Posts tagged with "Green New Deal":

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UPenn maps out climate change in support of a Green New Deal

Earlier this month, The University of Pennsylvania’s Ian L. McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology unveiled its Project 2100: An Atlas for the New Green Deal, a collection of over 100 maps and drawings visualizing the current and future effects of climate change across the continental United States. Compiled in collaboration by professors and students at the university's Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the atlas is meant to serve as a resource for policymakers, planners, and communities looking to take up the call of the Green New Deal.  Project 2100 approaches the spatial implications of climate change in its broadest sense, showing a range of ecological, atmospheric, agricultural, political, economic, and social factors of American life. It expresses the effects and challenges of climate change not just in temperature values, sea-level changes, and natural disasters, but through agricultural production, income distribution, immigration and displacement patterns, conservation efforts, population growth, as well as college and university location. Through the map, users can draw connections between these disparate elements under the current climate regime. In addition to describing the country’s climate reality, it is prescriptive about the necessary steps for mitigating the effects of climate change. According to the atlas, for instance, 1,834,337 wind turbines and 26,190,30,857 solar panels would be needed to provide energy for the growing population over the next century. The researchers and contributors of the atlas do not shy away from the massive scale and aim of such a project. “Much like the Apollo program set a goal of sending a man to the moon before it was clear what technology it would take to succeed, so too can the Green New Deal set ambitious goals that can be met by mobilizing the public sector,” reads a statement from the project team.  Despite the dire situation the map expresses, the tone of the project remains overwhelmingly hopeful. “The reality is that we’ve never actually tried to craft a national response to these threats," said Billy Fleming, Wilks Family Director of The McHarg Center. "We won’t know what we’re capable of achieving until, as the Green New Deal demands, we mobilize our communities, resources, and government around climate action." He continued: “It's in this space where the Green New Deal seems likely to land—in the massive expansion of government as a force for good in the everyday lives of most people akin to that of the New Deal, and in the marshaling of public procurement and standards to drive the private sector towards a shared set of goals. It requires that we know the destination, but not the path; it requires a bit of backcasting.”
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Where do the Democratic frontrunners stand on housing?

