USGBC Texas Chapter Merger Complete

On December 9th, the newly branded Texas Gulf Coast Region of USGBC hosted an informal Town Hall Meeting at Sebesta's Houston office. The meeting introduced the changes ratified by the USGBC Texas State Chapter - Board of Directors on Friday, December 4th. The State-wide USGBC Texas Chapter will consist of five Regions: Texas Gulf Coast (Houston), Central Texas (Austin), North Texas (Dallas), West Texas (El Paso) and South Texas (San Antonio). The five Regional Councils will provide local leadership and appoint members to the Texas Chapter Board of Directors. Sergio Grado, the current USGBC Texas Gulf Coast Chapter Chair, David MacLean, the current Vice Chair and Tim Murray, a current Chapter Board Member, will serve as the Texas Gulf Coast Region’s representatives to the State Chapter Board of Directors for 2016.

The rationales behind the decision to merge into a single State chapter, as well as the changes that will affect the organization, were discussed thoroughly during the meeting. As with other State-wide USGBC Chapter consolidations happening Nationwide, this merger will strengthen the State through advocacy, membership, and programming.

"We knew from experience that when we united, we had a stronger voice in advocacy and in fundraising. As we worked together, we realized how many synergies there were, how many lessons to be learned from each other, and that many duplicative efforts could be eliminated. With recent changes in economic circumstances experienced by the individual Chapters, the time seemed right for the four Chapters to merge. By removing the local administrative burden, regions would be free to develop new programs, engage their communities and focus on service to members. Most importantly, we recognized that our differences are strengths through diversity and that we share a single goal of fulfilling USGBC’s Mission."   - USGBC Texas Chapter FAQ

Enhanced membership and partner benefits opportunities become available with the Texas State Chapter formation. Members will enjoy expanded benefits ranging from the Emerging Professional membership level to the Sustaining and Community membership levels. Discounts for the Green Building Marketplace, recognition at events and free attendance for education events, based on the partnership level, are a few of the new benefits available to members of the State Chapter.  We are pleased to announce Green Mountain Energy demonstrated its support for the newly-formed State Chapter by becoming the first Gold level Partner. They will receive benefits throughout all regions including events, membership, and marketing.

The new USGBC Texas Chapter Board of Directors will officially take office in January 1st 2016. The bylaws are in the process of being finalized and will be ratified in early January. The new USGBC Texas Chapter Officers and Committee Chairs are:

Texas Chapter - Chair - Keith Lindemulder, North Texas Region
Texas Chapter - Vice-Chair - Scott Gerhardt, Central Texas Region
Texas Chapter - Secretary - Tim Murray, Texas Gulf Coast Region
Texas Chapter - Treasurer and Finance Chair - Joe Riccillo, West Texas Region
Texas Chapter - Strategy Officer - Nicole Ferrini, West Texas Region
Texas Chapter - Advocacy Chair - David Matiella, South Texas Region
Texas Chapter - Communications Chair - David MacLean, Texas Gulf Coast Region
Texas Chapter - Membership and Partnership Chair - Brian Uhlrich, South Texas Region
Texas Chapter - Executive Director - Jonathan Kraatz

All of us at the USGBC Texas Gulf Coast Region are excited to be joined with the other Texas Regions as we work successfully to fulfill USGBC's Mission.

With the merger finalized, and Officers and Executive Director in place, The Texas Chapter looks towards a great 2016. 

After Paris: How Houston’s Green Building Sector Can Contribute to Slowing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Author: Adele Houghton

The landmark climate change agreement reached last Saturday at the 21st Council of Parties (or COP21) in Paris calls for “[h]olding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C [3.6 °F] above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C [2.5 °F].” Essentially, what this means is that nearly 200 countries (including the U.S., China, and India) have agreed to peak their GHG emissions long before mid-century and start transitioning to an energy-efficient, post-carbon world that runs on renewable sources of energy.

The sense of urgency behind this ambitious goal stems from the fact that we have already emitted over half of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) required to reach the 2 °C threshold. And, we are currently on track to exceed 2 °C by 2045. (For more detail, download this info-graphic from the World Resources Institute.) Scientists predict that capping emissions at 2 °C will avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. But, there is growing consensus that it would be far safer (particularly for low-lying areas) to cap emissions at 1.5 °C.

What does this agreement have to do with Houston?

Populations worldwide — including Houstonians — are already experiencing the effects of the first degree of global warming.

The following list, paraphrased from NASA’s climate change webpage, walks through some of the most salient effects that have been measured by scientists over the past century.

While the relationship between climate change and our daily lives may not be immediately apparent from the NASA website, the Human Health Chapter in the 2014 National Climate Assessment makes a clearer link by sharing the state of the evidence on how climate change is exacerbating some diseases and transporting others to new places. Relevant health impacts outlined in the NCA in more detail are listed below in (parentheses).

