green building

by Sophia Knoll

The Montgomery County Planning Department is considering EcoDistrict concepts — based on three core principles of sustainability: environmental, social and economic — as part of  a 20-year plan for downtown Bethesda.

At a June 18 public meeting, Tina Schneider with the planning team and Otto Condon of ZGF Architects discussed how the Bethesda community can go about changing Bethesda for the better.

First off, they said that we must look at buildings, streets, and communities as a network that can seamlessly work together. According to Condon, everything within an EcoDistrict must be used for either retail, housing, office space, or culture and more importantly must focus on water and energy efficiency to “revitalize cities from neighborhoods up.”

Condon also mentioned that districts are the building blocks of sustainable cities, which has led the Montgomery County Planning team to divide Bethesda into four main districts in designing our own EcoDistrict.

In the second part of the meeting, people worked in groups of eight looking over maps of Bethesda and brainstormed over various goals, deciding which of the eight “Performance Areas” (Community Identity, Health and Well Being, Equitable Development, Habitats and Ecosystems, Materials, Water, Energy, and Access and Mobility) they would like to see associated within each district.

People offered their suggestions and ideas for the planning committee, which will move forward in creating a plan for the Bethesda EcoDistrict and submit it later this year to the County Council for approval.

For anyone who cares about Bethesda, it is important to get involved and become part of the process. Offer your ideas (send an email to and help ensure Bethesda’s future as an efficient, vibrant, and  environmentally friendly community.

Sophia Knoll is a Bethesda Green intern and a rising high school senior at Georgetown Visitation.

savenia_Hor_w_arrow_TM_NEWA Bethesda Green Business Incubator company, Savenia Labs recently launched its new Home Ratings service.  We spoke to Savenia Founder John Jabara about the new offering.

So tell us a little about this new service your company has come out with.

Sure, Savenia tells home buyers, for the first time, the lifetime value of what’s in a home before they buy it. We’re talking about energy efficient appliances, lighting, water heaters, solar panels. These things saved you money when you lived in the home – what are these savings worth to the new buyer? That hasn’t been calculated before – and that’s what we do.  Home sellers and home buyers want to know how much it costs to run a home, not to mention the environmental impact.  This is what we capture on our Savenia Home Rating Label.

So, it’s a little like a BlueBook report for a car.

Exactly, and people forget that BlueBook is not only good for the buyer – but also the seller – because a seller with a car with premium features can get a premium price. But before BlueBook, you could tell people that the car was valuable because it had extra features, but it was hard to quantify. Same for Savenia. Home owners make efficiency improvements to their home all the time, efficient appliances, LED lighting, but when they go to sell their home, they and their Realtors have found it difficult to quantify and explain this in dollars and cents.  Savenia steps in with a simple way to clarify the lifetime value of what’s in the house.

OK, I think I get it. So how does it work. Where does Savenia get the data.

Savenia is a subscription service for home sellers, they send the data about what’s in the home to Savenia, and we can use our huge proprietary energy efficiency databases to crunch the numbers and tell them what these items are worth, how much energy they use, how much they cost to run, and how all that compares to other homes with the same types of products.

How do you make sure you get accurate data?

Great question.  The short answer is that we verify everything. Savenia uses 3 systems to verify and manage the data that users put in our system. We have 2 verification processes, where first we get subscribers to sign a contract regarding the quality of the data they put into the system, but also we do unannounced checks on homes to make sure the data is accurate. Then, for maximum transparency, we color code and disclose data sources on all our Home Rating Labels for quick reference in words and in color; light green labels are subscriber provider data, and dark green labels are independently verified.

So the Realtor puts the data in, and this results in a rating – how does that work?

Right. The Realtor puts in the data, and the system tells them which home systems qualify for a Savenia Rating, either a Bronze, Silver or Gold. Let’s say we have a home where the appliances qualify for a Silver, but the lighting only qualifies for a Bronze. The Realtor has the opportunity to make some changes, for example swap out the lighting for more efficient bulbs and get them a Bronze, Silver or Gold for the lighting.

