Future Benefits

Vertical gardens: Wellness oases in the urban jungle

When there’s only so much real estate available in urban centers for parks, how’s a developer to bring in more green with biophilic design?

By Kim Pexton
View the original article here.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 9.45.21 AM

Experts in the emerging field of biophilic design are finding that that people need regular contact with nature to be happy and whole. For those who live and work in cities, the concrete, glass towers, smog, and noise can drastically and negatively affect wellbeing. Urban areas are projected to house 60 percent of people globally by 2030, and one in three people will live in cities with at least a half million inhabitants.

So here’s the question and our opportunity: When there’s only so much real estate available in urban centers for parks, how’s a developer to bring in more green with biophilic design?

BUILD UP. MARRY BUILDINGS AND NATURE WITH VERTICAL GARDENS

Building designers are responding to the biophilic design call to action by creating vertical gardens. Also called living walls or green walls, vertical gardens are self-contained gardens installed on the sides of buildings to provide expanses of greenery in urban areas. Vertical gardens can be attached to virtually any vertical structure, and they can be used as free-standing space dividers, providing beauty, sound-proofing, and security. Plants can also be used to reduce noise along roads and highways. Living green walls block high-frequency sounds while the supporting structure can help diminish low frequency noise.

HERE ARE A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE EXAMPLES:

Vertical Gardens2

Oasis Hotel, Singapore

Vertical-Gardens-3

Santalaia, a multifamily residential building in Bogota, Colombia.

VERTICAL GARDENS ARE GOOD FOR THE COMMUNITY’S HEALTH

Prospective tenants – be they multifamily or commercial – love vertical gardens, which makes them a win/win for developers and building users.

Vertical gardens provide refreshing visual breaks from concentrations of concrete and steel, and their benefits go far deeper. Vertical gardens have a profound impact on air quality, especially in mitigating humidity and controlling dust indoors and outdoors. Green walls absorb noise pollution and create micro-climates that build heat efficiency. They have the added benefit of creating urban ecosystems that attract insects and birds, positively affecting biodiversity. In some cases, vertical gardens contribute to a larger ecosystem. In fact, vertical gardens take on more of a regenerative design philosophy from a C02 design standpoint. Plants are natural filters – taking carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with much needed oxygen. They also help to filter pollutants from the air, literally helping urban dwellers breathe easier.

According to Hanging Gardens, a New Zealand vertical garden designer, the Auckland Council estimated the social cost from air pollution in the city to be $1.07 billion. Further, studies show that in city streets bounded by buildings, careful placement of plants reduced concentrations of nitrogen dioxide by up to 40 percent and of microscopic particulate matter by up to 60 percent. These statistics can be powerfully persuasive during design review meetings and entitlements processes.

Then there are the psychological benefits. The cumulative body of evidence from more than a decade of research on the people-nature relationship proves that contact with vegetation is highly beneficial to human health and well being. Whether contact with vegetation is active (gardening) or passive (viewing vegetation through a window), results show a consistent pattern of positive effects including:

  • Psychological and physiological stress reduction
  • More positive moods
  • Increased ability to re-focus attention
  • Mental restoration and reduced mental fatigue
  • Improved performance on cognitive tasks
  • Reduced pain perceptions and faster recovery in healthcare settings

Vertical gardens bring operational benefits too. One of the biggest benefits of vertical gardens is their ability to manage water. Vertical gardens make the need for watering very efficient, as the process is managed using a drip irrigation or hydroponic system. Waste water is collected at the bottom of the garden and either drained away or reused.

While vertical gardens have undeniable benefits for developers and building users, they can be challenging to design and maintain if they are not planned and installed properly. It’s critical to bring together the right system, plants, design, and maintenance strategy so that the green wall can serve the project in the long-term. The planning and investment will be worth it.

This concept for the Mumbai Tower by Odell Architects takes the vertical garden a step further by incorporating a vertical farm.

This concept for the Mumbai Tower by Odell Architects takes the vertical garden a step further by incorporating a vertical farm.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

The company confirms hybrid systems are a growing focus area.

By Jason Deign
View the original article here.

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa Pursues Hybrid Wind and Solar Projects With Energy Storage

Siemens Gamesa, the leading turbine manufacturer, is looking to go beyond wind — into hybrid systems with solar and storage.

The company’s chief technology officer, Antonio de la Torre Quiralte, told GTM that Siemens Gamesa remains committed to the wind market. However, it is increasingly interested in other technologies to reduce renewable energy intermittency.

“Following the merger about one year ago, we realized that our two former companies were quite interested in resolving the renewable problem, which is discontinuity,” he said.

“As part of our business strategy, there is a clear mandate from our CEO and our board that we will resolve, with a huge investment in new technologies, solutions for the market that will allow, quite soon, stable renewable procurement of energy.”

The development of systems that can provide baseload or near-baseload capacity could involve the hybridization of potentially complementary generation technologies such as wind and solar. But storage is a big part of the equation.

“It definitely is in our roadmap,” de la Torre said.

De la Torre said the manufacturer is focused on solutions rather than products, integrating energy storage with renewable plants at the project level.

He also said Siemens Gamesa is looking beyond today’s existing utility-scale battery storage capacities, which typically run to tens of megawatt hours, to gigawatt-hour levels of storage.

Batteries will remain the company’s technology of choice for standalone hybrid and off-grid systems, which demand storage capacities of between 500 kilowatt-hours and 50 megawatt-hours for onshore wind and PV plant balancing.

But Siemens Gamesa is also investigating a thermal storage system called the Future Energy Solution, which could boast much higher capacities. A demonstration plant currently under construction in Hamburg will be able to deliver 1.5 megawatts of power for 24 hours.

Siemens Gamesa hopes to use this kind of technology for round-the-clock renewable energy generation. “We have to integrate several renewable sources,” said de la Torre. “Currently we are investigating all relevant sorts of storage.”

Recently, for example, Siemens Gamesa started testing a 120-kilowatt, 400-kilowatt-hour redox flow battery at its La Plana test center near Zaragoza in Spain.

