Category Archives: Interesting Web Links

From LEED to Envision: Expanding Green Design to Infrastructure

By Matt Alford, P.E., ENV SP, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Green design and construction practices have been around for some time, and there are several industry rating systems to help with implementation.  Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a sustainable rating system for buildings, is the most widely used system around the world. The LEED program guides the design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings toward sustainability. It has been 16 years since the first version of LEED, and the number of buildings receiving LEED certification increases each year. And it’s not just about the shiny plaque! It has proven to increase building performance throughout the lifecycle of the building while enhancing the experience of the occupants.  The program provides real long-term cost savings in the operation and maintenance of these buildings. This was demonstrated during the economic downturn of 2008-2009 when, despite the economy, the number of registrations increased. “Green” sustainable design can increase the efficiency of a building, provide long-term cost savings, increase public recognition of a project, and improve quality of life.

But, what about infrastructure? Infrastructure changes the way we get around, communicate, and view the world—it is an essential element to our culture. However, it has different challenges than buildings. Often coordination between several organizations that each have their own agendas and budgets is one of the major challenges when implementing sustainable design for infrastructure.

Similar to how LEED is focused on the occupants of the building, the new Envision Rating System focuses on the stakeholders affected by the project.  Envision is an objective framework of criteria and performance achievements that helps users identify ways in which “green” sustainable approaches can be used to plan, design, construct, and operate infrastructure projects. It also looks to enhance the social, environmental and economic aspects of a project by providing a holistic project assessment and guidance tool to tackle these challenges.  Using the design and building of a new industrial plant as an example, Envision encourages cohesive planning so that how the new plant impacts the historical value of the community is as important as how clean the air is being released thru its smokestack.  The goal of the program is to best use taxpayer dollars, reduce our environmental footprint, and enhance the overall quality of life in our community.

Types of Infrastructure Envision Will Rate


Envision is broken down into five categories to evaluate how a project contributes to the overall sustainability of the community.

  • Quality of Life – addresses a project’s impact regarding the health and well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.
  • Leadership – engages the project stakeholders and team leaders to provide meaningful commitment, collaboration and communication with each other.
  • Resource Allocation – dives into the use of recyclable materials and overall waste reduction for the long-term operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and construction.
  • Natural World – how the project preserves and renews ecosystem functions.
  • Climate and Risk – looks at two main concepts: ensuring resilience and minimizing emissions of a project both in the short-term and long-term future conditions.

Using Envision demonstrates an organized and comprehensive approach to decision making.  It embraces the use of best practices and garners support from stakeholders. Effective sustainable infrastructure development cannot be completed without involving several parties.

Similar to the LEED program, Envision has four award levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Even if an award is not pursued, it is strongly encouraged to use Envision criteria as a guide or a set of standards for creating sustainable infrastructure. Envision is laying the groundwork for making sustainable design the new standard for all infrastructure projects.

Instrumental Parties


And why not!?!   Here are some advantages to doing so:

  • Quantifying the qualitative benefits, including preserving local character
  • Applying a consistent, transparent approach to sustainability
  • Helping communities address long-range needs
  • Evaluating environmental and economic benefits
  • Extending the useful life of a project
  • Improving the efficiency of a project
  • Demonstrating good governance of resources

Just as using a sustainable building rating system as a guide for development has proven to be worth the investment for new building construction, Envision will help guide decisions about sustainable infrastructure projects to be made proactively instead of re-actively in our communities. Imagine a world with less congestion, cleaner waters, purposefully-developed communities, and tax dollars being used more efficiently.  Envision provides the framework to improve the way we develop the infrastructure and its impact on our daily lives


Energy Efficiency: A Revolution in Applied Sustainability at Home

By Sarah Antolick, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee


Whether you are a climate-conscious homeowner or are simply looking to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket, sustainable homes have become a hot topic in the past few years. In 2010, 40% of U.S energy consumption was from residential and commercial buildings and accounted for nearly 40% of carbon dioxide emissions [1].  As environmentally conscientious citizens and engineering professionals with a stake in the construction industry, we have an imperative to improve our built environment.

Building codes set a standard for the design and construction of our homes while setting a reference point for health, safety and wellness.  Updating the building code is a powerful tool for improving new construction, which comprises a significant portion of our housing market. According to a study by Statista published in 2017, residential housing growth between 2015 and 2016 amounted to 880,000 new units [2]. These new housing units are among the most sustainable and energy efficient as we are seeing higher standards and codes on both the national and local levels.

However, new construction cannot compare to our existing housing, as it is estimated that there are 135.58 million total residential units in the United States as of 2016.  Therefore, it is in our existing homes that we can make the greatest impact on our environment through energy efficiency improvements.

There are many easy ways to reduce energy usage and save money in our homes without starting from the ground up. Savings vary depending on home size, age, current technology usage, product brand, etc., but collectively these technologies provide significant savings.   Items such as LED light bulbs, low-flow shower heads and aerators, and programmable thermostats are simple fixes that can help reduce energy waste.

The impact that can be derived from these simple changes includes:

  • LED light bulbs use 25-80% less energy and last 3-25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs [3].
  • Phantom energy is energy consumed by appliances that are plugged in but not in use which can account for 15% or more of a household’s total energy consumption. Advanced power strips can eliminate this inefficiency [4].
  • Water heating is the second largest contributor to most households’ energy consumption. Simply fixing a leaking faucet can save $35 annually [5].
  • Low-flow shower heads can save both water and energy consumption for water heating. Low-flow fixtures can translate to 25-60% reduction in water consumption annually [5].

Additional savings can be achieved through larger investments such as air sealing by using double pane windows, added insulation, upgraded HVAC systems, and energy star appliances.

