Skip to content

Building Construction Technology Program with UMass Amherst

We are happy to announce the Build-it-Better Sustainability Seminar Series (BIB), a dynamic new pilot representing a unique collaboration between AGC and BCT (Building Construction Technology), a program in the Department of Environmental Conservation, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The BIB Seminar Series provides an overview of emergent building certification and smart growth systems and is designed to help prepare today’s leaders, industry professionals, support staff and the next generation of builders for the New (Sustainable ) Normal; a new wave of innovation in the way we think, the way we live and the way we build.

The preponderance of buildings which have met the standards of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) throughout the world demonstrates a wide acceptance of sustainability and the importance of high- performance strategies in the built environment. In fact, during the 22 years since the first version of LEED was launched, the number of certified LEED projects in the United States has risen from 296 certifications in 2006 to over 67,000 in 2018, and there are now more than 80,000 certified LEED buildings in 162 countries. This dramatic rise clearly reflects a global adoption of sustainable building and smart growth practices and an embrace of one of the universal tenets of sustainable development; that new building construction projects must strive to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Hidden behind the hype of LEED, several less prominent certifications systems have also emerged during the last few years. These new entrants raise the standards for efficiency, resource conservation, the quest for carbon neutrality, and emphasize the social aspects of building designs, and quality of life issues. Consider the fact that in 2012 there were only 12 building projects in the United States that met the rigorous standards for Passive Haus standard, distinguished by rigorous testing requirements that ensure each certified building performs as designed. Just four years later 1 million square feet of certified and pre-certified projects were realized across North America, and then by 2018 the rate of growth doubled. In Massachusetts, there are currently 15 certified Passive Haus projects, with five more expected to be completed in 2021; a rise reflecting the increasing demand and support by state-sponsored funding that incentivizes multi-family high rise buildings with deep energy savings. Consider also the fact that Massachusetts currently has 4 buildings that have met the meticulous standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). And throughout the world, there are now more than 500 registered LBC projects in 29 countries pursuing the ambitious tenants of the LBC standard. This data demonstrates an increase in momentum, scale, and complexity for what some consider to be the world’s most advanced, holistic performance standard for buildings. In a similar way, the number of buildings which have met the criteria outlined by the WELL Building Standard, another emergent system that emphasizes human health, comfort and social dimensions of the built environment, has also increased five-fold during the last two years. Massachusetts also has several cities, communities and neighborhoods that have been recognized as LEED certified (LEED Cities and Communities Program/Neighborhood Development); a rare distinction considering that there are only about 130 communities worldwide that have been awarded these certifications.
As executive leaders, project managers, engineers, material suppliers, administrative staff, architects, consultants and the emerging generation of building industry professionals, it is imperative to stay up to date with emerging best practices, so we all speak the same language, and so we can make better decisions about the impact of the built environment on the environment and on occupants, especially during transitional times of COVID.
Learn more:
Dr. Paul J. Wolff III is a lifelong “maker” and has dedicated his professional career to environmental conservation, sustainable development, and experiential learning. He has taught a variety of building industry exam-prep classes, professional development seminars, college-level courses, and non-credit hands-on workshops on topics related to sustainability and the built environment. He may be reached at