Thursday, June 24, 2010

Destination: Up!

We all know that elevators use a fair bit of energy and it's healthier for us to take the stairs, right? Right. Of course, sometimes that's just not possible due to personal ability or, simply the number of floors in a building.

I recently wrote about the San Francisco Federal Office Building's every-third-floor elevators - which I think are great. Today, I learned about another trend in elevator operations: a destination-dispatch system.

Basically a user inputs his/her destination into a kiosk/touchscreen. The touchscreen then directs the user to the speific elevator. The user enters the elevator and is taken directly to his/her floor with minimal stops.

This sytem improves the efficiency for both the user (not having to stop at every floor), and for the elevator system (fewer stops, more passengers per destination).

Check out an article in Buildings Magazine for more info: Going Up is Made More Efficient

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How About Use Less Oil?

For the 500th time (or so), I was just asked to boycott BP's gasoline. While I'm all for not giving BP my money (and Halliburton., Transocean, the US government and everyone else involved in this disaster), I really think this boycott misses the point!

As I was getting ready to write this post, my husband mentioned an article he'd read in Newsweek: Boycott BP: Because It's Much Better to Give Your Money to Exxon. It's a little on the snarky side (which I like), and makes some really good points.

It is OUR collective fault that this happened. Our additction to oil and petrochemical products (yup, there are sure a lot of "everyday things" that rely on oil) is why BP and all the others are out there drilling.

We (myself included) need to change our behaviors. Do you really need to drive your car today? Take that flight (ahem, government officials that keep flying to the Gulf to look at the oil spewing...)? Buy that item?

Small changes can have a significant impact when lots of people adopt them. Today - think about reusing something rather than recycling or pitching it. Or decide NOT to buy something. Or ride your bike/walk to the grocery store. Great - that wasn't so bad. Let's all make it a lifestyle change instead of a one-day change.

Image Source: Treehugger/US Coast Guard

Monday, June 14, 2010

Missing the Boat with Net Zero?

I’m at an APA conference (Planner’s Training Service – Sustainable Zoning and Development Controls). As you might expect, it’s all about how zoning can impact sustainability (and vice versa). One of the best examples shared was about a new development in Colorado.

The new development was billed as being net zero – the community and community planners were clamoring for it! Super energy-efficient, beautiful new design, yay, let’s do it!!!

We looked at the plan. Net zero or no, this development was full of unsustainable characteristics. First, and perhaps most importantly, it was out in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, so you’re net zero while you’re at home…but what about driving 5 miles to the nearest town, or 15 miles to the nearest small city (and Wal-Mart)?

That’s not so good! Well, what if we could take transit? That would be better…but the nearest transit stop is at the corner of the community…and is separated from the community by a golf course. Nope, probably not taking transit.

Maybe I’ll go to my neighbor’s house. Nope, not happening either since the neighborhood is a series of disconnected cul de sacs.

At least I can go for a walk in the woods, right? Well…sort of. This is a Greenfield development that’s tearing into undeveloped land. And, unfortunately the golf course pushed the development into a critical wildlife habitat and very close to the blue ribbon trout spawning stream. Walking in the woods is going to be a bit limited.

This may be a net-zero development….but it doesn’t take away from the fact it’s still sprawl.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Right to Dry

Did you know that the biggest energy hog in most homes is your clothes dryer? Nope, me either! And did you know that you’re probably not allowed to have a clothesline or clothes tree in your yard? Most HOAs and many city codes explicitly forbid them!

What can you do? Well, you can be like my neighbor and have a covert clothesline that you can easily take down/hide/retract when the HOA inspection committee is coming through. Or you can do something about it!

Petition your HOA – there may be a few people on the Board that have some environmental sensibilities. Contact your local planning and zoning professionals. Get involved in the Right 2 Dry movement.

And, of course, wash your clothes less frequently (shhh…don’t tell anyone that I have a pair of jeans that I have literally NEVER washed. They don’t smell and they’re not visibly dirty…so, no harm to my friends). And don’t use that dryer if you can avoid it!

Image Source: Sisterly Savings

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Water = Power

We all have heard over and over that we should conserve water – while lots of people buy into this concept, there are still a few who don’t think water conservation is worthwhile…this week I heard a really compelling argument for all those naysayers (“water is a closed loop system – we’re never going to run out”).

Did you know that water treatment plants are the largest user of electricity in most communities? In total, water treatment plants use 4% of the entire U.S. electricity use. FOUR PERCENT! That’s a lot for a single use! And, 80% of that electricity is used to MOVE the water.

Think about that next time your community decides to install an irrigation system. Cost is not just the direct cost to you to pay for the water…but also in taxes & fees to pay for the electricity that the water company uses to pump the water to you. And taxes to pay for expanding the power plant to cover the increased demand. And we’re not even beginning to talk about carbon emissions….

Maybe water-efficient landscaping would have been a better selection. Oops.

Source: APA Planners Training Service presentation June 10, 2010

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