I love being in a city that sets new standards for sustainability, not to mention quality of life: "DC SmartBike" will launch in the coming weeks. Washington is the first North American city to try this type of bike share. This isn't just lip service, I have already spotted stations going in at the busy Foggy Bottom and Gallery Place Metro Stations. I am hoping that the new Washington Nationals Ballpark thinks about signing up for one too!
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Okay, I am admittedly on the fence about bamboo. On the one hand it is rapidly renewable, on the other, it is primarily harvested in Asia for building materials and products like this bike which means the embodied energy (including the transportation to get it here to Washington, DC) is a tad carbon-heavy.
That being said, this is a cool bike. According to the manufacturer "It is appropriate for everyday use and for racing. The vibration damping is a performance advantage on longer rides...
"If there were an award for "Bicycle with lowest carbon footprint" (least amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the production of the frame), this frame would win, hands down."
Now why aren't there awards for bicycles with the lowest carbon footprint? I would love to see some additional nominations!
P.S. I found these pix here: http://www.calfeedesign.com/bamboo.htm
The increase in usage by adding a 46” plasma and a set-top box is equal to approximately 860 kWh/yr/household or 2.7% of US electricity Consumption?
While much headway is being made on energy star products it's easy to forget about those DVR machines constantly scanning and recording stations or the thousands of ipods and other devices now being plugged in.
As we move forward and continue to see new gadgets unveiled it becomes increasingly important to be aware of our electronic loads and take advantage of as many energy efficient methods as possible.
At FOX Architects, we are always looking for ways to reduce our large paper usage. We calculated our usage and then conducted research to discover how to decrease the amount of paper we wasted. Inspired by Greenette and Millennial 4 Earth’s paper reduction posts, I present you 3 ideas on how to reduce paper usage in your office:
- Set up all computers to default print double-sided. In only one month we were able to reduce our paper usage almost 25%....also saving us 25% in paper costs. Individuals can always go into their printer settings and set their documents to single sided printing if it must be single sided.
- In Word, set your margins to ¼” instead of the default 1” on each side, allowing more text to fit on each page, which saves you pages in the end (tip from Ideal Bite).
- Save any paper that is printed on only one side and use it for printing drafts, as scrap paper, or cut up the paper into quarters and bind into little notebooks.
Any other ideas of how to save paper in your office?
Monday, April 28, 2008
Parker says factors like leadership quality, the level of discretion you have in your job and the number of opportunities you have to develop skills have as much impact as green initiatives in making an office a good environment to work in. "You need to look at the bigger picture," she says. "If you want an office to be sustainable for people and the environment then you have to look at relationships and information as well as design."
For a direct link to the article click here.
Friday, April 25, 2008
A co-worker sent me an image of this Neuton Mower from the swanky purveyor of modern goods, Design Within Reach. Of course, like many things DWR, this mower is only 'within reach' of those with plump wallets, willing to shell out $500 for a fancy mower.
The price of the mower doesn't bug me at all, but the fact that it's touted as 'CO2 emissions free' does. It has a re-chargeable battery, which means that unless you have a PV panel or a wind turbine on your garage, you're probably just plugging it into your wall outlet, which is connected to the grid, which is connected in turn to something likely to be a coal-burning power plant. CO2 emissions free indeed. Just because the emissions aren't local doesn't mean they don't exist.
I was referring to good, old-fashioned push reel mowers. This is about as green as it gets, folks, no batteries or gasoline (or diesel) required! And the website for Clean Air Gardening says that they are easier to push than your grandpa's version.
"Modern reel mowers are easy to push! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. People who think they are hard to push usually haven't seen or touched a reel mower in 20 years. Check out our testimonials page to see for yourself."
The good news? My co-worker surprised me with an e-mail this morning telling me he ordered the Scotts Classic Reel Mower at a sweet $129 (vs. the DWR version at $479) and is looking forward to tackling his physique while he tackles an overgrown lawn. Success!
