USG Building IIIby Jon Akpapunam

The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) was among the recipients of the inaugural Bethesda Magazine Green Awards presented at the Bethesda Green Gala in 2010. We’re revisiting previous Green Champions, with a new cohort scheduled to be presented Thursday, Oct. 3, at the 2013 Gala (more info here or purchase tickets through Oct. 2 at this site).

The Camille Kendall Academic Center on the USG campus received LEED Gold certification in 2007.  At the time it was the largest academic building in the state of Maryland to receive such an honor.  This amazing achievement inspired a fresh perspective on environmental stewardship in the Shady Grove community.

“More sustainably and dynamically” seems to be the answer developing each day on campus.  Jessica Nardi, Director of Administration, said that the USG administration began analyzing the way in which all aspects of the university — procurement, planning and housekeeping, for example  — operated on a daily basis.

USG_Plants and FlowersNo matter how large or small the operation — from waste management to the type of salt used during the winter season to melt ice — USG began making decisions by taking environmental impact into consideration.  Some of their current green initiatives include campus wide recycling, energy and water conservation efforts, use of local produce, and environmental education.  Jessica described their effort to serve the USG community as a “living laboratory,” an opportunity to experiment with and implement certain green efforts.

An example of this can be seen in their work with Savenia Labs, an independent testing laboratory and information services company that provides energy and environmental impact ratings on popular appliances and electrical products and one of the Bethesda Green incubator companies.  USG and Savenia Labs partnered to create a display to show members of the community the importance of also procuring small appliances with better energy ratings and sustainable life cycles.

All of this progress, however, would not be possible without the commitment and optimism of the student body. USG administration should be acknowledged for outlining and assembling the vehicle for effective action, but the students are indeed in the driver’s seat.  Jessica characterized USG students as “dedicated and hardworking” individuals.  So, she is never surprised to see their constant contributions (green-focused class gifts, carpooling, green tours, for example) to the sustainability mantra of USG.  Likewise, it is inspiring to those of us outside the USG community to see both the holistic approach and shared responsibility evident on campus.

USG_Building III aUSG is currently in a period of growth with a future that seems even brighter and greener. They have plans to construct a new parking garage in the next two years — a highly energy-efficient structure via a green construction process that’s also equipped with rainwater capture. Plans are also under way to construct a new Platinum LEED-certified 200,000 sq. ft. building in the next four years.

USG has done something that is not always easy — they made a change.  The Camille Kendall Academic Center marked a new standard of academic buildings on campus and ignited the other amazing efforts taking place today.  Conveniently (and remarkably) enough, one action, one project, or one idea is all it takes to ignite change. We see what one building project did for USG.  If we all decide to make that one change, the possibilities for a more sustainable future are endless.

A recent graduate of Denison University, Jon Akpapunam is an intern at both Clean Currents and the City Parks Alliance. He is passionate about both learning and developing new perspectives and strategies to create a more sustainable future.

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 GreenWheaton.org.

  • 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 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 www.lorihillinc.com.

by Lori Hill

Peter Grazzini, the owner of Perfect Settings, is just like any other corporate head:  he is constantly looking to save money for his $14 million dollar company based in Landover, MD.  But for the past four years, he has been constantly thinking of new and innovative ways to reduce his environmental impact while also saving his company many thousands of dollars each year.

Perfect Settings owner Peter Grazzini

Since 1998, Perfect Settings has been providing gorgeous linen and premium and contemporary flatware, china, glassware and other tabletop accessories to caterers, event planners, venues and private individuals in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and throughout the United States.

So what prompted Peter to go green?  While on a buying trip to China in October 2008, he experienced several things that disturbed him.  First of all, there was a large bird cage in the lobby bar of the hotel where he was staying.  The cage contained approximately 100 birds and of course the birds were really loud.  Peter asked his server to be moved further away from the cage so that he could carry on a conversation.  He then inquired why there were so many birds.  The server explained that there were no birds in the cities of China and that it was considered a luxury to hear them sing.  When Peter inquired why there were no birds in the cities, the server explained that the air pollution made it difficult for the birds to breathe and more importantly, insects, a major source for the birds, could not survive with the pollution.  This was the first time that Peter had ever considered the effect humans are having on the environment.  It was a shocking realization that opened Peter’s eyes and caused him to notice more things on his trip that year.  For example, he spent 8 days in China and never saw the sun, even though it never rained.  For 8 days, he looked for birds and insects and never saw one.  On his way home, he watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and that was the straw the broke the camel’s back.  Peter has been trying to lessen his company’s impact on the planet ever since.

