Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Challenge for Our Developers

I would love to see a race to the top in this game....

Via Sustainable Industries:

One of the nation’s largest real estate service providers is getting into the solar services game.
Los Angeles–based
CB Richard Ellis (NYSE: CBG) announced in March the launch of a new arm called CBRE Solar. CBRE is partnering with Smart Energy Capital, a solar finance, development and advisory firm on the venture. The new venture comes in response to client requests, a drop in prices for solar equipment and an ease in financing as the recession begins to wane, says David Pogue, national director of sustainability at CBRE.

CBRE Solar says it will offer a broad range of solar energy solutions for clients, including solar power purchase agreements, roof leases, advisory services, project development services, project management services and solar project investment opportunities.

CBRE is the world’s largest real estate services company, thanks to its more than $4.2 billion in 2009 revenues, it says. Though CBRE Solar does not have specific goals for the amount of solar energy it hopes to hook up to the grid, the new effort is likely to result in a big boost for solar projects on commercial buildings, Pogue says. Combining its reach with SEC’s “expertise … will enable us to grow distributed solar in a significant way," he says.

Mount Kisco, NY–based SCE managed a portfolio of more than 300 megawatts of solar projects and raised in excess of $200 billion of innovative financings.

CBRE’s size should also help it bring capital to projects and secure power purchase agreements (PPA) for installations, Pogue says. “We believe we have a competitive advantage in creating economies of scale in equipment, installation and financing costs, which will benefit our clients and drive the volume of PPA opportunities for us,” he says.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Polyface Farm Meal

This week, on a road trip from Washington, DC to rural West Virginia for a project interview, my team got to talking about how much we loved the beautiful country we were driving through and how we wish we all ate food straight from the farm every day like our grandparents. We started discussing the best seller The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, a book describing how food is produced in America. Though much of it is pretty frightening, there are some bright spots in the quality of food available, particularly a section where the author describes his week-long stay at Polyface Farm in Virginia.

On our road trip we randomly stopped in a small town called Harrisonburg, Virginia, as it was about half-way to our destination. We were feeling the need for a nice treat, so we agreed to seek out a meal better than Denny's or one of the many McDonald's we passed at every exit. We headed for Harrisonburg's downtown area and by chance came upon a restaurant called the Local Chop and Grill House (56 West Gay Street), just a few blocks from James Madison University in a semi-industrial area. We hopped out of the car with the hope of at least getting a sit down meal.

And boy were we in for a surprise. The meal was excellent, and to our amazement, on the menu was chicken from Polyface Farms, the very farm that Pollan raves about in his book. We later realized that the farm is only a short distance from the restaurant. And after eating every morsel of the best roasted chicken I have every tasted with asparagus and polenta to die for... I must say I'm convinced that chicken grown thoughtfully with access to lots of good grass (and worms) makes a big difference. The serving I ate tasted moist but dense with protein and full of flavor. I really think I had forgotten what real chicken tastes like. It is definitely worth seeking out food this good. I can't wait for the farmer's markets to open this year!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

To Use Mass Transit or Not: How Much of a Choice Do You Truly Have?

Just ran across a great article on Psystenance - (via Planetizen). This examines how much our own personal/cultural preferences determine whether or not we use transit versus how much availability and usefulness of transportation modes do.

Check out the article: The Fundamental Attribution Error in Transportation Choice

Monday, March 15, 2010

Open Offices Create a Mix of Stimuli and Distractions

Saturday, March 13, 2010

When Green Measures Work at Your Workplace

It’s a bandwagon everyone wants to jump on, but when it actually comes to pulling their weight, they’re reluctant to do so. It’s all well and good to say that you want to do your bit to help the environment and that you’re going to make your office a greener place because you care. But unless you can actually make these green measures work and show positive feedback, your efforts don’t count for much. There are many easy and simple ways to go green at the office, but most of them don’t work out in the long or short run because not much thought is given to their implementation. The ideas are good, but without commitment and perseverance, they don’t work. Green measures at the workplace work only when:

  • Every single person is committed to the task. Your office may have a plan to recycle, but if your colleague or you don’t bother to sort your trash before you dump it, your green measures are going down the dumpster too. So unless every single person is committed to the task of lowering energy usage and costs, minimizing the usage of paper and ink, and reducing their impact on the environment, you cannot claim that your office has “gone green.”

  • The returns can be measured quantitatively. If you have a “minimize paper usage” rule, you must determine your usage every month and confirm that the numbers are lower with the passage of time. Unless you’re able to judge for yourself and see visible signs of a greener office, your green measures are not worth anything. The returns need not be immediate, but they have to start trickling in slowly at first and steadily as time goes by.

  • The efforts are continuous and constant. You cannot give up on your green measures just because they’re hard to follow or difficult to implement. You must put in a sustained effort to see them through and encourage your co-workers and subordinates to do all they can to contribute to a cleaner environment. Unless your efforts are continuous and constant, they will not bear fruit.

  • People are held accountable for their actions. While this may seem extreme to some people, sometimes, the only way to enforce rules is to hold people accountable for breaking them. So if a colleague is found guilty of not powering down their computer after the day’s work (and has instead left it to hibernate or sleep), he or she could be made to pay a small fine or reprimanded in a suitable way.
    When you care about the environment and want to make a difference at your workplace, you must realize that it is a team effort that requires dedication and discipline, just like one of your projects.
This guest post is contributed by Nicole Adams, she writes on the topic of construction management. She welcomes your comments at her email id:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

To the Climate Change Skeptics

I get that not everyone is on board that the climate is changing, polar ice caps are melting and natural resources are being used at an unsustainable rate. But what I honestly don't get is knowingly turning a blind eye to the environment altogether. Or valuing nature so little, that it plays absolutely no role in decision making. I mean, shouldn't the environment play at least some role in where we live, what we drive (or choose not to drive), where we get our food, and the kinds of durable and consumable goods we buy?

I was listening to NPR where the reporter was talking to advertising analysts about a recent marketing study that showed that when people buy green goods, they really don't buy them because they are good for the environment. Rather, they buy "green" goods because they care mostly their own health (or the low cost). So advertisers are picking up on this and changing messages about how products are good for health or saving money rather than how good they might be for the earth. That got me a little riled up.

Then, last night, I was speaking to a crowd of grade school parents and one of the parents came up to me afterwards asking about escalators. Specifically, he was from Egypt and was surprised that in the U.S., escalators are always "on" whereas even in third world countries, they all have motion sensors so that they only run when needed. He was confused about this since he knows that the same companies produce escalators globally, i.e. Otis and others. We sadly came to the conclusion that it wasn't a matter of access to technology, its just that in the U.S., it never even occurs to us that escalators waste energy when they aren't being used and just sit there running. It doesn't even hit our radar screen. That got me really riled up.

So what is going on? In the U.S. especially, what is stopping us from doing the right thing for the environment? Is it marketing and advertising? Is it our isolationist attitude and seemingly endless source of natural resources? How is it that we are so cut off from nature that things like using continuously moving escalators, driving to a destination three blocks down the street, leaving all of our lights on and eating food from 12,000 miles away is not perceived as highly in-efficient and downright wasteful?

For all of you skeptics out there... I get that you are tired of the media hype and need more scientific evidence to feel convinced. But doesn't some of our behavior need a little rationalizing and a dose of common sense?

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