Why don’t you just get your system to force a whole home rating – good and bad.

That approach has been tried all over the country, and unless the government mandates it, it is very difficult to get everyone on board in practice. And the reason is simple – people don’t upgrade their entire home at one time. They do it in sections. They remodel a kitchen. They replace an air conditioner. When they go to sell their home, they should be able to highlight the upgrades they made, without having to highlight the things that have not been upgraded. Buyers should use home inspections and auditors to dig deeper on these things. The Savenia system is not meant to replace a professional auditor or home inspector.

So how is your system different from other rating systems out there.

There is nothing out there in the market like the Savenia Home Rating System. If you’re a home seller and you’ve recently remodeled, and probably spent some money on this, there aren’t that many options that are quick and easy to communicate to buyers the cost saving benefits they get when they buy a home. You can always get a home energy audit or an inspection, and we recommend these pre-close, but some people don’t want to spend the money or the time to do this upfront. That’s where Savenia comes in.

Very interesting John. Thanks for that explanation. With so many people doing these efficiency improvements, this seems like a great way for them to explain the benefits and maybe even get some of their money back when they sell the house. How does someone get a Savenia Rating on their home.

Savenia Home is a subscription service for professional home sellers, builders and buyers…but we all reap the rewards. Right now Savenia availability is limited to a select group of professionals in the region, one of the largest custom home builders Sandy Spring Builders and one of the largest Realtors, Jane Fairweather are using the system.  Savenia Home Ratings are also guiding the historic renovation project at The Button Farmhouse in Seneca Creek State Park. And next year we will be able to add a second group of subscribers, again limited, as we plan to expand across the DC metro region. Realtors, builders and renovators should contact us at our website to grab a slot for 2014, and we can lock them in for this next phase.

You can get more information on Savenia Home Ratings at And you can also get many of the Savenia rated products that go behind this system at Ace Hardware stores across the region.

by Susanna Parker

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake Seeks Partners for the Maryland Stream Restoration ChallengeBGnews_logo

Are you a member of a Maryland based congregation? Do you want to plant more trees on your congregation’s property? The Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake is looking to partner with local congregations for the Maryland Stream Restoration Challenge – a challenge to establish 1,000 acres of stream-side forests by 2015. Not only will this challenge help beautify Maryland and local congregation’s properties, but forested streams have better water quality, suffer less from erosion, and help protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Selected congregations will receive teaching on the spiritual foundation of earth stewardship, a workshop on trees, planting, and maintenance, trees for planting, and follow-up maintenance for 1-3 years. If the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s challenge application is accepted, tree plantings will occur in fall 2013 and spring/fall 2014. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact the organization here.

DC Area Homes Submit for LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Program is 13 years old, and bestows its LEED certification on 1.5 million square feet of building space every day. A building can be certified at the silver, gold, or platinum level; higher levels are achieved by earning more points in the program’s rating system that covers more than 100 environmentally significant parameters, including energy usage and water conservation. Last year, the District of Columbia led the nation in new LEED residential & commercial space per capita, with Virginia and Maryland being top contenders as well. However, LEED certification has been slower to catch on among individual homeowners. There are no grants or tax breaks for individual homeowners that achieve LEED certification, and the documentation required (as well as the price tag) can sway otherwise green homeowners away from the process.

Even without gaining the certification, the LEED checklist can come in handy for homeowners that want to green their homes. The checklist can serve more as a blueprint for renovators, pointing out what they should be considering as they begin their projects. Todd Ray of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture points out that LEED certification isn’t necessary; with the checklist, homeowners can “do green” without being tested.

Some homeowners in the DC area have gone all out, and gotten their homes LEED certified. The Washington Post article in Home & Design discusses LEED certification, and presents images and specs on the LEED-certified homes. For more information on LEED certification, you can visit the U.S. Green Building Council.

Live & Learn Bethesda Introduces Container Gardening Classes! 