The cost of these systems and energy savings vary greatly.  Locally  both Massachusetts and Rhode Island encourage homeowners to invest in these retrofit options through their rebate programs. Mass Save provides services at subsidized cost and provides interest-free loans on long-term investments [6]. Rhode Island has paired up with National Grid to provide both auditing services and rebates for eligible homeowners [7].

Residents of Rhode Island can take advantage of companies such as RISE Engineering for a full spectrum of services from auditing, design, vending, and  installation through the financial incentives process. RISE is one of the oldest providers of energy auditing services with over 35 years of experience working on over 25,000 single-family residences totaling over $800 million in energy improvements. They work with utility companies, municipalities, and program sponsors to offer a comprehensive energy retrofitting experience.

Likewise, in Massachusetts, HomeWorks Energy is one of the companies tackling energy efficiency one home at a time as part of the “Mass Save” program.  This program is to provide Massachusetts residents with home energy assessments including installation of free products including low flow shower heads and LED light bulbs, and recommendations for future improvements through HVAC, weatherization, windows, and solar. HomeWorks collaborates with home owners, municipalities, contractors, and other community partners to help take advantage of Mass Save incentives.

A sustainable future starts in our homes, and the first step in unlocking these opportunities is through home energy assessments. Learn how you can start the process at

Additionally, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) maintains a comprehensive national database of Energy Incentive Program resources for organizations, businesses, and residents which can be accessed at






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Tiny House Movement – Part 2

Hopefully you remember this recent blog post about a Tiny House that Lauren Hastings’ sister Sarah is designing and building for a project in the Architecture and Environmental Studies program at Mount Holyoke College.  She is sourcing materials locally and is incorporating sustainable and energy efficient features wherever possible.

It appears this is a trend worth following. This Yahoo Finance article spotlights a Rhode Island couple that did very much the same thing. They moved into their home in January, which they built for an estimated $10,000. Its a sleek 128 square feet…about double the size of a standard office cubicle! Loads of recycled and upcycled materials went into the home, including an old trailer bed for a foundation, reclaimed concrete blocks, and secondhand wood and insulation. They even added their own composting toilet!

Check out their blog Another Tiny House Story for more.


Tiny Trail: A New American Dream

Have you heard of the Tiny House Movement? Miniature, mobile dwellings are gaining popularity with those who wish to live a more environmentally and socially conscious lifestyle.

tiny-house-movementThe average American house is now over 2,000 square feet in size, but how much of that space is actually needed (or efficiently utilized)? Compact living comes with freedom from the financial burdens associated with the large mortgages and high energy costs of the traditional American home – and oftentimes, the freedom to take your home with you when you wish to relocate.


My sister Sarah, a Junior studying Architecture and Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College, is taking the concept one step further. As part of her Senior thesis project next year, Sarah will construct the “Tiny Trail”, a mobile Tiny House made with 100% locally sourced materials and powered by sustainable and efficient energy sources.


Elecricity will be provided through rooftop  solar panels, and an efficient propane stove will heat the home for $30/month in the dead of a New England winter.  All building materials will be sourced within 200 miles of the construction site, and each mile will be logged and each material traced to its source. Secondhand or salvaged items will be used wherever possible – including beams from dismantled barns in Central Massachusetts, and a space-saving “Hoosier Cabinet” from the 1920’s, found on Craigslist.


The Tiny Trail design will be brought to life through a credit course offered to students within the Five Colleges Consortium, calling upon those with the various skills necessary to complete its construction.  The Five Colleges include Mount Holyoke, UMass Amherst, Smith College, Amherst College and Hampshire College.


Sarah’s Tiny House will be of the mobile variety, to be constructed on a 20 x 24’ flatbed trailer. Wherever life takes Sarah after her undergraduate studies, Tiny Trail will follow!

PicMonkey Collage

To learn more, visit Tiny Trail WEBSITE You can also follow the progress of Sarah’s design by connecting on Facebook!

Green Colleges and Universities

Trish Teeter passed along this infographic from the Green Living Ideas website about how colleges and universities have been at the forefront of sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives. I thought it was interesting to share on the GreenPARE blog since PARE has completed several projects for area colleges and universities, many of which have incorporated sustainable design elements and achieved LEED certification.

Plan It Green

National Geographic, in cooperation with General Electric and other corporate partners, has introduced a free online simulation game allowing you to build a sustainable city from the ground up. Players must manage their resources while expanding the city in a sustainable way by incorporating eco-friendly energy sources and introducing green initiatives. Name your city, choose an avatar, then connect with friends through popular social media sites.

Click here to watch the trailer and take the tutorial, or see screenshots from the game below.






Compressed Air Energy Storage

Shane Driscoll found this interesting story from New Hampshire Public Radio about a start-up company that has developed what they believe is a better way of storing energy, particularly important in the ever expanding renewable energy marketplace. Their technology uses compressed air for storing energy instead of batteries.

Click here to read the report transcript from the NPR website, and continue sending us your ideas for the blog!

Green Building Information Gateway

There is a new internet search engine you can use to access green building data for thousands of LEED certified buildings nationally and abroad. Unveiled by the USGBC at GreenBuild in November 2012, the Green Building Information Gateway provides statistics on LEED projects, such as their certification date, the level achieved, and the points awarded.

I searched for Rhode Island and clicked on the University Dining Hall at URI in South Kingstown, a project PARE worked on with Vision III Architects. The website shows that it received LEED Silver in June 2008, earning points over a number of categories including water efficiency, sustainable sites, and indoor air quality. Check it out here and while you’re there, search for other projects in our area.