The test center had previously been used by Gamesa to put together a hybrid system combining traditional gensets with wind, solar and storage in 2016. Customer interest in hybrid systems with storage has grown in the last six to nine months, de la Torre said.

One example is the Bulgana Green Power Hub project owned by Neoen in Australia, where Siemens Gamesa will be acting as an engineering, procurement and construction contractor, and will be integrating a 194-megawatt wind farm with 34 megawatt-hours of Tesla storage.

Hong Zhang Durandal, a business analyst with MAKE Consulting, said Siemens Gamesa’s growing interest in hybrid systems reflects a wider trend within the wind industry. OEMs are not interested in having storage as a product, he said, but see value in adding other technologies to wind farms, for example to help avoid curtailment or smooth out imbalances.

It also makes sense for Siemens Gamesa to explore thermal or redox flow technologies for bulk, long-duration storage, he said. “For lithium-ion, getting to gigawatt-hours is just cost-ineffective,” he said. “It’s too large a system to justify the cost of the batteries.”

In a recent question-and-answer session published by Wood Mackenzie, Durandal said wind-plus-storage could offer new opportunities for energy production in the U.S.

“Wind farms paired with energy storage can shift energy from periods of low prices to take advantage of spikes and shift energy in bulk when it is most needed,” he said.

Pairing wind with energy storage also helps with ramp-rate control, can avoid curtailment and could open the door for project owners to compete for ancillary services revenues.

“We are seeing increased interest by wind turbine OEMs across the globe in exploring and developing utility-scale wind-plus-storage systems,” Durandal said. “Not only can the development of such systems strengthen the portfolio of the OEMs in key markets, [but] hybrid systems can also play a significant role in the deployment of more wind energy in the future.”

EMERALD SKYLINE TO DEVELOP SOLAR FARM IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA WITH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FACILITY TO PURSUE ELECTRICAL STORAGE TECHNOLOGY.

“Solar generation and electricity storage technology are rapidly evolving sustainable energy alternatives. The combination of solar power generation and electricity storage is being utilized in projects around the world”

 May 1, 2018 from Emerald Skyline Corporation

BOCA RATON, FL, May 1, 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today, Emerald Skyline announced that it will develop land located in southern Arizona for the purpose of solar generation and electricity storage technology research. The project, Emerald City Solar, recognizes that both solar generation and electricity storage technologies are rapidly evolving and will continue to become more cost effective. The southern Arizona project will include research and development facilities to continue to evaluate new technologies as they emerge. It is expected that the total generation of the solar farm will continue to increase along with the value per kilowatt hour of the electricity generated as new technologies are deployed. Emerald Skyline believes the future of renewable energy is in the storage technology and will be exploring novel ways of delivering and storing energy. They have assembled a world-class team to conduct research and development to drive innovation and advanced sustainable technologies to manage surplus renewable power for use on demand and supply of power.

SOLAR FARM

The site of the solar farm development enjoys the best solar profile in the United States and is near major urban centers including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The electricity generated could be sold to the local electric power utility company at prevailing Power Purchase Agreement rates of about .07 per kilowatt hour (KwH). However, through the use of proven electric storage technology, the value of the electricity could be significantly increased through the selling into the power grid during peak demand periods at much higher spot market prices. Selling power in this manner is called Regulation Services.

ELECTRICITY STORAGE

Deployment of electricity storage is increasing at explosive rates and has been described by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) as a game changer in the industry. Several new companies can provide large battery-based storage units and have the operating systems required to interact with the electricity grid. Through storing electricity and injecting the stored power into the grid during peak demand periods the cost of peaking power can be greatly reduced. By selling power into the grid during peak demand at much higher prices the value of the solar power farm can be greatly enhanced.

“As a sustainability and resiliency consulting and LEED project management firm, this partnership enables us to collaborate with a host of industry partners to not only produce energy but also to test and demonstrate the benefits of solar energy storage technologies. When electricity storage is not available, excess solar electricity is wasted. When storage is installed, the excess energy can be saved and subsequently used to reduce the use of a fossil fuel,” reports Abraham Wien, LEED AP O+M, Director of Architecture & Environmental Design for Emerald Skyline.

To find out more information about Emerald City Solar or electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar and the current development in electrical energy storage technologies for a greener tomorrow, please contact Abraham Wien at aw@emeraldskyline.com or call us 305.424.8704.

 

Businesses Are Facing a New Reality. These Are the Ones That Are Succeeding.

They’re taking responsibility for their effect on people and the environment.

By Peter Lacy
View the original article here.

Astrid Stawiarz Getty Images for UN Global Compact

Astrid Stawiarz Getty Images for UN Global Compact

Evidence is mounting to show that the frequency and ferocity of extreme weather events is intensifying on a global scale. From severe droughts to powerful storms, we are living in an increasingly changeable, uncertain, and unpredictable world.

You don’t have to believe in climate change to accept this new reality. Resilience and the ability to manage challenges impacting us and our environment are of far greater importance to both business and society. Take the recent destructive hurricanes in the U.S. and the Caribbean, or the devastating floods in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh that represent a stark example of this new reality and of our growing vulnerability.

The role of business within this new reality is changing. Businesses have a critical role to play in helping solve the challenges we face through providing services and solutions that support society. In fact, businesses that do not adapt their models run the risk of eroding trust and ultimately, forfeiting customer loyalty.

Uncertainty in the world—from extreme events, to declining natural resources, to the changing skills required for employment—gives forward-thinking C-suite leaders an opportunity to adopt conscious capitalism through the incorporation of key elements like trust, collaboration, and stakeholder orientation into day-to-day business practices. And, as consumers increasingly demand that their brands reflect these objectives, companies that want to remain competitive will need to adapt by joining the circular economy.

At its most basic, the circular economy replaces the current wasteful linear economic model. Instead of organizations relying on finite resources, they conduct sustainable business. They find renewable resources. They remove waste at every stage, from sourcing to recycling—creating a business model that restores and regenerates, rather than depletes and throws away. They look at how products are made, who makes them, and where, as well as how those same products are recycled or sustainably retired. In fact, adopting a circular economy model is not simply about products and services but also the way we do business as companies. It presents an opportunity to move beyond simply meeting sustainability standards to a solution that transforms the current model of business and one that can create a competitive advantage for the leaders.

