Future Benefits

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

Floridians Overwhelmingly Support Solar In Primary Vote

A ballot measure approved Tuesday improves the economics of solar in the Sunshine State.

View the original article here.

Orlando Fernandez places a sticker on his shirt after casting his primary vote, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Hialeah, Florida. Voters approved a pro-solar measure by 70 percent. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALAN DIAZ

Orlando Fernandez places a sticker on his shirt after casting his primary vote, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016, in Hialeah, Florida. Voters approved a pro-solar measure by 70 percent. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALAN DIAZ

Solar advocates finally got a win in the Sunshine State on Tuesday, as voters approved a measure to get rid of property taxes on solar equipment.

With more than 1,970,000 Floridians checking ‘yes,’ the measure, known as Amendment 4, received more support than the state’s two U.S. Senate primary winners, Marco Rubio (R) and Patrick Murphy (D), combined.

It’s not surprising that the measure passed, although the overwhelming support was a morale boost for the industry, which has faced hurdles in Florida. Amendment 4 received 72 percent approval overall — and needed only 60 percent to pass.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses” — Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R)

The amendment was the culmination of a bipartisan effort from the state legislature to make solar more affordable, especially for big box stores and for solar companies that offer leased equipment. While homeowners themselves were already exempt from paying property tax on solar equipment that they owned, businesses were on the hook.

“The passage of Amendment 4 is a victory for Florida’s taxpayers and businesses,” State Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R) said in a statement. “Floridians will benefit from lower taxes, reduced energy costs and the increased security of a diversified energy portfolio.”

Rodrigues cosponsored the bill putting the amendment on the ballot, along with fellow state representatives Lori Berman (D) and Dwight Dudley (D). The amendment had broad support from solar industry groups, environmental groups, and traditional business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and the Florida Retail Federation. The amendment will now go back to the legislature to be enacted into law.

“With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved.” — Ragan Dickens, Walmart

Supporters are hoping the tax break will spur companies such as Walmart, IKEA, and Costco, which have made massive investments in solar elsewhere in the country, to install solar panels on their Florida stores. It will also allow solar leasing companies such as SolarCity to improve their margins.

“While we don’t have any onsite solar installations at our stores in Florida right now, we’re always looking at opportunities to add solar at stores across the country where it makes economic sense,” said Ragan Dickens, director of sustainability communications for Walmart. “With this Florida amendment, the economics of solar have improved, and we’ll certainly evaluate our opportunities there.”

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group, Florida has the third-most potential for solar in the country, but it is only 14th in amount of installed solar — even while installing 90 percent more solar in the past year. Massachusetts, Colorado, and North Carolina all have more installed solar.

“It’s clear Floridians want better access to affordable, clean energy options and this vote is a significant step in the right direction,” SEIA vice president Sean Gallagher said in a statement. “Now it’s time to keep the momentum going. To ensure a bright solar future for Florida, customers should vote NO on Amendment 1, the anti-solar amendment that will be on Florida ballots this November.”

Amendment 1 was certainly the dark cloud on the horizon during the Tuesday’s Amendment 4 party.

If Amendment 1 passes, it will prohibit Floridians from selling their electricity to third parties. In effect, it would do away with Floridians’ rights to lease solar panels, since, in that situation, the owner of the panels generally sells the electricity to the homeowner. Leasing solar systems has been an effective and popular way to allow homeowners to go solar without paying for the system up front.

Opponents have argued that the measure is designed to limit rooftop solar in Florida, and, as written, is intentionally confusing to voters, who might not understand what they are voting for.

“[Tuesday’s vote] is a big step forward for Florida, removing a longtime barrier to solar adoption, and the wide margin shows voters want rooftop solar,” said Will Craven, a spokesman for SolarCity. “But Amendment 1 in November could be three steps back, as it aims to trick these voters into supporting something that sounds pro solar, but would actually put a thriving solar industry further out of reach. Only monopoly utilities will benefit from a Yes on 1 vote, everyone else will lose.”

The state Supreme Court ruled against that argument in March and allowed the measure to go to voters during the general election.

Amendment 1 will also face a 60 percent threshold for approval, but there is expected to be a significant media campaign encouraging people to vote yes on 1.

Growing a circular economy: Ending the Throwaway Society

PJ Pictureby Paul L. Jones, CPA & LEED Green Associate

recycleIn our February issue of Sustainable Benefits, Kendall Gillen introduced the concept of a Circular Economy (see “The Changing Face of Waste Management and the Shift Toward a Circular Economy“) by contrasting it with “today’s linear consumerist society. Once a material of substance is no longer considered useful, it is discarded and left in the hands of waste management….”

