Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., ruled that the flow of water from an improved portion of a navigable waterway into an unimproved portion of the same waterway does not qualify as a “discharge of a pollutant” under the Clean Water Act. More information on the SCOTUS decision can be found here.
The San Diego County Water Authority released a proposed Water Purchase Agreement Thursday with Poseidon Resources, the private developer of the planned seawater desalination plant in Carlsbad. The release opens a public review period that includes two special evening public meetings to share information on the agreement and to receive public comment. To read more about the transaction, see the Carlsbad Patch article here.
In an effort to conserve water, homeowners across the country have replaced their lawns with artificial turf. One city has had enough and is taking a stance against the faux grass. City leaders in Glendale, CA, have banned artificial turf and have begun issuing warnings to violators. Enforcement officials have issued six notices of violation to residents who, despite the city-wide ban that was approved nearly three months ago, cling tenaciously to their artificial front lawns.
Glendale permits the turf to be installed in backyards, away from public view, but the City Council will not tolerate the fake grass in front yards. Councilmembers have voiced concerns about lead poisoning and other environmental hazards, including the heat-island effect, which occurs when unnatural surfaces are heated. One method of reducing the heat-island effect, which can earn a LEED credit, is to cover heat producing surfaces with native grasses, thereby reducing the energy required to cool that surface.
Tapping Water’s Energy – Proponents of underwater turbine farms believe that the technology could generate an additional 60 GW of power nationwide by 2025. (Boston Globe)
EPA “Greening the Apple” – The Environmental Protection Agency blogs about sustainability issues and efforts in New York City at “Greening the Apple.” (EPA)
Gearing Up for Wind Power – As the demand for clean energy grows, the technology behind wind turbines also advances. (The New York Times)
The Ultimate Green House – Ed Begley Jr., actor and environmentalist, aims to build a “net zero” house that will have no environmental impact and produce its own energy. (Studio City Patch)
Representing a green trifecta for the City of New York, Solar 2, a sustainable energy education center for the nonprofit group Solar One, wil be the first building in the Big Apple to provide all of its energy needs onsite. To be located on the East River, the new environmental learning center hopes to revolutionize the way energy and water is produced and consumed by the City. Among the many planned features, the structure will include a 96-kilowatt (KW) canopy of solar panels to provide energy in the summer, ground source heat pumps that will warm the structure in the winter, and heavily insulated walls to keep the hot air where it belongs - outside during the summer and inside during the winter. To learn more about Solar 2 and other sustainable buildings in New York City, click here.
SOLAR 2 FEATURES
- Net-Zero Energy Consumption 90Kw non-integrated PV Roof will provide 99,000 kWh/year – 100% of power needed. Planning ahead, non-integration allows for upgrades as technology advances. The roof is specially designed to serve as a learning tool.
- Green Roof will reduce heating and cooling loads on the building; filtering carbon dioxide and other pollutants out of the air; combating the urban heat effect, which makes cities measurably hotter than surrounding areas; and reducing storm water runoff, helping to alleviate the load on New York City’s wastewater management system and thereby preventing the flow of raw sewage into our natural waterways.
- Natural Daylight Strategies include the building’s position, a north light skylight, glare reduction windows that allow light and solar heat gain to save energy.
- Energy Recovery Ventilation will be wind induced and stack driven.
- Roof Monitors strategically placed, will draw stack-induced ventilation air from the building due to the height of the spaces.
- Rainwater Collection will provide all non-potable water, conserving the municipal water supply.
- Low Flush Toilets/Waterless Urinals will dramatically cut water consumption.
- Recycled and Renewable Materials will be used in the building structure and interior furnishings.
- Vegetative Green Screen is aesthetically pleasing and will allow the building to become part of the natural environment. It will provide natural shading and filtered sunlight-saving energy keeping the building cool in Summer and allowing sunlight to warm the building in Winter. It also absorbs CO2 and adds to the biodiversity of the area with birds and butterflies.
- Eco-Basement has cutaways and transparent walls, which will allow visitors to experience and visualize an ecologically sound built environment and provide a unique, rare glimpse into the HVAC and geo-exchange systems. Visitors can see how interactive systems, planning and design can save energy and reduce carbon footprint.
- Multi-Purpose Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms will provide interactive learning environments for visitors of all ages.
- Green Theater and Solar-Powered Stage is unique in New York City and serves as an entertainment space that also informs visitors about alternative energy.
- Eco-Apartment/Office will present visitors with energy saving and sustainable products, equipment and additional resources, demonstrating how households and offices can have a positive impact on the environment.
- Wetlands Exhibit will accentuate SOLAR 2’s unique location on the East River in Stuyvesant Cove Park.
- Eco-Café will provide natural, fair trade, locally grown food served on recycled and sustainable place settings.
Download the Solar 2 Fact Sheet here.
The KB Home GreenHouse is the first home produced by KB Home to be a net-zero energy home, producing at least as much energy as it consumes. The home includes solar panels on the roof, kitchen composting bins and a rainwater-collection system, and is LEED for Homes-Platinum certified, ENERGY STAR qualified, WaterSense labeled, and meets the Environments for Living Certified Green standards.
The Earth Advantage Institute, a nonprofit organization that works with the building industry to help implement sustainable building practices, recently released its 2011 Green Building Trends report. The trends described in the report range from changes in technology and law to communities changing the way they purchase materials and think about their resource needs.
The Institute identified the trends based on discussions with a range of audiences over the latter part of 2010, including policymakers, builders, developers, architects, real estate brokers, appraisers, lenders and homeowners.