I am a self-confessed fashion-junkie. The difficulty is that to indulge my fashion addition I often find myself compromising my green / ethical values.
The good news is though that eco-fashion is now really coming of age - which some of the most fashion-forward designs coming from small 'eco-friendly' labels from across the globe.
JC Report, a fashion newsletter to which I subscribed, this week wrote a very good article drawing attention to the key designers to look out for. Click here to take you to this article.
Happy reading / shopping!!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Do you ever wonder… What impact do blogs have anyway? Aren’t they really just the rantings of a few socially insecure people who sit in their basement with nothing better to do? Aren’t they just for tweenies who don’t have a car yet? It’s not like bloggers are real reporters, I mean, it’s not like they provide real news like the New York Times.
I don’t think the NYT will go away (though, don’t quote me on that), but I do think we’re starting to get pretty savvy in figuring out how this world wide web thing really works. Whereas you cannot predict what the NYT will write, blogs, blogrolling and blog feeds allow users the ultimate customization of their information access. Good bloggers become known and read because their stories are legitimate, well researched and relevant (and many of them are reporters too). Major media outlets scroll through favorite blogs every day to find stories and ideas from blogs they trust.
This Pew Foundation study is a year old, but gives a good breakdown of the folks writing and reading news and stories through the blogosphere. http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP%20Bloggers%20Report%20July%2019%202006.pdf As of 2006, eight percent of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog. Thirty-nine percent of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs. About 54% of all blog users are under 30 – this is the group that everyone is busy recruiting.
But how much blog content is out there related to real estate, buildings, sustainability, etc? We hear a lot about those crazy political blogs, but what do they have to do with our industry? I did some analysis recently and used a Google analytical tool. This tool tracks key words and tells you how many times your word has been referenced on a blog (not just the internet at large). Take the word LEED. In 2005, there were 8,200 blog entries mentioning LEED, in 2006 there were 17,000 and in 2007 over 52,000. For the first three months this year, there were 18,000 mentions of the word LEED (extrapolating out for 2008, that’s 72,000+). Too specific and trendy you say? Then try the words “green buildings.” 2006= 1,700 mentions; 2007=6,000 mentions, 2008, just Q1 = 10,700 mentions. Still not convinced? Try “General Services Administration.” 2006=3,000 mentions; 2007=8,500 mentions; 2008 just Q1 = 15,000 mentions.
From what I can see, the building industry has taking to blogging like fish on water and blogs have become a very legitimate form of news. We can find out the latest in design, technology and building techniques almost as soon as they are invented. With global reach, trusted blogs can be extremely powerful resources.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
YES, they make solar compacting recycling stations too!
The BigBelly is a compacting trash receptacle that is completely self-powered. Instead of requiring a grid connection, BigBelly uses solar power for 100% of its energy needs. The unit takes up as much space as the "footprint" of an ordinary receptacle—but its capacity is five times greater. Increased capacity reduces collection trips and can cut fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. BigBelly also provides cost efficiencies from labor savings, fuel cost and maintenance savings, as well as environmental benefits from reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
What I really like about this is that it is a very people-friendly solar device - something everyone will connect with at some point. I have worked on some DC Parks and Recreation projects that would have greatlt benefitted from something like this. And I have heard rumors that these badboys have earned a LEED point in Innovation and Design. Not bad for the little trash compactor that could!
In honor of Earth Day, DOE and the U.S. Department of Defense launched a new Energy Star campaign called "Operation Change Out," which will challenge military bases across the country to install Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in their on-base housing.
Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman announced the new campaign at Camp Lejeune—a Marine Corps base near Jacksonville, North Carolina—as he screwed in the last of the 17,500 CFLs that have been installed in the camp's military houses. Over their lifetime, the new CFLs at Camp Lejeune will prevent more than 7.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, while saving nearly 5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and at least $500,000 on energy bills.
