Eight Chapters, Thousands of Members, One Voice


USGBC+ Looks at California in Latest Issue

Yeah, that’outfront-outwest-headers me doing the old folded arm thing in front of what you have to admit is a pretty cool sign. USGBC+, the new USGBC magazine (http://plus.usgbc.org/), focuses on our changing climate this issue. Unfortunately, if things continue the way they are currently going, Redwood City may have to reconsider their famous motto, derived from the observations of both the American and German governemtns in an era when such determinations were based on whoknowswhat.

While all the attention of the article is quite flattering personally, and Vice Chair Wes Sullens does refer to this org as “my baby,” I know it really takes a virtual village. The true story is much more about all the good, public-spirited USGBC people across California that have made this organization into a recognized source for forward-thiking policy squarely aimed at an audacious undertaking: the transformation of our built environment for the benefit of all through a carbon-free California economy much more prosperous, healthy, and equitable. We face a few tons worth of challenges moving towards this goal, but what choice do we really have? We know the most dangerous thing we can do when our world is so dramatically changing is to stand still; we need to build consensus, foster innovation, make markets, and then achieve and surpass our climate goals.

All of us involved in the coalition of eight chapters that is USGBC California need each other to get thigs done. Candice Wong, chair of the California Central Coast Chapter (they call it C4), says that the creation of our state org has helped connect her chapter to other chapters and speak with one stronger, collective voice in Sacramento. Our issue portfolio spans quite a few areas like water and energy efficiency, building codes, green schools, finance and resilency/adaptation. Alongside the USGBC+ issue was the recent release of Safeguarding Califonia, the state’s far-ranging guide on climate risk management headed by Natural Resource’s Ann Chan (http://resources.ca.gov/climate/safeguarding/).

But the single bggest area, the one that cuts across everything, has been the evolving understanding around health impacts, whether inside buildings or across climate zones. Northern California Chapter Executive Director Dan Geiger puts it plainly: “If you say, ‘Green schools have cleaner air, more daylight, less absenteeism,’ people get it right away.” Dominique Smith, executive director of USGBC’s Los Angeles Chapter concurs, noting a “huge movement” toward including human health issues as part of environmental advocacy. USGBC California has been quite active on making our furniture and insualtion safer. Technical Bulliten 117 has been updated fro 1975 and Research head Paul Werrmer has been leading the regualtory grind of implementation for last year’s landmark Assembly Bill 127.

So we hope that this USGBC+ issue is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship chronicaling the exploits of our continued advocacy. It is certainly something worthy of your topline bookmark.

PS: USGBC+ also has an article on the San Diego’s Chapter Green Assistance Program (GAP) and the work done in Balboa Park with the Worldbeat Center. Hats of to Renée Daigneault and Ravi Bajaj and Doug Kot.

USGBC Sungevity PS_Tag

Project Sunshine: Sungevity Passes $1.5M Raise

USGBC Sungevity PS_TagUSGBC California and the eight California Chapters are relatively new to the Sungevity partnership, but we are starting to see results. Here’s a report of their milestone achievement with us and other NGOs.

From The Huffington Post  | By

Sungevity, Inc., a company created to allow homeowners to design their own solar power systems through an online process, announced Wednesday that they had reached a key milestone with their nonprofit partners.

The company’s partnership program, Sungevity.org, works with nonprofit organizations to raise money for their causes while encouraging their members to choose Sungevity for their solar installations. Sungevity has now donated more than $1.5 million to nonprofits ranging from the Sierra Club and Save the Frogs to schools and science centers. To celebrate reaching this milestone, the company will announce Wednesday that it is making a $50,000 donation to their local food bank in California, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and adding them as a partner nonprofit. The ACCFB serves a sixth of Alameda County residents and distributes 450,000 meals worth of food every week.

For each customer that installs solar with Sungevity, the company will donate to their nonprofit of choice. “Every home that we get to go solar, Sungevity gives us $750 back,” said Sierra Club Chief of Staff Jesse Simons said in a Sungevity.org promotional video. “This has been a great revenue-generating tool for the Sierra Club.”