As a former event producer who concentrated on sustainable special events, I know that the rental industry is somewhat green by design since items are used over and over again.  Nonetheless, there is still a lot of waste and Peter Grazzini is working to minimize that waste.

When someone rents linens from a party rental company, the linens are delivered on hangers and covered in plastic just like your dry cleaning.  Similarly, plates, silverware, glassware and just about every item a rental company delivers to you comes wrapped in shrink wrap to protect it when it is transported from the rental facility to the venue.  Peter had the enterprising idea to collect all the shrink wrap and plastic bags and then bale and recycle them. His company also collects wire hangers for reuse and recycles all cardboard boxes.  In addition, when you rent equipment from Perfect Settings, they make available recycle bins for collecting glass, plastic bottles and aluminum cans.  So even if your event venue does not recycle, you can still recycle thanks to Perfect Settings.

Another innovation of Peter’s involves the use of high cocktail tables.  You’ve seen these at events.  It’s a table you typically stand at during a cocktail reception.  Traditionally, these are covered with linen, an option that can involve extra costs.  For example, in addition to the cost to purchase the material – much of which is premium, high quality fabric – you have the labor cost to sew the linen in assorted sizes to pair with tables in assorted sizes.  After the linen is used, you have the cost to clean the linen which includes electricity, water, cleaning solution and of course more labor.  As an alternative, Peter offers metal tables which cost less for the renter since a table linen is not needed. By not requiring a full table linen, less water and electricity are used and as a result, Peter is able to pass on the cost savings to the renter.  While the metal tables are often wrapped with fabric, the amount is much less:  2 yards vs. 10 yards for a traditional table linen.  In addition, the tables are virtually indestructible and Peter uses eco-friendly materials whenever possible.

Another example of how Peter is always looking for the more sustainable option is the picnic tables he recently acquired through Forever Redwood in California.  The company reforests old growth redwood forests that were clear cut in the 1920s and 1930s and then makes picnic tables from fast-growing oak, birch and walnut trees that block the sun and prevent growth of baby redwoods.

Reinvention is also a part of Peter’s vocabulary.  Rental equipment is often delivered in milk crates lined with clear trash bags that are much larger than the actual crate.  Peter realized how wasteful this was since less than half the bag was actually being utilized.  As a result, he found a manufacturer to create him a bag that is 60% smaller than a regular trash bag and is also biodegradable.  As a result, he saves 6 cents per bag or $18,000 a year compared to when he was using the larger sized bags!

Peter has re-engineered how he washes all the dishes he rents for special events.  By washing the cleaner dishes first, with a LEED-approved dish wash, a load lasts longer.

Like most green companies, Peter is conscientious about his lighting costs.  His 165,000 square foot warehouse, which once belonged to Giant, is open nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Since some sections of the warehouse are used more frequently than others, Peter installed motion sensors to save on energy costs.  And like many green companies, Perfect Settings is 100% wind powered thanks to Clean Currents.

As you’d probably suspect, even the vehicle Peter drives is eco-friendly.  He now drives a Chevy Volt and proudly boasts that at the 10,000 mile mark, he had only used 7 gallons of gas.

For third year in a row, Perfect Settings is a top level sponsor for the Bethesda Green Gala.  Take notice of the gorgeous table linens, dishware, glassware and other equipment used to make the gala look beautiful.  And be sure to say hi to Peter.

Lori Hill inspires people to add green to their lives.  Visit her website for more information.

The 3rd annual Bethesda Green Gala, Thursday, October 11, 2012, hosted at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard – a “green” building that has earned LEED Platinum certification – will offer an evening of inspiration, celebration and recognition of local green champions.

