snippets

Snippets

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

 San Francisco and Oakland rank among the top 10 most walkable big cities in the country.  Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is working hard to cut its carbon emissions.  BART and MUNI management are both in transition.

Home Energy Improvements

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Thermal Imaging of a House in Cambodia (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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Grist recently ran a piece on lessons learned by by shadowing a home energy inspector. The author highlighted a number major lessons, including:

  • It’s a social job.
  • Comfort matters more than pocketbook savings – for some homeowners.
  • It helps to see it and learn firsthand (especially for the blower-door test).
  • Thermal imaging cameras are nifty.
  • Attics should get insulation first, then walls and basements.
  • Most progress depends on the homeowner.
  • Utilities are driving the retrofit industry right now.
  • Renters have split incentives.

You can read the entire article, including the explanations of the lessons learned, on the Grist website here.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has a fairly new website called Driving Demand for Home Energy Improvements.

The website lists a number of reports and case studies about how to improve demand for home energy improvements, and findings from utility and government retrofit programs.

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Cool Planet – Art Rosenfeld

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In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 4 of my record of the presentation – Art Rosenfeld gives an overview of how cool roofs and cool cities can leader to a cool planet. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

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I’m going to bring us into modern times and the question of global warming … Two thousand years ago, people tried to figure out how to keep houses cool, then a couple hundred years ago, we tried to figure out how to keep the cities cool, and now we’re trying to figure out how to keep the planet cool.

Taking a trip around the world … [looking at photos].

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Bermuda, they use sloped white roofs to collect water.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Santorini, Greece, even the sides of the buildings are white.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Hyderabad, people like to sleep on the roof to be cool at night.

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Here’s a Wal-Mart store in Northern California with white roof – they’ve done 4500 of their stores, and have 1500 to go.

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Here’s an overview of UC Davis … Since 2005, the CEC Title 24 has required that if a roof is flat, cool roofs are required …

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the University of Tucson in the middle …  residential areas nearby also have white roofs … …

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Here’s Washington, DC (federal) … The House and Senate office buildings do not have white roofs.

The most fun was this – this is the Pentagon. I went to a hilarious meeting – I got invited to give a talk at the Pentagon. There were innumerable generals and such around …

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Now what about the Earth? … Part of what keeps the earth cool is ice and snow, which is decreasing in size … It would be nice to add some more white … …

Atmospheric climatologists have been aware of this issue for years, and back in the 1980s, Jim Hansen published a paper wondering whether cooling cities would make a difference – and he got an answer of about a 1/10th of a degree … But we weren’t so worried in those days … But we asked, maybe there’s a better way to sell this? … Look, carbon dioxide reflects heat, that’s called a positive radiation forcing onto the ground. And white roofs reflect heat … Carbon dioxide has a price … So we’ve got to do it per unit … 1000 square feet, winds up being about 10 tons of carbon. Suppose we multiply this by about 3 billion, since there are about 3 billion units of roof in cities, then avoid the heating effect of 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide…over the life of the roof. So let’s say 1 billion tons a year for 25 years … This winds up being 300 million cars off the road for 20 years … There are only about 600 million cars right now …

So what to do now? First, get other states to follow California… Arizona and Florida and Georgia have followed suit with cool roofs … The problem is a lot of the rest of the country, the hot part … the United States relies  on model building codes, and states are not required to adopt them. They can make them stronger and adopt them, but they are not required to adopt them. Texas doesn’t have any, the cities there have taken the lead …  DOE is going white, the Marine Corps is going white …

We’re going to launch a private club called 100 Cool Cities, with some DOE help, where were’ going to approach the 100 largest cities, which gets us  to a population of 200 million, where we’ll talk to them about cool roofs and try to get it into the building code … This will involve the Sierra Club, the Clinton Global Initiative, USGBC, ICLEI, the Energy Foundation, the Alliance for Climate Protection, ACEEE, and others …

Steve Chu will offer assistance to the first few countries to sign up to address this issue … …

So things are moving along nicely, and thank you very much.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here. Part 3 is posted here.

