Snippets – Software and Online Tools

dividing-line2Announced in late 2012, the Center for the Built Environment has developed a web-based thermal comfort tool, which is now available for use: http://cbe.berkeley.edu/comforttool/. From the email announcement, “this free online tool is useful for performing and visualizing comfort calculations according to ASHRAE Standard 55-2010. The tool has been validated against the official ASHRAE Thermal Comfort tool.”

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There is now a free, open source plugin for Grasshopper called Ladybug that “allows you to import and analyze EnergyPlus weather data (epw) in Grasshopper and draw diagrams like sun-path, wind-rose, radiation-rose,” can “run radiation analysis, shadow studies, and view analysis,” and then show the results inside Grasshopper, according to the announcement in early 2013. The tool was developed by a graduate student from the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.

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A stackable solar home wins the 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe. [Earthtechling.com]

A squabble between BART and the Port of Oakland blocks Clipper card for AirBART. [San Francisco Chronicle]

An increasing number of folks are making the business case for walkable retail. [Retail Law Advisor]

Photo: One of the stations from the bike sharing program in Washington, D.C., by Anna LaRue

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Weather extremes are damaging parts of the U.S. infrastructure [NY Times]

The United States ranks 9th out of 12 of the world’s largest economies on energy efficiency but feels the least guilty [BuildingGreen.com]

Demolition began at the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library – when completed, it will be a zero net energy building [Berkeleyside]

The Feds say the PACE retrofit program is still too risky [BuildingGreen.com]

Photo: A blooming artichoke in Berkeley, CA, by Anna LaRue

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After 100 years, San Francisco Muni has gotten slower [NY Times]

LBNL and UC Berkeley researchers measured emissions from drayage trucks in the Port of Oakland [EETD newsletter]

A report from UC Davis says water in California’s farm country is polluted by synthetic fertilizers [UC Davis]

A report from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy chronicles the life and death of urban highways [ITDP website]

Photo: A front yard full of chard in Berkeley, CA, by Anna LaRue

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Snippets – City Infrastructure

Today, stories about developing and improving cities and their infrastructure.

The City of Chicago announced the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which will leverage private investment for retrofits pending City Council approval. For the first project, they will be doing an energy efficiency retrofit of municipal buildings (via Greentech Media).

Bay Area cities begin to adjust to life after redevelopment agencies shut their doors on Feburary 1st. A blog post by SPUR walks through the impact of these changes in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

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Snippets – Trade-Offs

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Today, a couple stories about trade-offs in the built environment.  Martin Holladay (the Energy Nerd) weighs the benefits and costs of deep energy residential retrofits and questions the value in terms of energy savings and cost of significant amounts of additional insulation rather than solar photovoltaics (via GreenBuildingAdvisor.com). Via NPR, a story about the trade-offs between having power lines above ground, where they are vulnerable to the elements, or underground. 

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Snippets – Waste Not Want Not

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Today, I want to share a few not-quite-so-recent stories related to waste that have been on my mind lately.
Via the New York Times, a food industry alliance is planning a three-year initiative to reduce the tremendous amount of food that Americans still throw in the garbage even as they grow somewhat more conscientious about recycling paper and yard trimmings. … A substantial portion of food is thrown away while still fully edible because of cosmetic blemishes or overstocking. … According to the most recent available statistics, more than 30 million tons of food was dumped in landfills in 2009, making food by far the most abundant material there by weight, the federal Environmental Protection Agency says.
From NPR comes a story about how all that wasted food contributes to climate change. A company called CleanMetrics gathered USDA’s estimates of food loss from retail and consumers for 2009. And when the company’s founder, Kumar Venkat, fed the data into his software he found that food waste is responsible for 135 million tons of greenhouse gases every year, or about 1.5 percent of all emissions ,,,  “If you compare beef to tomatoes, beef has a much higher footprint,” says Venkat. “So if you’re going to reduce waste, you need to prioritize.”
Via Bloomberg, a story about Bank of America selecting some its most decrepit, derelict homes in Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago and paying up to $7,500 to local agencies toward demolition costs. “There is way too much supply,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage vacant homes. “The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off.”
From the New York Times –  Across western North Dakota, hundreds of fires burn as companies rushing to extract oil from the Bakken shale field treat the gas as waste and simply burn it. … Every day, more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is flared this way — enough energy to heat half a million homes for a day. The flared gas also spews at least two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, as much as 384,000 cars or a medium-size coal-fired power plant would emit.
And again from NPR, some insight into why cleaned wastewater stays dirty in our minds. … “It’s a very broad feature of human thinking,” Nemeroff explains. “Everywhere we look, you can see contagion thinking.” … The conclusion? “It is quite difficult to get the cognitive sewage out of the water, even after the real sewage is gone,” Nemeroff says.

Snippets – Water

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Image from the report appendix

The Union of Concerned Scientists just released a new report on the effect of power plants on freshwater systems.  “One plant had to curtail nighttime operations because the drought had reduced the amount of cool water available to bring down the temperature of water discharged from the plant,” the report says. It quotes Kent Saathoff, a vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, who said last month, “If we don’t get any rain between now and next summer, there could be several thousand megawatts of generators that won’t have sufficient cooling water to operate next summer” (New York Times Green Blog).  You can read the entire report here Sewage overflow is the No. 1 source of pollution for New York’s waterways, says Leif Percifield, a graduate student at the School of Art, Media, and Technology at the Parsons New School of Design… Percifield’s dream is to place simple sensors at each of New York City’s 490 “combined sewer overflow” points. The sensors will be primed to send out text-message notifications every time the city’s drainage maxes out (Grist).  UC Berkeley has begun work in its quest to significantly taper its campuswide water use. The campus is aiming to cut its water usage by over 65 million gallons by 2020 (The Daily Californian).

Snippets – Zero Net Energy

The International Living Future Institute (ILFI), owner of the Living Building Challenge, is going where no certification program has gone before with a new Net Zero Energy Building Certification program (BuildingGreen.com).  You can read the International Living Future Institute press release on the NZE Building Certification program here There is a zero net energy gas station in Beaverton, Oregon (OregonLive.com).  KB Home, one of the largest homebuilders in the U.S., has developed ZeroHouse 2.0, a house designed to achieve net-zero energy. The home is currently available in Tampa, Florida, and in San Antonio and Austin, Texas, but the company plans to expand the availability of net-zero options to other cities throughout 2012 (BuildingGreen.com).

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 GE Energy Financial Services and several other funders have invested $22 million in Project Frog, a San Francisco company that provides climate-sensitive design and fabrication of modular high-performance buildings (BuildingGreen.com). Beacon Power, a Massachusetts company that received a $43 million federal loan guarantee, has filed for bankruptcy. The failure of the company, which develops energy storage systems, is likely to add to criticism of the federal government’s green energy initiatives (New York Times Green Blog). According to the Harcourt Brown & Carey blog, Sagewell, Inc., based in Boston, has developed the first mass-scale building envelope heat-loss imaging and analysis system.  Sagewell can image hundreds of properties per day (actual images are taken in the evening when people are more likely to be home) and their analysis can be used to rank order the heat loss of homes (and commercial buildings) so promoters of energy efficiency can market to the best candidates and motivate property owners to adopt energy efficiency. One of the stranger bills to be considered by Congress passed by a voice vote on Monday evening. Officially named the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, it essentially tells American airline carriers that it is illegal for them to participate in the European Union’s cap and trade system, which charges companies for producing emissions beyond their allotted limit (New York Times Green Blog).