“Circular Economy” is defined as “a generic term for an industrial economy that is producing no waste or pollution, by design or intention, and in which material flows are of two types: biological nutrients, designed to reenter the biosphere safely and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate at high quality in the production system without entering the biosphere as well as being restorative and regenerative by design.” (Wikipedia)

In its report published in July 2014, “Growing a circular economy: Ending the throwaway society,” Great Britain’s House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says, “The current way our economy consumes resources is not sustainable. A ‘linear approach – where materials are extracted, made into a product, used and discarded – wastes valuable resources and damages the environment. In addition, increasing levels of consumption in developing countries will put ever more pressure on the prices of materials and subsequent costs for businesses and consumers. A ‘circular’ approach of re-using resources, maximizing their value over time, makes environmental and economic sense. There are potentially billions of pounds (or dollars) of benefits for businesses across the economy by becoming more resource efficient.”

An early concept introduced way back in September 2009 was the circular nature of sustainability as practiced in society represented by the Ricoh Cornet Circle reproduced below.
Comet Circle

In a 2015 report, Jennifer Gerholdt, environmental program director of the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, wrote: “If we continue with the business-as-usual approach, companies and society will witness a probable surge in price volatility, inflation of key commodities, and an overall decline — and in some cases, depletion — of critical material inputs.” In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, commodity prices rose more than 150 percent between 2002 and 2010.

In her June 23rd article, “The Evolving Ton and the Circular Economy, “Elizabeth Comere, Director of Environmental and Government Affairs for Tetra Pak, reports: “At the Sustainability in Packaging Conference held in Chicago this past April, a surprising number of presentations focused on packaging recycling topics. Increasing consumer access to recycling, changing recycling behavior through labeling and better linking brand owners with recyclers were among the topics covered. Five years ago, recycling took a backseat to topics such as sustainable design and life cycle analysis.   A primary reason for this shift in emphasis is the growing realization of the importance of having an effective post-consumer materials recovery and recycling system, and secondly, concern over the fact that the current system in the United States is falling short of meeting this objective.”

Many companies, including Google and Dell, are already implementing a circular economy model. They are partnering with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on closed-loop initiatives. These firms see the circular economy not only as a way to reduce waste and improve sustainability performance, but also increase competitiveness, new product development and overall sales. Between January 2014 and August 2015, Dell used more than 4,500 metric tons of post-consumer recycled plastics in its products. Cumulatively, the company has used closed-loop recycled-content plastic across 34 products globally through its closed-loop supply chain, turning waste into a resource.

Analysts have showed that there is considerable financial opportunity, as well as environmental benefit, associated with a scaled-up circular economy. In particular, in the electronics sector, precious metals recovery represents a significant business opportunity. Trucost estimates that if recovery of gold, silver and platinum increased from current rates to 100 percent, the financial and natural capital benefits would increase by $10 billion.

“A shift from a linear to a circular economy could unlock an estimated $4.5 trillion in additional economic growth by 2030,” Gerholdt is quoted by Environmental Leader in an article by Jessica Lyons Hardcastle published 11/19/2016. “The circular economy has captured the imagination of many companies that see the economic innovation opportunities of this more restorative model to tackle sustainability challenges, drive performance, competitiveness and innovation, and stimulate economic growth and development.”

When it comes to burnishing your organization’s or your building’s brand and cleaning its footprint, the efforts center on reducing, reusing and recycling nearly every material used – regardless of whether it is in production, operations or management  According to Dan Gilbert, Head of global sustainability for international facilities management company, ISS, the ultimate aim, is to create “zero waste,” which can mean eliminating anywhere from 90% to 100% of the waste your company is putting into landfills. The last 10%, he emphasized, is where the real work is. To get there, organizations need to measure and manage their waste streams, and report their progress at least on a quarterly basis.

“What is the cost of recycling versus putting it in the trash,” Gilbert tells us; “If you save money, your corporate leadership is more likely to get behind the initiative.” For commercial real estate, your tenants will recognize it and value efforts to achieve zero waste.

While many sustainability efforts do require an upfront investment in time and resources, they build a positive community image as well as among potential tenants. Some examples include:

Computers would be the worst thing to toss in the landfill, says Gilbert. That’s because they have an “encyclopedia of metals” that can leach into the ground water system.

Other things that businesses can recycle include office supplies, office equipment, boxes, shelving and racks. Furthermore, cement, asphalt, wood, carpet, pellets and drywall can be recycled or reused.