If they can do it on an army base (and trust me these have historically been some of the last hold-outs against environmental action), then surely we can all talk to our property managers about changing out some bulbs?
Posted by Green-A at 9:52 AM
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I read today that there is a new initiative by Mark Taylor (who are a Phoenix-based apartment developers, builders, and managers) called "Go Green, Save Green". This offers new residents, who prove their commute has been shortened by moving to a Mark-Taylor property, a $1,000 savings on their rent.
Mark Taylor say that "Phoenix apartment renters are tired of paying $3-plus per gallon for gas and spending way too much time stuck in traffic. They can now save time, money and the environment by going green with Mark-Taylor Residential. We want to reward people with a savings on their rent if they cut their commute by living with us."
Mark-Taylor operates 30 resort-style apartment properties in the Phoenix area. Prospective residents will need to bring a copy of their printed maps and proof of employment to a Mark-Taylor leasing office to confirm their new, shorter and environmentally friendly commute.
Take a look at Mark-Taylor's website for more info. Interesting idea I thought...
Posted by happy clinical depressive at 5:00 AM
Monday, April 21, 2008
Any excuse to post a photo of "The Office"........
As almost everyone knows by now, Dunder Mifflin of The Office fame produces paper, which of course is one of the biggest waste products of the office. A waste product that is easily recycled. One question that comes up over and over again is "As tenants, how do we ensure that the building/property manager is recycling paper, aluminum, and glass that we separate in the office?" Often the cleaning staff just throws it all away in garbage and doesn't recycle any of it despite the time people spend sorting. I recently asked 2 of the extremely knowledgeable sustainable champions in my office about this and here is what they said:
"The best thing tenants can do is make sure that recycling is in the lease, and then if they see the cleaning staff mishandling recyclables, they can report it to the owner who is contractually obliged to ensure the recycling happens." Each different form of recycling should be called out in the lease whether it's paper, glass, aluminum, ink cartridges, etc.
In addition to including it in the lease, "tenants should make sure that recycling and trash bins are well labeled in more than one language if necessary. This is similar to problems with construction waste management on the job site - if the people responsible for sorting and diverting recyclables from waste don't understand what it is and what to do with it, then it won't happen."
The facility manager also has to make sure that their waste pick up contract specifically describes what the separate pick ups are and that the recyclables are diverted from the waste stream.
So in the spirit of Earth Day, find those leases and make sure your property manager is doing what they should be!
Posted by Les Vert at 11:23 PM
Saturday, April 19, 2008
The Sundance Channel and Lexus Hybrid Living are looking for "The Next Big Idea." The purpose of this contest is to find great ideas (in short film or photographic form) to help people live greenly.
Friday, April 18, 2008
As you read in Greenette’s post a couple of days ago, HOK is making a push to reduce its carbon footprint (and that of its employees) by hosting Go Barefoot Day on Earth Day this year.
The question is how many employees will buy in? In a firm of over 2,500 folks, spreading the word is tough. Here are some of the ways the firm’s sustainable champions are hoping to encourage participation:
- Firm-wide survey
- Firm-wide email
- Go Barefoot blog
- Word of mouth
- Posters and panel displays
- Stickers for those who participate
- Discussion at firm- and office-wide events
- Local office events such as ice cream party
- Bribery with “green happy hour” for office with greatest participation
For more articles about Barefoot day, check out the following links:
Image source: http://www.letscurbpesticides.ca
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The last time I took Metrorail, the train was late, dirty, and packed full of people. One very large lady (I use the term loosely) shoved me and screamed that I needed to move further in (I was already touching the person in front of me), while someone else sneezed in my face. I then had to wait 15 minutes to change trains (they’re supposed to come every 6 minutes). I could have driven to my destination much faster, for about the same cost, and without the headache and future cold.
I just read a great article on thestar.com, “The Genuinely Better Way” that talks about San Francisco MUNI’s new Connected Bus and how it hopes to provide better customer service. This bus is a pilot program that MUNI and Cisco have developed that provides passengers with wireless internet, information on other vehicles in the system, and green stats on the bus’s environmental impact.
