Category Archives: Architecture

Greengrade Helps Canadian Projects Get the Green Grade

greengradeDuring the LEED® certification process, there are numerous guidelines, regulations and requirements that need to be addressed before the final LEED® stamp of approval is achieved.  LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Design, and is an internationally recognized environmental program that verifies projects were built in such a way to promote energy savings, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and CO2 emissions reductions to the fullest extent.

With the help of Textura Corporation’s Greengrade-LEED® Management Software, this process has been made easier. Project teams in Canada can now achieve LEED® certification via the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) in a much more efficient and streamlined process by using Greengrade LEED® Management Software designed for the Canadian market.

In the United States, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) is the certification entity that issues all LEED® certifications, but many design firms have projects in both the U.S. and in Canada.  That being the case, it was important to have a certification system in place that kept the same basic guidelines and requirements as those of the USGBC, but adapted them for the Canadian market.  Differences in Canadian construction practices, climates and regulations use to mean that U.S. firms working on projects in the Canadian sustainable design market had to have two separate systems in place to get LEED® certification.  Now, by adding CaGBC Rating Systems to their Greengrade-LEED® Management software, Textura has helped those firms cut the cost involved in the certification process and achieve new levels of profitability while saving time and resources.  For builders and designers who are feeling the hit from the downturn in the global economy, this will go along was to relieve their stress and encourage environmentally-friendly building practices.

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‘No Marketing Rights’ for Olympic Design and Construction Firms

There have been smiles, cheers and celebration a plenty at the summer games taking place in London right now, but one group that is not happy are the architects, contractors and engineers who transformed London into an Olympic Showcase. As millions of spectators convene in London and millions more watch on television, most will never know those behind the work that went into the design and construction of the various building around the historic city.

The internet is a buzz with articles and commentary on the marketing agreement that bans the building and design industry from promoting their work on the historic buildings.

Under the agreement, the industry is banned from publicizing their work on the various Olympic building across London until next year. Excluded from the ban are the designers of Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, who are not considered third tier sponsors. The clause, which is called the ‘No Marketing Rights Protocol,’  leave many feeling that the restrictions only hurt small firms and individuals whose work is seen by millions. The agreement, which affects almost 40 architects, even includes a ban on award submittals for the work on Olympic buildings.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) gathered on August 3 in order to drum up support of their cause and to ask officials to lift the ban.

“Now is the time to stand up for our architects,” said RIBA president Angela Brady. “I really thought they were going to lift the barring of architects and engineers the day they opened the games. The eyes of the world are on London right now and what are we doing to show off?”

Brady and fellow architects wore shirts listing all the firms banned from promotion and even posted that same list on a big sign in front of RIBA headquarters.

“Architects and engineers have delivered incredible buildings which are hosting the London 2012 Games right now,” explained Brady. “Let’s shout about the great design and engineering talent that the UK has to offer and not miss this valuable opportunity to do so.”

Olympic buildings London

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WorldHaus Provides Home Kits to the Developing World

You may have read our past post on prefab homes, but these modular kit houses are so unique that they deserve a post all their own.

Introducing WorldHaus – a company that manufactures custom designed, weatherproof home kits for families in the developing world at an affordable price.

These aren’t your typical prefabricated modular homes – these are home kits that employ a modular building system allowing families to build their home from the kit materials – compressed earth-bricks, steel roof panels and concrete – to any size and configuration they desire.

These home kits also allow for a number of optional amenities that include clean burning stoves, toilets and solar electricity systems. One-bedroom, 220 square foot base models can be built in just 10 days with a starting cost below $2,000.


A WorldHaus prototype home

The company’s Founders Bill and Daniel Gross have also been working with mortgage providers to make the homes available for monthly installments of $40 – a price even more accessible for rural and semi-urban families in developing areas who make anywhere from $3 to $10 a day.

They have also partnered with state governments, NGOs and landlords to develop rental housing programs and subsidies that could cut the cost to occupants to less than $2 a day.