The companies that accept those items might pay the corporate donor for the materials that will ultimately go into new products. If a mobile phone is built from recycled parts, it prevented waste from going into the landfill and it has created a perfectly good use of still viable parts. Similarly, recycling LCD screens, computer and medical equipment would have the additional benefit of preserving significant amounts of raw materials, such as Gallium in LCS screens and integrated circuits, Beryllium, Niobium and Helium in medical equipment and increasing the affordability of new medical equipment.

Buildings with in-house cafeterias can compost their food waste rather than ditch it in the trash. “Food waste is heavy and it breaks down and creates methane,” says Gilbert. Instead, it can be composted and that enriches the soil.  Things like plastic scraps, tableware and coffee cups can also be eco-friendly — meaning they are biodegradable and can be turned into compost.

  • Reported today by Environmental Leader. “Dozens of major companies including ABC Disney, Whole Foods and Anheuser-Busch with offices in New York City have diverted at least half of their waste from landfills and incineration, responding to Mary Bill de Blasio’s Zero Waste by 2030 challenge. The 31 business participants collectively diverted 36,910 tons of waste by increasing recycling, composting more than 24,500 tons of organic material and donating 322 tons of food, according to the mayor’s officer”

Every building owner and every business can take steps to be more environmentally friendly. One of the quickest ways to do so is to create separate bins for the recyclables and the real trash — but not to mix the two. Doing so, says Gilbert, could taint the bottles, plastics and papers. And a “single-stream” deposit in which everything goes into one bin is better than having different ones for different items.

As for the businesses that have to invest in the bins: “It’s hard enough to get them to buy one, much less four or five of them,” says Gilbert. A central place to put all recyclables is therefore the best solution. Having trouble finding a vendor to pick up such items? Start with the company that picks your trash, Gilbert said. And if that doesn’t work, get on line and look for one.

He points to a Utah State University audit that found 20-40 percent of the stuff that goes into the trash could be recycled.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says the circular economy concept is gaining traction in the US because of the opportunities it offers businesses willing to capture new value from existing operations and resources, for example by redesigning products and business models, building new relationships with customers, harnessing technology to increase the utilization of assets, and switching to renewable energy.

Given the 7.4 Billion people who now roam this earth and the fact that our natural resources are not unlimited, The linear “take, make, dispose” model is not sustainable. We can no longer afford to throw away materials that can be re-used or recycled.

According to Nichola Mundy, senior consultant at Axion Consulting, “The circular economy aims to develop closed-loop business systems that enables economic growth whilst decoupling it from resource consumption. Circular economy business models, such as leasing, allow full traceability of materials and enables the business to keep hold of its resources.”

As Ms. Gillen, LEED Process Manager at Emerald Skyline, noted in her February article, “Since construction and demolition waste constitutes one-third of all waste, it is necessary that the (commercial real estate) industry be methodically directed toward a circular economy, minimizing waste and maximizing value.

Emerald Skyline Corporation, whose principals include real estate, sustainability, resiliency, architecture and biological science professionals is uniquely qualified to advise you on how your organization can be a good corporate citizen and begin reaping the sustainable benefits of a circular economy. We can provide you with the tools and guidance you need to save money by being resourceful.

Remember the old adage “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” It’s time for us to realize, it is a treasure for all of us.

U.S. Green Building Council’s New Report Reveals Hospitality Industry Poised for Tremendous Growth in Green Building

U.S. Green Building Council’s New Report Reveals Hospitality Industry Poised for Tremendous Growth in Green Building

LEED in Motion: Hospitality report highlights hotel brands across the world incorporating LEED and other sustainability practices

Washington, D.C. — (Feb. 18, 2016) — Today, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) released its LEED in Motion: Hospitality report, which showcases tremendous industry growth in green building and defines the scale up opportunities for the hospitality sector. More than 109 million square feet of hotel space is currently LEED certified, and the report highlights some of the most impressive LEED-certified hotels throughout the world.

“Across industries we are seeing an increase in consumer demand toward sustainability practices, and no industry is better poised to meet these demands than hospitality. This growing sector is rapidly adopting green buildings because owners and developers want to enhance their triple bottom line – people, planet and profit,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and founding chair, USGBC. “LEED is a transformative tool that positively impacts the quality of our built space by creating a healthier, more sustainable environment that saves money and resources.”