Other articles on the Connected Bus:
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
- Architectural Record Selects: Green Blogs
- Architectural Record Selects: Practice Blogs
- GreenSource Selects: Blogs
- Sustain Newsladder
- Hugg 2.0
- Best Green Blogs – list of blogs with description...you can also sign up for an RSS feed here!
Check out more bookmarking resources below.
Monday, April 14, 2008
By increasing the pervious surface area of our densely built urban environments, we can reduce the amount of runoff and burden on the municipal infrastructure that struggles to handle the increasing runoff as development flourishes and severe weather events occur with greater frequency. The EPA has recently recognized that green infrastructure can be a more expedient and cost effective way to handle this urban problem when compared to digging up exisitng combined sewer lines and splitting them up: http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/gi_action_strategy.pdf.
In addition to aleviating stormwater issues, green roofs can keep ambient temperatures lower through evapotranspiration, which translates to lower cooling loads for the buildings in our urban environments and keeps everyone's carbon footprint a little smaller.
If you're interested in learning more about the costs, benefits and implications of green roofs, there are places to go to learn from the experts. One such event is coming up soon in Baltimore April 30-May 2.
•1000+ green roof professionals
•Trade show with 75+ exhibitors showcasing green roof products and services
•World-wide experts on issues related to policy, design and research
•Opening Reception and Awards of Excellence Luncheon
•Green roof training courses
•Continuing Education Credits
•Baltimore green roof tours
•Bookstore of green roof books
Register at: http://www.greenroofs.org/
- No need to drive = fewer miles on the road, less wear & tear on Ralph the Prius, and less gas used
- No need to shower and blow dry hair = less water and energy use
- No need to dress up = fewer clothes to wash, dry, and iron or dryclean
- No need for dog walker = less miles she’s putting on the road + less expensive for me
- Desk next to window = happier Millennial 4 Earth + less need for electric lights
- Temperature control = no need for space heater since I have blankets available
- Not at my desk = people only bother me when they really need me
- No particularly delicious lunch joints nearby = healthier eating, less spending money, and less food in my fridge rotting from not eating it.
What are your experiences?
- Zhang Jingjing, the lawyer dubbed the "Erin Brokovitch of China"
- Lo Sze Ping, director of Greenpeace China
- Ma Jun, known internationally for his work to save China's lakes and rivers
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I was recently speaking with some sustainable design "Champions" about purchasing green energy. It made me think about a couple things. First, what companies out there are already doing this? Second, is there a way for potential consumers of green energy to ensure that the energy they are purchasing is indeed green? In my research I came across the Green-e Program.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
What is it that makes us, as humans, willing to change our behavior to be more green? At what point do we decide, yes, I'm going to re-think my life, my work, my outlook, and consider the greater good of my decisions today. I think deep down it comes to three things.
1. Recognize it's a personal choice. Ask anyone to tell you why going green is important and they will tell you the story of something deeply personal. It could be a parent who instilled these values in them as a child, a vacation they took to a third world country or the fear that “their children need a better world to grow up in.” You will almost never hear someone say that the reason they think the environment is important is because their company told them it was a priority. I've come to think of it almost like religion - it's something that can be taught, but will not be acted upon until it becomes a personal value.
2. It must improve your life. I believe at its essence, solving our environmental issues is one of the most complex problems of our time – but it won’t be solved out of the kindness of our hearts or out of a sense of guilt. Going green has to save us money or make our lives easier in some way – preferably both.
Green strategies that stick address environmental benefits, yes, but they must be bundled with other benefits to us personally. The triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) is one way experts have described this importance of being all-inclusive. It's a very nice business model, but in some ways, it's a trite way of describing a very human issue. The green movement is at it's heart (I believe) about self-preservation: preserving our financial and environmental resources; our quality of life; our access to clean air, water and energy; and our overall health and wellness.
