U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL: Chapters Update

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December 2009

Features

Education through Inspiration and Innovation

As the competition for green building education intensifies, USGBC Chapters have found new and inventive ways to attract the attention of their local communities. Rhode Island, South Carolina and the James River Green Building Council are just a few of the many chapters that have decided to think outside the box with their educational offerings in order to reach beyond the professional groups that typically take advantage of green building programming and capture the imaginations and interests of their neighbors.

The Rhode Island Chapter strives to make sure that green building education is reaching the audiences that need it most. This past year, the chapter became a training service provider for the state under the banner of the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. Adults and dislocated workers who are currently unemployed are eligible to receive WIA money to pay for LEED workshops.

The chapter is also in discussions with a local Job Corps Academy to create a program that provides LEED workshops for young adults using U.S. Department of Labor funds. Chapter board members have already delivered several classes and trainings in advanced building techniques to minimum-security inmates at the Adult Correctional Institute. The institute’s director of education hopes to formalize the program and expand it to include medium-security inmates, but, this time, tapping federal stimulus dollars. So far, the WIA program has delivered a side benefit – a stream of enthusiastic volunteers who plan on becoming chapter members. Expectations for the inmates are that they will be well-positioned for construction jobs due to their knowledge of green building standards and practices.

Farther south in Virginia, the James River Green Building Council recently won the USGBC Award of Excellence in the large-chapter education category for its impressive array of quality education offerings. One of James River’s most successful programs is the annual Green Spaces Design Competition, focusing on collaborative, community-level solutions to existing and future environmental issues. The primary focus of this year’s Green Spaces competition was the “Play Space” challenge, which asked contestants to design a sustainable outdoor play area in the abandoned Fulton Gasworks of Richmond. The site would serve as a cultural, environmental and economic amenity for the surrounding neighborhood, as well as a teaching tool to help educate both children and adults about the environment. There were over 25 team entries for the professional and student categories and a public event was held for the award ceremony.

In addition to focusing this competition on designing an educational play space, the James River Green Building Council also partnered with the Richmond Parks & Recreation After-School Program to engage K-5 students from throughout the Richmond area to participate in the elementary student portion of the contest. Each of the more than 20 student groups participating was given a picture of where the playground would be built and a list of abandoned materials that were left on site; the groups were then asked to create an image of a playground they could make from the materials they had on site. The winning student team was recognized at the award ceremony. With the Green Spaces Design Competition, the James River Green Building Council has found a way to reach out to new communities and create a tangible teaching tool that will make others more aware of the environment around them.

Finally, the South Carolina Chapter also won an Award of Excellence this fall in the small-chapter education category. Like James River, the South Carolina Chapter offers a wide variety of quality education offerings, but what made the South Carolina Chapter stand out was its statewide conference, Sustain South Carolina. This was the first year the South Carolina Chapter held the event, and even during these difficult economic times, the conference was a huge success. Sustain SC had over 300 attendees, two keynote speakers, 14 educational sessions, two half-day project tours, a half-day workshop, and a sold-out exhibit hall. The conference ran for two days with education programs like “Corporate Sustainability” and “The Economics of Going Green.”

“The 2009 Sustain SC organizing committee was proud to have set a precedent for strong educational offerings in the first year of this new Chapter program,” said Jenny Wiedower, Executive Director of the South Carolina Chapter. “Among all of the conference elements, respondents to the post-conference survey were most satisfied with the quality of keynote speakers, followed closely by the overall quality of educational session presentations.”

In order to reach out to new communities and encourage a more diverse turnout, the South Carolina Chapter gave conference discounts to all public-sector employees, students and volunteers. In addition, a variety of ticket types were offered in order to incentivize flexible attendance. Lastly, the chapter made sure that the venue selected for Sustain SC – the Carolina First Center – had a strong sustainability policy so that the chapter had a strong partner to work with in order to achieve USGBC’s green meeting standards.

By offering fresh and innovative educational offerings, the James River Green Building Council, the South Carolina Chapter and the Rhode Island Chapter all successfully expanded the audience for green building education in their chapters’ territories, helping to further USGBC’s mission of market transformation.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Effie Brunson: A Fixture in Austin’s Green Scene

When Effie Brunson moved to Austin, Texas, she was determined to find work in the green industry. A long-time LEED AP, she sought a career that aligned with her values, and she figured that chapter membership would connect her to the right people in her new city. A friend in the local USGBC chapter’s leadership encouraged Brunson to run for the board. Brunson was somewhat surprised to receive this encouragement. After all, she had only been to a few chapter events and didn’t think she was enough of a leader to merit election. In hindsight, Brunson jokes that voter turnout must have been low because she won a seat on the Central Texas-Balcones Chapter board in 2007 and is presently co-vice chair. She is now regarded as a paragon volunteer within the USGBC chapter community.