Hotels consume natural resources at an extraordinarily high rate as they are occupied 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With more than five billion square feet of space in the U.S. alone, there is an enormous opportunity for the industry to transform the impact of the built environment. A

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), the world’s most widely used green building rating program, has a growing presence in the hospitality industry – and the number of LEED-certified buildings is expected to continue at a strong pace. Currently, there are more than 1,400 hotels participating in LEED representing 638.7 million square feet. Of that, there are more than 300 LEED-certified hotels comprising nearly 109.2 million square feet of space.

According to a recent study by McGraw Hill Construction, green construction in the hospitality sector has increased by 50 percent from 2011-2013 and now represents 25 percent of all new construction in the sector today. USGBC’s recent Green Building Economic Impact Study also found that across industries, green construction is outpacing that of traditional construction and is poised to create more than 3.3 million U.S. jobs and $190.3 billion in labor earnings by 2018.

The Changing Face of Waste Management and the Shift Toward a Circular Economy

KG ResizeBy: Kendall Gillen, LEED Process Management,
Emerald Skyline Corporation

The concept of waste is well known in today’s linear consumerist society. Once a material or substance is no longer considered useful, it is discarded and left in the hands of waste management. The conversion of waste materials into reusable materials helps to reduce the amount of waste and the consumption of raw materials, otherwise known as recycling. Since both of these concepts have been around for most of human history, and we are still producing alarming amounts of waste, 251 million tons of which only 34.5% is recycled in the U.S. according to the EPA, it is clear that responsible management of waste is essential to sustainable building.

Designing for responsible waste management and sustainable building requires a plan so that it can be carried through from construction/renovation to operations and maintenance. The LEED credit(s) on solid waste management call for diversion of both construction and demolition debris from landfills and incineration facilities. Instead, these materials should be properly redirected back into the manufacturing process or sent to the proper facilities for sorting and reuse. In addition, regular building operations must include a recycling plan to sort materials by category such as paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, food waste, and metals. For more information on the intent and requirements of the solid waste management credit, please visit the USGBC website. Not only does having a plan have a better impact on the environment, sustainable waste management has many other incentives such as valuable resources found in waste, taxes, reduced transportation costs, and growing public awareness of environmental stewardship.

Image Credit: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Image Credit: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation


Reducing waste and increasing reuse and recycling are critical, but some have even posed the question whether or not we could change the way we view waste altogether. The circular economy concept is gaining momentum which accentuates keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extract maximum value from products, and repurpose them at the end of their life. To quote Stacy Glass of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, whose aim is to eliminate the concept of waste rather than just reduce waste:

“For too long, the value has been simply put on recycling with no concern for what that material is and if it has a valuable second or even third life. Recycling is dealing with the problems of past design. We need to change the emphasis to be: safe ingredients, perpetually cycled, design in ways that harmonize with humans and the environment. The future is nutrient management, not waste management.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has wonderful educational resources pertaining to the circular economy, including this aesthetic and informative General Resources Map.

As a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science, I find the circular economy concept to be brilliant as it emphasizes Biomimicry, or mimicking the processes already found in nature. However, our existing linear economy will require a changing mindset that ultimately lies with the demand by individual consumers as well as the supply side that must switch from cheaply made goods to goods designed with the intent of “made to be made again,” meaning quality ‘nutrients’ or materials.

Since construction and demolition waste constitutes nearly one-third of all waste, it is necessary that the industry be methodically directed toward a circular economy, minimizing waste and maximizing value. Using the following methods and many others, construction waste can be limited by:

  • Developing a construction waste management plan
  • Identifying and sorting materials such as drywall, lumber, concrete, plastics, etc. that can be reused or recycled
  • Salvaging materials such as doors and windows for future use
  • Chipping branches and trees to use as landscaping mulch
  • Purchasing in bulk to reduce packaging waste

Buildings should be dismantled and sorted rather than demolished, which is a core principle of the LEED program. Emerald Skyline Corporation can handle the management of this process. Please visit the website for more information. The same goes for construction in that the building materials themselves need to be designed for eventual disassembly. What do you think it will require for the industry to make this shift?

One point is evident, and that is the fact that the future of waste management, recycling, reuse, and how we view these constructs is changing to meet the demands of our global economy as well as preserve our natural resources. As professionals in the sustainable building industry, we must all do our part to encourage the responsible disposable of solid waste by redirecting recyclable resources back to the manufacturing process and reusable materials to appropriate sites.