Although the 2020 election is a year out at the time of writing, and the first Democratic primary in Iowa is two months away, the battle to become the Dem frontrunner is becoming increasingly brutal. As the campaign field is winnowed on what seems like a daily basis, and a once sprawling cast has been cut back to a handful of mainstays and self-financed billionaires, we've aggregated the housing views of the top six Democratic contenders. Whoever wins the next presidential election will have the ability, and mandate, to reshape the American housing landscape; and in turn, how our cities develop. (For brevity's sake, President Trump's housing plans have not been included, as they will likely remain the same. This may change over the course of the presidential campaign proper.) Of course, because housing, urban development, and construction are issues intertwined with livelihood, race, climate, trade, and a myriad of other issues, each candidate's approach can't be examined from just one angle. Joe Biden While former Vice President Joe Biden has not released a housing plan writ large, he has announced a goal to house all formerly incarcerated people as a part of his Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice. His announcement promises to direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to require all contractors to allow formerly incarcerated people in their facilities. This implies that HUD is building much at all at this point, whereas the reality is that so much funding has been drained away from the department over the years that what is created through federal grants is a paltry drop in the bucket. The department's total budget is $42 billion; more than half of that goes towards rental assistance, $3.3 billion for Community Development Block Grants, and $2.78 billion for public housing capital projects. Not only is this figure inadequate for the housing needs of people of low-to-moderate means in general, it wouldn’t even meet the needs of the formerly incarcerated. Biden’s plan also argues for more funding for transitional housing, something previously cut by the Trump administration. However, by addressing such a narrow part of the general problem of housing, Biden tends to inadvertently suggest how little he is conscious of the actual problems of housing in the U.S.; as the New Republic put it, based on what he has plans to do, Biden should be president for five minutes. That doesn’t mean that Biden’s policies might not indirectly improve housing conditions for those in need of assistance. His Plan for Rural America for instance, talks about improving the middle class and investing in rural places. But the details are more about improving trade policies to help farm exports, which might benefit large agribusiness more than small farmers. Biden also talks about providing microloans for beginning farmers and aiding sustainable farmers with access to markets by having federal programs buy from them directly, which are so small-bore and marginal as proposals as to reinforce the notion that Biden has awfully few ideas when it comes to rural housing initiatives. Perhaps the most promising areas of Biden’s policies that could be relevant for housing are his Plan to Invest in Middle-Class Competitiveness, which is essentially an infrastructure bill, and his Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice, which is essentially a policy in support of the Green New Deal resolution. Biden talks here about directing HUD to increase the energy efficiency of low-income housing, which wouldn’t expand the housing stock; however, it would increase the federal energy standards for appliances and building equipment, accelerating the adoption of stricter building codes. The knock-on effects of these could hold real promise for improving the quantity and quality of housing, if legislated well, but there are huge gaps here in terms of addressing the incentive structures that cause the housing stock to remain unaffordable to half of American households. Biden mentions increasing the funding of the New Market Tax Credit (a tax incentive to build in low-income communities) to $5 billion to support Community Development Financial Institutions. This is still a drop in the bucket for a nationwide program and totally insufficient to support the needs of small-and-medium-size cities—for instance, it's estimated that the New York City Housing Authority could need up to $68.5 billion in repair costs alone by 2028. Elizabeth Warren As one would expect from her “She’s Got a Plan” motto, Warren has a relatively substantial set of policy proposals for how to create affordable housing. Her Safe and Affordable Housing plan hits back at a number of factors causing distortions in the housing marketplace to the detriment of lower and middle-income earners. The plan sets a top-line goal to reduce rents by 10 percent, but her argument is initially premised on the mistaken assumption that prices are a function of supply and demand. In the very next line, Warren correctly acknowledges the contrary: Market incentives are producing higher-end housing that is more profitable but doesn’t meet the needs of at least half of the population. In response, Warren has introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act in the Senate, legislation that would invest $500 billion over ten years to build, preserve, and rehabilitate up to 3.2 million units affordable to lower-income families. This goes a long way toward injecting capital into a part of the housing market that banks don’t lend to and that has been starved for access to federal loans and grants for decades. Some of the smaller aspects are relatively minuscule but may be marginally helpful, such as providing capital to black communities and underwater mortgages, trying (again) to force banks to lend to low-income communities in line with the long-ignored Community Reinvestment Act, and offering incentives to municipalities to loosen restrictive zoning that limits lot sizes and requires parking, driving up costs. At the same time, Warren has put forward a plan to protect and empower renters, a group largely ignored by the American dream of homeownership that turned into a nightmare during the mortgage-backed securities crisis. Thirty-percent of homes are renter-occupied in the U.S., with 57 percent owner-occupied and more than 10 percent vacant either annually or seasonally. Warren wants to use the $500 billion in federal housing subsidies as a prod to force states and municipalities to adopt a federal just cause eviction standard, a right to lease renewal—effectively a sort of federal rent control if done right—protections against construction evictions, and protecting tenants’ right to organize. To the extent it could be effectively written, passed by Congress, and enforced, this legislation could substantially change the trajectory of housing costs. Apart from that, Warren has a number of clean energy policies that would impact the housing sector; in particular, the ambition of creating a zero-carbon building standard by 2023, a mandate to move toward 100 percent zero-carbon new buildings by 2028, a subsidy for retrofitting existing building through tax credits, access to financing for moderate-income households, and direct federal grants. Bernie Sanders True to form, Bernie Sanders' housing plan is articulated in broad, sweeping strokes, premised on ideas of economic justice. “Housing for All” is simple and to the point: “In the richest country in the history of the world, every American must have a safe, decent, accessible, and affordable home as a fundamental right.” It’s also comprehensive in addressing the problem, analyzing the shortfall of 7.4 million units of housing affordable to the lowest-income households. Sanders' plan identifies seniors and people with disabilities as particularly vulnerable, in addition to those affected by rising prices and the failure of wages to keep up with prices in cities and rural areas. Also true to form, Sanders does not shy away from addressing the costs: $2.5 trillion over 10 years to build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units. The breakdown is distributed through a $1.48 trillion investment in HUD’s National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, focused on building permanently affordable rentals and providing assistance to first-time homeowners. He proposes allocating an additional $400 billion towards the construction of two million mixed-income social housing units, $410 billion to fully fund Section 8 rental assistance for the 7.7 million rent-burdened households nationwide, along with $70 billion to rehabilitate and decarbonize public housing. Sanders would ask Congress to repeal the 1999 law that prohibits using federal funding for new public housing. In rural and tribal areas, Sanders has proposed adding $3 billion to the Indian Housing Block Grant Program to build, preserve, and rehabilitate affordable housing in sovereign tribal lands, and $500 million for affordable developments in rural areas, along with regulations protecting existing units from conversion to market-rate housing. Sanders’s platform includes measures for combatting gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and housing speculation. Like Warren, he would protect existing tenants by implementing national rent regulation, specifying limits to annual increases of no more than a three percent annually or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index, with waivers for significant capital improvements; a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, and a right to counsel in housing disputes. Sanders has proposed a 25 percent "flipping tax" and a two percent empty home tax, but the rest of this part of the platform is fairly weak compared to the direct language elsewhere, as it leverages access to federal funds to incentivize jurisdictions to pass their own inclusionary zoning laws. Also like Warren, Sanders has included a robust set of policies to achieve reduce energy consumption in homes, aiming for 100 percent sustainable sources of electricity and a zero-carbon building sector by no later than 2030. This would be achieved by weatherizing, handing out grants for retrofitting, replacing mobile homes with zero carbon modular units, replacing gas heat with electricity, and subsidizing HVAC replacements with energy-efficient equipment. Pete Buttigieg Pete Buttigieg’s language is measured, reasoned, and clear, making concerted arguments that are rooted in unifying, centrist values. “Security means ensuring every American family has safe, affordable housing” is the headline under affordable housing in his list of campaign issues. But in spite of that, his platform on affordable housing is extremely narrow, oriented around what he calls the Community Homestead Act, a part of his set of proposals for how to redress the history of redlining and discrimination against Black homeownership. Somewhat like land banks in cities with a history of housing vacancy and abandonment, Buttigieg proposes to create a national housing trust that would purchase abandoned properties and redistribute them to qualifying families in pilot cities. Sounds extremely limited, and the bigger problem—as anyone familiar with land banks knows—is that abandoned properties are generally stripped of anything of value. They typically sit empty for many years and lack building services, the building envelopes and rooftops often needs expensive rehabilitations, and they have other serious problems that make them inordinately complicated and time-consuming to fix compared to new construction. Beyond that, Buttigieg lists in bullet points the goals of ending homelessness for families with children, national funding for affordable housing construction, and expanded federal protections against eviction and harassment of tenants, but he provides no detail how to achieve any of them. Michael Bloomberg Mike Bloomberg’s campaign includes proposals for new housing and an earned income credit under one headline policy, perhaps acknowledging that wages and affordability are inevitably linked. As one might expect, his pitch to primary voters leans heavily on his record as mayor of New York City, claiming a legacy of pioneering programs to allow New Yorkers to “gain access to housing and build house wealth” (He doesn’t say which New Yorkers or how many, and certainly some people got rich and were able to buy homes during his administration). An “expansion of funding for the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit…would add hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing over ten years,” claims the Bloomberg campaign. This policy will be familiar to New Yorkers, who recall the city aiming to create or preserve 250,000 units of affordable housing during five years of his administration. This same target, more or less, was the ambition of every mayor since Koch in the 1980s, including Bill de Blasio. We don’t know if Bloomberg achieved it or not, but the campaign's literature quotes an official crediting him with creating 165,000 units during his 12 years in office. Homelessness had significantly increased by the end of Bloomberg's third term, however, and the city had lost more affordable housing than it had gained. This proposal is somehow even less ambitious but stretched thinner, and on a national scale. Bloomberg has also called for an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which would especially help single families with children, and an increase in the minimum wage, which would theoretically address the income levels of households, while leaving untouched the market incentives that tend to push up prices. At $15 an hour, a single-income household would be earning $31,200 a year, which is around one-third the income needed to rent a typical apartment in New York City. Andrew Yang Despite Yang’s excitement about some shipping containers he encountered during a campaign stop in Las Vegas, with apologies to Lo-Tek, the future of housing is not discarded cargo shipping containers, nor is it at the center of his proposed housing policies. That said, the incident does capture the infectious tech optimism of the Yang campaign, a sense of hopefulness about finding data-driven or engineering solutions to problems. Yang's argument for what he calls human-centered capitalism is an argument for regulating markets in a way that serves public interested goals rather than profit-making. Unfortunately, his thinking about housing policy doesn’t take how profit-making functions in the actual housing market into account. Yang’s proposed housing policy falls under the category of zoning, and focuses on the need to eliminate zoning limits that supply-siders think are the main reason why housing is expensive. Free up restrictive zoning and money will magically flow through the invisible hand of the market to fill the affordable housing gap, the thinking goes. As we know, in reality, all things being equal, the market tends to supply housing to the highest income earners, because it favors higher profitability when there are no other regulations or mandates in place. Yang uses San Francisco as a model of how restrictive zoning prevents new housing from being created, but that is a gross oversimplification of San Francisco's problem, and it suggests that historic preservation, protection of neighborhood character, and a human scale can be easily sacrificed for greater density, rather than using other constraints and incentives to produce a more balanced housing market. Zoning is one tool among many, but by itself, it’s not sufficient.
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The Architecture Lobby issues official statement on the Green New Deal