In addition to recognizing the 2012 Bethesda Magazine Green Award Winners, highlights of the evening with the theme of The Sky Is the Limit will include displays that imagine what a green community can be.  The Gala will offer fare from local purveyors, an open bar with local beer and wine, a silent auction featuring sustainable gifts and services, and more.

More information about the Gala can be found here, or you may purchase tickets directly at the link below.

Speedy Signs:  Offering Eco Friendly Options for Your Business and Personal Sign Needs

By Lori Hill

If you’ve ever been in the Bethesda Green office, you may have noticed the big Bethesda Green sign in the conference room.  I’ve always assumed that everything in the Bethesda Green office is eco-friendly, and indeed, that sign is no different.  It was created by Dave Taghipour and the team at Speedy Signs in Wheaton, MD.

You might wonder, “How can a sign be eco-friendly?”  The materials used to make the sign are one component, but the business practices of the company making the signs also matter.  I produced special events for 16 years and signage was one component of just about every event.  I became more conscientious about the materials used to make signs when I realized that foam core and foam board are not going to biodegrade and corrugated plastic, a material I once used on a regular basis, will take a very long time to break down in a landfill.  So what materials should you use?

According to Taghipour, “In place of acrylic and other plastic materials, one can use 3form materials. Made from ecoresin, their co-polyester sheet material contains a significant amount of both pre- and post-consumer recycled content. Their products range from 25% to 77.5% pre-consumer recycled content, to 100% post-consumer recycled content. Utilizing 3form materials can contribute to LEED points. In place of conventional banner materials, one can use BIOflex™, the first biodegradable vinyl banner material.

“When exposed to conditions in a landfill (darkness, high heat and moisture), BIOflex™ attracts microbes that break down PVC and turn it into dust. One can also use EarthSmart™, a non-PVC banner material that is 100% biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. In place of foam core, one can use BioBoard™, which contains approximately 63% post-consumer recycled content (cardboard) and is 100% recyclable.”

Recently, Bethesda Green had Speedy Signs make bike rack signs made of recycled aluminum and printed using bio solvent inks. Speedy Signs made these signs out of a plastic sheet containing approximately 30% recycled content, sandwiched between two sheets of recycled aluminum.

Speedy Signs works hard to minimize its footprint in an industry that is full of scraps, vinyl, and waste.  They start by purchasing eco-friendly materials when feasible (clients must be receptive and often be willing to pay a small premium), continue with consciously utilizing the materials to slash the amount of waste, and finish with recycling whatever scraps are left at the end. The post production vinyl scraps that are too small for their machines to use are absolutely perfect for creative use by artists and children, so they always look to give these items a second chance at utility before being so quick to scrap them.

Although they we were one of the original 20 companies to obtain Montgomery County Green Business Certification in April 2010, they engaged in green practices long before then. For example, they were among the first businesses in the Wheaton area to join a buying group to purchase wind power.  And even though the landlord at their previous location did not offer any recycling program, they have been recycling cardboard and other items by driving to the Derwood transfer station weekly since the company was founded.

Other company green initiatives include:

  • Conserving paper by conducting 90%+ of their promotions through the Internet
  • Conserving water by using dual flush toilets and utilizing automatic faucets
  • Conserving energy by using flat panel monitors on every computer in the store and turning off unused equipment
  • Conserving resources and building with reclaimed wood from barns, fences and old structures along with bamboo and cork
  • Encouraging employees to carpool or take public transit, offering incentives
  • Using natural biodegradable cleaning materials throughout the business
  • Using e-mail, rather than paper, whenever possible for all correspondence
  • Using natural lighting instead of artificial lighting throughout showroom
  • Telecommute whenever possible, reducing gas usage and emissions
  • Providing employees with access to kitchenware, reducing the need for disposable cutlery
  • Providing customers with a station of Energy Star information

Taghipour, who also owns  All-Eco Center, which sells sustainable building materials, was involved with launching GreenWheaton.

Lori Hill is a sustainable lifestyle consultant and former green event producer.  Visit her blog  for more green lifestyle tips.

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 http://naturalcapitalLEED2012.eventbrite.com.

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 www.dooconsulting.net.