According to the UN Habitat on substandard housing, more than a billion people worldwide live in substandard housing conditions without access to things like clean water, sanitation and electricity.  WorldHaus is not only helping to alleviate that need, they are helping to build local economies through the use of local construction, a local dealer network and factory supply chains and they are promoting the stand-alone sustainability of homes independent of the constraints of housing projects or utility grids.

To learn more, visit

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The Living Building Challenge

One of the latest innovative measures in the A/E/C and design world, The Living Building Challenge (LBC),  is a philosophy, an advocacy tool and a certification program that promotes today’s most advanced measurement of sustainability in building design and construction.

Founded in 2006, The Living Building Challenge recognizes buildings and their green credentials after they have been up and running for at least twelve months. Buildings have to fulfill specific and rigorous requirements in areas of water, energy, site, health, materials, equity and beauty.

Because the requirements are so stringent and the review so intense, the buildings that actually receive living building certification are some of today’s most advanced structures.  At the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, New York, they operate at a net zero energy level.  They make more energy than they use, and by using solar and geo thermal energy that does not pollute the air or add to the greenhouse effect, they are able to power the building itself as well as the on-site natural water reclamation system.

Omega Center

Another building that has passed LBC review is the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab located on the school’s campus on the big island of Hawaii.  Through the use of local, natural resources such as lava rock and sugarcane, the energy lab works with the landscape instead of against it.  The over 6,000 square foot facility boasts indoor and outdoor classrooms, conference and project rooms, a full workshop, and many other 21st century learning tools that all have the green building stamp of approval.

Hawaii Preparatory Academy

The Living Building Challenge challenges us to push farther in our reach towards sustainable living, and with more organizations realizing the value of protecting our natural resources and incorporating those values into best business practices, we can expect to see more LBC-certified buildings in the future.

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The 2012 “Green” Games

Olympics GreenThe Summer Olympics currently being held in London are touted by their host as the first green games the world has ever seen.  Olympic organizers wanted to make sustainability an important part of this year’s summer games and made it a priority to address a number of key environmental themes – such as waste, biodiversity, inclusion, healthy living and climate change – in the initial design and planning of the event.

The first step in achieving their goal was to create the Towards a one planet 2012 Sustainability Plan that focuses on tackling the environmental concerns of every aspect of the project. The plan stresses things like a “no added waste policy” regarding additional waste being sent to London landfills while the Games are in action and a minimization of gas emissions in the design and use of the game facilities.

The organizers not only want to keep the integrity of the natural habitats in the areas around the Games healthy and thriving, they would ideally like to leave things better than they were originally.

During the preparation for the Games, the host city began work on its “Brown to green” project of transforming 250 acres of contaminated industrial land into lush, green parkland. While the project was spearheaded by the 2012 London games initiative, the park will afterwards become the largest new urban park in the UK in over 100 years.

An important motivating factor for planning and design officials was the healthy impact on the citizenry of both the UK and world watchers of the Games.  Seeing people swim, bike, race and leap through the air after years of training and dedication can inspire even the most hardened couch potato to get up and get moving. The hope is that the Games’ “green” makeover will too serve as a positive model and source of inspiration.

To read more about London 2012 and Sustainability, click here. We also recommend viewing these amazing green buildings at the London Olympics.

Green Olympics

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Summertime Reading for the Family

Spring might be the time of year when nature comes alive after a long winter’s rest, but summer is the time of year when WE come alive. While you are spending your days outdoors with your kids this summer enjoying the seasonal weather, here are some great, environmentally-focused books to read together. has books for every age range and reading level, with topics that include “Habitats and Ecosystems”, “Water and Its Cycle”, “The Living Earth” and “Biodiversity.” They also have books that educate about specific animals and their unique plight, such as whales and the health of the oceans they live in, and polar bears and the effect the shrinking arctic has on their population.

Within the theme of Extinction & Conservation is the book Almost Gone: the World’s Rarest Animals, written and illustrated by Caldecott winner Steve Jenkins.  This book for grades K-3 examines twenty-one endangered animals found throughout the world, and draws attention to the critically low numbers that remain.  The beautiful cut-and-torn paper collage artwork that illustrates the book does a great job of capturing the attention of young readers.