Brunson is grateful to her friend for seeing potential in her and believes chapter involvement has been critical to realizing her potential as a leader. She cites a burgeoning of her professional network as well as her network of friends. Her knowledge of non-profit organizations and the governance of them – “organizational dynamics,” as she terms it – has grown dramatically. And Brunson appreciates that when held under the lens of her values, her efforts are making a difference.

She’s sourced a great deal from the relationship with her chapter, but Central Texas-Balcones has benefited in kind from her involvement. As the membership committee board liaison in 2008, she helped usher the chapter from free to paid membership. Brunson helped spearhead the hiring of the chapter’s executive director and cites this as her proudest contribution: In 2009, the chapter added Jane Baxter Lynn to its ranks.

Brunson says she’s lucky to have witnessed the sustainability movement catch on in Austin. In addition to her role with the chapter, Brunson has become a fixture in the city’s greater green community. She leads development for 1house at a timeTM, a program through the non-profit A Nurtured World Inc., which collaborates with outside organizations (such as Meals on Wheels and Habitat for Humanity) to identify low-income clients with homes that can benefit from green retrofits. Once a month, a group of volunteers performs a utility retrofit on a home.

Understanding the importance of verification of results, Brunson recruited the assistance of an energy-auditing company. The team analyzes the homes’ utility bills for a year after the retrofits are installed and interviews the homeowners to verify that the technology is being used appropriately. Brunson is thrilled that the verification component reveals a pay-off in social equity and an improvement in quality of life.

A recent addition to the program is the installation, where appropriate, of solar photovoltaic systems. Seeing an opportunity for green jobs training, Brunson connected with local charter school American Youth Works, which enrolls at-risk youth in an educational track with particular emphasis on vocational studies. One of the most exciting aspects of the program for her is the engagement of the younger generation in both community service and technologies that can lead to high-paying, clean-energy jobs. Elizabeth Frisch, development director and senior trainer at A Nurtured World Inc., describes Brunson as their director of strategic partnerships. “She is an amazing networker and really has helped our 1house at a timeTM program get connected to the local community in Austin. She opens doors one conversation at a time.”

Brunson describes Central Texas-Balcones as “a very rich chapter in terms of the people who stand behind it” and therefore a group that offers a unique volunteer experience. The opportunity to work with both the people who’ve just caught the spark of green building and those who’ve been involved for decades creates an inspiring dynamic for her.

Due to this “brain trust,” she reports that her chapter is well-equipped to navigate the myriad changes necessitated by the changing marketplace. She frames her efforts as existing in the microcosm of the city of Austin, but the greater USGBC chapter community is lucky to have Brunson contributing to our brain trust and the strength of our movement.

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Chapter Spotlight

Middle Tennessee Walks the Green Carpet

On Oct. 9, nearly 100 supporters of USGBC Middle Tennessee attended the 2009 Green Carpet Event at Nashville’s Hutton Hotel. They enjoyed an evening of networking, silent and live auction components, and the announcement of this year’s Green Star Awards recipients for commitment to sustainable design.

Chapter members nominated individuals, projects and programs that embraced USGBC’s mission. An awards committee selected the winners who were honored at the event. Each winner received an award crafted from recycled glass in nearby Charlottesville, Va.

Carly Wansing earned individual recognition for her commitment to the advocacy for and personal and professional practice of sustainable design. Residential recognition was awarded to Fred Reynolds for his blending of both historical preservation and green building practices when renovating a late 1890s home in Franklin, Tenn. Caterpillar Financial received acknowledgement for its achievement of LEED for Existing Buildings Gold certification for its headquarters, while Freeman Webb was applauded for its commitment to sustainable building design and pursuit of Gold pre-certification for its headquarters under LEED for Core & Shell. Finally, Lipscomb University’s launch of the Institute for Sustainable Practices also earned accolades.

The auction component of the evening benefited Y-Build, a 12-month YMCA program providing training to young adults interested in building a career within the construction industry. Board member and event chair Laura Schroeder notes, “We were looking for a means to branch into the social equity aspect. What better way than to have the proceeds of the auction go toward this program with the intentions of focusing on green jobs?”

On the event overall, Schroeder commented, “I love that we've been able to incorporate more and more of our mission into this event as each year passes. From selecting a venue that has many elements of sustainable operations already incorporated to selecting an awards manufacturer that shares in our mission, and to benefiting an element of our community in the process, I feel that we've finally hit a stride that we can all be proud of and continue to grow as the years go by.”

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Chihuahuan Desert Chapter Participates in Eco El Paso

For the second year in a row, the Chihuahuan Desert Chapter partnered with a number of local organizations for Eco El Paso, an annual conference held in El Paso, Texas. According to its mission statement, the annual event aims to “promote eco‐sensitive and energy-efficient community planning, building design, construction and facility maintenance in El Paso’s region to professionals in the design, construction and building maintenance industry.”