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Cool Pavements – Melvin Pomerantz

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In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 3 of my record of the presentation – Melvin Pomerantz gives an overview of cool pavements. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

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Now we’re talking about cool pavements … because they are a significant fraction of a city … including the streets, parking lots, driveways, and sidewalks.

We need to understands that they are a composite material … they are aggregate, an array rocks of different sizes … We then have to hold them together. So we have to glue the rocks and sand together by coating each rock with a  binder of some sort. For “asphalt”, the binder is asphalt, which is a petroleum product …  We can also bind the rocks together with cement, which is a mineral product, and we call that concrete … The key thing is that because you’re coating the aggregate, you mostly see the color of the binding … Our target is the binder.

Of the third of the city that is covered with pavements of various kinds, 50% is streets, 40% are exposed parking, and about 10% are sidewalks … Because it covers about 90% of the paved city streets, our target is the asphalt concrete.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Start with fresh asphalt concrete … which is very black and has a solar reflectance of about 5%. As it ages, sunlight breaks it downs … Typically, its solar reflectance goes up to about 15% … The question is can we do any better … If you use a light-colored aggregate, it will show as the binder wears off … can use seashells, or porcelain … For old pavement, which required resurfacing periodically … we can put on a layer of asphalt emulsion, and put light-colored aggregate on top. That is called a “chip seal” … One issue is that aggregate is heavy, so it’s expensive to ship. So we want to use rock that’s nearby, and it may not be white … If the road stay cool, it doesn’t deform as much …

An example is from San Jose … They happen to have a quarry nearby that has white rock, and they’ve used a chip seal …

The other type of road, a little less common, is cement concrete … Fresh cement has a solar reflectance of about 35% … as it ages, it gets darker and reflectance drops to about 20% … The fine aggregate tends to float to the top … If you have light-colored fine aggregate, you can get an initial solar reflectance of about 40% …

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 2 is posted here. Part 4 is posted here.

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Cool Roofs – Ronnen Levinson

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In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 2 of my record of the presentation – Ronnen Levinson gives an overview of cool roofs. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

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In North America, we have cool roofs, usually white roofs – and we have them on commercial buildings, because the roof can’t be seen from the street … In some other parts of the world, you might see white roofs on pitched surfaces, like in Bermuda … In North America, you might also see cool colored roofs … With a commercial roof, without much insulation, and with extended operating hours, might save about 15% on AC bill by adding a white roof …

What if you put white roofs on about 80% of commercial roofs in the United States? … We assume they get soiled … What we found is that each year you would save about $735 million dollars, and save the equivalent carbon of taking 1.2 million cars off the road … The lifetime energy savings has a present value of about $11 billion … and there is no extra cost to choosing a white roof – so this is free money. Everyone likes free money …

But we don’t like to see white roofs from the street – except in Florida, which we’ll look at more later. So what can we do for roofs we can see from the street? … Near infrared makes up about half of the energy in sunlight, but you can’t see it … so maybe we make the surface reflect normally in the visible spectrum, but we try to make the surface reflect as much of the invisible infrared part of sunlight as possible … …

Let me tell you about some of the cool colored roofs you might find … you can get cool concrete tiles … and you can get cool clay tile. You can get cool metal (often used on fast food places) … We’ll do a little show and tell … …

[ A graduate student named Pablo shows off asphalt shingles, metal shingles, clay tiles, concrete tiles, and some white roofing membrane.]