 

 
Sources: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2015/11/06/the-future-of-recycling-waste-management-is-resource-management-experts-say/#ixzz3yNPIryJl

http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/pdfs/2014_Sustainability_Report.pdf

http://www3.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/2012_msw_fs.pdf

http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/

www.usgbc.org

 

LEED Project Update – Build Better Codes

JulieBy Julie Lundin, NCIDQ, LEED AP ID+C, ASID
Founder, Director of LEED Process Management for Emerald Skyline Corporation

Emerald Skyline Corporation, in conjunction with Golden Spiral Design, is designing, renovating and repurposing an unoccupied industrial building located in Boca Raton, FL. This distinctive commercial building will include many sustainable features with the intent to obtain LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the USGBC. LEED certification recognizes performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. It is a whole-building approach to sustainability which will enable us to save on utilities and maintenance while improving the well-being of our personnel and our clients.

LEED is a third party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The LEED Green building rating system encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.

We continue to modify the design of the building in preparation for submission to the City of Boca Raton Development Services Department. In preliminary meetings with the Planning Department and Traffic Engineers it was determined that the building occupancy will require a minimum of 8+ parking spaces per the existing (dated) Municipal Codes. The limited space for parking on the site will make it difficult to meet these requirements.

Based on our plans intended use of the building, our parking needs for the building are much less than the codes require. Both Emerald Skyline and Golden Spiral employ sustainable business practices which encourages personnel to spend the majority of their time working remotely.

Boca Raton’s current parking requirement is not congruent with sustainable thinking which encourages “hotelling” or “hot desking”, the use of public transportation and alternate commuting methods such as riding a bicycle. In meeting with representatives the City of Boca Raton, they have indicated that they might help us on this initiative as they have special exemptions for sustainable buildings. Our goal is to have the minimum number of spaces necessary to satisfy our needs.

Further, as a LEED certified project, our design goals are to minimize paved surfaces as solid surfaces contribute negatively to our environment. Our vision is to utilize permeable pavers for the parking spaces we will have on-site. Here is why:

Permeable pavers help the environment by:

  • Improving the quality of storm water runoff as it is returned to a ground water source;
  • Providing a solution to soil erosion by allowing grass to grow within the spaces of the block and blend in with the surroundings.
  • Reducing or eliminating storm water runoff, decreasing flooding and relieving sewer system demands while still providing a sturdy surface for vehicle and pedestrian traffic; and
  • Reducing heat that is transmitted into the atmosphere from hot pavement by providing a vegetative and reflective surface.

Rating systems like LEED are critical proving grounds for building strategies that address an inclusive set of risks that require our attention beyond fire safety, disability access and other crucial areas.

Building codes have presented barriers to the application of more forward-looking technologies, materials and methods. Building green requires a multi-disciplinary approach to break down the walls between planning, design and construction. The existing codes have been a factor in the business-as-usual construction process. As the viability, cost-effectiveness, and many benefits of green building continue to prove their worth, code safety needs to evolve to incorporate a broader scope of responsibility that are now expected. We are hopeful that building codes, including those of Boca Raton, will begin to encompass sustainable building needs.

 

USGBC – Build Better Codes

http://www.usgbc.org/Docs/Archive/General/Docs18641.pdf

Costa Rica powers nation sans fossil fuels, serving as example for the region

By Nancy San Martin, nsanmartin@MiamiHerald.com
View the original article here

NEW POWER SOURCE: Arenal, a dormant volcano, is seen in the town of La Fortuna in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The power company managed to produce all of the electricity for the nation from renewable energy sources for 100 consecutive days ending in mid-March. The milestone was reached with the use alternative power sources, including hydroelectric power plants. Joe Raedle Getty Images

NEW POWER SOURCE: Arenal, a dormant volcano, is seen in the town of La Fortuna in the province of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The power company managed to produce all of the electricity for the nation from renewable energy sources for 100 consecutive days ending in mid-March. The milestone was reached with the use alternative power sources, including hydroelectric power plants. Joe Raedle Getty Images

GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA

In the heart of this western province where scalding water emerges from the earth and peaks of volcanoes kiss the hovering clouds, sunshine, wind and rain have been culled to create a source of power that has earned this nation a gold star in renewable energy.

For 100 consecutive days ending in mid-March, Costa Rica did not use any fossil fuels to generate electricity. Instead, it relied on primarily hydropower plants to light up households across the country, with added power generated from wind, geothermal and solar projects.

Experts say Costa Rica’s fossil fuel-free streak is impressive though not a surprise: The nation of nearly 5 million people has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2021 and the country’s electricity matrix, on average, is already nearly 90 percent renewable, making Costa Rica the second most “renewable country” in Latin America following Paraguay in terms of electricity generation, said Juan Roberto Paredes, senior renewable energy specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Paredes points to the country’s diversified sources for renewable energy as its hallmark. By relying on various sources, Costa Rica has been able to both provide electricity and keep costs down by not having to import a large amount of costly fossil fuels.