The Architecture Lobby (TAL) has come out in support of the Green New Deal, the sweeping piece of potential legislation that’s aiming to transform the U.S. economy and help combat climate change and economic inequality. In an official online statement, TAL called on architects, designers, and allies within similar disciplines to support the resolution through four points of action: by reforming practice, redefining resilience, reassessing technology, and re-empowering labor.  “In order to tackle decarbonization efforts more effectively, the way we work and the way the profession is structured must change,” TAL argued. “Architects must reject the current model of practice as a service profession responding rapidly to private capital... Architectural work for the Green New Deal must not become another conduit for accumulating wealth at the top.”  In other words, architects must look beyond design and at the bigger picture by becoming activists in the industry for smart and equitable collaborations that benefit all. TAL wrote that architects must also refuse to work with clients, manufacturers, or any company whose values “do not support a transformative redistribution of power.” This includes rejecting groups who utilize unfair labor practices, and holding government agencies accountable by both participating in civic processes and policy development, as well as demanding a uniform contact and fee schedule from municipalities. The principles outlined by TAL also encouraged architects to “advocate for carbon neutral affordable housing for all” and help configure new ways to finance such projects other than private development dollars. Additionally, architects must understand that, in the fight against climate change and social injustice, “technology is not neutral,” and it’s important to recognize the power structures behind its development.  In the same vein, TAL urged architects to recognize that advances in technology will inevitably change the way the built environment is designed and constructed, so it’s key to “be deliberate about automation in the profession” and make sure any jobs lost are replaced by reskilling, “so that solving one crisis does not cause another.” According to TAL, “there can be no sustainable world without sustainable labor practices.”   TAL’s statement on the Green New Deal comes months after the American Institute of Architects issued its support. Around that time, AN spoke with a handful of architects across the country to detail their reactions to the draft legislation and what goals they have for achieving a carbon-free economy, social equality, and more. For TAL’s full vision of architects’ role within the Green New Deal, read more here.
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New York State to go carbon neutral by 2050

