March/April 2020 News

USGBC Announced LEED Update

A new version of LEED was announced at the Greenbuild Expo held in Atlanta last November. Called “LEED Positive,” it focuses more heavily on energy efficiency and carbon reduction than previous iterations. 

Energy and water usage, first included as part of LEED 4.0, will continue under an associated program now called “Arc.”

“We must do all we can to [reduce] carbon emissions associated with buildings, communities and cities,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of USGBC. “LEED must transition from strategies that reduce the harm done by buildings to strategies that cause no harm and are regenerative by design, ensuring our buildings are actually giving back more than they take.”

In the 20 years since the LEED certification program was launched, more than 100,000 projects have been certified, and it has become the flagship green building standard. Over the years, the rating system has been adjusted to encourage buildings to use less energy, water, waste, and more. 

The new LEED Positive even allows existing buildings to become certified by improving their performance in five
different areas. 

“Thanks to LEED v4.1, we are seeing increased interest from existing buildings in LEED certification,” said Melissa Baker, senior vice president of LEED Technical Core at USGBC. 

She continues, “By reporting performance data and obtaining a performance score, a project will now be able to earn a category performance certificate in each of the five performance categories tracked in Arc—energy, water, waste, transportation and human experience—and once a project achieves higher performance scores across all categories, they will be able to pursue LEED certification.”

 

Dodge Predicts Construction Slowdown

Dodge Data & Analytics released its 2020 construction outlook. It states that after increasing 3% in 2018, total U.S. construction starts gained only 1% in 2019 and will fall 4% in 2020.

“The recovery in construction starts that began during 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession is coming to an end,” stated Richard Branch, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “Trade tensions and lack of skilled labor will lead to a broad based, but orderly pullback in construction starts in 2020.”

By major construction sector, residential is expected to fall 6%, with 765,000 single-family home starts. The report cites affordability issues and the tight supply of entry-level homes, which have kept buyers on the sidelines. Nonresidential buildings will drop 3%, with the steepest declines in warehouses and hotels, while education building and health facilities should continue to see modest growth for at least another year.

 

NRMCA Extends Build With Strength Campaign

The National Ready Mix Concrete Association (NRMCA) is extending their Build With Strength campaign for another five years.

Build With Strength has significantly boosted interest in commercial ICF construction, with education seminars across the U.S. and Canada and free design assistance to those wishing to convert their plans from wood to concrete. 

A prime reason for continuing the initiative is to combat the timber industry’s efforts to convince state legislators to relax building codes and construction standards. Build With Strength estimates that the wood industry spends about $15 million annually to promote wood-framed construction in structures up to 18 stories. 

The extension was overwhelmingly approved in October at the organization’s ConcreteWorks show where NRMCA staff and its public affairs firm offered a multimedia presentation for “Build With Strength 2.0,” an extension of the original campaign that began three years ago. Executives reportedly view the program as a critical tool in promoting ready mixed concrete as the building material of choice and growing market share amidst increasingly visible competition.

“We’ve come a long way since the program began, but there is much more work to be done,” said NRMCA President Mike Philipps. “Our advocacy on behalf of the concrete industry has contributed to a sea change in American construction. And though we have turned the ship, there remains a long way to go.”

In urging the need for continuing funding, Philipps and senior NRMCA staff cited the initial BWS campaign’s success in changing hearts and minds, reporting that about 15 million cubic yards of concrete has been placed—that otherwise would not have been—and increasing concrete’s market share in low- and mid-rise building.

 

LDS Church Builds First ICF Meeting House

The Mormon church is building a meetinghouse in Arizona with ICF. The move is significant because the organization—officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—has built more than 200 such chapels annually for at least 30 years. The meetinghouses typically range from 15,000 to 30,000 sq. ft.

It’s not the church’s first foray into green construction. In 2010, they built a meetinghouse that was certified LEED-Silver by the USGBC a few miles north of their world headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. That building, and a similar one near Phoenix, Arizona, were wood-framed, with solar panels and xeriscaped landscaping. 

The ICF chapel in Arizona is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Its energy usage will be monitored and compared against dozens of similar chapels in the area.

 

Efficiency Bill Gains Steam

A bill promoting energy efficient construction continues to move forward in the U.S. Senate. 

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are sponsoring the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC). The measure contains key energy efficiency policy reforms that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution without any new taxes. The bill incentivizes the use of energy-efficiency technologies that are commercially available today, can be widely deployed across the country, and quickly pay for themselves through energy savings. The bill will help the United States transition to a more energy-efficient economy while driving economic growth and private sector job creation.

The proposal passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in late September, but has since stalled, and the full Senate has not yet put the bill on its calendar. A similar bill sponsored by senators Portman and Shaheen two years ago received broad bipartisan support and passed the Senate by a vote of 85-12, but was never voted on by the House. 

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