Whether you have a big balcony or just a sunny windowsill, container gardening is a great way to make the most of the space you have. Live & Learn Bethesda, a new non-profit community center, has recently introduced a series of classes on container gardening. No back-breaking work, just fun classes to put smiles on people’s faces. The instructor is Mira Jovanovic, a plant consultant at American Plant in Bethesda. To register for classes, visit Live & Learn Bethesda.

Upcoming Bethesda Green Events 

  • Greening Your Home: Bethesda Green’s First Thursday Happy Hour, Thursday, May 2, 5 – 8 pm, Caddies on Cordell, 4922 Cordell Avenue

Join us for casual conversation and social networking at Caddies on Cordell. This month, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection will discuss ways to make your home more energy efficient, and you can learn more at our upcoming Solar & Green Home Expo on May 11. Caddies will be providing complimentary appetizers, and there will be a raffle for a Caddies’ Gift Card. $5 at the door. For more details and to RSVP, please visit the Bethesda Green Meetup.

  • Bethesda Green’s Fourth Annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday May 11, 10 am – 3 pm, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Suite 200

Join us for our fourth annual Solar & Green Home Expo, an information-packed showcase event featuring many green home expert services and solar providers. The goal of this event is to provide homeowners and other interested parties an opportunity to get the latest information about area services and incentives to green their homes. Local area green home businesses will display their services throughout the Bethesda Green office space while individual workshops related to greening your home will be conducted throughout the day. To learn more about this free community event, visit the event page here.

Upcoming Partner Events 

  • GreenWheaton Paper Shredding at Westfield Wheaton Mall, Saturday May 4, 9 am – 12 noon, Target/Costco parking lot

Bring all of your unwanted paper and documents to be securely shredded at Westfield Wheaton Mall! This event, part of GreenWheaton’s efforts to continue its green programming and projects in Montgomery County, is sponsored by Signal Financial Credit Union; shredding services will be provided by Office Paper Systems. To learn more about the event, visit

  • Green Drinks Annapolis, Tuesday May 14, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm, Brian Boru Restaurant & Pub, 489 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park.

Join Annapolis Green for drinks, networking, and an educational program on lighting & energy efficiency, sponsored by Maryland Clean Energy Center. For more details, visit the Annapolis Green Calendar.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna ParkerBGnews_logo.

Rock Creek’s Deer Population Causes Dissent

Rock Creek Park has a deer problem. The deer population, which is approximately 73 deer per square mile, is wreaking havoc on the native flora, resulting in a loss of biodiversity. When deer populations become too big for their territory, the resulting competition for food causes the deer to go after tree seedlings, along with their preferred diet of native, low-lying vegetation and underbrush. The loss of tree seedlings and native vegetation allow invasive vegetation to take hold, and the forest begins to degrade. When deer populations are at a more reasonable ratio, such as 25 per square mile, enough seedlings survive that they can replace old trees as they die, and the forest is preserved. The problem Rock Creek Park and the National Park Service face is the method they should use to achieve that optimal population.

Many, including the National Park Service, believe that controlled hunting is the best way to control the deer population. With a closely followed program, sharpshooters could reduce the deer population to manageable and sustainable levels within 2 years. The Humane Society of the United States strongly opposes the plan, calling it a “wasteful killing program.” They advocate for, and have offered to pay half the cost of, a program of administered birth control. Unfortunately the suggested vaccine does not meet the Park Service’s requirements for birth-control agents, and may in fact increase the deer’s breeding season, resulting in late-season births and increased fawn mortality. While similar birth-control programs have been successful in other parks, such as Assateague Island, the Park Service plans to go ahead with the controlled hunting. Nick Bartolomeo, the park’s chief of resource management, points out that while large predators roamed the park many years ago, “[they] wouldn’t be tolerated if they were here, so we have to take action.”

For the full article and infographics on deer population, visit The Washington Post.

Apply for a Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award!

Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award winners are recognized for their strong commitment to sustainable practices, measurable results, and continual improvement. Gain recognition within your community, your organization and among peer institutions by applying for an award today. Leadership Winners are presented with a certificate, receive recognition through press and social media, notification to elected officials, and will be featured in a video. Just share five environmental practices and one measurable result that you employ in your office space and in your organization’s activities and events. Click on the link below to download the application. Applications are due April 30, 2013.

