1) What is sustainability and why should I care about it?
a) There is no universal definition of sustainability but the UN’s definition is perhaps the most widely used. It defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). There are three key aspects to sustainability, often referred to as the triple bottom line, social, environmental, and economic. Or as we refer to them at Arrowstreet Triple P, people, planet, and piggy bank.
b) Everyone should care about sustainability because it impacts all of our lives as well as the future generations that we are creating. Sustainable development takes a holistic view at the Triple P and designs to create a livable balance for all.
2) What is Building Performance?
a) Building Performance is the efficacy of a building to meet an aspect of sustainability, resiliency, wellness, or other defined design goal. For example, we might design a building to perform to a certain energy reduction goal.
3) Is LEED certification required for every new or renovated project in Boston?
a) Under Article 37 of the Boston Zoning Code, all projects 50,000sf or larger that are subject to Article 80 Large Project Review must be designed to meet at least the Certified level of LEED. Projects do not need to seek LEED certification through USGBC/GBCI. They are only required to prove that they are designed to the standard by submitting a Green Building Report to Interagency Green Building Committee at the end of design in order to achieve a building permit and a revised report at the end of construction to achieve a Certificate of Occupancy.
b) Many other municipalities in Massachusetts, and around the country, have similar requirements.
4) Where can I find information on LEED certification?
a) The US Green Building Council USGBC creates and maintains the LEED rating systems. There are systems for various building types, such as Schools and Data Centers, as well as LEED Neighborhood Development for land developments.
5) Are there other rating systems for sustainable buildings besides LEED?
a) There are other systems that look at holistic aspects of buildings such as the Living Building Challenge. Other systems focus on one aspect such as Passive House which focusses on energy. There are also systems that focus on health and wellbeing such as Fitwel and WELL.
6) What is Fitwel?
a) Fitwel is a certification system that assesses workplace design based on its impact on occupant health and wellbeing. Fitwel was developed by experts in public health and design including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and the General Services Administration (GSA). Fitwel uses evidence-based design to assess design strategies’ impacts on health.
7) How does an existing building become Fitwel certified?
a) The building would be evaluated for its existing design’s compliance to meet the Fitwel strategies. Then you would look at the strategies that the existing building does not achieve. The rating system indicates which design strategies will have the most impact on human health so it easily allows building owners to see how the existing building can be adjusted to make the most impact for occupants.
8) What is the difference between Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Emissions?
a) There are several different definitions that are used for Net Zero Energy buildings. Late in 2015, the US Department of Energy came out with a definition to help create a uniform language. The DOE definition states: “An energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.” Simply put the building generates enough on-site renewable energy (like photovoltaics) equal to the amount of gas, electricity, or other fuel the building uses to operate.
Net Zero Emissions buildings are similar to Net Zero Energy buildings but they go one step further to eliminate carbon emissions by having no combustion of fossil fuels on site. All of the energy used is through electricity.
9) What is EUI?
a) Energy Use Intensity (EUI) is the metric used for measuring energy use in buildings. Its units are kBtu/sf/yr. It is a way to compare buildings of the same type, such as schools, even though they may be of different sizes. You can think of it as similar to MPG for fuel use in cars.