The New York State legistlature has passed a wide-sweeping climate mobilization bill, that, if signed by Governor Cuomo as expected, would mandate that New York State go totally carbon-neutral by 2050. Senate Bill S6599, or the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CCPA), has been kicking around the legislature in one form or another for the last three years and has been cited as a precursor to the Green New Deal being proposed on the national stage. After a progressive sweep of the State Senate last year in the general election, the stage was set to pass the wide-ranging bill, which had been held up by Republicans up to that point. The ultimate goal is to create a net-zero, circular economy powered by renewable energy. S6599 requires that the state reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to 85 percent of the level it was at in 1990, and to offset the remaining 15 percent through planting trees and wetland restoration. In 2030, the entire state will be required to source a minimum of 70 percent renewable energy and move up to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040. While that may seem like an ambitious target, New York State already sources 60 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydroelectric, and nuclear power generation. According to the New York Times, the state is preparing to build more offshore wind farms and rooftop solar panels and will ramp up its battery capacity for cloudy and windless days. However, just generating clean electricity won’t be enough. About a quarter of emissions in the state come from buildings, which rely on natural gas and heating oil for heating and cooling, and automobile emissions will still need to be slashed as cars and trucks are converted to run on electricity. Hundreds of millions of dollars will also be doled out for remediation in areas disproportionately impacted by industrial manufacturing. While New York City’s own “Green New Deal” initiative will regulate the construction of new buildings to bring them in line with tighter emissions requirements, the CCPA will need to mobilize thousands of new workers to weatherproof and retrofit every type of building to run on clean electricity. No cost estimate has been given so far, and critics have claimed that the final version of the CCPA was watered down by the governor’s office to exclude important labor provisions. The final S6599 takes aspects of an earlier Climate and Community Protection Act but has eliminated job training initiatives in low-income, climate-vulnerable neighborhoods. Additionally, funding the retraining of workers in fossil fuel industries was cut, as were fair wage provisions for workers in the renewable energy sector. The actual nitty-gritty details on how the CCPA will be implemented will be left to a future 22-person “climate action council” to decide. The council will be made up of experts and elected state officials with knowledge on everything from renewable energy, construction, health, labor, and ecology, and will be further supported by working groups with specialized knowledge.
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L.A. city and county developing roadmaps for carbon neutrality