“The lesson to be learned is in diversification,” Paredes said. “You can have stability in the longer term, as it relates to electricity prices, if you rely on various renewable sources as the fuel price will always be zero.”

Felix Mormann, a University of Miami law professor who teaches and writes about environmental law and policy, said Costa Rica’s achievement is noteworthy.

“Sourcing 100 percent of energy needs from renewables is amazing,” he said. “The fact that they did not have to burn any fossil fuels is outstanding.”

Like other countries relying on renewable energy, Costa Rica gets most of its carbon-free electricity juice — about 80 percent — from hydropower plants operated by the state-run utility provider, Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). But this year, geothermal, solar and wind energy sources have given the nation an additional boost to limit the use of coal or petroleum to keep light bulbs glowing and appliances humming.

Hydropower

At the ICE hydroelectric plant and reservoir in the shadow of the Arenal volcano near the town of Tilarán, the production of electrical power is generated through the use of the gravitational force of water stored in the reservoir that flows through turbines connected to large generators. This plant provides some 21 percent of energy for the country, said supervisor Alberto Sanchez Fernandez.

“Since we were children, we have been taught to respect nature,” Sánchez Fernández said. “In that sense, this country has gotten better because those lessons go back a generation and it’s ingrained in our children. The fact that my country is producing energy from 100 percent clean sources, makes me very proud and satisfied that we are helping protect this planet, the only place we have to live.”

Sánchez Fernández said when children visit the plant on field trips, “I always tell them that mankind, before dying, should have at least conceived a child and planted a tree.”

Along the hilltops, giant wind turbines like those of an airplane propeller, can be seen circulating at various speeds, depending on the strength of winds that flow through the area. The windmill project began in the 1980s and about 30 wind turbines can now provide electricity to about 26,000 homes.

“This accomplishment is the result of making use of our natural resources and experimentation,” said Carlos Manuel Quiros, a company spokesman.

Tilarán, the town’s name, comes from the indigenous word “Tilawa.” It means place of wind and rain.

Geothermal

Billboards in Bagaces and nearby towns dub the area as the cuna (cradle) of geothermal. Power lines emit a high-pitched sound that can be heard for miles, like crickets on steroids. And the smell of sulfur is reminiscent of the odor that comes from cracking warm hard-boiled eggs.

The geothermal plants Miravalles I y II use subterranean heat to produce electricity. Wells are drilled deep into the earth and the water that comes out of the wells are 85 percent liquid and 15 percent steam. The steam is used to turn large turbines, which run electrical generators. Some 35 wells in the area are used for production, said Darlyn Gutierrez Rodriguez, an assistant engineer.

“The advantages of geothermal is that it’s not dependent on seasonal variations,” she said. “It isn’t dependent on whether it rains or is windy or sunny. It’s constant production.”

Geothermal now contributes about 14 percent of Costa Rica’s energy and will likely grow as the government makes further investments. In a country with six active volcanoes and dozens more inactive, geothermal provides an exceptionally reliable source of power, experts said.

Solar

Just a short drive away, is a solar panel farm built with equipment donated by Japan. The project, comprised of 4,300 panels, began in 2012 and now provides electricity to about 550 homes, said supervisor Mauro Arias.

“For us, it’s been very novel, very important, because it’s an experimental plant,” he said. “Without a doubt, we have a good location for this solar plant…We are able to document, minute by minute, the output of solar energy…We are the pioneers in Central America.”

While the power produced by this method remains small, Arias said similar farms have been built in neighboring Nicaragua and Panama. “It’s cheaper, cleaner for the environment,” he said.

Other countries in the region could follow Costa Rica’s steps about diversification as they also have untapped renewable potential. This is the case of geothermal resources in the Andean countries where volcanic activity is comparable to Central America but no electricity so far is produced with the heat of the earth, said Paredes of the IDB.

But even as the use of renewable energy is applauded, there are potential setbacks. Droughts come from limited rainfall, which can affect electricity production. Wind and solar availability can vary from year to year. And, of course, there’s the issue of climate change.

“The but is maybe the variability of these renewable sources,” Paredes said. “We can’t be 100 percent sure of what will happen next year.”

Storing energy in an efficient manner also is a work in progress that will get better with technology. In Central America, the IDB is supporting the electricity market with Costa Rica and five other nations: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Nicaragua.

