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FEMA & USGBC on Resilient Communities

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Last Wednesday, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gave a speech describing the role green building can play to ensure resilient communities as the climate shifts. Fugate was the keynote speaker of the National Leadership Speaker Series on Resiliency and Security in the 21st Century at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

The presentation also featured the launch of a report by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The report, Green Building and Climate Resilience: Understanding Impacts and Preparing for Changing Conditions, describes potential adaptive strategies familiar to green building practitioners. These strategies add an important new dimension to green building’s long-standing focus on reducing greenhouse gases through energy efficiency and renewable and low-carbon energy supplies.

You can find the full report on the USGBC site here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.

Finding Data – WRI EarthTrends Delivered

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Image from: WRI EarthTrends

World Resources Institute has a useful and interesting service called EarthTrends Delivered. By signing up for this free service you can explore dozens of data charts and maps online and receive email digests of new data as it is produced by WRI in any of the following:

-Greenhouse Gas Emission Sources and Trends

-U.S. Climate Policy

-Energy and Electricity

-Adapting to Climate Change Impacts

Upon signing up you also get a dashboard to manage your subscriptions, save data, and share data via facebook, email or tweet.

Upcoming Webinars

I just want to remind folks that we have launched a “Webinars” page to feature interesting online presentations. You can navigate to the Webinars page using links at the right side of the blog.

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November 10, 2010 (Wednesday)

Pacific Energy Center: “Chris Hammer – What’s Behavior Got To Do With Energy Efficiency?”

6:30 pm – 8:00 pm

We often look to technology to capture energy savings. What about the behavior of individuals in the home and workplace? Chris Hammer will describe occupant actions that save energy, discuss social science research on behavior and energy, and review case studies of organizations that implemented behavior change programs.

Free event. For more info and links to register here.

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November 18, 2010 (Thursday)

Build It Green: “Passive House – A Sustainable Building Revolution in California”

11:00 am – 12:30 pm

Expectations for building occupant comfort, health and efficiency are increasing simultaneously. The Passive House standard meets all of these requirements at once. By producing buildings with energy demands that can be met at a renewable scale of production, Passive House can future-proof our communities and put California on track to meet our greeenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The future of building is here!An in-depth look at the Passive House standard by the leading local experts in the field, this webinar will:

  • Detail current retrofit and new construction Passive House projects and approaches in the Bay Area
  • Retrofit lessons learned and phased approaches
  • Illustrate how Passive House meets or exceeds the California Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan, and makes net-zero and energy-positive buildings feasible TODAY in the most cost-effective way possible
  • Explore how the Passive House standard can integrate with and enhance GPR and other green building rating systems.

Free for Build It Green members, $10 for non-members – more info and links to register here.

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Assorted Links

For the first time in 35 years, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) is moving to enforce decades-old energy efficiency and water conservation standards.

ICLEI USA has compiled a list of cities taking action to reduce their GHG emissions.

NPR has a map showing renewable energy goals and renewable energy generated for each state.

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Dan Kammen, Clean-Energy Czar

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Dan Kammen, who leads the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at UC Berkeley, was just appointed by the World Bank to be its first Clean-Energy Czar.

The New York Times Green Inc. blog posted an interview with him today:

Q – One of the chief criticisms of the World Bank is that, even as it has increased funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in developing countries to $3.3 billion annually, it continues to provide significant funding for carbon-intensive projects like coal-fired power plants. Do you see a need for the bank to maintain financing for those projects?

A – This is really at the heart of the tension between traditional development — meaning more energy, more access, irrespective of environmental damage — and the emerging environmental mandate that we’ve got to cut our greenhouse gas emissions so dramatically. So you get cases like the very controversial $3.5 billion investment in coal in South Africa, and at the same time, how to build the emerging economies around solar, biofuels, wind, etc.

You can read the entire interview on the New York Times website.

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UPDATE: There is also an interview with Dan Kammen posted on Grist:

Q – The climate bill process fell apart in Congress this year and it seems like the U.N. process isn’t headed for a big treaty either. How can things actually get done?

A – There’s no simple answer to that. When we look back at the Montreal Protocol and CFCs, people thought that process looked impossible until a few companies and countries realized that cleaning circuit boards without CFCs might actually save them money and be more effective. A couple successes turned a story that looked like it was going to be a failure into one that we all look back now and say, “Oh, that was easy by comparison.”

I’m not sure exactly how many successes we need to tip the balance so that a big treaty is possible, but no group is better positioned than the World Bank to facilitate them.

You can read the entire interview at Grist.org.

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Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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If you have read articles about urban transit in recent years, chances are you have run across the phrase “BRT” or “bus rapid transit”. BRT refers to a mode of bus travel that is characterized by streamlined operations on heavily traveled routes to reduce travel and wait times and/or increase average daily trips. Elements of BRT may be any combination of dedicated bus lanes, limited stop “express” buses, increased coordination for “signal priority” at stop lights, quick-boarding platform placement and configuration , curb cuts and turn-abouts for faster maneuvering of buses and pre-board fare collection.