Sungevity.org works with 115 participating nonprofits, and estimates that the program has helped offset 322,436 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions — equivalent to planting more than 7.5 million trees. The company touts the program as more than just a fundraising tool for nonprofits, but a way for them to help their members help the environment.

“Going solar through the program gives non-profit partners a personal action to promote to their supporters, empowering them to take positive action that helps stymie climate change while simultaneously helping to raise funds for their specific cause,” Renu Mathias, Sungevity’s director of affinity marketing, told the Huffington Post.

The solar industry in the United States is growing as costs continue to fall, and 2013 was a record year for new photovoltaic installations. SungeSolar Fundraisingvity offers systems that homeowners can purchase outright and a residential solar lease program, an arrangement in which a third party owns the panels and the homeowner pays a lease or simply buys the energy from the panel owners. Solar leasing is a growing trend as a way to finance solar without bearing all the upfront costs of buying and maintaining equipment. Sungevity believes that solar will continue to grow through their “solar social” strategy. “Ultimately, solar customers will help to rapidly scale solar’s uptake,” Mathias told HuffPost.

Sungevity is one of many small businesses working social impact into their mission. Many states are now allowing companies to incorporate as a “benefit corporation,” or B Corps, which formalizes their commitment to social impact in addition to profit. B Lab, a nonprofit, has certified more than 900 companies, including Sungevity. These companies, according to the B Corps website, are dedicated to using “the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.”

“The $1.5 million we have generated for nonprofit organizations through this initiative underscores how solar can be a force for social change beyond the immediate environmental benefits of lowering the collective carbon footprint,” said Sungevity founder and CEO Andrew Birch in a press release.

USGBC PolicyPalooza Logo 2014

PolicyPalooza 2014

USGBC PolicyPalooza Logo 2014 That special time is coming near: PolicyPalooza! Our annual Advocacy Day will be concurrent with the Green California Summit and promises to be a great big three-ring circus of fun, featuring our Day at the Capital, the Advocates Luncheon and the Green Hard Hat Awards Reception as well as special Green California Summit keynotes from Building Health Initiative leader Anne Simpson of CalPERS and Wade Crowfoot of the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research. In addition to the USGBC California booth (#608) on the exhibit floor, there will be USGBC “Greenbuild-style” presentations on Prop 39 programs, school water management, “Grey, Purple, Green” water policy, “Last Mile” code discussions and reports from USGBC Northern California Chapter’s Building Health Initiative.

USGBC Advocates from around the state will gather at the Capital for over 70 meetings and discuss “mainstreaming” topics like driving sustainable market transformation, specifying healthier building materials,  fostering innovative building permit delivery and enforcement metrics, codifying foundational greywater and recycled water plumbing and leveraging building energy data beyond the benchmark.

The Class of 2014 Green Hard Hat Awardees features water policy leader Assemblymember Mike Gatto (legislative sponsor of the dual-use plumbing “Purple Pipe” bill, AB 2282), energy efficiency policy leader Assemblymember Das Williams (sponsor of  the “Last Mile” energy code enforcement legislation, AB 1918) and Dan Burgoyne of the Department of General Services, point person for implementing the Governor’s Executive Order B-18-12 on State BuildingsResiliency_Doug and Ann_sm and statewide water management and other worthy initiatives. These notables follow in the footsteps of past champions like Governor Brown Senators Kevin de Leon,  Fran Pavley and Darrell Steinberg, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

A great, exhausting time will be sure to be had by all. We’ll be posting scenes of Green Hard Hat wearing in the near future.





Carbon Emissions from the Commercial Building Sector: The Role of Climate, Quality, and Incentives

By Nils Kok with Matthew Kahn and John M. Quigley Download This is an updated version from the paper “Energy Consumption and the Durable Building Stock: The Capital Vintage Paradox” The durable building stock plays a major role in determining the greenhouse gas emissions produced by residents and workers in a metropolitan area….