Taking a cue from environmentally-conscious legislators in the nation’s capital, Los Angeles–area municipal entities are making plans to transform and repackage the region’s existing sustainability goals under the mantle of the Green New Deal with the aim of eliminating carbon emissions and boosting social equity. This week, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a wide-ranging “Green New Deal” plan for the city that calls for eliminating carbon emissions in the city entirely by 2045. Like the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez– and Ed Markey–backed Green New Deal initiative, Garcetti’s vision for the future of L.A. aims to unify environmental and social policy to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Under the vision, Los Angeles would reduce building energy use by 44 percent by 2050, reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita by 45 percent by 2045, and ensure that 75 percent of the new housing units built in the city would be less than 1,500 feet from a transit stop, among other goals. These efforts would be guided by new job training initiatives that would help deliver economic promise to the city’s residents. Under the plan, the city hopes to shore up its chronic water issues, as well, and plans to source up to 70 percent of L.A.’s water locally while capturing 150,000 acre-feet per year and recycling 100 percent of the water used within city limits by 2035. Simultaneously, Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the country, is crafting a long-term regional sustainability plan with the help of BuroHappold, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and social justice nonprofit Liberty Hill Foundation. The initiative will deploy a “set of strategies and actions for creating a resilient, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable county,” according to a press release, and calls for eliminating on-road diesel particulate emissions by 100 percent by 2035, sourcing 80 percent of water locally by 2045, and achieving carbon neutrality countywide by 2050. The team behind the plan recently unveiled a draft proposal, available at OurCountyLA.org, that is being workshopped with the help of community members and over 630 stakeholders from 292 regional organizations. If the plans are successful, they would signal a major shift in how the county’s 10 million inhabitants live their lives and could reshape the county’s built environment and transportation infrastructure. Mayor Garcetti’s plan, however, has come under fire for not going far enough from environmental groups like the local chapter of the Sunrise Movement, the youth-driven organization that helped develop Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal legislation. Juan Matute, deputy director of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, told Curbed that because the mayor’s plan only posits a reduction in VMT and relies heavily on the use of electric vehicles, “nothing that’s listed here will produce more than a 5 percent reduction,” adding, “It probably won’t bring them anything.”
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De Blasio cracks down on glass towers as part of Green New Deal

Days after the New York City Council passed the sweeping Climate Mobilization Act, which will impose emission restrictions on buildings over 25,000 square feet, New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a sweeping “Green New Deal” for the city. The OneNYC 2050 initiative, which would see the city go fully carbon neutral by 2050, tackles climate change through new building codes, glass tower crackdowns, renewable energy requirements, citywide composting, investing in resiliency planning, and by supporting the new congestion pricing scheme. The $14 billion package would, combined with actions taken by the prior administration, reduce carbon emissions from a 2005 baseline level by 40 percent by 2030. A number of steps will help the city government decrease emissions 23 percent from a 2005 baseline. The city’s 50,000 buildings over 25,000 square feet will be retrofitted with more efficient technology, and city-owned buildings will be switched over to all-renewable energy sources in the next five years (the city is currently in talks to build out the infrastructure that would allow them to bring in Canadian hydropower). De Blasio also touted the potential restrictions on new towers with inefficient glass curtain walls. “Now, we’re going to take it another step because part of the problem here is that buildings got built that never should have been built to begin with if we were thinking about the needs of our Earth,” said the Mayor when announcing OneNYC 2050 on Earth Day yesterday. “Some of them you can see right behind us in the background. And so, we are going to introduce legislation to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global warming. They have no place in our city or on our Earth anymore. “If a company wants to build a big skyscraper, they can use a lot of glass if they do all the other things needed to reduce the emissions. But putting up monuments to themselves that harmed our Earth and threatened our future, that will no longer be allowed in New York City.” The mayor went on to ding Hudson Yards in particular, claiming that many of the towers were inefficiently heated or cooled due to their glass envelopes. De Blasio’s aides were quick to point out that the administration wasn’t banning glass as a facade material outright, but that they would be imposing much rigid standards on performance or allowing developers to purchase carbon offsets instead. Mark Chambers, the city's sustainability director, touted SHoP’s American Copper Building for its smart use of high-performance glass. "The reason I’m saying ban is to emphasize the point that if a company came in, a landlord came in with the exact same kind of design that they’ve come in with in too many cases in the last—just few years, it will be rejected and they would not be allowed to build, period. That’s why I say it’s a ban. You literally will not be physically allowed to build the kinds of buildings that have gone up even recently in this town. Now, you know, there’s good examples and Mark pointed out the Copper Building, the buildings that Cornell-Technion are built to much higher standards which is a good example that you can have, you know, a modern skyscraper that works. But honestly even some of the recent ones built in this city don’t meet appropriate standards and those will no longer be allowed." That drew immediate pushback from Hudson Yards’ developer Related Companies, which told Crain's that the neighborhood was designed to meet LEED standards and that its towers were among the city’s most efficient class A office buildings. Other changes the mayor proposed included amending the city’s electrical code, enacting a citywide organics recycling program (composting), and realigning the city’s development goals with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Although the New York City Green New Deal was announced with much fanfare on de Blasio’s part, actual details of how these changes would be implemented were sparse. The plan will also have to pass a City Council vote as legislation and may change in the process.
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NYC Council passes sweeping building emission legislation