3. It's a slow evolution, not a spontaneous transformation. Going green is an evolving thing. Because caring about the environment is a value, and not a goal or something to be "achieved" per se, it takes time to figure out how it fits in our lives. Most folks I've talked to (and companies for that matter) that are successful going green start small. They find one thing, like biking to work, starting to recycle, buying veges from a co-op or changing their lightbulbs. They make the change, measure it, and celebrate the benefits to their health or checkbook. Starting small is really important, because 1) it's more likely to happen and 2) you really notice and absorb the benefits. Seriously, don't try and go whole hog on day 1. You have enough projects going on in your life!
What happens next? Well, once you conquer that first project, the second one is much easier to do, but again, don't go nuts. It's kind of like losing weight. Benge dieting doesn't stick, so why should going green? Make sure whatever you do, it benefits you and/or your family in some way - then you know you'll do it forever. I know we have big problems, but they won't be solved overnight.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
For those of you who are members of the USGBC, you have access to some very good resources on their website. Much of the site is dedicated to resources and links helpful for becoming an Accredited Professional (AP) or to certifying your building. Because technology and design options are always changing, and because the criteria used for LEED are sometimes up to interpretation, there is a section online dedicated to Credit Interpretation Rulings (CIRs). This is one of my favorite places to go for new ideas, because these CIRs are where LEED applicants go to state their "case for creativity" to the USGBC in order to get points for certification. Anyone who is a member can see all requests for any LEED registered project. Here are a few things I learned poking around in the "innovation points" section:
Bank of America announced on June 7, 2006 that it will reimburse Associates living within 90 miles of Charlotte, Boston, and Los Angeles and purchasing a new hybrid vehicle $3,000. Available to more than 49,000 associates, the program addresses a correlation between air quality, limited travel options (other than single-rider vehicles), and commute length. As of September 7, 2006, 200 Bank of America associates, including 118 in Charlotte, have taken advantage of the program and the Bank expects up to 100 more will participate by the end of 2006. The program is available to all associates working in the Bank of America Corporate Center and it is possible to monitor how many of those associates take advantage of the program.
Our project is a 198,000 square foot, high-rise dormitory on a university campus in an area with constant, prevailing trade winds. Due to its location, the project has provided natural ventilation for its building corridors as well as operable windows for all student apartments. In order to provide a comfortable environment for building occupants, we have undertaken a wind tunnel study, which is not typical design practice for this type of building.
Two approaches were undertaken in this wind tunnel study: numerical calculations and a wind tunnel test. The numerical calculations considered input parameters such as wind speeds, wind pressure coefficients, air temperatures, opening sizes for doors and windows, and different air permeability rates for the windows, doors and cracks.
The wind tunnel test was conducted by creating a 1:150 scale model of the building complex based on the drawings of the architects. The model of the planned building complex was instrumented with approximately 500 pressure taps to test for pressurization, and it was exposed to 36 different wind directions spaced 10 degrees apart (0 to 360 degrees). The building model was mounted on a turntable with a large inertial mass, allowing any wind direction to be simulated by rotating the model to the appropriate angle in the wind tunnel.
The wind tunnel study resulted in a change to the project's natural ventilation design. It was determined that several windows needed to be moved to different façades, while some operable windows were made inoperable and vice versa. This redesign was critical in enhancing the natural ventilation approach of the corridors, consequently creating a more comfortable environment for the building occupants.
I’m always on the lookout for fun green resources. Here are a couple of blogs/sites to check out, as well as some entertaining short films to watch when you have a moment:
Ecorazzi: This blog combines my two favorite things: celebrity gossip and green!
- “Earth to America”: Will Ferrell's impersonation of President Bush giving a talk on the environment.
- “Manhattan in January”: Jill Sobule's uplifting song about global warming.
Image Source: www.relocalize.net
Monday, April 7, 2008
They invite others to join them, and have created a PDF with a number of suggestions for getting to work and what you can do when you get there, showing the impact of each, with links to more information.