Source: Nils Kok

California Efficiency Programs: A Lot to Be Thankful For, but Room for Improvement

By Lara Ettenson

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Lara Ettenson, Director, California Energy Efficiency Policy, San Francisco

California has a host of amazing clean energy opportunities that save us money and energy, improve the environment, support a growing workforce, and enable the Golden State to be at the vanguard of clean tech. But even a state like ours has things to learn when it comes to capturing more energy savings from energy efficiency – our fastest, cleanest, and cheapest way to fight pollution and climate change.

As I noted in my recent three-part blog series, there is no doubt that the California utilities (both publicly and privately owned) have many great energy efficiency programs to offer customers that save money and energy, support a strong efficiency industry, and improve the air we breathe. Policymakers also helped continue our strong efficiency foundation in 2013 and at the same time, more needs to happen in 2014 to make sure we reach the state’s climate goals and truly rely on efficiency as our first option to meet our energy needs. Meaning, when the state’s residential, business, and industrial customers waste less energy by improving the efficiency of their products and buildings, utilities don’t need to spend as much to buy or generate the dirtier, more expensive energy to power our buildings and gadgets. We need to make sure our system is set up well to both enable and ensure all utilities do so.

While there are a number of successful rs, builders, retailers, and manufacturers can take advantage of to save money and energy, there are also programs that have room to grow. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle last month, the Energy Upgrade California – Home Upgrade Program has faced challenges in achieving the programs ambitious goals.

Before delving into the details of why this might be, it is important to put this program into context. California’s privately owned utilities invest nearly $1billion a year in efficiency programs, which is expected to provide nearly half a billion in net savings – that is, savings achieved above the cost of running them. Of course we also know that in addition to these direct energy savings, we get so much more out of these programs – like comfort, better work and living conditions, reduced noise, and other non-energy benefits.

The article aptly noted a number of key challenges with the current program and – as luck would have it – energy agencies, utilities, local governments, and stakeholders are already hard at work trying to improve it. We also need to keep in mind that the program:

  • Tried something that hadn’t been done at this scale before in California;
  • Addresses one of the most challenging and costly energy efficiency sectors out there. There is no question about it, getting single family home owners to take action on an individual basis is much more costly for contractors and customers than working at a bigger scale with large commercial and municipal buildings. In addition, residential customers don’t often want to be around during extensive retrofits (like getting insulation blown into their walls and ceilings) but also don’t have the option of moving out (which is one reason why upgrades at time of sale and move-in are so much easier);
  • Is considered a “market transformation” program — meaning these upgrades aren’t happening on their own. Customers need a lot of help and the program requires substantial upfront investment (both in time and money) in the near years to help build a market and reap substantial long term benefits in the outer years (5+); and
  • Is needed to comply with the state law that requires the upgrade of all existing buildings.

The California Public Utilities Commission also has a number of checkpoints in place to ensure that no one program overrides the benefits of the full portfolio of programs. For example:

  • This program comprises only a small portion (about 5%) of the ovCPUC Logo.jpgerall portfolio of programs;
  • There is a savings threshold requirement that builds in a “cushion” in case programs don’t perform as expected;
  • Programs that are not as cost-effective on their own are bundled among hundreds of other programs to ensure the overall benefits to customers — after accounting for the costs — always outweigh the costs in aggregate.

While there are areas to improve in this program, it is also important to remember a few things. First, California is by far a leader in the arena of energy efficiency programs, but there will be “fits and starts” from time to time as we venture into new and challenging areas. Second, new ideas that address challenging markets will take a while to start up as the kinks are worked out. Scrutiny and periodic “gut checks” are good ways to keep new programs on track, but sometimes “you have to burn down a few garages trying new ideas” before you can come up with the right fit.

California’s portfolio of programs ensure that customers — and the state as a whole – are reaping substantial benefits while at the same time letting utilities, local governments, and third parties (such as nonprofits and efficiency companies) try out new ways to get at those harder-to-reach energy saving opportunities. Let’s keep trying until we get it right.