Leading companies are still innovating, but now in a way that takes responsibility for their effect on people, the environment, and the state of our world. And they have realized that—contrary to popular belief—doing so can still be profitable. Accenture research shows a potential $4.5 trillion reward for achieving sustainable businesses by 2030. And a number of companies are already making progress toward this aim.

Rubicon Global, for instance, a pioneering U.S.-based waste management company that connects customers directly with independent waste haulers, is disrupting the current waste disposal model to reduce waste to landfill, while passing on $1 million in savings to its clients across 80,000 locations.

Nike, another leading example, is rapidly transitioning toward its closed-loop vision with a bold target for FY2020: zero waste from contract footwear manufacturing going to landfill or incineration without energy recovery. To date, 70% of all Nike (NKE, -0.43%) footwear and apparel incorporates recycled materials, using 29 high-performance, closed-loop materials made from factory scraps.

As the circular economy and conscious capitalism take hold, the C-suite is taking note: 64% of UN Global Compact CEOs say sustainability issues play a central role in their strategic planning and business development, while 59% of CEOs report that their company can accurately quantify the business value created through their sustainability initiatives, up from 38% in 2013.

The circular economy, a critical aspect of this change, is already happening—so much so that the World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders, in collaboration with Accenture Strategy and in partnership with Fortune, recognize leaders through The Circulars, the world’s leading circular economy award program. The Circulars, presented each year at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, attracts entries from individuals and organizations across business and civil society, from global giants such as Unilever to innovative startups such as Method. A winner at The Circulars in 2015, Method was built on wholly circular and sustainable principles, ensuring 75% of its products are cradle-to-cradle certified, meaning they are designed and produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Method has eliminated countless toxic chemicals from homes by using natural inputs.

These are just a few examples of organizations driving value through circular economy innovation—there are many more. In a world in which conscious capitalism is becoming mainstream, the circular economy has a significant role to play in enabling businesses to make the transition whilst continuing to deliver value to customers, shareholders, and society. As more businesses take the lead, the opportunity that the circular economy represents will become a reality.

Many in the Faith Community are taking action to become Sustainable – is yours?

 

PJ PictureBy: Paul L. Jones, CPA
LEED Green Associate
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 

 

churchHow do you approach your decisions — by thinking primarily of yourself? Or do you consider how your actions will affect the beliefs and lives of others? Some Christians never stop to think that their choices can hurt or destroy someone else’s faith. They justify their behavior, saying God doesn’t convict them for it.

Paul blames the “stronger” Christian for these shipwrecks. He says we’re responsible not only for our actions, but also for the effect of those actions. In the end, we are to care more about the “brother for whose sake Christ died” than about our own wants or desires (1 Corinthians 8:11).

Because our faith is on display before the world, God promises rewards but insists on responsibility. One of the rewards is freedom from condemnation. But that freedom doesn’t mean license to do as we please without considering those who watch our example. Through the Spirit, we must discern the greater good and act on it.

As St. Paul’s teaching relates to climate change and sustainability, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, advises, “How we take care of creation will dictate how we care for one another and vice-versa. The Catholic approach holds that we are concerned about both God’s good gift of creation and the impacts of environmental degradation on people, especially those most vulnerable: the poor at home and abroad. As Pope Francis said in Laudato si; “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.’ For Catholics, this is not just about saving the polar bear but also saving ourselves from our own destructive habits.” (From “The Faith Community and Climate Change, A Q&A with Dan Misleh” by John Gehring, Commonweal, April 27, 2017)

In answer to the question, “Are Catholic bishops and clergy rallying behind the Pope’s message or has it been a cautious reception?”; Mr. Misleh replied:

“I think many are embracing the challenges of Laudato si.’ I’m encouraged by the leadership of Catholic leaders like Archbishop Dennis Schnurr in Cincinnati, who is supporting our Catholic Covenant Energies program, in which we bring our education and energy efficiency expertise along with financing to help parishes and schools reduce their energy use, save money and take advantage of the opportunity to educate parishioners, students, and parents about the importance of caring for creation and caring for the poor. I also think of Cardinals Cupich (Chicago), O’Malley (Boston), and Dolan (New York), who have benchmarked all archdiocesan buildings, begun solar installations, and systematically enrolled parishes in energy-efficiency programs.”

Also of note, “during this Year of Creation (2017) — unique to the Diocese of Burlington — Catholics throughout Vermont are encouraged to reflect upon the pope’s encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” and to discover Christ in all living things. From the red clover to the hermit thrush to the Green Mountains, all these gifts that surround us bear the stamp of God and are entrusted to our care, not only for personal benefit but the benefit of all those who share our common home and all those who will inhabit it after us.” (Vermont Catholic, Spring 2017)

The Church of England has created “ChurchCare,” a comprehensive source of information for everyone managing a church building in support of all those in parishes, dioceses and cathedrals caring for their buildings today and for the enjoyment of future generations.” It’s national environmental campaign exists to enable the whole Church to address – in faith, practice and mission – the issue of climate change. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is quoted: “Actions have to change for words to have effect.” (See www.churchcare.co.uk)

In another example of faith in action, the Florida East Coast Baptist Association has promoted “Green the Church” to amplify green theology, promote sustainable practices in the member churches and increase the power and potential of the national climate movement.