“In order to cope with this variability, you can diversify and use complementary renewable sources such as wind and hydro, use smarter grids to manage variations better and have more interconnections to other countries in case you have excess electricity,” Paredes said.

For Costa Rica, the more measurable results of its renewable energy success will be known by early 2016 when a full year worth of data will be available to compare with the previous year. By then, the largest hydropower plant in Central America should be in operation. The Reventazón Hydroelectric Project, located in the eastern province of Limón, is expected to be ready for operation by January.

Whether Costa Rica’s renewable energy model can be implemented in other countries will depend on the topography and climate, said Mormann of UM.

“Costa Rica is a small country and has a very special resource mix,” he said. “Costa Rica did not do this to do the rest of the world a favor. In their particular situation, it made the most sense. This is more about setting an example that it can be done.”
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/issues-ideas/article19542720.html#storylink=cpy

 

How you can help make Florida the Sunshine State again

Julie

By Julie Lundin, LEED-AP ID+C,
Principal, Emerald Skyline Corporation 

 

 

Florida is undeniably sunny. “The Sunshine State” was adopted as the State Nickname in 1970. It is used on FL_Sunshinemotor vehicle licenses, welcome signs and marketing campaigns. While Florida promotes itself as the Sunshine State we are not utilizing our most abundant and natural resource, solar power.

What is solar power? It is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Solar energy is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available. The U.S., including Florida, provides some of the richest solar resources in the world. Only two other states, California and Texas, have more rooftop solar power potential than Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Based on Florida’s size, rebounding economy and growing population our state should be a leader in the generation and promotion of solar energy.

So why isn’t Florida a solar energy leader?

The reason is simple: Florida’s large utility monopolies and lawmakers have worked successfully to block and control who can generate solar energy and what it can be used for; thereby restricting its use by homeowners and businesses. Florida utility monopolies exist today due to a law that was created over 100 years ago which was trying to avoid a tangle of power lines strung up by competing companies.  This same law restricts solar companies from installing solar panels on roofs and selling back electricity. It is considered a third party sale and is illegal in Florida.

  • Florida is now only one of four states in the nation that prohibit citizens from buying electricity from companies that will put solar panels on a building.

Due to the influence and power of Florida’s utility monopolies, there is a large effort to discourage renewable energy in the state. The large utilities are afraid of losing their monopoly and the lucrative profits that the government guarantees them. Recently lawmakers, at the direction of the utility companies, gutted the State’s energy savings goals and entirely eliminated Florida’s solar-rebate program.

Floridians should have access to solar power and free market choices. We should be allowed to contract directly with solar providers to power our homes and businesses with solar energy. We are currently being denied the right to choose solar as a power source. The free market and competition benefits all of us. Solar energy makes financial sense. That is why business leaders in America’s brightest, most competitive companies are increasingly choosing to install solar energy systems at their facilities. The price of solar energy has fallen dramatically over the past few years while the price of fossil fuel generation continues to experience volatility. America’s businesses are turning to solar power because it’s good for their bottom line.

  • According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association, Walmart is the top corporate user in the United States with 105 MW installed at 254 locations.
  • The average price of an installed commercial PV (photovoltaic) project in 2Q2014 was 14% less than the cost in 2013 and was over 45% less than it cost to complete in 2012.

Electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases.

  • The Solar Means Business report noted that the top 25 companies for solar capacity had more than 569 MW of solar PV at 1,110 different facilities in a survey conducted last August. These results represent a 28% increase over the prior year and a 103% increase over 2012.

Clearly, solar power is a great untapped resource for the Sunshine State – one that can benefit residents as well as businesses. It is time to enable Floridians to have unfettered access to this inexpensive energy source – and you can help in the process:

The Florida resident-led solar group, Floridians for Solar Choice, is seeking to make solar more accessible in the state. They are seeking your signature on a ballot petition.

  • The petition seeks to expand solar choice by allowing customers the option to power their homes or businesses with solar power and chose who provides it to them.

Floridians for Solar Choice have reached 72,000 signatures on their petition which clears the way for it to be reviewed by Florida’s Supreme Court.

  • The Supreme Court will decide whether or not the petitions language legally qualifies it to be a ballot initiative for Floridians in 2016.

Getting its petition on the 2016 ballot is the main goal for Floridians for Solar Choice. They need over 600,000 more signatures to have this critical citizen initiative to be put on the ballot for next year.

Please visit their website to learn about the solar initiative to remove this legal barrier to making Florida the Sunshine State again, and, more importantly, to sign the petition, go to: www.FLsolarchoice.org.