Maryland Green Registry Application

Upcoming Bethesda Green Events

  • Developing an Investor Package, Bethesda Green Finance Workshop Series for Green Businesses. April 25, 8 am – 10 am, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Suite 200.

In the fifth installment of the Bethesda Green Finance Workshop series, our panel will discuss approaching investors with a solid plan for success. Investors often require documentation of concrete business plans, including documents geared toward each stage of engagement, “teasers,” and detailed descriptions of business and financial models. The panel, featuring Joseph Chirico of Capital One, Barry Michael of Focus Investment Banking, and Cheryl Heusser of Snyder Cohn, will address both how to develop these documents, and how to use them effectively. Admission is $15; please RSVP to

  • Greening the National Capital Region: The Commercial Real Estate Commitment to Building Green, Tuesday, April 30, 5:30 pm – 8 pm, 7550 Wisconsin Avenue.

Bethesda Green is currently launching a Green Building and Sustainable Development seminar series to help participants understand green trends impacting the commercial building sector. To kick off the series, Bethesda Green has partnered with NAIOP MD/DC to highlight Bethesda’s newest commercial office building: Akridge’s 7550 Wisconsin Avenue. Come tour the building, see the green infrastructure, and network with those passionate about sustainable development in Bethesda. Admission is $30, and includes light fare, beer & wine. Please RSVP to Sharon D’Emidio at by Thursday, April 25.

  • Bethesda Green’s Fourth Annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday May 11, 10am – 3pm, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Suite 200.

Join us for our fourth annual Solar & Green Home Expo, an information-packed showcase event featuring many green home expert services and solar providers. The goal of this event is to provide homeowners and other interested parties an opportunity to get the latest information about area services and incentives to green their homes. Local area green home businesses will display their services throughout the Bethesda Green office space while individual workshops related to greening your home will be conducted throughout the day. To learn more about this free community event, visit the event page here.

Upcoming Partner Events

  • GreenWheaton’s Green Drinks Networking Happy Hour, Thursday April 25, 5 pm – 8 pm, Limerick Pub, 11301 Elkin Street, Wheaton

Join GreenWheaton and local environmentalists for an evening of networking and casual conversation. This month’s special guest is Reuven Walder of Ecobeco, who will be discussing energy efficiency initiatives and incentives for home and business.

  • The Green Network of Montgomery County’s Damascus Wastewater Treatment Tour, Saturday April 27, 10 am – 2 pm, 23730 Log House Road, Damascus

For the first time, the Damascus Wastewater Treatment Plant will be open for public tours! Join members of the Green Network of Montgomery County to explore the plant. Winner of numerous awards, the tour will provide you with the opportunity to see how Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission treats your water. For more details, visit their Meetup page here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

The State of Green Business 2013 ReleasedBGnews_logo

The 6th annual State of Green Business report, created by, was released last Wednesday. This year, the report has undergone changes, both in appearance and focus. partnered with TruCost to rework the indicators and metrics used to assess progress and have created a new set of metrics that are comprehensive and global in scope. The new metrics also account for changing technology, the vast improvements in engagement & sustainability efforts, and natural capital – the natural resources provided by the planet that are essential for human survival and economic growth. The report asks the question, “What is positive changes are actually taking place?” and provides the trends and indicators to allow readers to analyze the changes for themselves. The State of Green Business 2013 is available for free download at

The Tower Companies Plan Redevelopment of Silver Spring Community

The Tower Companies are planning to launch a multi-billion dollar redevelopment of The Blairs in Silver Spring, a 50-year-old housing community in downtown Silver Spring. The Blairs, which were built before the Metro extended out to Maryland, covers 27 acres and represents a time when shopping centers were dominated by miles of asphalt. The redevelopment will include the removal of some of the older buildings in the community, the construction of several new mixed use buildings, and a focus on green space, with a series of trails and walking paths used to connect the site to the surrounding community. The parks and green spaces will make up more than three acres of the site and are a part of the Tower Companies’ development philosophy that puts emphasis on sustainable design. The project could take up to two decades to complete, and construction will be staggered to minimize inconvenience for the residents and surrounding community. For more information on the redevelopment plan, please read the full article in Washington Business Journal.