Although not all churches and dioceses are responding with the same level of commitment, the call to putting faith in action is being heard and answered by many:

  • In addition to evaluating all of the buildings for water use, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, the Archdiocese of Chicago has done a significant amount of work in making its buildings energy efficient. St. Joseph College Seminary, for example, has high-efficiency lighting control and heating systems and is LEED Gold certified.  The field operations center for Resurrection Cemetery has been heated with a solar system since 1978. The rooftop solar system deployed at Old St. Mary’s School generates an average 40 percent of the building’s energy needs during the summer months.
  • As part of the effort to adapt St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to the structural and environmental standards required of the 21st century, the building has been integrated with a state-of-the-art geothermal plant. The new plant allows the cathedral and adjoining buildings which total 76,000 square feet to regulate temperature with increased efficiency and a reduction in CO2 emissions. The Cathedral’s new plant is capable of generating 2.9 million BTU’s per hour of air conditioning and 3.2 million BTU’s per hour of heating when fully activated. Richard A. Sileo, Senior Engineer with Landmark Facilities Group, a member of the design team, says in a release: “We conducted a feasibility study and found that a geothermal system let us meet our goals with the smallest impact.”
  • At a more grass roots level, The Record, Archdiocesan news for Central Kentucky Louisville) reports on green practices of parishes and faith communities its September 21st, 2017 issue highlighted in an educational and inspirational event held on September 12th entitled “Caring for Creation: Stories of Success from Several Faith Communities:”
  • The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (Kentucky) said during the event that they have made significant strides in developing and implementing green initiatives sincethey added a commitment to care for creation to their mission statement in the mid-1990s. The statement reads in part: “Sisters and Associates are committed to work for justice in solidarity with oppressed peoples, especially the economically poor and women, and to care for the earth.”
  • The Congregation of nuns has committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2037.
  • They have also committed to becoming a “zero waste campus,” meaning that everything is either compostable or recyclable and nothing is sent to a landfill. They are already performing “waste audits” to determine how to eliminate waste.
  • Francis of Assisi parish has created an Ecological Stewardship committee that has held educational presentations on ecological sustainability, encouraged recycling and reusing cups, instead of foam cups, at parish events (which infuses a sustainable mindset among parishioners); and provided funds to convert lights at its homeless shelter from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent lights and is currently working to switch to LED lighting.
  • The parish cluster of St. James and St. Brigid reported at the Sept. 12 event that parishioners created a Creation Care Team last year under the guidance of the Catholic Climate Covenant.
  • The Creation Care Team has focused on decreasing overall energy usage, expanding recycling and supporting the St. James School Green Club, which tends anorganic vegetable and pollinator garden on campus, said Cynthia Dumas, one of the members of the Creation Care Team.
  • The parish bulletin also includes weekly articles on environmental issues and updates about what the care team is doing, Dumas said.

Whether it is at the direction of the archbishop, bishop or other Church leadership, or from the motivation of parishioners seeking to bring sustainability to their faith community, every action that puts into practice the Pope’s teachings on the care of creation contributes to making the world a better place for all. As the mission outreach and communication coordinator for the Diocese of Burlington envisions: “If the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation is successful in raising awareness of and action toward ecological justice, it can serve as an encouraging example for other Catholic dioceses and communities of faith throughout the country and the globe. There are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics on Earth — just think of what could be achieved if we committed to caring for the created world together.”

Then, as all faiths and faith communities grow in awareness and begins to truly adopt sustainable practices – not just at the parish, but also in the home, at work or school, and make it a priority in our politics – we can change, and quite possibly, save the world.

Faith-based organizations that help religious communities become sustainable include: Catholic Climate Covenant, Florida East Coast Green Union, Forum on Religion and Ecology, Interfaith Power and Light, The Green Seminary Initiative and Green Faith.

Amazon Invests In Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles

By: Tina Casey on Triple Pundit

Amazon Hydrogen
Retail giant Amazon made waves with its recent forays into the entertainment field. And now it looks like the sprawling enterprise is about to pull the rug out from under hydrogen fuel cell skeptics.

Last week the company signed a deal with fuel cell innovator Plug Power for a new generation of zero-emission, hydrogen-powered electric forklifts and other equipment at its fulfillment centers.

Warehouse operations aren’t the most exciting sector in the auto industry, but the new Amazon forklift deal could make a big difference for the future of fuel cell electric cars. That market has been slow to take off, but the Amazon announcement adds momentum to the trend, helping to keep investors and auto manufacturers interested in pushing the technology forward.

A big deal for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Fuel cell vehicles run on electricity, like the now-familiar battery electric vehicles. Both types of EV emit no air pollutants. The main difference is that fuel cells generate electricity on-the-go through a chemical reaction. Battery EVs run on stored electricity.

That difference looms large in warehouse operations, where excess fat shaved from time and space translates into big bottom-line savings.

Battery-powered forklifts require relatively long charging times, and extra storage space for battery charging. In contrast, fuel cell forklifts can be fueled up in a matter of minutes, like an ordinary gas-powered vehicle, and they don’t require a “battery room” or other excess storage.

Hydrogen fuel cell forklifts have already begun to establish a solid track record in the logistics sector, and it looks like Amazon didn’t take much convincing.

The recent deal enables the company to acquire more than 55 million common shares in Plug Power in connection with a $600 million commitment from Amazon to purchase goods and services from Plug Power.

This could be just the beginning…

Amazon and Plug Power plan on a relatively modest start for the new venture, with a total of $70 million in buys this year for fuel cell equipment at selected fulfillment centers.

What’s really interesting about the deal is the “and services” part of the agreement. Forklifts appear to be just the start of a wide-ranging collaboration between the two companies, leading to other applications.

Here’s Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh enthusing over the potentials:

“This agreement is a tremendous opportunity for Plug Power to further innovate and grow while helping to support the work Amazon does to pick, pack and ship customer orders. … Our hydrogen fuel cell technology, comprehensive service network, and commitment to providing cost-savings for customers has enabled Plug Power to become a trusted partner to many in the industry and we are excited to begin working with Amazon.”

To put this in perspective, consider that just a few years ago it was difficult to get investors interested in fuel cell technology. The hydrogen economy dream was hitting a harsh reality — namely that the technology was not quite ready for prime time. Growing competition from battery-powered EVs also helped to shove hydrogen fuel cells down the ladder.

TriplePundit’s RP Siegel interviewed Marsh about the fuel cell dilemma in 2012, and the CEO made these observations about Plug Power, forklifts and the future of fuel cell EVs:

“With limited capital, we had to be selective in our decisions about which markets to go after. … The one that really jumped out at us was replacing batteries in fork lift trucks with fuel cells. How big of a market could that be? Well, in the US there are over 1.5 million forklift trucks, and worldwide, the number is 6 million.

