Sunday, October 28, 2007

Week of 10.28-Energy-Efficient Building

This week I read the Beatley pages (Chapter 10) and the Apollo Alliance pages (13-27). I found these interesting and informative, with some great ideas. There are also some issues I think need further discussion. Below I'll first list the most exciting ideas from a planner's perspective, and then talk a little about the implications and issues I see coming up.

1) I think it's exciting to know that by putting computer monitors on sleep mode if they're unattended for more than ten minutes can save a city approximately $13,000 a year. (Apollo report, p 14) This is an incredibly simple action that anyone who owns a computer can do. It's something that is easy, and you can even just set the computer to do it, so people won't even have to pay more attention to what they're doing. So here's one simple step we can take, even for ourselves.

2) I like the idea of a Green Building Team like they've developed in Seattle, WA. I think it's great to have an interdepartmental team work on assessing green building in the city. A lot of the time, we are missing an interdisciplinary, holistic approach to many of these issues, and by addressing them in a one sided fashion, we open the possibility for everything to fall apart on the other sides. A holistic approach is a protection against this happening, and also makes the new plans more integrative and exciting.

3) It's amazing to me that in Chicago they dropped the roof surface temperature 70 degrees by creating green roofs. Wow! That is a lot of degrees, and I think green roofs are great because they can be quite simply constructed, they are clearly very useful in terms of energy efficiency, and they can be aesthetically pleasing--something we might consider more in our designs.

-along with that, I like that the city offered $5,000 grants for the construction of the roofs. It shows honest and practical support on the part of the government, and show they aren't wind-bags.

4) Expediting permit review for greener buildings also seems like a good idea. It makes the process easier for those already committed to that type of construction, and at the same time encourages others to consider the idea, if only by poking them a bit.

5) This one is similar to the idea of putting computers on sleep mode. If UB spends an extra $100,000 if the heating or cooling is off by 1 degree, this is also a small step to saving loads of money and energy, and it makes you realize how much difference one degree more or less can make. It makes me feel like I want to be more considerate about heating my own home too.

6) The idea of De-coupling is cool. It's maybe a bit socialist for the US, but maybe it can be presented in a better way. It's great though to disassociate profit from providing basic needs to people. This seems like an important philosophy that can be applied in other areas as well.

(From Beatley now)

7) I like the idea of an ecological demonstration project. People want to see it to believe it. They need a concrete experience of what some of these semi-strange ideas are all about. For lots of people this is so far from their everyday experience; I think in the US this, coupled with respectful marketing, would make a big difference.

8) I like the emphasis on education in the Scandinavian countries. It's different from brainwashing and might get people's minds working, so that we could develop even better and way more relevant ideas for people.

9) The Green House Numbers is a neat idea. It's a little childish, but kind of sweet just the same.

I'm uncomfortable talking about the "powerful roll government can play" in the context of the United States. I think our political process is (fatally?) flawed, and dangerous. I think there is very little actual representation of what the public choice includes, and I don't think it's healthy to think that a few environmentalists lobbying like hell would be an OK thing. It might make some changes, but I am still absolutely convinced that unless there is a consciousness shift, MUCH better education system, a MUCH better (hell, existent) health care system, a lot of attention to equity and justice issues that go unexamined most of our lives, unless we have to face them everyday, etc etc, you get the idea. Well, none of this will ultimately make any difference.

Also I'm not sure about the idea of legislating an zoning, not only because there is serious under-representation in the government, but also because it's not very inventive or revolutionary, and certainly not relevant to the people to simply legislate that they live in an ecological manner.

There is certainly an element of urgency that comes with issues of the environment, but if we are truly thinking in a seven generation, systems type of way, we better consider more than telling people what to do.

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