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The Hestia Project

Steve Gurney, an ecologist at Arizona State University, has put together a software package that illustrates where fossil fuels are being burned in a city down to the individual building and street level.

You can find more information about The Hestia Project here.

THIS POST IS PART OF OUR FRIDAY VIDEO SERIES.

10 American Cities Running Out Of Water?

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Las Vegas, Nevada (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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24/7 Wall St. evaluated a couple recent studies (from Ceres and the NRDC) and also conducted some of its own analysis, focusing on the 30 largest American cities,  to  come up with the following list of 10 large American cities at the greatest risk of running out of water:

10. Orlando, FL

9. Atlanta, GA

8. Tucson, AZ

7. Las Vegas, NV

6. Fort Worth, TX

5. San Francisco Bay Area, CA

4. San Antonio, TX

3. Phoenix, AZ

2. Houston, TX

1. Los Angeles, CA

You can read more about their analysis and reasons for inclusion of each city here.

A note from Anna – I do not know much about 24/7 Wall St. or their track record on this sort of analysis. I think this sort of list is good for raising awareness that it is not just cities in the dry Southwest that are facing future water shortages. However, there are a few items in this article that gave me pause – first is the consistent misspelling of San Francisco as “San Fransisco”, second is the consistent listing of the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) as the “National Resources Defense Council.”

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L.A.’s Electric Vehicle/ Mass Transit Experiment

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photo: Wikimedia Commons

The County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) of  the City of Los Angeles is partnering with EV Connect to bring a large scale roll out of electric vehicle charging stations at strategic locations throughout the city’s transit network.

The pilot program will assess the viability and appeal of integrating electric vehicle charging into a mass transit network. Patrons will be able to leave an electric vehicle at a charging station, and then continue their commute on transit. The partnership will monitor and study the program to create benchmarks for a potential “charge and ride” transportation industry.

The pilot will help Metro move toward its sustainability goals for regional transit. See other environmental initiatives of Metro here.

Read a full story from the Kansas Star on the new program here.

Death Rays

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So… what on earth does this blog have to do with death rays?!

Well, yesterday the story of the “Vdara Death Rays” flew through a couple building science mailing lists that I am on. Basically, the building designers put very reflective glass on the outside of a curved building, which wound up posing a problem for folks at a pool nearby (more  below).  However, it turns out that a building doesn’t have to be curved for highly reflective glazing to pose a hazard to nearby people or nearby buildings.

How does this fit into concerns about energy use? One of the reasons that the highly reflective glazing is used is to prevent heat gain and therefore reduce the amount of energy needed to keep a building cool.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a story a few days ago about the Vdara Hotel on the Strip in Las Vegas.

The tall, sleek, curving Vdara Hotel at CityCenter on the Strip is a thing of beauty. But the south-facing tower is also a collector and bouncer of sun rays, which — if you’re at the hotel’s swimming pool at the wrong time of day and season — can singe your hair and melt your plastic drink cups and shopping bags.

Hotel pool employees call the phenomenon the “Vdara death ray.” A spokesman for MGM Resorts International, which owns Vdara, said he prefers the term “hot spot” or “solar convergence” to describe it. He went on to say that designers are already working with resort staff to come up with solutions.

You can read the entire story here.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

In Los Angeles, Walt Disney Concert Hall, by famous architect Frank Gehry, has had complaints about glare off the reflective surfaces.

While most of the building’s exterior was designed with stainless steel given a matte finish, the Founders Room and Children’s Amphitheater were designed with highly polished mirror-like panels. The reflective qualities of the surface were amplified by the concave sections of the Founders Room walls. Some residents of the neighboring condominiums suffered glare caused by sunlight that was reflected off these surfaces and concentrated in a manner similar to a parabolic mirror. The resulting heat made some rooms of nearby condominiums unbearably warm, caused the air-conditioning costs of these residents to skyrocket and created hot spots on adjacent sidewalks of as much as 60 °C (140 °F). After complaints from neighboring buildings and residents, the owners asked Gehry Partners to come up with a solution. Their response was a computer analysis of the building’s surfaces identifying the offending panels. In 2005 these were dulled by lightly sanding the panels to eliminate unwanted glare.