“We chose this market because it was a way to build a profitable business that would allow us to attract large customers in a relatively large market … as we continue to drive down our costs, we should be at parity with IC [internal combustion] engines in five to six years, at which point we’ll be ready to expand into other areas.”

With the new Amazon partnership, it looks like Plug Power is hitting that five- to six-year timeline for growing into other areas.

Fuel cell EVs hit the streets

Just a wild guess, but in a few years you could see Amazon introduce its own fuel cell EV for street use.

That may seem far-fetched, but consider that Google began dabbling in the related field of self-driving cars in 2015 and is now a burgeoning leader in the space. (That project has since been transferred to Google’s parent company, Alphabet.)

Apple is also inching into the self-driving car market.

Intel is another tech company putting feelers into the self-driving sector. Just last month it took a giant step with a $15.3 billion acquisition of the Israeli startup MobilEye.

Amazon will have to act fast if it wants to catch the train. Mainstream auto manufacturers are beginning to add fuel cell EVs to their rosters at a quickening pace.

Toyota was among the first to make a firm commitment to the field with its fuel cell Mirai. The company’s efforts include the all-important transition to sustainable hydrogen and support for growing the network of hydrogen fuel stations, along with a foray into the forklift sector.

Other companies introducing fuel cell EVs to the consumer market include GM and Honda.

So, who’s giving fuel cell EVs the stinkeye?

In response to the Amazon fuel cell forklift news, last week MIT Technology Review pumped out a brief article with this observation about the consumer market:

“Attempts to convince the public to embrace hydrogen-powered cars have flopped. While some automakers continue to push on with the vehicles, other are increasingly having second thoughts.”

Calling Debbie Downer!

On the brighter side, last December the journal IEEE Spectrum took an in-depth look at the potential for the fuel cell EV market to bust loose, penned by the director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine.

The article emphasized that both battery and fuel cell EVs will have a place in the zero-emission market of tomorrow, but fuel cells will give batteries a run for the money based on a number of advantages including range and refueling time.

The author, Scott Samuelson, also makes a good case that excess renewable energy can be used to manufacturing sustainable hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

That growing market could provide an important incentive for investors to accelerate the pace of renewable energy development.

3 tips for designing workplaces that support culture, brand, and community

An authentic culture cannot be forced but can be encouraged and supported.

By Hakee Chang, Denise Darrin and Lisa Weeks, Building Design & Construction, 2/2/2017

View the original article here.

workplace culture sustainabilityThe workplace has evolved exponentially over the past decade, from large, uniform workstations and offices to efficient open plans and auxiliary areas. Technology has advanced from desktop computers and landlines, to laptops, and mobile apps. Innovation in technology has driven an increase in employees’ productivity and efficiency, and innovation in design has strategically followed.

However, effective and engaging workplace design doesn’t stop with a response to technological and real estate needs. It must go further, supporting the creation and integration of a company’s culture, brand identity, and overall community.

CURATED CULTURE

The most integrated cultures are co-created by leaders and teams. They are shared, organic, and capable of evolving. An authentic culture cannot be forced, but can be encouraged and supported. Without direct participation and buy-in from those involved, a company’s culture can end up a “mission statement on business card” or a “tagline on a wall” – noticed upon move-in, but quickly forgotten thereafter.

We have been fortunate to see these principles in action with a number of our key clients. In particular, technology companies are dealing with cultural change on almost a daily basis as a result of rapid growth. For example, one financial technology client has an ever-adapting nature and willingness to learn. Their leadership embodies an approach that has allowed exceptionally talented people of various backgrounds to come together with a unified and understood purpose.

The ethos of any company is the driving force. People connect over shared stories and experiences. Our job as workplace designers is to clearly understand the experiences of each and every client. What are their company’s particular drivers and values? How we can create a space that reflects and enhances those values and support the natural curation of their culture?

 BUILDING BRAND AWARENESS

Understanding a client’s brand in the context of external perception and internal practices are two crucial elements to designing a meaningful workplace. Through visioning and programming interviews, we find that office staff often seeks their work environment to “walk the talk.” It has to be authentic and reflect the reasons why they joined the company, and offer opportunities to highlight how their contributions matter.

As a first step, we typically will create overlapping layers of an “experience map” to begin building a workplace design that contributes to the client’s ethos. We map out various use scenarios through points of view, such as anticipating the tour our client may give to a candidate or business partners, an all-hands meeting, or an event for external community engagement. These maps overlap with curated moments where people can connect to individual stories or testimonials that are both inspirational and aspirational.

We recently worked with a technology company whose focus is on physical activity and health, and we incorporated design elements to encourage movement. For example, we designed meeting spaces with treadmills, social and collaboration spaces along popular walking routes, and adaptable spaces with natural light, comfortable temperatures, and views. Since the company offices are spread between buildings within a dense urban location, we leveraged the city as a vital active conduit to tie both the company’s brand and connect staff with their customer base. Allowing workflow through the neighborhood created a first-hand brand awareness that extends beyond the interior office environment.

COMMUNITY GUIDELINES

Technology has allowed the traditional office to transform into a dynamic working environment. The workplace is no longer built on “my” office or “my” desk, but has developed into “our” space: a place for community.

Technology has provided flexibility, choice, and options to employees – giving everyone the ability to decide where, how, and when they work. Yet, the reduction of individual workspace has created a need for smaller neighborhoods within the larger community. To help alleviate the possibility of feeling “crowded” it is essential to effectively distribute varied opportunities for different work styles, while providing adequate support and shared spaces.

All of these factors have prescribed that companies establish community guidelines, the rules of engagement for the workplace. These guidelines address issues from etiquette to functionality.

Our Minneapolis office recently relocated and moved to an activity-based “free address” work environment with no assigned seats to untether talent from desks and empower employees with choice. Etiquette guidelines were created to assist in this new environment, including:

  1. Individuals are expected to clear their workspace of all materials if out of the office for more than four hours, and when they leave at the end of the day, so the location can host another user.
  2. Meeting rooms have different behaviors and etiquette associated with them. For instance, huddle rooms are non-reservable and dedicated to more informal, spontaneous meetings or calls.
  3. Project storage, personal storage, and office supplies have centralized home bases outside of the immediate workstations to prevent duplication and waste.