Upcoming Events

  • Secrets of Scandinavian Sustainable City Planning, Wednesday Feb. 20, 8 – 9:30 am, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda.

Don’t miss out! Doo Consulting presents an exclusive event discussing sustainable communities in Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark. Christopher Jakubiak, principal and owner of town planning consulting firm Jabukiak and Associates, Inc., will go over the techniques, best practices, and innovations being used to transform old industrial areas into modern, sustainable communities. To purchase tickets and RSVP, please visit the event page.

  • Renewable Energy Potential on Tribal Lands Webinar, Feb. 27, 1 – 2:30 pm.

American Indian land makes up 2% of all U.S. land and comprises 5% of all renewable energy resources. Presented by the Department of Energy and partner organizations, this webinar will introduce the recently released National Renewable Energy Laboratory and ICF International studies on tribal renewable energy resources. Learn about location, siting, and transmission issues, along with opportunities for feasible renewable energy development on tribal lands. If you’re interested in promoting tribal energy self-sufficiency and economic development, this webinar is a can’t-miss event! The webinar is free, but registration is required. Please visit the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs to register.

  • Bethesda’s Sustainable Dodging Diabetes Charity Dodgeball Tournament, Sunday March 10, 9 am – 3 pm, Champions Field House, Rockville

Time to form teams and sign up for the 8th Annual Dodging Diabetes Charity Dodgeball Tournament! Last year more than 40 teams competed, and raised over $25,000 for diabetes research and treatment. This year, the event is proud to announce its status as the first sustainable dodgeball tournament in the world! The tournament has achieved sustainability through carbon offsets from a Bethesda Green incubated company, organic cotton t-shirts, food composting, and trophies made from recycled materials. So recruit 6 – 10 people for your team, and vie for glory – tournament champions will not only get bragging rights, but have their team’s picture on a box of Wheaties! For more information, visit

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

Green Entrepreneurs Explore Financing OptionsBGnews_logo

Going through a slow economic recovery, some start-ups are finding it difficult to secure investors, with green industry entrepreneurs  having a harder time than most. According to a recent article, Tom Matzzie, CEO of Ethical Electric, was able to land a green energy venture capital deal late last year — but he was the only one in Maryland to do so. Clean venture funding has fallen 28 percent over the last year, but there is hope; clean technology companies accounted for five of the top 10 deals of 2012.

It can be difficult to secure investors without ceding control; investors are trying to get the best deal they can, which may include increased involvement in company operations. The key to finding investors is having the right product, and knowing how to pitch it.

Bethesda Green’s Green Business Incubator is helping new companies become investor-ready, which includes finance and investment workshops as well as helping local investors become more familiar with the green mission. The next session of the Finance Workshop Series & Venture Forum, coming up on February 28, will address the different types of investments that can be utilized by early stage companies, and the financing structures related to each.

A Pledge to Stop Deforestation

Asia Pulp & Paper Group, one of the largest paper companies in the world, has pledged to stop its suppliers from from cutting down natural Indonesian forests. The move, geared toward the preservation of endangered species’ habitats, was created in conjunction with Greenpeace and the Forest Trust. The paper company had been pressured by environmental groups to change its practices, which included cutting down old growth forests to create farmed tree plantations. Their plan will work to retain carbon in two ways:

  • The rainforests act as a carbon sink, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and emitting oxygen
  • The soil in Indonesian forests is peat-heavy, so by preserving the sanctity of the soil, less carbon will be released from the ground.

The plan went into effect February 1. To read the full article, and for pictures of Indonesian deforestation, please visit The Huffington Post.

