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UML Study Looks at “Green” Cities Across the Country


LOWELLߞ;University of Massachusetts Lowell researchers have come up with 10 green building program recommendations for the City of Lowell following a 21-community study.  The recommendations include the importance of developing building standards as well as education and outreach. 

Green building refers to design and construction strategies that significantly reduce or eliminate the negative environment impacts of a building while providing healthy space for its occupants.  The research was done in partnership with the City of Lowell and other community stakeholders and is the first step in a broader analysis of what a green building program would be like in Lowell.

 UML collected data from 21 communities that utilize the green building model on a municipal level.  Researchers examined programs in each city and compiled information on best practices, obstacles, education and outreach.  The research was supported by a $25,000 grant by the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation.

“This is the first national study I am aware of that examines over 20 municipal green building programs,” says David Turcotte, project director, Lowell Green Building Initiative at UML’s Center for Family, Work and Community.  “In addition, this study is a concrete example of how research--in the form of a community and university partnership--can contribute to the sustainable social, environmental, and economic development of the region.”

Additional benefits of the green building approach include efficient and cost effective use of building resources, significant energy and operational savings and increased workplace productivity.

 The impetus for the project came from a meeting between UML administrators and Lowell city planners.  The University’s goal was to conduct research that would be useful for the planning department in making Lowell a sustainable urban setting. 

 “The City's Division of Planning and Development welcomes UML's involvement in helping to identify techniques and programs that might be effectively employed to increase the use of green building techniques in Lowell's development community,” says Adam Baacke, deputy director of Economic & Community Development for the City of Lowell’s Division of Planning and Development. 

“We will be particularly interested in creative ideas that will target the smaller local residential developers who are responsible for a large percentage of Lowell's construction activity but who typically do not benefit from lifecycle cost savings associated with green building practices.”

In addition to this study, research that is specific to Lowell is currently being conducted.  There is also a community forum planned for the spring.

The study highlights the importance of the following 10 ingredients for a successful green building program:  1) using existing green building guidelines instead of reinventing the wheel, 2) developing user-friendly websites for easy access to information, 3) peer pressure to change practices in both the private and public sectors, 4) champions with access to decision makers who can promote necessary change and practices, 5) the importance of developing relationships and buy-in with stakeholders, 6) changing to a green building culture, 7)  continuing education and outreach efforts, 8) building standards to define success, 9) nurturing building inspector buy-in and support, and 10) thinking about the effect of individual building components on the whole.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell, a comprehensive university with special expertise in applied science and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental, and social health of the region. UML offers its 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students more than 80 degree programs in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Management, the School of Health and Environment and the Graduate School of Education.  Visit the website at

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