Frank Gehry had this to say when asked about potential for glare on a newer LA project (via the LA Times):

I had some bum rap at Disney Hall because of glare. That was 2% of the building had reflective stuff, and some pissed off lady (complained). So the County had to respond. (It took) A couple guys with steel wool and in about an hour and a half they fixed it. But it did appear as one of the 10 engineering disasters in the last ten years—talk about exaggerating. The county did a study of downtown LA that found 5 other buildings that were more reflective, but no one complained about them. So, we got to get more pissed off ladies.

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It has also been reported in Green Building Advisor that reflections from windows can melt residential vinyl siding.

Glass experts and home inspectors agree on one point: since vinyl siding can be melted by reflectance from conventional clear glass, a low-e window is not required… However, the use of low-e (or low-solar-gain) glass appears to increase the risk of melted siding. According to an article in the March 2007 issue of USGlass Magazine, “A study performed by Cardinal on this topic examined the impact of reflective coatings on this type of [vinyl siding] damage. ‘The more reflective coatings that are out there today, that are getting more popular, are going to create this problem,’ [Jeff Haberer] said. However, Cardinal found that even clear glass can become a significant heat source.”

Glass with a low solar heat-gain coefficient has a high solar reflectance. “What we are getting is very, very good windows,” said Jim Petersen, the director of R&D at Pulte Homes. “Now the energy that is not getting in the house has to go somewhere, and it’s being reflected.”

Read the entire story here.

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Assorted Links

Parts of California experience a record heat wave – Los Angeles had its highest recorded temperature of 113 deg F yesterday.

Schwarzenegger lashes out at the companies trying to get rid of California’s carbon regulation law,  AB 32.

Meg Whitman has now stated that she is against Prop 23 but would still suspend AB 32 for a year if elected.

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They Don’t Have Water Meters?!

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photo credit: freefoto.com

Many residents of California don’t have water meters. According to a recent column in the San Francisco Chronicle by Peter Gleick, the recent legislation mandating water meters is needed, as the many residents of California that don’t have meters are very reluctant to install them.

But everyone should have meters. According to Ellen Hanak, a water researcher with the Public Policy Institute on California, metered cities use about 15 percent less water than unmetered cities, and cities with a tiered rate system use an additional 10 percent less (via KQED).

A few statistics from Gleick’s column:

— Sacramento only has meters in 25 percent of residences, and has no plans to meter everyone else anytime soon.

— In the San Joaquin Valley, more than half of all residents don’t have water meters.

— The city of Fresno charges all single-family households a flat rate, no matter how much water is used.

Fresno’s water rates are some of the lowest in California, and it has some of the highest water use (3 times as high as Los Angeles residents, and 5 times as high as San Francisco residents, via The California Report). There is an interesting study comparing water rates – when the study was conducted (2006), the average monthly charge was $18.52 in Fresno County, $37.55 in Alameda County, and $57.25 in Santa Cruz County.

The meters are coming. There are several laws that will require the installation of meters for all Californians (via KQED).

— All homes built after 1992 must have meters.

— Cities that receive federal water have to install meters by 2013.

— All California cities have to install meters by 2025.

Seriously, though, 2025 is a long time for a state that has major water management issues.

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Last year, there was a story from The California Report that covers the struggle to meter reluctant Fresno residents (listen to the story here).

Stimulus Money for Energy Efficiency

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The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) will receive $20 million from the federal stimulus funds designated for California. The money will launch a Home Performance Program, which will offer HERS audits and energy upgrades to about 15,000 homes in SMUD territory. Because the program is expected to increase demand for trained contractors and auditors, SMUD will be working with the Sacramento Employment and Training agency and Los Rios Community College to develop training programs – via SMUD.

The California Energy Commission also approved $8 million for the County of Los Angeles, $3 million for the County of San Diego, and $1.9 million for the City of Fresno from Recovery Act Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grants for residential energy retrofit programs – via Imperial Valley News.

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There’s a cool map of hotspots where water and energy are coming into conflict around the world –  IEEE Spectrum.

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There’s a new study from Arizona State University that analyzes the life cycle impact of swimming pools in nine cities in terms of their consumption of chemicals, water, and energy – via Environmental Science & Technology.