  • 6.7-inch rise in global sea levels, which puts coastal areas such as the Houston metro area at increased risk of flooding. (Health impacts: Death, injury, population displacement, and exposure to food- and waterborne diarrheal pathogens due to sea level rise, storm surge, and/or hurricanes.)
  • Global temperature rise, which has accelerated in recent decades and has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of heat waves in cities like Houston. (Health impacts: Heat-related deaths during heat waves; respiratory disease due to increased air pollution.)
  • Warming and increasingly acidic oceans, which jeopardizes both commercial fishing and recreational water use in coastal areas like Houston. (Health impacts: Exposure to food- and waterborne diarrheal pathogens; negative health effects associated with economic disruption.)
  • Increase in frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, heavy precipitation events leading to flooding, and hurricanes. (Health impacts in addition to those listed above: Mental health and stress-related disorders.)

By establishing a process for transitioning the world away from fossil fuels, the Paris Agreement aims to both limit future climate-related damage and galvanize the entrepreneurial innovation and leadership that will be necessary to transition to a post-carbon economy.

Green Building Demonstrates Leadership

The non-profit Architecture 2030 has made a compelling case for the building industry taking a leadership role in reducing global GHG emissions. As they visualize on their website, close to 50% of energy generated in the U.S. is consumed by buildings. Due to the electrical grid’s heavy reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, this means that buildings are responsible for over 40% of GHG emissions nationally. When car-centric land use patterns are added into the equation, the built environment as a whole (buildings + transportation) is responsible for nearly 70% of emissions.

As Tim Murray’s article on this website explains, the built environment was a tangible and powerful presence at COP21 negotiations over the past few weeks, demonstrating that the climate change community is increasingly recognizing the meaningful contribution to emissions reduction that can be made through widespread adoption of green building tools like Architecture 2030, LEED, and the Living Building Challenge. Those benefits are amplified when coupled with sustainable land use configurations such as dense and mixed-use neighborhoods, transit-oriented developments, and complete streets.

These are exciting times in the green building industry. At COP21, USGBC National committed to reducing the building sector’s GHG emissions through scaling up LEED certifications to more than 5 billion square feet over the coming 5 years – an ambitious goal!

We welcome your participation as both the new Texas State Chapter and our local region accelerate our efforts to demonstrate green building’s central role in helping the American economy transition to a post-carbon future. Please contact 2016 regional chair, David MacLean, to learn more about how you can get involved.


By Maria Perez

The WELL Building Standard (WELL) is the world’s first standard to apply an occupational health focus to architectural design.

WELL was developed by integrating scientific and medical research on environmental behaviors that can affect health with practices in building design, construction and operations. WELL also references existing standards and best practice guidelines set by governmental and professional organizations.

After seven years of research, development and extensive peer reviews, the International Well Building Institute (IWBI) launched its WELL Building Standard in 2015 with the goal of improving the way people live by developing spaces that enhance occupant health and quality of life. The standard guides project teams in creating a healthy environment for building occupants through seven key categories: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

WELL is administered by IWBI, a public benefit corporation whose mission is to improve human health and well-being through the built environment. It is third-party certified through the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which administers LEED certification and the LEED professional credentialing program. This relationship assures that WELL will work seamlessly with LEED.

IWBI offers WELL Building Certification and the WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) exam, which launched October 2015.

The WELL Building Standard is a game-changer for environmentalism. This is an emerging approach to thinking about healthy buildings that directly links to creating healthy working environments for its occupants.

While the WELL Building standard applies to commercial, multi-family residential and institutional projects, the current version is tailored to the needs of commercial office buildings. Potential projects are encouraged to contact IWBI through www.WELLbuiding

COP21 Call to Building Designers

Author: Tim Murray

No doubt you’ve heard about the COP21 (U.N. 21st Conference of Parties) Climate Change Conference in Paris this week. While much of COP21’s scope is beyond the building designer’s role, we do still play an important part in the “complex solution for a carbon neutral future” and a few events are happening to highlight this fact. On Monday, four European architecture councils hosted an event, “Architecture, the Climate of the Future,” to “emphasize the role architects can play in assisting in energy transition and the impact buildings have on climate, resiliency, and design”. At that event, the Manifesto for Responsible Architecture (link) was presented along with the Building and Real Estate Climate Declaration, a document created by the USGBC and Ceres.

On December 3, the first Buildings Day will be held to launch the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. This network will “offer the opportunity for partners and members with a shared climate change objective to communicate and collaborate on reducing the impact of the industry on climate” and focus buildings toward a “below 2degreeC path”.