Fracking Moratorium Bill Introduced in Maryland House of Delegates

Last Thursday, Maryland legislators unveiled a three-point plan to establish a moratorium on hydrofracking. This legislation came the same week that Baltimore City voted against fracking, and new federal studies highlighted the potential harms of hydrofracking. Delegate Heather Mizeur, lead sponsor of the bill, said that the legislation would “ensure the General Assembly’s role in reviewing the study results before any final drilling decisions are made.”

The co-lead sponsors of the bill are Baltimore County Senator Robert Zirkin and Montgomery County Senator Jamie Raskin. For the full story, along with details of the three-point plan, please read the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s press release.

Upcoming Events

  • The 8th Annual Spring 2013 Film Series, Wechsler Theater, 3rd Flood, Mary Graydon Center. American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC.

Hosted by Chris Palmer and presented by the American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and Filmmakers for Conservation, this series of environmental films and discussions is offered free to the public with no reservations required.

February 12 @ 7 pm: Animal Planet’s Battleground: Rhino Wars

Battleground: Rhino Wars takes the viewer into the conflict between rhino poachers and a South African anti-poaching unit. The unit, which includes former members of U.S. special forces, finds itself fighting a bloody war as they struggle to put a stop to the cruel, illegal, and highly lucrative trade of rhino horns. Animal Planet’s Senior Director of Production & Executive Producer Erin Wanner will discuss the series, premiering March 7, and reveal the back story of the miniseries’ creation.

More details about the film series can be found here.

  • The Next Generation of Transit: the Key to Montgomery County’s Green Future, Wednesday February 13, 6 – 8 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center

Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Smart Growth America CEO Geoff Anderson, and Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner to discuss the future of Montgomery County public transit. Future transit infrastructure should preserve open space, cut our emissions, and reduce our air pollution – and we can take action to make that future a reality. For details and to RSVP please visit the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

  • Forward on Climate Rally, Sunday Feb. 17, noon, The National Mall

Join fellow environmentalists on the National Mall to tell President Barack Obama that the time to act against climate change is now – starting with the prevention of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. For more details and to RSVP, visit the event page.

  • Secrets of Scandinavian Sustainable City Planning, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 8 – 9:30 am @ Bethesda Green

Doo Consulting presents Chris Jakubiak on “Secrets of Scandinavian Sustainable City Planning,” summarizing his fact-finding tour of Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark from the perspective of a certified and accomplished City Planner. RSVP — limited seating – breakfast fare will be served.

  • 2013 Green School Summit, March 2, 8:00 am – 5:30 pm, Mary Graydon Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington DC.

Are you a building professional interested in green development? Or are you a K-12 teacher that wants their school to become more environmentally friendly? Join the U.S. Green Building Council for the 2013 Green School Summit, and learn best practices for sustainable schools, including administrative policies, technical advancements in green building, and how to include sustainability in your school’s curriculum.

The event agenda can be found here and tickets can be purchased through the U.S. Green Building Council.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

The Living Building Challenge Moves D.C. Toward a Sustainable Future

D.C. officials are set to create the city’s first “living building” as part of the Sustainable D.C. Budget Challenge. Living buildings focus on seven aspects: location, water use, energy use, health, materials, social equity, and beauty. Brian Hanlon, director of the District’s Department of General Services, explains that these buildings utilize design as a science, incorporating photovoltaic panels, geothermal energy, and biomass to produce as much energy as the building uses. Hanlon says, “We have to think of them as organisms in the living environment.”

Along with other sustainable District efforts like Canal Park’s storm water management system and the sustainable building plans for the new Ballou High School, the Green Living Challenge will be an important part of Mayor Vincent Gray’s Sustainable D.C. Initiative. The Sustainable D.C. Budget Challenge judged its entries based on cost effectiveness, potential for quick results, and the ability to meet sustainability goals, among other criteria. Mayor Gray says, “The city hopes to take the lead in what it means to be sustainable.” With projects such as the Living Building Challenge, the District will be able “to test the feasibility of major new investments and demonstrate a new way of doing business in the city government.”

For more information on the Living Building & Sustainable D.C. Budget Challenges, please read the full Washington Post article here.

