label, for example when the certification is self-identifying.

Corporations need a neutral third party who can both provide a path forward for sustainable innovation, as well as ensure they are continuing to make substantial progress and improve their impact on the world. The Cradle to Cradle Certified Products program provides companies with a verified continuous improvement sustainability platform that addresses the five most crucial aspects of corporate sustainability: water use, energy consumption, material health, material reutilization and social fairness.

The program helps corporations choose safer alternatives for ingredients in their products and set clear goals and deadlines for the improvement of the five core areas moving forward.

To get on the path toward making safer products with the Cradle to Cradle Certified program:

1. Determine if your product is appropriate for certification.

–Does it comply with the banned chemicals lists?

–Is there a commitment to continuous improvement and product optimization?

2. Select an Accredited Assessment body for testing, analysis and evaluation of your product.

3. Compile initial application forms.

4. Work with you assessor to compile and evaluate data and documentation.

–Collect information on your supply chain.

–Work with assessor to develop optimization strategies.

–Submit a Certification Summary Report assembled by your assessor to the Institute for final review.

5. Receive Certification Summary Report Review: The Institute issues a certificate, conferring use of the mark.

6. Apply for Recertification (every two years under version 3).

–Work with assessor and supply chain to gather any new data.

–Assessor evaluates data and progress on optimization strategies; evidence of progress is required for re-certification. The progress is context specific.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard provides a continuous improvement pathway toward the development of safe and recyclable products. Product certification is available at five different levels (BasicBronzeSilverGold, and Platinum), with each higher level addressing a more rigorous set of requirements.

The Basic certification level is a “provisional” level designed to help companies “get on the path” toward the development of safe and sustainable products, recognizing the difficulty of transition and honoring human intention as an important part of any successful protocol for continuous product improvement. Certification at the Basic level requires a commitment to future assessment of the chemical ingredients in a product, and optimization of the product by phasing out harmful substances, implementing reutilization strategies, increasing the use of renewable energy, and implementing water stewardship and social fairness programs.

Up to this date, 205 companies have participated in the program and currently there are 306 active certificates representing an estimated 2,139 product variations. We have witnessed some amazing product breakthroughs occur through the certification process. After Puma’s 2010 Environmental Profit and Loss Account linked 57 percent of its impact with the production of raw materials (leather, cotton, and rubber, included), the brand turned to “clever raw materials” such as biodegradable polymers, recycled polyester, and organic cotton. Puma’s Incycleline was released in 2013, and a Cradle to Cradle Certified fashion product line represented a first in the fashion industry. In addition to improving the sourcing of their raw materials, Puma also improved the material health of these products through pigment positive lists and instituted an in-store take-back program to claim used Puma-ware for industrial composting and upcycle.

The Cradle to Cradle Certified approach is spreading worldwide. The Alcoa Foundation recently awarded a grant to the Institute to develop a new web-based education program that focuses on sustainable practices and designs for product designers. Following the course, participants have the opportunity to get their product certified and recognized as part of the Innovation Challenge. Learn more about this program here.

With the expansion of sustainability initiatives through company innovation and product development, we can build the new economy – one where products have a positive impact on people and planet.

Bridgett Luther is president at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

Reference: environmentalleader.com

7 Sustainability Strategies for Commercial Buildings

The office building industry accounts for nearly 20% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International.

A key part to curbing emissions is working with local and city officials, tenants, and other groups to help make entire communities more sustainable. BOMA International shares the following strategies for greening your facility and community.

  1. Get Connected. Local utility companies often offer demand response and other energyefficiency incentive programs for both residential and commercial buildings. Reach out to local utility companies to find out what incentives and programs are offered in your city and how your building can benefit.
  2. Make a Presentation. Does your building implement great energy management strategies? Contact your local chamber of commerce and offer to share your leadership insight with the business community in your city.
  3. Benchmark Energy Performance. Measuring performance is the first step toward improving performance. Benchmark your building’s energy and water consumption through EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Managerbenchmarking tool and encourage the rest of the buildings in your company’s portfolio and throughout the city to do the same. Make it a team competition to be the city with the most benchmarked buildings.
  4. Support Incentive-Based Energy Legislation. In cities and states across the country there is incentive-based energy legislation that make it more affordable for building owners to implement energy efficiency retrofits and upgrades. Find out if this type of legislation has passed in your city/state, and be sure to support it if it has. If it doesn’t exist, lobby your elected officials to create legislation to incentivize energy efficiency.
  5. Host a Recycling Event. Host a community recycling day where tenants and community residents can drop off hard to recycle items such as batteries and LED light bulbs. Don’t stop at your building; make it a citywide campaign.
  6. Teach Your Tenants Well. Your building management team is well versed in the latest energy management strategies. Terrific. But what about your tenants? Institute a Tenant Energy Awareness Program – use your company newsletter and/or building announcements to keep tenants informed about energy management goals and offer training, education, and tips on low and no-cost energy efficiency strategies.
  7. “Green” the Commute. Fewer cars equals greener cities. Get your city on the road to green by offering bicycle storage facilities in your building.