Some of New York’s tallest towers are doing the most harm to the environment. Although buildings larger than 25,000 square feet only represent two percent of the city’s stock, according to the Urban Green Council that minority is responsible for up to half of all building emissions. Now the New York City Council is finally cracking down on the worst offenders, and New York will soon become the first city in the world to constrain large building emissions through hard limits. Yesterday the council passed the eight-bill Climate Mobilization Act, a legislative package that some are comparing to a New Green Deal for New York. The Climate Mobilization Act, which Mayor de Blasio is expected to sign, would set increasingly harsh limits on carbon emissions for buildings over 25,000 square feet beginning in 2024. According to the Urban Green Council, New York City produces 50 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and buildings account for approximately 67 percent of that—meaning buildings over 25,000 square feet produce 35 percent, or about 13 million tons of carbon dioxide, a year. The legislation covering the affected 50,000 buildings will roll out in phases. This year, an Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance and an advisory board will be created at the Department of Buildings to both regulate and enforce the new standards. When the law fully takes effect in 2024, emissions from qualifying buildings will need to be reduced 40 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The Climate Mobilization Act then takes things one step further and requires that these same buildings slash their emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Why are large buildings such energy hogs? Lighting, heating, cooling, and tech requirements, combined with inefficient equipment, all constrained within leaky envelopes, have combined to create a perfect storm of waste. Retrofitting these massive buildings to use or waste less energy is projected to potentially create thousands of jobs for architects, energy modelers, engineers, and construction workers, as everything from inefficient windows to HVAC systems will need to be replaced. For those structures that can’t be brought up to code on schedule, their owners can offset a portion of their emissions by purchasing renewable energy credits. If an owner still isn’t in compliance, they can be hit with an ongoing fine based on their actual emissions versus the cap. The real estate industry had been a vocal opponent of the measure, arguing that it would place an undue burden on both it and tenants. “The overall effect is going to be that an owner is going to think twice before she rents out any space: ‘Is the next tenant I’m renting to going to be an energy hog or not?’” Carl Hum, general counsel for the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), told the New York Times. “There’s a clear business case to be made that having a storage facility is a lot better than having a building that’s bustling with businesses and workers and economic activity.” Still, those fears appear unwarranted. Part of the Office of Building Energy and Emissions Performance’s job will be to work with landlords and tenants and issue variances for buildings with higher energy requirements.
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California’s Building Decarbonization Coalition plans to green building operations

While politicians in Washington, D.C., spar over the estimated costs of implementing a Green New Deal, California’s Building Decarbonization Coalition (BDC) is making a plan and taking action. The Sacramento-based group recently released a report, A Roadmap to Decarbonize California Buildings, which sets out a series of guiding principles and quantitative targets that could help the state meet its aggressive emissions reductions standards. As BDC’s name suggests, the group has targeted buildings, which in California produce roughly 26 percent of total carbon emissions, as a key area for improvement as the state works to eliminate carbon emissions entirely by 2045. California’s greenhouse gas emissions peaked in the early 2010s at nearly 500 million tons of pollution per year and have dropped slightly every year since. California even met its 2020 emissions goals several years early, mainly as a result of the ongoing build-out of previously-planned renewable energy infrastructure and due to the realization of energy conservation goals, among other efforts. But now, with the low-hanging fruit picked, reality is starting to set in: The road to zero emissions is going to be long and hard-fought, and California needs a concrete, coordinated plan to achieve its ambitious and necessary climate goals. But don’t let those early gains fool you. Despite the progress, Panama Bartholomy, BDC director said via press release, “building emissions spiked 10 percent nationally in 2018, driving one of the largest national emissions increases in decades.”  Bartholomy added, “Yet even here in California, the nation’s climate leader, there is no plan in place to address these emissions.” The BDC hopes to change that. While state legislators work steadily to make increasing density—which will reduce transportation-related emissions—a higher priority in California’s cities, BDC aims to fine-tune the ongoing use, operation, and maintenance of the new and existing buildings that fill those cities. It is expected that California’s building stock will increase by 30 percent between now and 2045, a key opportunity to lock-in carbon emissions savings for the long term if all goes according to plan. A key approach for achieving this aim in the building sector, according to the group, is to reduce and eventually eliminate the reliance on natural gas-powered appliances like stoves, furnaces, water heaters, and other elements in new construction and in existing buildings as they are upgraded over time. This way, as the state’s energy grid draws more of its juice from renewable sources, emissions will fall two-fold due to a decrease in the use of dirty fuels in appliances as well further savings generated through the production of the new green energy sources that power them. As with many of the efforts to transition toward a zero-emission society, however, the challenges are cultural as well as technological. Conventional construction methods and business operations favor fossil fuel-powered appliances, for example, while consumers harbor their own preferences for gas stoves and other household items. To shift tastes and practices, BDC advocates for incentives over punitive measures. The group’s three-pronged effort seeks to first spur new demand in renewable powered appliances via new policies, public information campaigns, and financial incentives that support wider adoption of sustainable approaches. Once that demand is built up, the group advocates for lowering costs of individual products, like high-efficiency heat pumps, for example, through additional financial incentives so that cleaner technologies and appliances can compete with conventional approaches across price points. After that, the group envisions targeted informational and incentive campaigns that ensure wide adoption of these approaches by low-income and other hard-to-reach groups. With debate over national decarbonization strategies taking shape, keep an eye on California’s efforts to rework its building sector. Crucial lessons are sure to emerge as the plan comes to life.
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AIA issues statement of support for proposed Green New Deal legislation