As an overall goal, the new workspace recognizes the value of a variety of workstyles: from large group meetings to spontaneous interactions to individual heads-down work. The studio supports this spectrum of work with project rooms, huddle rooms, pin-up spaces, and focus rooms.

Community guidelines present the parameters for employees to respect each other and their work places and to follow the “Platinum Rule”: treat others the way they want to be treated.

10 companies moving up in smart buildings

By Heather Clancy
View the original article here.

smart-buildingsThe phrase “Internet of things” has become a convenient catch-all for all manner of technologies that carry this common characteristic — they’re capable of sharing their data not only with each other but also with other information technology systems, enabling far deeper insights into how well they’re running and what’s going on around them.

In 2015, more than 15.4 billion gadgets fell into this uber category, according to data from market research firm IHS. That number could double by the end of 2020, and then again by the end of 2025. These “things” can be installed virtually everywhere, from factory floors to streetlights to water pipes — cities alone could spend at least $20 billion on sensor networks by 2020.

But one area to watch closely from sustainability perspective will be technologies related to buildings, both commercial and residential. Think of it this way: the Internet of things (aka IoT) is crucial for broader adoption of smart buildings. That will have big implications for how companies handle energy management. And for the next three years at least, IoT will be more pervasive in smart commercial buildings than anywhere else, suggests consulting firm Deloitte.

Things are certainly pointing up. Revenue related to installations of sensor-equipped lighting, climate control equipment, thermostats, and other automation systems could quadruple over the next decade to about $732 billion, predicts Navigant Research in a report published in early December.

“Connected or IoT devices in commercial buildings or homes enable a variety of applications and provide benefits related to automation, convenience, and, of course, energy efficiency — and these benefits are starting to resonate among building managers, homeowners, and even renters,” said Navigant principal research analyst Neil Strother.

More evidence that interest becoming more serious: ABI Research predicts that revenue related to IoT-enabled smart building technologies should grow to more than $8 billion in 2020, compared with just $625 million last year. The bulk of that money will be related to smart lighting and “intuitive” HVAC control systems, according to the research firm.

“IoT platforms such as GE’s Predix, IBM’s Watson, and SAP’s HANA, in collaboration with facility service providers, like CBRE, ISS World, and ENGIE, are gradually creating inroads by integrating multiple building automation systems to deliver a unified facilities management solution,” said ABI analyst Adarsh Krishnan. “the ‘make or buy’ dilemma of whether to develop the solution in-house or collaborate with a third-party technology vendor.”

What makes the transformation so hard, of course, is the long life expectancy of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems — usually at least 15 years, and counting.

But leading manufacturers are working diligently to instrument and automate their systems through IoT hardware and software, so that commercial buildings can respond better to environmental stimuli or a company’s energy efficiency policies. Here’s a cheat sheet of 10 big players to watch closely in the upcoming year (presented alphabetically).

Cisco

Part of San Jose, California-based networking giant Cisco’s “Internet of Everything” mantra is an energy efficiency concept it started pushing more aggressively in early 2016 called the “Digital Ceiling.”

The idea is to consolidate smart lighting networks and other Internet-connected devices into a centralized dashboard that can be controlled via a smartphone application. The system includes smart lighting that doesn’t require a separate electricity source—they are powered by the Ethernet network itself. Cisco lined up an impressive list of partners, including LED lighting pioneer Cree, to help evangelize the idea.

Hitachi

There’s been plenty of buzz about the 106-year-old Japanese conglomerate’s compelling business model for microgrids. Back in May, however, Hitachi began touting its IoT strategy, which is based on a technology called Lumada.

This platform will be relevant across a broad range of applications not just smart buildings, including connected vehicles, although details about the technology are just starting to emerge. “While it is still very early days in the IoT platform market, the landscape is crowded, making it difficult for new vendors to differentiate themselves,” said Christian Renaud, an analyst for 451 Research. “Hitachi’s extensive expertise in operational technology and IT gives them a unique understand of the fundamental requirements to build and deploy IoT solutions at scale.”

Honeywell

Honeywell’s IoT strategy already touches about 10 million smart buildings worldwide. One of the Morris Plains, N.J.-based company’s latest forays is a mobile app — which sounds similar to technology from startup Comfy — that lets building occupants report issues with heating or cooling. Basically, people become “sensors” alongside digital counterparts such as sensor. “Occupant engagement is an increasingly important aspect of intelligent building solutions,” said Navigant analyst Casey Talon.

IBM

The tech giant has been involved with a myriad of smart-this-and-that initiatives related to its Smarter Planet campaign. Now, IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., is putting the firepower of its Watson artificial intelligence and data analysis software behind its projects that make buildings smarter.

One of its biggest customers for the technology is ISS, a facilities management company that will use Watson in more than 25,000 buildings to assess readings from sensors on windows, doors, chairs, food dispensers, air conditioning systems and so on. The sensors on doors, for example, can help commercial kitchens within these facilities figure out how many meals to cook for lunch, helping cut back on food waste. “Putting a ‘human touch’ in buildings helps to increase employee productivity, decrease absenteeism, and makes a better impression on visitors,” said ISS CEO Jeff Gravenhorst.

Deals beween mammoth players in building automation and connectivity, such as the one between Johnson Controls and Cisco, are becoming more common.

Johnson Controls

Already a big proponent of the push to net-zero buildings and the idea that buildings should “talk” to each other, $37.7 billion Johnson Controls became an even larger force in IoT technologies when the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, company merged in September with security services firm Tyco. Johnson Controls allied with IBM on the smarter building cause back in 2010, and moved closer to Cisco earlier this year (it’s one of several companies supporting the Digital Ceiling framework).

Legrand

The French-born electrical component manufacturer, which has been taking a deeper interest in sustainable business practices across its own operations, launched its IoT initiative dubbed ELIOT in November.