Source: NRDC

USGBC collaborates with DOE in launch of Better Buildings Accelerators

By Jeremy Sigmon

Photo Credit: Reto Kurmann via Flickr Creative Commons

Published on:
4 Dec 2013

Feature image:

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced three Better Buildings Accelerator programs. USGBC Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Law Roger Platt and I were in attendance at the White House events. Driving better building practice is central to USGBC’s work, so it’s no surprise that the program launch took time to highlight our community’s ongoing contributions to building energy benchmarking, accessing data and unlocking new markets for energy efficiency.

read more

Source: USGBC Nationals

(Prop/SB/AB) 39 Roadshow

You know that old adage about showing up being some large percentage of the job? Well, the movement to get Prop 39 fairly implemented within California took to the road recently with Senator de León convening the Subcommittee on Fiscal Oversight and Bonded Indebtedness in San Jose and San Diego. USGBC California has been an early, active and enthusiastic supporter of Proposition 39, which will raise $2.5B over the next five years for public energy efficiency projects, and arranged to have accomplished representatives appear and testify at both hearings. While it will certainly take more than showing up to assure that funds are distributed wisely, we want to continue working with implementing legislative authors Senator de León (SB39) and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (AB39), Tom Steyer and Kate Gordon of the Center for the Next Generation and other stakeholders to realize the shared vision of improving existing school building performance across California, with special emphasis on previously under-served districts.

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Alice Sung testifies in San Jose.

Prop 39 was favored by a strong 60% mandate of California voters this past November. We agree that zeroing in on targeted improvements within schools will demonstrate progress across a wide range of communities and keeps building on the public trust of stewardship and wise use of this special revenue source.

In the first hearing at San Jose’s sprawling Independence High, longtime Northern California Chapter schools advocate Alice Sung of Greenbank Associates zeroed in on the important link between healthy classrooms and learning. Speaking as a LEED AP, member of AIA, CASH, CHPS, AASHE, technical advisor to the State Architect and Department of Education Schools of the Future Program, but especially as a mother of two daughters enrolled in the public school system, Alice stressed the theme that where children learn matters. Beyond the societal benefits of lower environmental impacts and reduced energy usage, green schools can improve student academic performance and general health. Pointing to a large library of research data, Alice described how natural daylight aids cortisol hormone production, improving concentration and academic achievement, and how “smartly-controlled” HVAC systems providing proper ventilation and improved air quality increase student task speed and offer a sanctuary from asthma-inducing neighborhoods impacted by freeways, factories, or other air pollution sources. Alice’s ability to combine the science of healthy green buildings with the passion of a committed parent made for a very strong and effective presentation.

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Sean Hulen speaks in San Diego.

Two days later in San Diego, Sean Hulen, VP at Balfour Beatty Constriction (second largest U.S. educational builder), father of two school-age children and San Diego Green Building Council Board Member, spoke from a different perspective. Representing the “Big Tent” diversity of USGBC members across California, Sean relayed his history as a carpenter working out of the back of his ’73 Buick Convertible and builder. Touching on the reversal of the effects of the Broken Window Theory that he has seen, Sean applauded efforts to find stable funding for facilities maintenance and operations and for modernization of aging schools. He pointed to the local Santee School District program and the community pride of ownership (and rising test scores) that the retrofits have engendered, as well as a related example of governmental leadership in healthy building about which he has first-hand experience: the LEED Platinum Wounded Warrior Facility at Camp Pendleton, which is designed to provide the best possible living and working conditions to heal our injured and ill Marines returning from the wars overseas.

Lastly, Sean quoted a Kenyan proverb that sums up his building aspirations: “If there are to be problems, may they come during my life-time so that I can resolve them and give my children the chance of a good life.” Prop 39 implementers would be well-advised to take just this view.

Additional hearings are planned for LA, the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, and USGBC California will look to provide perspective from our deep bench of statewide green building practitioners.