Perhaps the Scientists are sounding too much like Chicken Little

11/5/14

PJ Picture
By Paul L. Jones
, Founder,
Director, Financial Advisory Services for Emerald Skyline Corporation

 
This week, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report on the effects of climate change on the world if corrective action is not taken. The headline in the Miami Herald read “Scientists’ warning is most alarming yet.”

A review of articles on climate change reflects similar headlines and worse – like “Goodbye Miami” or “Florida developers facing environmental woes.”

The alarm bell is ringing – and the headlines are starting to sound like Chicken Little crying “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” in the children’s books. I know it does to me – and I know that the scientists have done their homework which is the opposite of Chicken Little and all his furry friends – Hen Pen, Duck Luck, Goose Loose and Turkey Lurkey.

In fact, a group of industry experts and sustainability professionals met in London last summer to dialogue about a report being issued by DNV GL, a leading ship and offshore classification, a leading technical advisor to the global oil and gas energy and a leading expert for the energy value chain including renewables and energy efficiency. The report, entitled, A Safe and Sustainable Future: Enabling the Transition, provides an analysis of challenges to sustainability in the global economy, societal well-being and governmental and corporate governance.

In an article published in Maritime Executive (http://www.maritime-executive.com/article/Too-Much-Climate-Change-Doom-and-Gloom-2014-07-12), entitled “To Much Climate Change Doom and Gloom,” participants expressed concern that the messaging around climate change is too much “doom and gloom” and not enough on the opportunities that are arising from addressing the effects of a warming world. Bjorn Haugland, executive vice president and chief sustainability officer at DNV GL was quoted:

“We believe there is a need to put the focus on the opportunities. For corporate leaders and politicians to speak a positive narrative is so important as it directs so much activity in society.

“We believe it is possible to create a thriving economy, it is possible to stay within the limits of the planet and it is possible to create a society for nine billion people to live well if we want to. It is human activity that has taken us into this situation and it is human activity that will take us out of it.”

Much of our perspective on the world, including our economic systems, is based on the belief that the world has an infinite supply of natural capital and a warming planet; however, the headlines about water shortages, famines, super storms, flooding, the hottest year on record, rising sea levels, ice caps melting and other calamities highlight that the scientists are not Chicken Little – the evidence is all around us.

Whether or not the global warming is man-made or from natural causes does not really matter, it is affecting the future for man-kind. Further, resource limitations can be extended – like the Green Revolution in agriculture where research, development and new technology between the 1940s and the 1980s increased agricultural production around the world – saving hundreds of millions of people from starvation.

Challenges abound everywhere, but where there are challenges, opportunity also exists.

DNV GL’s research report highlights 36 “barriers to sustainability” which range from economic and market hurdles to policy, societal and behavioral attitudes and habits – including reactive and short-term thinking, “denialism” and a lack of urgency. (available here: http://dnvgl.com/Images/DNV%20GL%20SSF_20_aug2014_tcm212-595432.pdf)

The Report concludes with Pathways to a Sustainable Future, which is summarized as follows:

“Our vision for a safe and sustainable future is within reach. Humanity has faced, and overcome, grand challenges in the past. Undoubtedly, we can surmount our present challenges too – if we choose to. Changing course will depend on our ability to work together, to act quickly and to harvest opportunities both today and tomorrow.

“We can develop an economy that is sustainable and regenerative, we can rejuvenate our ecosystems, and we can build the stable, equitable and thriving societies that we desire for the future. We are at a moment in time where there is a unique opportunity to shape the future we want.”

The scientists are not Chicken Little. It is time to stop ignoring the headlines which are designed to instill a sense of urgency and realize that the time is now for each of us to act.

It is real estate owners and investors who have the most to lose as the effects of climate change will most definitely be seen in utility bills, property taxes and insurance premiums.   With the new building management technologies, energy efficiency, water conservation capabilities and waste management programs, building owners and managers have the ability to reduce operating costs while making the building sustainable. We know. We see it being done – in both new and existing buildings.

As Glenn Pickett reports in his article on “the Drumbeat for Climate Action Grows,” published in Environmental Leader on 11/3/2014,

“The appetite is all but gone for hearing more about our frightening global forecast and who’s at fault for it. The more time the environmental and sustainability movement spends sharing solutions, the more mainstream these choices will have the chance of becoming….. It’s time for action, and leaders will be rewarded.”

Read more: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/11/03/the-drumbeat-for-climate-action-grows/#ixzz3I7KNzYO0

May we all become good stewards of this earth.