Legrand sees its technology as the glue tying together automation technologies from the likes of Samsung and Cisco. The effort even supports Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled home automation gadget, which is being engineered to handle tasks such as adjusting lights or temperatures. It helps that $4.5 billion Legrand’s sales for connected devices were more than $350 million in 2015, up 34 percent. “Legrand is built in, not simply plugged in,” said Stephen Schoffstall, chief marketing officer for the company. “This distinction is critical when you consider that ELIOT is an expression of Legrand’s determination to evolve the experience of living, working, and operating in buildings — and to minimize the impact those buildings will have on the environment.”

Panasonic

The Japanese company is already a well-known player in green building technologies such as energy-efficient lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning, heating and renewable energy. Like its biggest peers and competitors, it is prioritizing investments that use data from these systems to help them run ever-more efficiently. One example is its agreement with Germany’s Schneider Electric, announced in October, under with the two companies are collaborating on wireless technology that connects Schneider’s building management system with Panasonic HVAC systems that use variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology. Translation: the amount of energy they require can be adjusted more finely than previous generations of the equipment.

“By combining the power of building management with cutting-edge VRF technology, we are able to help our customers further reduce capital and operating expenditures and reach new levels of sustainability,” said Toshiyuki Takagi, executive officer of Panasonic Corp., and president of Panasonic Air-Conditioner.

Schneider Electric

The energy management specialist, which has been especially vocal in the past about smart cities projects, overhauled its smart building product line called EcoStruxure in late November. You might think of Schneider first as a hardware company, but its partnership with cloud services giant Microsoft is focused on helping companies analyze operational data more efficiently. Its aforementioned partnership with Panasonic is also powerful.

Siemens

An emerging force in commercial and community microgrids, German conglomerate Siemens is also shoring up its IoT expertise. During 2016, it announced separate partnerships with IBM and consulting firm Capgemini to build even more credibility. The IBM pact centers on creating a cloud service to help corporate real estate managers gain access to energy efficiency metrics for their facility portfolios. The deal with Capgemini has a similar goal.

Verdigris Technologies

This San Francisco upstart is using artificial intelligence to collect information from a building’s electrical panels and then analyze these “fingerprints” for opportunity to optimize settings and to predict possible maintenance issues that could boost power consumption.

Verdigris raised $6.7 million in an October venture capital round that was led by contract manufacturer Jabil and Verizon Ventures, bringing total funding to about $15 million. The company is doing well helping companies in the hospitality sector reduce electricity usage; Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood Hotels are all customers.

The electric car market is growing 10 times faster than its dirty gasoline equivalent

There will be two million electric cars on the road by the end of 2016.

Written by: Alejandro Dávila Fragoso
View the original article on ThinkProgress

evDespite low oil prices, plug-in electric vehicles (EV) are charging forward worldwide, with more than 2 million expected to be on the roads by the end of 2016, according to recent market figures.

Around 312,000 plug-in electric cars were sold during the first half of 2016, according to analysts at EV Volumes — a nearly 50 percent increase over the first half of 2015.

The rise in sales is attributed to a growing Chinese market, followed by sales in Europe and the United States, where Tesla Motors Co. is now dominating the luxury sedan market, according to recent reports.

And though EVs are a fraction of the global vehicle stock — less than 1 percent— the industry is growing about 10 times faster than the traditional vehicle market.

“What we have seen over the past few months is a complete culture change.”

This increase could be significant for public health and the environment in the United States and elsewhere. In the United States, transportation is now topping the electricity sector as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions, a key factor in human-caused climate change.

Moreover, fossil-fuel vehicles are known to be major contributors of air pollution associated with asthma, allergies, cancer, heart conditions, and premature death, according to the United Nations. And while EVs can reduce air pollution in cities, they also mean less oil extraction, which comes with air pollution and environmental issues of its own.

Right now, EVs’ presence is too small to affect fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, according to a 2016 International Energy Agency (IEA) report. However, the IEA noted this could soon change, with countries like Norway, the Netherlands, and China boldly turning to EVs as they aim to slash emissions in the next few years.

Norway, a small but rich nation, is now leading the world in EVs. One in three new cars sold there is electric, and that proportion is increasing due to tax breaks and investment in charging infrastructure, The Guardian reported. The Netherlands is following closely, since, like Norway, it wants to phase-out fossil-fuel cars within the next decade. According to a Transport & Environment report released Thursday, EV sales in Europe doubled last year to 145,000.

In China, the rise of EVs is noteworthy, too. One in four electric cars sold worldwide is sold in China. “What we have seen over the past few months is a complete culture change,” said Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at Transport & Environment.

This growth is expected to continue around the world. Some studies suggest that by 2030, EVs could account for two-thirds of all cars in wealthy cities like London and Singapore. That is likely to happen thanks to stricter emissions rules, consumer demand, and falling technology costs.

Batteries, a major factor behind high EV costs, are getting 20 percent cheaper every year, according to EV Volumes.


The State of the Electric Car Market in 4 Charts and Graphs

, LEAD POLICY ANALYST, CLEAN VEHICLES
View the original article here.
I’m guessing that over the past 3 months (or more), your news feed has been dominated by election-related stories. So you may have missed the recent good news about the electric vehicle (EV) market in the United States. To bring you up to speed (and provide a brief break from election hullaballoo) here are 4 graphs that explain what’s been happening in the world of EVs.

Graph 1 : EV sales are charging ahead (see what I did there?)

EV sales in the US just hit a new record. Over 45,000 EVs were sold in the third quarter of 2016, up more than 60 percent from the same time a year ago.

2

The sales increase can be partly attributed to the second generation Chevy Volt, which became widely available in March 2016 and includes 50 miles of electric range along with a backup gasoline engine. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) like the Volt allow many drivers to do all of their normal daily driving purely on electricity, without any fear of running out of juice because they can just fill up with gas if the batteries are drained.

Confused about the difference between PHEVs like the Volt and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) like the Nissan LEAF? Check out this explainer post.

Graph 2 : EVs are selling despite lower oil prices

EV sales reached this new high-water mark despite spotty availability of EV models across most of the country and continued lower-than-average oil prices, a factor often cited as hampering EV sales.

3

Low gas prices do take some of the spotlight off of EVs, despite their lower operating costs compared to gas-powered vehicles. But even with gas hovering around $2.30 a gallon, driving on electricity remains cheaper.