Almost Gone childrens book

Another book, Common Ground by Molly Bang teaches grades 3 -7 about the issues of pollution and sustainability by using a colorful parable of what happens to a village when over-grazing sheep wreak havoc to the fields.  The story serves as the basis for analogies to the overuse and depletion of our planet’s natural resources – the seas, forests, water, air and fossil fuels.

common childrens book

No matter what your reading ritual is, take some time this summer to incorporate awareness of environmental issues into the summertime fun.  Spending so much time outdoors, playing in the sunshine and cavorting with nature makes this the perfect time to teach appreciation of our environment and how we can protect it for generations to come.

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Do You Know Your Energy Certification Programs?

Have you ever noticed an “ENERGY STAR” placard on the side of a structure or read an article about a new Federal building that had achieve LEED® Gold status and wondered, “What does it all mean?”

You are not alone.

While it may seem like common knowledge to those in the green building industry, many people aren’t clear about the various certification programs used to rate the energy efficiency of newly built and renovated structures.

Here are a few of the leading energy certification programs:

LEED®, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is the star player in terms of building certification. LEED is the green building rating system developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED certification involves a process by which an independent, third-party entity certifies that a building, home or community was designed and built using specific approaches aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health. These approaches include sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Once evaluated, buildings receive one of four levels of certification; LEED Certified, LEED Silver, LEED Gold or the highest level, LEED Platinum. The Green Schoolhouse Series aims to achieve LEED Platinum status on its first build, the Safari Schoolhouse in Phoenix, AZ.

ENERGY STAR® is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.  To be ENERGY STAR certified, a building must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency and must cost less per square foot to operate. The programs philosophy centers around saving money while reducing energy consumption. According to ENERGY STAR, the program saved enough energy in 2010 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 33 million cars — all while saving nearly $18 billion on utility bills.

Green Globes is an environmental assessment, education and rating system backed in the U.S. by the Green Building Initiative (GBI), a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit. The Canadian Federal Government has been using the Green Globes system for several years as the basis for the Building Owners and Manufacturer’s Association of Canada’s Go Green Plus program. Green Globes is designed to offer effective, practical and affordable ways to evaluate the environmental performance and sustainability of commercial buildings.

Green Schoolhouse Series LEED Platinum

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Building Materials Quiz!

Take this Sustainable Building Materials Quiz for a chance to be mentioned on The GSHS Facebook Page! 

The following quiz was featured in a recent article in ARCHTIECT Magazine. The American Institute of Architects offers 1 HSW/SD CEH (Health/Safety/Welfare and Sustainable Design Continuing Education Hour) for completing the quiz with a score of at least eight of 10 questions correct.

If you’d like to see how your score would measure up, type your answers in the comments section of this blog. We will be posting the correct answers this Thursday, May 17 at 8:00 a.m. Those with the highest scores will be announced on The Green Schoolhouse Series Facebook page later that day!

1.       An estimated 40 percent of the U.S. solid-waste stream – or ______________ tons of waste – was generated from building demolition in 2010.

  1. 50 million
  2. 104 million
  3. 245 million
  4. 4 billion

2.       Why are salvageable materials not salvaged more often?

  1. Few people know who would buy them or what they are worth.
  2. It can cost more to salvage them than to discard them.
  3. Building owners demand a lot of paperwork.
  4. Salvaging can be a logistical nightmare.

3.       True or False: Though U.S. landfill prices are rising, they are still low compared to those in Europe.

4.       The Construction Materials Recycling Association:

  1. Represents 245 waste-management companies.
  2. Receives contracts for all major demolition jobs in the U.S.
  3. Focuses recycling efforts on wood, steel and concrete.
  4. Developed a shredder that sorts and shreds recyclable building materials.

5.       Our preference for new materials in construction likely stems from:

  1. Technological innovation.
  2. The Industrial Revolution.
  3. The cost to recycle or salvage materials.
  4. All of the above.