Sister Eden With Ideas For Environmentally Friendly Holiday Gifts

Are you running out of time to complete your holiday gift shopping? Are you tired of buying gifts that might never be used? Lori Hill of Sister Eden has solutions for you.

Lori’s video, Gift Giving Tips for the Holidays, has tons of ideas for environmentally friendly gift giving. Concerned about the travel footprint? Buy local. Worried that your gift will never be used? Treat someone to a manicure or a massage.

With information about the impacts of various holiday gifts, plus plenty of alternative suggestions, Sister Eden’s video comes just in time to be the perfect stress relief for the holiday season. Take a look, and buy gifts guilt-free.


  • Don’t Forget! GreenWheaton’s Alternative Lighting Program, Thursday December 20, 7-8:30 pm, All Eco Center, 2662 University Blvd, Wheaton.

Experts discuss Street Lighting in Wheaton MD.  Learn about the County’s plans for upgrading to more energy efficient lights and Wheaton’s prospects for approving more energy efficient/dark sky friendly decorative light fixtures for downtown Wheaton.  More info available here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Lori Hill

As I approached 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard to attend the 2012 Bethesda Green Gala, I grew excited about finally experiencing this LEED® Platinum office building which has won countess awards and proclamations.  The Tower Companies and Lerner Enterprises, the companies responsible for the building and Gala host sponsors, refer to it as the healthiest building ever built. Why?

2000 Tower Oaks Blvd at dusk.

First off, it is one of two office buildings in Maryland to achieve LEED® Platinum certification, the highest honor that the U.S. Green Building Council can bestow.  The other building is the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis. Tower and Lerner have purchased wind energy to meet 100% of the building’s energy needs and the building’s efficient design reduces energy usage by 28% and reduces water consumption by 41%.  But that is just the beginning.

Building amenities include a green roof and a café that serves organic food.  Similar to other office buildings, it has a state-of-the-art 2,500 square foot fitness center with flat screen TVs, showers and lockers.  But unlike others, it has something I’ve never seen before:  a Pilates/yoga/meditation room.

Other features that make the building stand out are its LEED® green building practices and Fortune-Creating (sm) Vedic Architecture principles of orientation, placement, central core and proportion.  These principles combine to improve occupant health, well-being, performance, success, clarity and imagination.  Wouldn’t every employer want this for their employees to ensure optimum productivity?  The healthier building reduces sick time and increases worker retention.  How?  The superior indoor air quality is due to a three-stage outside air filtration system that removes 95% of airborne pollutants, recycles air every 51 minutes, and maintains a steady, comfortable temperature.  In addition, better lighting and thermal control, combined with the high air quality, increase productivity and enhanced cooperation among workers.  The generous access to natural daylight throughout the building doesn’t hurt either.  In fact, one worker commented, “I feel energized. I am able to concentrate on my task for the day more. The stress of a work day doesn’t get to me like it used to. The natural sunlight and view makes a difference, and makes me calm and happy.”

View of the lobby

If you are a company looking for new office space, you might want to consider 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard because green buildings improve employee productivity.  This building has the added feature of improving tenants’ health based on its innovative system and building design.  Companies can lower their operating costs by improving productivity, health and fostering a corporate culture that engenders loyalty which lowers employee turnover cost. The Tower Companies and Lerner Enterprises also take pride in the fact that the building is operated in a green manner through green cleaning and other operational practices.

So what prompted Tower and Lerner to build such a green building?  Nearly 17 years ago Jeffrey Abramson, one of the owners of The Tower Companies, realized that buildings contributed 40% of all greenhouse gases and decided the real-estate business needed to take responsibility for their impact on the environment.  Therefore, he realized that every new building needed to be green.  In 1994 The Tower Companies completed the Blair Towns, the first LEED® certified multifamily building in the country. Lerner Enterprises’ dedication to green was also part of its corporate culture since the design and construction of its now LEED® Gold Certified 20 M Street.