Source: Buildings.com

LEED-EBOM Commissioning Credits Focus On Maintaining Efficient Operations

LEED for New Construction currently provides elements that help link design and construction to operations, but because many are voluntary, they are typically underused. The most apparent opportunity exists within two areas of the Energy and Atmosphere category. The enhanced commissioning credit in the New Construction rating system specifically helps to bridge the gap from the end of design and construction to the operational phase. Specifically, incorporating commissioning activities such as opposed season systems testing generates a track record of operations and performance to analyze and troubleshoot ahead of long-term operations. Commissioning credits in LEED-EBOM pick up right where the New Construction system leaves off, leveraging the fact that, as performance decay never stops, neither should commissioning to help maintain efficient operations.

Even if a building was never commissioned in the first place, the best place to focus efforts is probably in the associated commissioning credits of LEED-EBOM. Either picking up where the design and construction commissioning agent left off, keeping the same commissioning agent on board for the early years of operation, or starting from scratch with the commissioning activities outlined in LEED-EBOM will likely provide substantial gains in operational efficiency. If it is possible to retain the design and construction commissioning agent during the operational phase of a building, it will be easier to incorporate knowledge about design direction, challenges, obstacles, and strategic success into the building’s operational life and future performance successes. Otherwise, building staff hired late in construction, or even after a building is occupied, will not gain the benefit of a building’s early history and lessons learned. Each building is unique in regard to where it has been and where it is going operationally, and the longer design and construction team members can stay engaged with building operations the better.

The other Energy and Atmosphere credit that can contribute significantly to optimized operations pertains to energy metering. The design team can properly segregate branch distribution to the various types of loads in a building, like lighting or HVAC, and provide the associated meters to aid the analysis of energy consumption. However it is the owner/operator of the facility who should still follow through with an annual program to fine tune performance over time. It may come as a surprise to many that for the most part, typical design practice provides very few tools to properly manage the energy-consuming systems in a building. Whether your building included system-level metering to begin with or not, LEED-EBOM incentivizes incorporating meters to measure “major end uses that represent 20 percent or more of the total annual consumption.” We can’t manage what we don’t measure, and a comprehensive metering program goes a long way in ongoing system management and troubleshooting of the issues that become routine in many buildings leading to reduced energy consumption over time.

Growth Expected For Smart Building Measures

Despite the gains facility executives have seen from implementing smart building measures, less than half say that their organizations have developed an overall smart building strategy. (See Figure 5.) By comparison, most organizations have overall strategies in place for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Figure 5. Does your organization have an overall: R=826

Smart building strategy (R=878): 45%
Energy efficiency strategy (R=858): 74%
Sustainability strategy (R=845): 61%

Among organizations that do have energy efficiency or sustainability strategies, a majority of respondents say they rank smart building strategies as top priorities for those strategies. (See Figures 6 and 7.)

Figure 6. How important is a smart building strategy to your current energy efficiency strategy? R=631

A top priority: 52%
Not a top priority: 41%
Not implementing smart building measures: 7%

Figure 7. How important is a smart building strategy to your current sustainability strategy? R=511

A top priority: 57%
Not a top priority: 38%
Not implementing smart building measures: 5%

Although a majority of respondents say smart building strategies are top priorities, the percentages are far smaller than the number that say smart building strategies have helped improve performance in energy and sustainability. This discrepancy suggests that many facility executives may be failing to integrate smart building planning, on a strategic level, with energy efficiency and sustainability planning.