According to the report, the top 10 green building trends for 2011 are:
1) Affordable green
2) Sharing and comparing home energy use
3) Outcome-based energy codes
4) Community purchasing power
5) Intersection of smart homes, “grid-aware” appliances and smart grid
6) Accessory dwelling units
7) Rethinking residential heating and cooling
8) Residential greywater use
9) Small commercial certification
10) Lifecycle analysis
More information can be found at the Earth Advantage Institute’s website here.
A report released on December 7, 2010, by investment management company Calvert Investments, finds that, despite making meaningful progress, the homebuilding industry is still struggling to appropriately address its environmental impacts.
Calvert’s report surveyed the 10 largest publicly traded U.S. homebuilders and compared them with respect to policies and practices relating to the environment and resource efficiency, with a specific focus on five major “green” indicators: land use, building materials, energy, water and climate change.
KB Home topped the ranking for its sustainability leadership within the homebuilding sector. KB Home is the only company to publish a comprehensive sustainability report, and to continually seek new and innovative ways to promote sustainability within its industry. KB Home received praise for its “Open Series” line of homes, which have flexible layouts that allow for greater space in areas that customers use (e.g., living rooms), while consciously decreasing unneeded space (e.g., hallways, utility closets, or unnecessary ceiling heights).
The report revealed the following key findings:
- A sizable gap remains between what investors need and the information that homebuilders provide with respect to sustainability practices. The homebuilding industry has been slow to join the growing trend in corporate America of disclosing environmental, social and governance data through comprehensive sustainability reporting.
- While all 10 ranked homebuilders have made some effort to develop environmental policies or practices, or to offer environmental products, there is strong differentiation regarding the level of commitment to sustainability and the penetration of “green” homes in each company’s product mix.
- Homebuilders are not measuring and disclosing their impact on the environment in a comprehensive manner.
- Homebuilders are now making company-wide, national sustainability commitments that pledge full product participation in energy, water and climate change initiatives.
- Companies are most active in energy efficiency and conservation over other environmental issues.
- The 10 ranked companies pay more attention to sustainability issues that can offer nearer-term financial benefits to operating costs and customers, such as building material recycling and energy and water efficiency measures, than to issues with longer-term benefits, such as climate change.
- In light of SEC interpretive guidance on climate change in early 2010, some homebuilders are choosing to disclose risks related to climate change through their annual 10-K filings. Homebuilders currently appear most concerned about the effect of carbon regulation on costs, rather than direct physical impacts of a changing climate.
- Overall, the economic crisis has not thwarted many homebuilders’ efforts to become more sustainable companies.
The green building market presents an enormous opportunity for high production builders. As consumers become more educated regarding environmental options and green residential construction, and as policymakers increase incentives for green development and restrict conventional development efforts, some homebuilders may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage if they do not integrate sustainable design and construction principles into their operations.
Calvert’s 2010 Green Homebuilders Ratings are as follows:
- KB Home
- Pulte Homes
- Meritage Homes
- Toll Brothers
- DR Horton
- Standard Pacific
- Ryland Group
- MDC Holdings
Infrastructure development in Australia has seen virtually no growth in the past five years despite an expanding population and some attempts to make up for past under-spending, according to a report issued by Australia’s largest professional body of engineers, Engineers Australia.
The Engineers Australia 2010 Infrastructure Report Card is a distillation of eight individual report cards issued throughout the past year reporting on the infrastructure performance of each of the nation’s states and territories. Sectors examined include roads, rail, water, electricity, and gas. The nation’s overall infrastructure rating remains at C+, the same rating it received in 2005.
Engineers Australia Chief Executive Peter Taylor states in the report that all levels of Australian government must focus on long-term strategic planning and coordination based on the advice of Infrastructure Australia, the national independent infrastructure advisory board established in 2008. Currently, too many federal, state and local bodies possess overlapping responsibilities and interests for there to be any efficient infrastructure outcomes.
The report emphasized that land use decisions must prioritize nationally significant infrastructure. Because Australia’s economy is dependent on trade, which is dependent on ports and airports, urban encroachment on ports and airports must be limited. Road and rail transport links from ports to metropolitan and regional centers also must improve for better efficiency.
Further, sectors must focus on the whole-of-life performance of projects rather than just short-term goals. Since the 2005 report, many sectors have developed plans for massive expansions in capital works, but these have focused on meeting existing rather than future demand. The 2010 report recommends implementing projects in advance of need and either building in capacity for growth or preserving land for later growth.
Of course, such development requires funding. The report calls for a variety of funding mechanisms, such as public sector financing (whether debt or reserve funding), infrastructure bonds, public-private partnerships and favorable taxation treatment for infrastructure investments.
Download the full report:
Why Doctors Support the Drive to Sustainability – If doctors and other health experts designed our cities, they would look quite different than the sprawling, car-centered communities of today. This op-ed piece explores the significant impact current city conditions have on chronic illness and overall public health, and the medical communities support for SB 375 in California. (Capitol Weekly)
Walk This Way – Innovative Design Comes to Crosswalks – A number of designers are rethinking the traditional concept of the crosswalk in favor of designs that mimic the natural movement of people, utilize lighting, or simply employ unusual imagery to draw attention to the street itself. (CityFix.com)
Senate Face-Off: Climate Heroes vs. Global Warming Deniers – Six key U.S. Senate races feature climate legislation champions against global warming skeptics. The outcome of each could impact global warming legislation. (The Wonk Room)
Ding, Dong, the Wicked Well is Dead – The BP well that had been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico since April 20, 2010, is officially dead according to the federal government. An estimated 4.9 million barrels, or about 205 million gallons, of oil entered the water until the well was shut by a mechanical device in mid-July. The environmental damage has yet to be fully ascertained. (The New York Times)