The US Department of Energy estimates that driving on electricity is like paying $1.15 per gallon of gas, and electricity prices have historically been much more stable and predictable than gasoline.

Graph 3: Sales would be even higher if they were more widely available

Generally speaking, EVs are not readily available outside of California. The current lack of availability is due, in part, to the fact that a major policy pushing automakers to offer EVs—theCalifornia Zero Emission Vehicle Program—does not require automakers to sell EVs outside of California (yet).

4

The requirements of the California program are set to expand to 9 additional states (ME, CT, VT, NY, MA, RI, MD, NJ, OR) in 2018, which together made up 28 percent of combined vehicle sales in 2015. So, the expanded role of policy pushing automakers to sell EVs in major vehicle markets outside of California will likely accelerate aggregate EV sales over the next couple years.

Graph 4 : More automakers are getting in the EV game

2017 should be an exciting year for EVs. Chevy is about to drop the Bolt, an all-electric car with over 200 miles of range and a price tag of around $30,000 after the federal tax credit. Toyota is releasing a new Plug-in Prius, now called Prius Prime, and recent pricing announcements put the cost similar to the price of existing Prius models.

Also in 2017, Tesla is aiming to ship their much-anticipated Model 3, and Hyundai will launch their Ioniq series that will include several electric drive train options. In 2018, Audi is slated to launch an all-electric 300-mile range SUV. Check this post for more detail on other EVs coming to showrooms soon.

5

Overall, more EV options mean more choices for drivers to choose a vehicle that is cheaper and cleaner than a comparable gasoline model (and fun to drive). Though the EV market still has to overcome some hurdles , the state of play right now provides real reason to be optimistic about where EVs are headed.

The Importance of an Energy Assessment for Commercial Buildings

By John Losey, Owner and Founder The BP Group, Energy Manager Today, 9/1/2016

View the original article here.

Building owners and property managers that take on the responsibility of limiting energy consumption can be looked at as environmental leaders. While energy management adds extra tasks to everyday lists, the benefits outweigh the time and money spent, which is usually returned in savings.

There are numerous areas to take into consideration when it comes to commercial buildings, and being that commercial buildings are generally large, the impact can be large as well. These areas include the HVAC system, chillers, windows, lighting, electrical equipment, and any other factors that may be contributing to the building’s energy consumption.

While there are various ways to be involved with bettering the environment outside of where you live and work, starting in a place that you occupy everyday has the potential of having long term results if the actions are carried through as often as you’re there.

Consider creating an outlined approach for managing the building’s energy with these areas in mind:

Identify Sustainable Alternatives Where Energy is Being Used:

  • Are there upgraded, energy-efficient versions of the equipment you can be using instead?
  • Could you use different settings on the equipment?

Assess the Purpose of Every Area:

  • Is the lighting being utilized in every room?
  • Is the size of the HVAC system an adequate fit for the building and its purpose?

Evaluate Maintenance Plans:

  • How frequent are the utilities maintained?
  • Do the maintenance technicians practice with energy efficiency in mind?

Look for Possible Areas of Energy Loss:

  • Are the building’s windows sealed properly?
  • Is the equipment too old for efficient functioning?

These are questions you should ask yourself if you’re trying to assess energy consumption and find that alternative route to save not only energy, but money as well.

After addressing these questions, you may find yourself planning to make some changes. Here is the information you should know for doing so:

Energy Efficient Equipment: Whether it’s the HVAC system, the utility lighting or the other various appliances being used in the building, there are energy-efficient options to consider. This includes ones with ENERGY STAR ratings, which match the standards set by the government.

Settings & Thermostats: Just by being knowledgeable about specific settings and the different types of available thermostats, you can be saving a substantial amount of energy. Depending on the type of building and the function(s) of the building, settings can be applied to use less energy in an area that doesn’t need it. The same idea goes for thermostats. Programmable thermostats allow for precise regulation of energy consumption. This means making sure the temperatures aren’t set too high or too low when the building or part of a building isn’t in use. Programmable thermostats keep the location comfortable when needed, but help save energy when it’s not.

Lighting: It’s better to be the building that turns its lights off when it isn’t being used, than a building that keeps them on 24/7. It’s also important to consider energy-saving types, such as LED or solar. With these kinds, you can also invest in timers and dimmers.

HVAC Size: According to ENERGY STAR, “at least 25% of all rooftop HVAC units are oversized, resulting in increased energy costs and equipment wear.” Determining what size HVAC system the building needs is a job for a professional technician, and it’s an important part of the overall building assessment.

Maintenance: Building maintenance is not only important for saving energy and money, it’s important for the building’s health and those occupying it. This includes electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc. While there are tasks you can manage on your own, there are specific tasks that are recommended for the hands of a professional technician. Whatever the area, it’s important to have maintenance scheduled. Having a definite schedule helps to prevent sudden issues, which prevents sudden energy loss as well.

Technicians: Certain companies know the importance of offering energy-efficient services. This means that they practice in ways that are beneficial for the environment. Research the companies in your area and look for the ways they’re working to save energy and you money. This is an important quality, and more companies are beginning to realize that.

Windows, Replacements & Other Areas of Loss: Other ways to assess energy is by looking into the not so obvious. This includes windows, old systems that don’t show signs of stress until it’s too late, and too many running appliances and pieces of equipment causing heat. If windows aren’t sealed properly, especially in summer and winter, your HVAC system may be working harder than it has to in order to reach the desired temperature. Leaks of hot or cold air will cause this. Another concern are systems that don’t show signs of stress. If the system is old, it’s definitely recommended to have it maintained, even if you think otherwise. The inside has moving parts that may be working very hard to keep it running, and the machine giving out might be the first sign if you wait too long. Lastly, there may be too much heat. Too many heat producing appliances or pieces of equipment may cause the air conditioner to work harder, similar to an open window on a hot summer day.

Commercial buildings don’t function alone, they need the help of energy, and all building owners and property managers can help conserve it.

John Losey is the owner and founder of The BP Group, a leader in Commercial HVAC Services