The one-day symposium focuses on environmentally responsible eco-building in the Chihuahuan Desert region. Eco El Paso is a non-profit organization formed with the cooperation of eight local professional organizations and educational institutions, including the American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, American Society of Interior Designers, American Society of Heating Refrigerating Air Engineers, Construction Specification Institute, El Paso Association of Builders, Texas Tech University, and University of Texas at El Paso.

The Oct. 15 conference brought together a broad range of public and private professionals, building owners, architects, engineers, designers, contractors and building product manufacturers to lead the way on the important eco-building issues of the future.

A breakfast kicked-off the event and included short updates on where local and state government stood with regard to current climate and building issues in the region. Peter L. Pfeiffer, FAIA, of Barley + Pfeiffer Architects, a nationally recognized leader in sustainable architecture, delivered the keynote address.

Presentations gave attendees and participants the opportunity to learn about sustainable land use and development, ecological design, meeting the carbon neutrality challenge, and innovation in sustainable design. Dana Kose (Colorado Chapter chair, West Regional Council vice chair, Chapter Steering Committee representative and LEED Faculty) also spoke at the event.

Additionally, attendees were able to receive continuing education (CE) hours from GBCI for their LEED Professional Credentials since the Chihuahuan Desert Chapter gained approval for the conference through USGBC’s education review process.

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Volunteer Impact

The Climate is Right for Change in Charlotte

On Nov. 19, the Charlotte Region Chapter hosted its annual Signature Event at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte, N.C. The Ritz Carlton, which opened in October, is the first LEED-certified hotel in Charlotte, and was built to achieve LEED Gold certification. The event drew over 350 attendees.

In honor of the Signature Event, The Charlotte Region Chapter donated General Electric compact fluorescent bulbs to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina. Second Harvest is an organization with a regional distribution warehouse and branches that supply food and grocery items to charitable agencies that assist people in need throughout 14 North Carolina counties. Second Harvest also provides training, consultation, technical assistance and hunger education.

“We see this as the perfect opportunity to bring awareness to the benefits of energy-efficiency to a demographic that has not traditionally been linked to sustainability,” said Chapter Executive Director Daria Milburn. “We are pleased that the USGBC Charlotte Region Chapter can promote its mission while also providing a benefit to those in need.”

The theme of the event was “The Climate is Right for Change” and featured a keynote address by the iconic corporate executive and champion of sustainability, Ray Anderson, founder and chairman of Interface, Inc. Interface is the world's largest manufacturer of modular carpet, which it markets under the InterfaceFLOR, FLOR, and Bentley Prince Street brands. Anderson delivered a compelling and heartfelt presentation focused on the philanthropy of corporate environmental responsibility, with emphasis on how pursuing zero environmental impact is something that benefits the bottom line and surrounding community. Following the program, Anderson signed copies of his new book, Confessions of a Radical Industrialist.

In the coming year, the Charlotte Region Chapter will look to expand its commitment to community outreach by reevaluating the demographics of its region and targeting programs that will cater to the needs of the underserved and underrepresented populations and sectors of its territory.

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Connecticut Chapter’s Emerging Green Builders Take Action Locally

Formed a little over one year ago, the Connecticut Emerging Green Builders Committee (CTEGB) is finding success through local action. Its first event was a community garden expansion and cleanup. Connecting with “Keep America Beautiful” via a local park organization was such a great success that CTEGB made it a goal to collaborate with other local organizations on virtually all future endeavors.

When anticipating a slowdown of volunteer participation in the summer months, the group opted to recycle at the Elizabeth Park Summer Concert Series each week throughout the season. This required five to eight members to participate each week, which resulted in a total of 25 different individuals volunteering their time throughout the summer. CTEGB’s goal was to keep volunteers engaged in the EGB efforts, but what proved to be even more important to CTEGB Chair Lynne Panagotopulos was that the project reinforced the community commitment, which has become the backbone of CTEGB.

Made up of a core of energetic volunteers, CTEGB has remained revenue-neutral for its first year because of generous sponsorships from local businesses and cooperation from the local USGBC Chapter. In addition to the cleanups and recycling events, the group has organized a LEED Silver building tour for local inner-city students and also provided extracurricular LEED/sustainability education to high school seniors.

Panagotopulos notes, “It's rewarding to have a student tell you that they want to study engineering in college, or to have a park visitor thank you for your cleanup efforts. CTEGB has found a unique opportunity to bridge some of the gaps that exist in our community – educating youth about sustainability and efficiency, putting our energy and talent to work in building projects, and helping a community do as much as they can to improve the quality of life in Connecticut.”

CTEGB volunteers have capitalized on the opportunity to think globally and act locally. The EGB members have made a strong impression on students, local business and the community at-large. In addition to making an impact on its community, CTEGB also provides a network of peers for the young professional demographic in Connecticut.

“CTEGB volunteers tend to be of a ‘take-action’ mindset,” Panagotopulos said. “They want to get out and build/create/make a difference in physical, measurable ways. Our volunteers recognize EGB’s potential to create change, and it has been inspiring to see us cooperate to reach common goals.”

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