One of the interesting cases is fiberglass asphalt shingle – it goes on many houses in North America because it’s not expensive … It’s black, and another problem is that it tends to crack …There’s crushed rock on the surface. Any rough surface is less reflecting than any smooth surface … Also, these little bits of crushed rock cause the surface to have a thin coating … These are the 800-lb gorilla of the residential market … Typical shingles on your home now might reflect 10% of sunlight … … We now have a different process of applying colors to the granules. A lot will reflect up to 35% of sunlight, and if you’re willing to go with a bright white shingle … can reflect 62% of sunlight. These are still in development in the lab, but we’ve been working with manufacturers, and in the next few years, we hope to bring these to market.

Asphalt shingle failure – Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

… Another aspect we’re working on is the issue of maintenance … the roof begins as a bright white roof, and after years, gets grayish … Initial reflectance might have been 80% but might fall to 55% … The first thing to understand is that plastic roofs can leach plasticizers, which makes the surface sticky … and things grow on this … There are agents that you can add, photocatalysts, which can help break down oil and soot – they are already used to help keep windows clean (popular in Japan) …  If you add these, you  can also change the way water flows over a surface.

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Part 1 is posted here. Part 3 is posted here. Part 4 is posted here.

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Cool Roofs – Melvin Pomerantz

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In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience.

On Monday, October 11, I was in the audience as researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (and the beloved Art Rosenfeld) gave a presentation titled “Cool Roofs, Cool Cities.” The post below consists of Part 1 of my record of the presentation – Melvin Pomerantz gives an introduction to the heat island effect and cool roofs. All portions are included in chronological order.

An ellipsis (…) indicates that I was not able to capture the words or thoughts skipped. The presentation is transcribed as accurately as possible – punctuation choices are mine. I also added any images.

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What I’m going to talk about is a very familiar experience to a lot of you – when you go into the center of a city, it’s a lot warmer … That effect, namely the temperature … tends to be anywhere from 5-7 deg F warmer in the city than outside the city …

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The heat has not only an effect of causing discomfort, but has economic effects, too … Looking at some SMUD data … went up to about 107 degrees that day … As the day goes on, it gets hotter and hotter, and the demand for electricity gets higher and higher … finally it cools down and people turn off their air conditioners a little bit. … To get this power, you need about 5.5 power plants, but the power used in January is much less, so the power company has to have in reserve all these power plants. So there is capital involved in having these in reserve … And the ones in reserve are generally the oldest, most polluting plants … so it’s an unfortunate effect …

Another effect that goes on is that when things are very hot, there are actually deaths … Chicago in 1995, there were 739 deaths attributed to the heat wave – almost all occurred on the top floor of buildings with black roofs …

So what can we do about it? … How is the air heated in the first place? The sun does not heat the air directly … Sunlight travels very well through the atmosphere … There are opaque surfaces – the light comes in from the sun and strikes a surface … some stays in the surface and heats the surface, then the air comes along and touches the surface and heats up … The surface is acting as a converter, so if we can modify the surface, we can get a handle on it … If you have a building underneath a roof, that heat travels into the building, then you have to run on the air conditioning. …  Also pavements suffer if it gets too hot … the pavement needs to handle the deterioration that the heat causes … …

One way to look at this is to look at the solar reflectance … If you have no light coming out, it’s black … if it all comes out, it’s very bright. If the light is not all caught by the material, it has a higher solar reflectance, and it’s cooler … If you decrease the solar reflectance, the temperature can rise 80-90 degrees F over the ambient air – and you don’t want that … …

There’s another feature, which is that once the surface is warm, it radiates … there are gases in the air which absorb this thermal radiation, and it’s like a blanket. It’s blocked by the gases in the atmosphere… this is the atmospheric greenhouse effect. If we can affect the light from sticking in the surfaces, we reduces the greenhouse effect, too, and keep the planet a bit cooler …

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

What can we make cooler? … Looking again at Sacramento … about 39% of what we could see from the sky was pavements … … … If we reflect sunlight, it mostly passes back out of the atmosphere without heating the air…

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Part 2 is posted here. Part 3 is posted here. Part 4 is posted here.