6.       True or False: The rule of thumb stated that salvaging materials is more economically efficient.

7.       Full deconstruction of a residential structure proceeds at the pace of _____________ per five-to-seven-person crew.

  1. 1,000 square feet per day.
  2. 1,100 square feet per day.
  3. 1,000 square feet per week.
  4. 2,500 square feet per week.

8.       The EPA’s Lifecycle Building Challenge encourages designers and builders to:

  1. Create structures with 75 percent recycled materials.
  2. Create structures with half salvaged (reused) materials.
  3. Use new materials that are easily recyclable at the end of the building’s service life.
  4. Designed for disassembly.

9.       The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA):

  1. Advocates putting materials back into the resource pool without treatment by a recycler.
  2. Offers the Design for Reuse Primer.
  3. Created Planet Reuse.
  4. All of the above.
  5. Only A and B.

10.   True or False: Reused materials are largely sought by private contractors rather than professional design firms.


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NELSON Hires Excellence

Green Schoolhouse Series Partner NELSON, the exclusive architecture firm on the Chicago GSHS Project, announced that Jason Rosenblatt has joined the Chicago team as Design Director.

Rosenblatt has more than 15 years of experience in design and management and his work covers all phases of interior design and construction.  Most recently, Rosenblatt served as a Senior Designer/Senior Associate at Perkins + Will Chicago.  He has received Design Excellence awards from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Illinois Chapter and his work has been showcased in publications such as Interior Design Magazine, Perspectives, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Dwell and World Architecture.

In addition to leading the Chicago design team, Rosenblatt also will serve on the NELSON Design Leadership Group, which is comprised of senior teammates across NELSON’s national network. The group creates a platform for collaboration and knowledge sharing while identifying emerging trends in business and design that affect the built environment.  As a result, NELSON is able to provide global leadership in design excellence, innovation and creativity. Find out more about NELSON here.

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White Roofs Reduce the Effects of Climate Change

During last July’s heat wave, the temperature of black asphalt roofs in New York City peaked at around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Add this to the black asphalt streets and dark colored buildings and sidewalks and you will see why NYC’s temperature generally clocks in around 5 degrees higher than the surrounding areas.

There is, however, an interesting way that researchers and organizations have sought to tackle this hot issue –white roofs.

According to the New York Times Green Blog, a paper was recently published online in Environmental Research Letters that explains the benefits to white roofing. A team of scientists from NASA and Columbia University’s Earth Institute have gathered the results of the first long-term study of the effects of white roofing material on temperature, smog and sun reflectivity.

The studies used three types of white roofing material on three different roofs around New York City. One was simple white acrylic paint, and the other two were two types of synthetic membrane roofing materials, E.P.D.M. (ethylene propylene diene monomer), and TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin).

The results indicated that all three options reduced temperatures by as much as 43 degrees Fahrenheit. There was also a 65 percent increase in sun reflectivity and a noted reduction in smog.  However, in comparison to the membrane materials, the white paint failed to hold up over time (a span of two years) and therefore didn’t meet Energy Star standards.

While white paint can be an effective do-it-yourself option to reducing heat, the results show that it doesn’t withstand the test of time or measure up in terms of sustainability in comparison to membrane materials.

Duro-Last, a leading manufacturer of cool roof systems, believes that in order for white roofs to reach maximum efficiency, they must meet five criteria: energy, environment, endurance, economics, and engineering.

Their Duro-Last® Cool Zone® roofing system meets these criteria, and sets industry standards for single-ply roof reflectivity and energy savings. Their sustainable, synthetic membrane roofing systems can:

  • minimize environmental impact;
  • reduce energy consumption;
  • are virtually maintenance free and able to stand up to all types of weather;
  • deliver excellent life-cycle economics;
  • are precision engineered as a completely integrated system, prefabricated to the exact measurements of each building.

To learn more about the benefits of white roofing and the Duro-Last® Cool Zone® roofing system, visit or watch their video below.

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