They have a link at the bottom of the PDF to a spreadsheet that shows all of the assumptions and sources for their data, which will prove to be a very useful resource. ::HOK Go Barefoot
- 3 in 4 Americans resolved to be greener this year
- 70% of women think pollution and global warming are bigger threats than terrorism (56% of men agree)
- 24% of women have read or watched An Inconvenient Truth (64% of those became more eco-active as a result)
- 70% of women have eco-guilt (feel bad about harming the planet)
- 25% of women dry their sheets on a clothesline (87% of those also hang out their undies to dry)
- Using a clothesline saves 1,079 kWh per year (about $85 at current prices)
- 17% of women say they were eco-activists before Leonardo DiCaprio was
Many apologies to all the folks who stopped by my desk to see the pretty ladies in the magazine – it’s going home today!
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Last week some colleagues and I met with an well known organization to work through ways to green their real estate portfolio. We all came armed with lots of ideas, and at the end of the day walked away with a list of solid projects that they could start on tomorrow. Very productive. Afterwards, the sustainable champion asked me a question that I get every once in a while... he asked, "What grade would you give my company on their sustainable practices?"
Thinking of an answer for him made me think carefully. I mean, a grade is effectively a comparison score. Should I compare this organization against all other firms globally? Or just companies in the same industry? Or should it really a comparison against other companies in the same region? This organization participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project (at least their parent company does) and so I could look there for answers, but I chose a different tack.
I decided my "grade" for this real estate group should be based on the following:
- Size and volume of projects they were actually doing versus talking about,
- If they had a vision statement or mission to share with the organization,
- Whether they had a set of green guidelines that outlined their specific priorities and goals for the organization,
- How much the company at large really knew real estate's green initiatives (sign of a communication or change management strategy),
- Whether they were coordinated with other groups in the organization like HR, IT, Communications, Social Responsibility or Sustainability executives, on the green front and
- If they were fully leveraging their "sphere of influence" with brokers, developers, contractors, architects, food service providers, carpet manufacturers, furniture dealerships, etc. by greening their vendor contracts, RFPs and leases.
This particular company fell short on many of these items, but I have to commend them on their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get started. Many companies are still overwhelmed by the whole idea of "getting green" and have not even made the first step by asking, "What should we be doing?" And most companies haven't even budgeted for the time it takes to think through the full range of issues that come up. My question to these gun-shy companies is... How long can you afford to resist getting green? Let me warn you, I'm a harsh grader. It's time to up your score.
I’ve always been an avid recycler, but three years ago my boss recommended that I take the USGBC's LEED exam. Studying for the test took some time, but I learned some great things that I’ve been able to apply in my daily life in addition to what’s required to commission HVAC systems.
The one thing that stood out to me was how much my newfound knowledge has “snowballed”:
- Writing articles for my Homeowners Association Newsletter – sharing simple ideas in a large forum can make a big difference – I’ve seen lots of small measures taken in the community, and some large ones too.
- Joining the community Architectural Control Committee – and making recommendations as to how to make the community’s guidelines more environmentally-friendly. I’m now receiving calls about composting, solar panels, energy efficient window replacements and more.
- Turning my husband into a recycling, reuse, and conservation Nazi – sometimes a little bit more than I can handle, but it’s all for the cause, right?
- Thanks to his newfound environmentalism, my husband has been making major steps with his company, including starting a recycling program and harassing the boss for transit incentives (see my post on Greenwashing Hits Home for more info). His latest endeavor is a Six Sigma project – green initiatives, starting just with his project, but hopefully spreading company-wide. Quick update on the transit: still hasn't talked the boss into paying for transit instead of (or even in addition to) parking - maybe the Six Sigma will help.
It’s amazing how just a little bit of sharing and education can make a big difference. I encourage everyone to share the small ideas (the big ones too) and let us know your success stories!