American Institute of Architects (AIA) president William Bates has issued a statement of support for the recently unveiled preliminary Green New Deal (GND) legislation.  In a press release, Bates said: 
We applaud the efforts of Congress and its committees this week to find new ways to support achieving a carbon neutral future by 2030, which is critical to our global future. By investing in infrastructure, upgrading the existing building stock, and improving resilience in the built environment, we can make progress towards AIA’s 2030 Commitment goals. However, there’s a great deal of work that needs to be done. AIA encourages Congress to swiftly enact public policies today that will address the dire consequences we’re facing.
The statement comes just days after a non-binding draft resolution calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the American energy grid was unveiled by New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts senator Ed Markey. Last week The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with architects from around the country to gauge what they would like to see included in an eventual plan.  According to the AIA press release, AIA members are scheduled to visit Congress on March 6 to advocate for legislative action on a range of initiatives related to climate change, resilience, and energy efficiency. As currently planned, the AIA delegation is scheduled to meet with several House and Senate committees, including the Energy & Commerce, Transportation & Infrastructure, Energy & Natural Resource, Environment and Public Works committees as well as the recently reinstated Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in an effort to “to achieve measurable outcomes.” AIA’s support for the GND follows the adoption of the organization’s 2030 Commitment, a program that seeks to “transform the practice of architecture in a way that is holistic, firm-wide, project based, and data-driven” by prioritizing energy performance in order to make America’s building stock carbon neutral by 2030, a goal that is roughly shared with the preliminary GND legislation. A draft of the GND legislation calls for “upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort, and safety,” among many other goals. 
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What do architects want from a Green New Deal?

As the scale of climate change has accelerated and grown direr in recent months, upstart politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York have made addressing the issue a central part of their political platforms. Talk of a Green New Deal (GND) has picked up since November's elections, reflecting a major shift in how Americans discuss climate change. But what is the Green New Deal and how might it impact architects?

The impetus behind the GND is simple: Because the threat of anthropogenic climate change is so fundamental, only a government-led, war-like industrial and economic mass mobilization effort can potentially transform American society quickly and thoroughly enough to avoid global catastrophe.

There are plans to unveil the first round of draft legislation at the federal level this week, but as of yet, no official set of policies has been agreed upon by legislators and activists. But various elements of a supposed GND have been touted for years (see here and here for thorough explainers).

Generally speaking, GND proponents have three specific and wide-ranging goals:

First, activists are calling for the wholesale decarbonization of the U.S. economy. That means eliminating all carbon emissions across every industry in the country, including in vital sectors like energy production, building design, construction, and transportation.

Second, this transition would include a federal jobs guarantee backed by the large-scale deployment of new public works projects. A job guarantee, which, generally speaking, would provide anyone who wanted work with some form of federal employment, would allow people currently working in carbon-intensive industries to leave their jobs for publicly-funded green-collar work. The guarantee, supporters argue, would create a vast, fairly-paid workforce that could get to work transforming American society right away.

Third, activists pushing the GND generally agree that the transition to a carbon-free economy must incorporate socially-just practices that rectify past practices that have exploited certain communities. Such reforms include finding ways to house people displaced by climate change, countering the long-term effects of redlining and the racial wealth gap, and making sure that unlike the original New Deal, the benefits and jobs created by any GND are enjoyed by people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

The initiative would go beyond simply greening the country's energy grid or incentivizing a shift to public transit and electric vehicles; the GND envisions a top-to-bottom reworking of the U.S. economy. Likely, the effort will involve densifying existing cities, building new ones from scratch, and perhaps most importantly, retrofitting and upgrading nearly all of the country’s existing building stock. Architects will be vital to the effort and are likely to benefit from a potential GND through new commissions and opportunities to provide input and expertise across a range of projects and scales.

In an effort to help spur discussion among architects on a potential plan, The Architect’s Newspaper asked designers from around the country to share their wish lists for what a potential GND might include. The responses span a range of issues that touch on the built environment, project financing, building codes, and environmental regulation, among other topics.

For some, creating incentives to reuse and retrofit existing buildings could be a key component of the deal. Karin Liljegren, principal at Omgivning in Los Angeles said, “I’d like to see how legislators can reassert the importance of the federal government’s Historic Tax Credit Program (HTC). The HTC incentivizes developers to rehabilitate iconic and viable old buildings, but it has recently been under threat after decades of stability. Enshrining these incentives in the legislation would send a massive signal to clients like ours.”

