News

Feature Article

The energy used traveling to and from an average office building—its transportation energy intensity—can be greater than the energy used to run it.

November 5, 2018

Eleven years after its original publication, we have refreshed this groundbreaking report on the transportation energy of buildings and how that energy consumption can be reduced. We have updated all data and statistics, and have conducted new interviews with leaders in the field. (Quotes from 2018 interviews are marked as such.) We have also... Read more

Product Review

NantEnergy’s Zinc–Air battery is made from common materials and does not use lithium or lead, yet can provide energy storage for large renewable energy projects.

November 5, 2018

To make renewable energy viable on a large scale, we need a way to store energy for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. While there are various ways to store electrical energy, batteries offer the greatest applicability. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, such as those found in Tesla’s Powerwall system (a BuildingGreen Top 10... Read more

News Brief

By prohibiting whole classes of chemicals, the legislation aims to reduce regrettable substitutions.

November 5, 2018

It’s a familiar story: a toxic substance gets phased out, only to be replaced with a chemically similar one that has the same toxic properties. An amendment to existing California law aims to stop this pattern of “regrettable substitution” by effectively banning whole classes of flame retardants in upholstered furniture, mattresses,... Read more

Blog Post

For real this time?

October 22, 2018

For twenty years or so, companies like Pilkington (Spacia) have been cranking out R-5ish (center-of-glass) vacuum-insulated glazing (VIG). The attraction of glazing units with a very thin profile, relatively low weight, and a high level of performance is strong, particularly for retrofit applications.

But it sure seems as though we have... Read more

News Brief

The resilient design pilot credits were taken down temporarily but have returned—with a few changes.

October 10, 2018

Three newly revived pilot credits offer project teams the option of using resilient design to gain LEED points. Pilot credits are a way for users to test out new concepts and achieve points under the Innovation category of the LEED rating systems.

The basic structure of the suite of credits has not changed: the first credit involves an... Read more

Blog Post

The carbon that’s emitted when we produce materials and construct our buildings is finally getting the attention it deserves.

October 9, 2018

Shortly after the release of Paula Melton’s Spotlight Report on Embodied Carbon, which has been getting amazing reviews and kudos, I sat in on an update by Ryan Zizzo, Chair of the Embodied Carbon Network’s Buildings Taskforce. I was so inspired by the breadth of activities suddenly going on in this space, that I decided to lay them out in a... Read more

News Brief

California has committed to 100% “carbon-free” energy by 2045, illuminating the vision promoted by the Global Climate Action Summit.

October 8, 2018

On September 10, 2018 at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, Governor Jerry Brown signed bill SB 100 into law, committing the state to 100% carbon-free utility electricity by 2045. (California is the second state after Hawaii, in 2015, to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2045.) Two days later at the summit, Brown signed an... Read more

Product Review

SolarEdge’s photovoltaic inverter and electric vehicle charging station reduces the number of mechanical systems and simplifies installation.

October 8, 2018

Charging your electric vehicle (EV) at home using renewable energy is the future of transportation. But getting that power to the car typically requires two systems: an inverter and a charger. Photovoltaic (PV) panels use inverters to convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), and a charger typically supplies energy pulled from... Read more

News Brief

Curbing the urban heat-island effect and managing rainwater are among the strategies that could help cities save big.

October 8, 2018

Solar power, cool roofs, and permeable pavement aren’t new ideas—but they’ve also never been deployed at scale. A new study looks at what might happen if they were.

“Cities mismanage their two great natural gifts of sunshine and rain,” states the report, “Delivering Urban Resilience,” which was supported by the Smart Surfaces Coalition... Read more

News Brief

A new partnership between the International Living Future Institute and Toxnot will help manufacturers provide better-quality health information.