But the survey suggests the next few years could see a significant upswing in the implementation of smart building measures. While the percentages of those who expect to take the two most common measures, lighting upgrades or recycling, decline compared to what was done the past three years (lighting upgrades down from 83 percent to 62 percent; recycling down from 70 percent to 39 percent), many smart building measures show an increase. (See Figure 8.)

Figure 8. Which of the following steps do you anticipate your organization taking in the next three years? R=775

Expect To Take Measures

Controls upgrades: 47%
Integration of building systems: 41%
Automated monitoring and reporting: 40%
Automated optimization: 23%
Continuous commissioning: 22%
Automated fault detection & diagnostics: 21%
Dashboards: 19%
Increase compared to implementation in past three years
No change
+5 percent
+8 percent
+53 percent
+120 percent
+50 percent
+58 percent

The increase for “integration of building systems” is particularly noteworthy for two reasons. One is because it comes after three years of integration improvements in many facilities. The other is because integration is vital as the underpinning of a smart building strategy.

“Systems integration is central to a smart building strategy,” Zimmer points out. “By integrating individual systems and buildings into a common user interface, operational activities in the various subsystems can be monitored to detect inefficient operating conditions, allowing corrective action in order to achieve high levels of systems optimization.”

Moores believes all building systems should be accessible through the building management system and well interfaced for Internet access. Facility executives and others “should have access to pertinent information via dashboards,” says Moores.

Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, believes systems integration has to make smart building strategies “as simplified as possible.”

That’s not to say that systems integration guarantees a smart building. “Systems integration is an important element but will not in and of itself create value,” says Rob Murchison, co-founder of Intelligent Buildings, LLC. “There are many high-tech, integrated systems that are set on override or that don’t use interoperability.”

“Smart building strategies need to be easy enough for everyone to understand,” says Moores.

It’s essential to have a strategy for systems integration, rather than simply integrating systems for the sake of integration. “A systems integrator may come in and offer an overlaying control system that will monitor every system and subsystem in the building through one interface,” says Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group, a consulting engineering firm. Reilman doesn’t believe that is an appropriate strategy for every building. “The question is, why are you doing it?” Gigabytes of data that no one uses or knows how to extrapolate are useless. “The facility executive needs an easy way to extract and collate data to verify energy model results.”

Analytics is emerging as an important area of smart building technology. The survey showed that about one in five respondents are now using analytics to improve energy efficiency while another one in three are considering that option. (See Figure 9.)

Figure 9. Are you currently using or considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency in your buildings? R=797

Using analytics to improve energy efficiency:


Considering analytics to improve energy efficiency:


Neither using nor considering analytics software to improve energy efficiency:


Role of the BAS in Smart Buildings

Basic control over building functions is essential to smart building strategies. Building automation is generally the cornerstone because its aim is to optimize energy performance while enhancing occupant comfort. Employing sensors, controllers, actuators, and software, a building automation system (BAS) may serve many functions, including:

  • Optimizing start/stop functions on various building systems and subsystems.
  • Scheduling maintenance.
  • Employing predictive fault detection.
  • Detecting abnormal operating conditions.
  • Alarming and preventive actions to minimize damage in case of emergency.

Depending on the BAS chosen and the preferences of the organization, decisions can be made manually by building operators, or facility staff can use embedded intelligence algorithms to automate actions.

The range of capabilities of a BAS makes it well-suited to be the basis of a smart building. And the survey shows that most facility executives do identify the BAS as the foundation of smart building strategies. (See chart below.) The University of Southern California (USC) has a smart building strategy that allows facilities management to see what’s happening in every campus building, according to Andrew Reilman, associate partner at Syska Hennessy Group.

Which do you think should be the foundation for smart building strategies? R=795

Building automation system: 55%
Software analytics: 11%
Not sure: 31%
Other: 3%

“They know what’s going on in operations and maintenance across building systems, down to the filters and their product numbers,” Reilman notes. USC’s building management system has a facilities management system layer that allows sophisticated control strategies. “But you could also treat a 50-story high-rise building as a ‘campus,'” says Reilman, to accomplish similar smart options.

Almost by definition, many BAS functions make a building smarter. For example, Thomas F. Smyth, director, facility services at Cobbleskill Regional Hospital, believes the advantage of a building automation system is “less human error. The BAS lets you create setpoints and parameters for temperature in a specific space, for instance, so that is not left to someone’s memory. It also does monitoring functions so that we don’t have unhappy surgeons in the operating room. Of course, the BAS is only as good as the people operating the system.”