But, of course, focusing only on the most iconic historic structures would likely send many buildings to the trash heap. To address “less iconic structures or ones that require an approach that is more adaptive than restorative,” Liljegren suggested “a program of economic incentives that helps developers prioritize the broader reuse of existing buildings. Reusing a structure can certainly be more challenging than building new, but the payoffs are enormous—less embodied energy and waste is only the beginning. In terms of texture, form, and spirit, existing buildings enrich our identities and communities.”

For other architects, increasing the scope of public transportation options in parallel with boosting density is the way forward. Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of PAU in New York City, said, “A Green New Deal should include what I called the 'American Smart Infrastructure Act' in my 2013 book A Country of Cities. In that proposal, I call for the elimination of existing subsidies that encourage sprawl like highway funding, the mortgage interest deduction, and low gas taxes.” Chakrabarti argued for applying this new revenue toward building a national high-speed rail and urban mass transit network that can serve new investments in affordable transit-oriented multi-family housing and low-cost office space. The funding, however, “should only go to municipalities that discourage single-family housing density, like Minneapolis recently did,” Chakrabarti added.

Of course, the overarching network of regulatory policies, like environmental, structural, energy, and seismic codes, that shape the built environment could be improved, as well.

Anica Landreneau, director of sustainable design for HOK in Washington, D.C., pointed to the recently-adopted Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, which she helped craft, as a potential guide for creating a “self-improving threshold” that requires building owners to retrofit existing structures above a certain size according to rigorous energy performance standards. The plan, set to take effect in 2020, seeks to align the energy performance of existing buildings with the steadily-increasing performance metrics crafted for new structures, like LEED certification and Energy Star ratings. The plan will peg the performance standards for existing buildings to the median Energy Star score for all buildings of the same type in the District of Columbia. As the overall energy efficiency of buildings in the District improves over time, the thinking goes, periodic post-occupancy reviews will help create a self-improving target that will compel building owners to upgrade their structures to avoid fines.

In addition to improving incentive programs like the HTC, changes to the way projects are financed more broadly could also help bring to life many of the GND's transformative new projects.

Claire Weisz, principal at WXY in New York City suggested the government “require banks to invest a required minimum 40 percent of their loans in building construction and projects that have sustainable longer-term benefits and proven investments in training and hiring for green jobs.”

David Baker, principal of David Baker Architects in San Francisco, advocated for increased funding for affordable and urban housing projects overall. Baker said, “A major limiting factor on beginning to solve our affordable housing crisis—and the associated climate impacts—is simply money. We have many affordable projects ready to go but currently delayed by a lack of funding.”

Peggy Deamer of The Architecture Lobby wants to make sure that the rights of workers—and the right to work, in general—are not left out of the conversation amid talk of green infrastructure and shiny, new projects. Deamer said, “It is too monothematic to go after environmental solutions without the larger economic structure into which both the effort unfolds or the new carbon-free world functions. If the tech industry’s effort at automation leaves most of us without work or income, who wants to live in that green world?”

In conversations with architects, the issue of affordable urban housing came up often, especially in relation to the stated aims of the GND’s main backers, which include increasing social equity through the program. Because America’s urban areas contain 85 percent of the country’s population and are responsible for 80 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, it is likely that the GND’s effects will be most profoundly felt in cities.

That’s important for architects concerned with racial and social equity in the field. With a rising cohort of diverse young designers—as well as many established firms helmed by women and people of color— it’s possible a potential GND could engender a surge of important projects helmed by diverse practitioners. That possibility, when coupled with the existing diversity of urban residents and potential clients, could transform how architecture is practiced across the country.

It’s a realm where Kimberly Dowdell, president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), thinks her organization can have an impact. “Black architects have a unique opportunity to take the lead in shaping the future,” Dowdell said. “In under-resourced urban communities, which are often majority Black, there is a great need for a new approach to design and development that fully embraces the quadruple bottom line: social, cultural, environmental, and financial.” Dowdell added, “NOMA members have been doing this kind of work for generations. Now, with the Green New Deal, this experience is especially relevant.”

With a “quadruple bottom line” approach at the center of a potential GND, professional architecture organizations pushing for increased equity among their ranks, and demographic trends leading to greater diversity, the architectural profession is poised for significant change that could be accelerated by a GND.

As the potential changes begin to take form, inclusion will likely remain a top priority for designers. Dowdell explains: “In general, everyone needs to have a seat at the decision-making table as it relates to shaping our collective future on this planet. With such a high concentration of minorities in cities, it is absolutely critical that a truly diverse set of minds and voices are empowered to implement the best of the Green New Deal.”