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Don’t Call It A Retrofit… Or An Audit

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A Lawrence Berkeley National Lab report examined case studies of retrofit projects across the United States as examples of local approaches that saved considerable energy. A recent article in Greentech Media highlights some of the results:

“The bottom line is that providing information and financing isn’t sufficient,” [Merrian] Fuller said during a DOE Technical Assistance Program webinar. For starters, put the message in terms people know and understand. Sell something people actually want. “Often people already assume they’re doing everything they can, so figure out what messages get beyond that,” said Fuller. LBNL found that comfort, health reasons (such as reducing allergens or mold), appealing to people’s social norms or even becoming a self-reliant American were all preferable to just talking about energy savings, or even bill savings. “Don’t assume saving 20 percent on your energy bill will motivate people,” she warned.

She went on to note that communications styles matter. People need hard examples. Instead of telling people their house is leaking energy, instead they need to hear that their hard-earned money is literally flying up the chimney, or that their house is the equivalent of a car getting only 15 miles per gallon. Carl Nelson, the Program and Policy Manager at Center for Energy and Environment in Minnesota, said his group leaders go through training with an improv comedian to more effectively lead community information sessions. They also shy away from the word ‘audit,’ because after all, people rarely associate the word with anything positive. “We try not to make it boring,” said Nelson. “We set up the expectation that they’re going to have this home visit and commit to making a major investment in their home.”

You can read all of the case studies and the full report here.

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LBNL Open House on Saturday 10/2

Image credit: LBNL website

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, located up in the hills overlooking Berkeley, California, is hosting an open house on Saturday, October 2.

Ever wonder how biofuels are produced, cool roofs and smart windows reduce energy use, the Internet was created, or supernovas are discovered? Families, community members, and others who want to learn the answers to these and other scientific questions are invited to attend Berkeley Lab’s Open House.

Visitors can talk directly with scientists conducting cutting-edge research, check out a cosmic ray detector, sequence DNA, create and measure their own seismic waves, build a motor at the Family Adventure Zone, or take a tour of the Advanced Light Source, one of the world’s brightest sources of ultraviolet and soft x-ray beams, among numerous other activities. Performances, displays, demonstrations, lectures, tours and food vendors will also be featured.

It is important to note that registration is required for everyone interested in attending. There are two sessions, morning and afternoon. More details are available here.

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The House of the Future?

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In Berkeley, we are fortunate to have such events as Science at the Theater, where Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers give talks on their work at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The lectures are free and get a pretty sizeable audience. The lectures are recorded and put on YouTube.

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(The video can also be watched here – the technical stuff starts at about 10 minutes in.)

On May 10, 2010, I was in the audience as LBNL folks talked about their vision of the house of the future:

Learn what it will take to create tomorrow’s net-zero energy home as scientists reveal the secrets of cool roofs, smart windows, and computer-driven energy control systems.

The net-zero energy home
Scientists are working to make tomorrow’s homes more than just energy efficient — they want them to be zero energy. Iain Walker, a scientist in the Lab’s Energy Performance of Buildings Group, will discuss what it takes to develop net-zero energy houses that generate as much energy as they use through highly aggressive energy efficiency and on-site renewable energy generation.

Talking back to the grid
Imagine programming your house to use less energy if the electricity grid is full or price are high. Mary Ann Piette, deputy director of Berkeley Lab’s building technology department and director of the Lab’s Demand Response Research Center, will discuss how new technologies are enabling buildings to listen to the grid and automatically change their thermostat settings or lighting loads, among other demands, in response to fluctuating electricity prices.

The networked (and energy efficient) house
In the future, your home’s lights, climate control devices, computers, windows, and appliances could be controlled via a sophisticated digital network. If it’s plugged in, it’ll be connected. Bruce Nordman, an energy scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Energy End-Use Forecasting group, will discuss how he and other scientists are working to ensure these networks help homeowners save energy.

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner also spoke at the beginning, about energy in buildings and RECO programs.

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