October 8, 2018

The International Living Future Institute’s (ILFI) Declare label is supposed to be an easy-to-read “nutrition” label for products, showing the product’s ingredients and whether or not it contains any of ILFI’s banned Red List chemicals. This simple document belies the underlying complexity required for manufacturers to track chemicals used to... Read more

News Analysis

Health advocates worry that new review methods at EPA could cripple the updated Toxic Substances Control Act.

October 8, 2018

It wasn’t perfect, but it was promising. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended in 2016, was designed to give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) new powers and obligations to study and regulate industrial chemicals.

But if current EPA actions are any guide, the limitations and outright bans that environmental... Read more

News Analysis

The AIA Code of Ethics now addresses specific environmental priorities like water, energy, and climate change.

September 24, 2018
Environmental Equity and Justice: Members should promote fairness and safety in providing professional services and make reasonable efforts to advise their clients and employers of their obligations to the environment, including: access to clean air, water,... Read more

Op-Ed

Getting stronger sustainability language into the code wasn’t easy, but only because AIA takes these things seriously.

September 24, 2018

David Pill, AIA, had an inspiration as we were planning the third annual AIA New England Committee on the Environment (COTE) Summit, which took place in Burlington, Vermont, in June 2017. He had recently noticed that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has a Code of Ethics and was aghast at how little was being expected of AIA members,... Read more

Blog Post

Upgrading our basement dehumidifier

September 21, 2018

The basement of our well-insulated and air-sealed 100+-year-old home is dry, but enough moisture (as vapor) makes its way through our concrete walls and slab that dehumidification is a must from about April through October. Dehumidification comes with a pretty big energy penalty, so I am proactive in managing this load: when I see that... Read more

News Brief

Step-by-step guidance helps design teams put healthier material selection into practice on every project.

September 10, 2018

Awareness of material transparency and hazardous chemical avoidance has increased dramatically over the past several years. But awareness is only half the battle. In practice, selecting building materials that are safer for people and the planet can still be a highly complex and difficult task.

In response to this issue, the American... Read more

Product Review

Integrating low-temperature hydronic distribution with air-to-water heat pumps provides a more comfortable and “future-proof” heating system for residential and light commercial applications.

September 10, 2018

Hydronic systems, which use water to move energy, are one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool buildings. Water carries far more energy than air, and does so in a small pipe rather than in leaky, bulky ductwork. It can also be engineered to deliver personalized heating or cooling to individual rooms. Many of the hydronic systems used in... Read more

Feature Article

Building materials emit massive amounts of carbon long before the lights go on. Here’s how thoughtful design can reduce global warming impact.

September 10, 2018

Climate change is a rapidly escalating emergency, and we have a lot of hard work to do in order to mitigate its effects. For building professionals, that has typically meant increasing energy efficiency and pushing for renewable energy production, thus reducing the amount of carbon generated by the fossil fuels we burn in order to... Read more

News Brief

An exhaustive plant-by-plant study reveals the toxic impacts of producing chlorine for PVC, polyurethane, epoxy, and polycarbonate.

August 23, 2018

Chlorine is a problem. Used in many industrial processes, including the production of PVC and other plastics, it readily combines with other compounds to form persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals (PBTs). These chemicals are not only toxic but also highly mobile in the environment and don’t break down readily.

The green building... Read more

News Analysis

Designers asked for transparency and got it. Now they need to follow through with specs, say producers.

August 6, 2018

Five years ago, about 40 prominent architecture firms issued a demand to manufacturers: tell us what’s in your products. They got transparency documents for thousands of product lines in return, according to 35 signatories to a recent letter, and now it’s time for those architecture firms to follow up with “demand” in the economic sense of the... Read more

Product Review

Shaw is now offering biobased and recycled PET resilient flooring options for commercial and healthcare applications.

August 6, 2018

If you want to avoid vinyl, there are plenty of resilient flooring options available, including rubber and linoleum. But PVC-free flooring can be a challenge to integrate into projects because it is typically expensive, and in some cases its durability or environmental credentials may not even be that great. Some rubber flooring, for instance,... Read more