Office space

The original goal at 2000 Tower Oaks was to build a LEED® Gold building, but as the project progressed it became apparent that the developers had nearly enough points for Platinum.  With the help of building contractor Whiting Turner, Tower and Lerner made some decisions to achieve every point they could.  Some choices were easy such as designating parking for hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles. Other choices required design and some innovation.  For example, rather than using regular tap to water the grass, they did the job by collecting condensate from the air conditioning and some natural under slab drainage. These choices, along with some energy efficiency improvements, made the difference.

The biggest challenges with constructing a LEED® Platinum building was making sure that everyone knew that it was their responsibility to make it happen.  Everything needs to go right and everyone needs to be involved. The designer has to offer material choices that are sustainable, the project managers on the owners’ side need to ask the questions during design meetings.  The owners must realize that some design choices might be limited by materials. Today, sustainable material choices are much easier to obtain than they were 5 years ago.  Once the building is under construction, the contractor and all the craftspeople must know their role in ensuring the correct materials are used as specified in the drawings.  The key to overcoming this challenge is starting to work with an integrated design and construction team from the beginning.

For more information about the healthiest building in Washington, visit the 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard website.

Lori Hill is the Go to Gal for Green Living.  Visit her website at

by Peter Doo

How do you drive an entire industry to build “green,” sustainable buildings? The US Green Building Council (USGBC), with its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, set the standard for building green. Through LEED, a green building can be rewarded an official certification. This certification incentivizes building owners, designers and contractors to look beyond energy savings to make a building that helps and does not harm its users, site, community and the earth.

Now USGBC is setting a new bar for the industry with LEED 2012.

LEED has often been criticized for not producing the results that it touts. While some of this criticism is justified, the USGBC has consistently responded with new requirements and updates (energy reporting for example) to address many of those criticisms. Meanwhile, the larger and undeniable impact of LEED has been in the transformation of the marketplace of products and services to make true sustainability more accessible to everyone. LEED 2012 promises to keep us all moving in that direction.

Some cities, counties and states have mandated LEED for new buildings in their jurisdictions. Projects pursuing certification under LEED 2012 will definitely find it more challenging to achieve the same ratings they received under the prior systems, LEED v2.2 and LEED 2009. Municipalities will have to determine whether they keep their mandate and escalate their sustainability goals with LEED 2012, or whether they relax or eliminate their mandate altogether.

What are some of the changes in the new LEED 2012? Several of the available credits in the Materials & Resources category, for example, require the disclosure and/or avoidance of chemical toxins in building products and materials. While this is likely to be an area of some controversy if adopted, this is where the next market transformative impact of LEED is likely to be.

On the energy efficiency side, the new referenced standard is ASHRAE 2010. This represents a significant increase in energy efficiency targets that project teams should be aware of.

What other changes are coming? How will it affect the industry as a whole and the Mid-Atlantic region in particular? And how do building owners and professionals navigate this shift? These questions and more will be addressed at a special event on Tuesday, June 12th in Bethesda, Maryland, “Anticipating the Changes and Challenges of LEED 2012,” a Natural Capital Series event. For more information and to register, go to

Peter Doo, FAIA, President of Doo Consulting, LLC is a sustainability consultant with over 30 years of experience in building design and construction. Peter is a LEED AP and founder of the USGBC Maryland Chapter. Doo Consulting provides services to guide, coordinate and administrate the LEED certification process for all LEED rating systems. For more information, visit

Nonprofit organizations can help shape new workspace in Bethesda and win $250!

Graceful Growing Together, Inc. (GGT) is planning a new nonprofit-focused space in downtown Bethesda and wants to know how it could serve your organization in the years to come. GGT is asking those working with nonprofit organizations to take its online survey and share information about their future space needs with its planning team.  The survey takes about 5 minutes to complete.

Everyone who completes the survey by March 30, 2012, will be entered into a drawing to win a $250 grant for their organization. Your response is not binding for any obligation but will assist with planning for nonprofit space in Bethesda for future generations.

The survey is ready to complete online. Nonprofit organizations throughout the area are encouraged to respond.

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