The argument for BRT is generally that there is an increasing need for fast and efficient public transit in cities spurred by factors such as population growth and greenhouse gas reduction goals. However, rail systems are extremely costly to build and maintain, and many of America’s cities lack even basic public rail infrastructure. BRT can bridge this gap and provide the efficiency and effectiveness of a rail system while utilizing the already existing roadways.
Visit AC Transit’s BRT page here, and visit the National Bus Rapid Transit Institute here.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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New Water Magazine from Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins University’s Global Water Program has published its first issue of Global Water Magazine, which is available online here.

The magazine will focus the editorial pieces around six main themes: Water & Energy, Water & Food, Water & Health, Water in the Environment, Water Infrastructure, and Water Policy.

In the first issue, there are several articles that I think would be of interest to readers of this blog, listed below.

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Imperatives for Urban Water Professionals on the Pathway to 2050 by Paul Reiter

Abstract: Looking forward to 2050, the challenges of adding 2 billion more people to an already resource-constrained planet will require major changes in the resources efficiency, energy efficiency and cost of urban water systems of the future. A step change including the integration of city planning and urban water system design will be required to optimize the efficiency and resilience of urban water systems in addition to the development of physical and institutional linkages between agricultural, energy and urban water uses.

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The First Stop on the Road to Corporate Water Reporting: Measurement by Eva Zabey

Abstract: External demands on companies to report on their water use and impacts are intensifying. But before reporting, business needs to measure, and many groups are developing approaches to do just that.

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The Energy-Water Nexus: Finding Solutions in the Balance by Jan Dell and Kathy Freas

Abstract: With uncertainties associated to climate change projections, companies and public utilities face a convergence of energy, water and carbon issues that are impacting their operations and planned projects in sectors and geographical regions.

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Bay Area Public Meeting to Set SB375 Targets

Photographer: Manfred Werner Tsui at de.wikipedia.org

Passed in 2008, SB 375 is the nation’s first law to link greenhouse gas emissions with urban sprawl.  The thrust of AB 375 is to require not only emissions reduction targets, but also to require land use planning strategies and interagency collaboration in the process. In practice, this requires each region in the state to adopt a Sustainable Communities Strategy, or SCS, that is in line with regional emissions targets set by regional Air Resource Boards.

As SB 375 moves foward in its implementation, the time has come this August for the ARBs to annouce their emissions targets.

The California Air Resources Board has been holding workshops throughout California this month to accept public comment on the draft regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from cars and light trucks.  The public comments will be taken into consideration before the Metro Planning Organizations (MPOs) announce their proposed targets in August. On Wednesday, July 21, the Bay Area gets to put in its two cents. The meeting information is as follows:

July 21, 2010     10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m

Caltrans Oakland Building, Auditorium, 111 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

For those unable to attend, the meeting will be webcast.

For more information on Senate Bill 375, see Urban Land Institute’s Summary and Key Findings report here, and the Governor’s Office factsheet here.

A list of all of the California ARB meetings in July can be found here.

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The Murkowski Resolution and the EPA

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Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska introduced a resolution seeking to disrupt the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

The EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, wrote a response to the proposed resolution that was posted today at The Huffington Post.

The Senate vote was today – the resolution failed 53 – 47  according to the Associated Press.

The White House had threatened a veto if it reaches the President’s desk. The official Statement of Administration Policy is posted here.

RECO

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This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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I am not (and have never been) a Bay Area homeowner, which is perhaps why I was not very familiar with the term “RECO” until recently.

There are many well-publicized programs aimed at making new buildings as “green” and energy efficient as possible. These efforts are viewed as integral to efforts to reduce future energy use and combat climate change. But in many places, we’re mostly stuck with the buildings that we’ve got. And we’ll likely be stuck with them for many years to come. So how do we influence and improve the energy and water performance of these buildings? One answer is a RECO.

Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance (RECO)

The purpose of a RECO is to improve the energy (and now water) efficiency of housing stock at the point of sale and major renovation.

In Berkeley, CA, the majority of the housing stock was built before the introduction of state building energy codes.  The buildings are often drafty, with no insulation and single-pane windows. Further, more than half of the city’s housing units are occupied by renters. In rental units landlords must approve and often conduct and pay for any major energy retrofits. However, the retrofits primarily benefit the renters, who pay the utility bills. Because of these split incentives, an obvious point of intervention to improve the energy efficiency of the existing building stock over time is at transfer of ownership or major renovation. The Berkeley RECO, which has been in place since the 1980s, applies to all residential homes and units, whether single-family homes, condos, multi-family properties, or live-work spaces, and requires that the home or unit comply with specific energy and water performance measures at the time of sale or major renovation.

The Berkeley RECO has ten prescriptive measures covering toilets, showerheads, faucets, water heaters, hot and cold water piping, exterior door weather-stripping, furnace ducts, fireplace chimneys, ceiling insulation, and lighting in common areas (for multi-family buildings).

It is tempting to say the measures are not enough, that much more drastic intervention (and more quickly) will be needed to achieve dramatic energy savings. This is probably true. But many approaches will be needed, and the gradual but consistent improvement of existing housing stock is a good place to start.

Since 1994, Berkeley has also had a Commercial Energy Conservation Ordinance (CECO).

Participants in Berkeley FIRST (Berkeley’s solar financing program) have to comply with RECO/CECO.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.