Tom Walsh, chief engineer for Transwestern Commercial Services, believes another excellent use for BAS in smart building strategies is “trending data, particularly watching how and when temperatures rise and fall. This is invaluable information to use for planning energy use.”

In addition to controlling, monitoring, and trending strategies, a BAS can serve another valuable smart building function, says Gerald Cotter, associate director of engineering and project management for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. “The BAS can show others what we are doing to save energy and encourage sustainability. When people can see the benefits, they are more willing to spend money on improvements.”

Bumps In The Road To Sustainability: One Hospital’s Story

The future was supposed to be brighter for the Modesto (Calif.) Medical Center. When the 670,000-square-foot complex opened in 2008, it was intended to be a green laboratory for future green-building projects for Kaiser Permanente, the health care organization with more than 600 medical facilities.

So far, the center’s medical facilities and full-service hospital have not quite lived up to expectations.

“One of the most valuable lessons we have learned over the past six years is that just because you are handed over a beautiful, brand-new building, don’t assume that everything is going to run as designed,” says Ed Gonzales, the medical center’s chief engineer. “My team and I have discovered that new isn’t perfect, and that once you figure out how to work out all the bugs, there are always more creeping around.”

Many of the medical center’s issues relate to the ongoing challenge facing most maintenance and engineering managers to push the energy efficiency of institutional and commercial facilities.

“We’ve had issues regarding maintaining efficiency with many of our systems,” Gonzales says. “Energy conservation is now a top priority locally and at a regional level. We’ve discovered that from the original build, there were many systems that were value engineered, which means two things. One, sometimes things look good on paper when in reality, it’s the end user that has to find ways to keep a system running. Two, saving money at the beginning will always cost you more in the end.”

When the medical center opened, it was the organization’s most environmentally responsible facility, boasting a range of energy- and water-saving materials, low-emitting interior products, and design elements aimed at improving the health and well-being of patients and staff.

“It’s really difficult to pinpoint one system that has been the most challenging,” Gonzales says. “However, if I had to choose one, I would have to say maintaining proper humidity levels in our operating rooms. When this building was designed, the designers failed to take into consideration that this style building works great in the San Francisco bay area. But when you take the same template building and place it right in the middle of the Central Valley, where the temperatures can reach upwards of 115-120 (degrees) in the summer, it can be very difficult to maintain the humidity levels.

“One of the reasons is that all of our air handling units are 100 percent outside air. We as a facility team have to get very creative with our building automation system in order to maintain the state-mandated humidity levels.”

By Dan Hounsell, Editor- http://www.facilitiesnet.com/

Sustainable And Maintainable: Achieving Two Goals

Sustainability has become a top priority within institutional and commercial facilities in the last decade. Architects and consulting engineers continuously strive to reduce buildings’ energy use in order to conserve valuable natural resources and reduce air pollution. But using unproven building materials and systems to achieve these goals can create long-term issues for maintenance and engineering managers and their departments, and they can have a significant impact on maintenance and operations budgets.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) formed in 1993 to promote sustainability in the building and construction industry. The USGBC created the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system to certify sustainable buildings based on design, construction, operations and maintenance. Today, more than 53,000 projects comprising more than 10 billion square feet of construction space participate in LEED.

As a LEED Accredited Professional, I will not debate the merits of LEED or other sustainable organizations, such as the American High-Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC), which offer similar visions. These organizations do not design and construct facilities. Engineers, architects, construction companies and construction management firms do, and their responsibility is to communicate the impact of sustainable design principles, materials, and systems to those who take over operation of new facilities — building owners and maintenance, engineering and operations personnel.

Having been involved with many sustainable projects as a designer, constructor and maintainer, my primary purpose is to inform owners and maintenance personnel, as well as educate them during design, construction and operation of their sustainable facilities.

Many LEED points, such as those for bicycle racks, showers, and parking spots for hybrid vehicles, come with low impact to maintenance. But for our purposes, we will focus on the higher-impact areas — HVAC systems and equipment and building automation systems (BAS).\

By: Christopher R. Williamson P.E.- http://www.facilitiesnet.com/