LA is rarely thought of as the country's greenest town, what with all the traffic and sprawl, but it's doing a lot better than you think, as the News informs us. For the second year in a row, Los Angeles has been ranked number one in terms of energy efficient buildings, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star ratings. LA made it to the top of the list by having the most rated buildings—ones that use 35 percent less energy than the average—with 293. The top five include Washington, D.C. (204), San Francisco (173), Denver (136) and Chicago (134). This does not exactly mean it is the most efficient period, given that there are so many more buildings in LA—usual suspects like Seattle and Portland are missing from the top five, as is New York, which we'd like to think is missing because it's so dense, though probably the real issue is that it's so old an inefficient to begin with. Still, no matter how you look at it, this is a step in the right direction for all of us.
Posts tagged with "Sustainability":
Is it really possible to make your house too green? California may not think so, but a Harlem brownstone is finding that to be the case. Last week, Curbed spotted 151 West 122nd Street, which the realtors declare to be the "greenest house in Manhattan." While there are a few others that might argue for that throne, this one holds the title by apparently being the first standalone townhouse in the borough to achieve a LEED rating, Silver to be exact, courtesy a Better Homes and Gardens makeover. But all that green cred is not translating into green credit, as the building's price has fallen from $4.05 million some 17 months ago to $2.79 million. At least one critic, gadabout blogger Harlem Bespoke, has complained that the problem is the project has forgone its charm for slick environmentalism—there's no brownstone left in this brownstone!. Could this be the case, as ArchNewsNow turned up more green backlash today? Or is it simply the fact that no one is willing to spend this kind of money, no matter how nice a house, in Harlem?
California, Florida, and Illinois are receiving the largest pieces of the federal high speed rail pie. According to the a release from the White House, California will receive $2.32 billion for a forked line running from San Diego to Los Angeles and splitting in Northern California with spurs to San Francisco and Sacramento. Florida will receive $1.25 billion for a new line from Tampa to Orlando, with an additional line connected Orlando to Miami as a part of a "long-term vision." “By investing in high speed rail, we’re doing so many good things for our country at the same time," said Vice President Biden, according to a statement from the White House . "We’re creating good construction and manufacturing jobs in the near-term. We’re spurring economic development in the future. We’re making our communities more livable—and we’re doing it all while decreasing America’s environmental impact and increasing America’s ability to compete in the world.” Illinois will receive $1.13 billion to upgrade its corridor to St. Louis, far less than the $4.5 billion the state sought. While this may seem like a set back from Illionis, the Midwest region as a whole received several other significant grants, which should eventually link to a hub in Chicago. Wisconsin and Minnesota will received $823 for a new line from Milwaukee to Madison, WI, with projects laying the "foundation" for a line connected from Milwaukee to Chicago and a "long-term vision" for a Mineapolis to Madison line. Michigain/Illinois/Indiana are receiving a $244 million grant for upgrades along a line stretching from Chicago to Kalamazoo to Detroit to Pontiac, MI. Ohio will be granted $400 million for a new line conntecting Cleveland to Columbus to Dayton to Cincinatti. The Northeast Corridor, with the nation's largest existing rail ridership, is receiving a comparatively small grant of $1.91 billion in funding, spread across nine states and the District of Columbia. According to the Boston Globe, the complexities stemming from multi-state enviornmental impact statements hindered the region's bid.
As automakers vie to release the next generation of plug-in electric cars, many eco-conscious drivers have wondered about the lack of charging infrastructure in dense urban environments. Unlike in, say, London, where charging points are being planned within one mile of every citizen by 2015, New Yorkers have heard little about curbside electric pumps. Well, if you’re looking for a place to plug in your GM Volt, one company’s vision of the future has arrived. This week, Brooklyn-based sustainable energy company Beautiful Earth (BE) unveiled their new solar-powered electric vehicle charging station, the first in New York and one of just a few in the world. Designed and built by BE from recycled steel shipping containers, the off-grid station sits on a lot near the company headquarters in Red Hook, collecting the sun’s rays with a roof of Sharp 235-watt photovoltaic panels. With a battery bank that stores electricity around the clock, the 6-kilowatt station can charge a car even at night, and could potentially feed unused electricity back into the grid. For now, the new station’s larger impact is more symbolic than practical: It’s only being used to charge BE’s company electric sports car, a BMW Group Mini E (though it would work just as well with any electric vehicle). A full charge gives the Mini E a little over a 100-mile range and takes about three hours, but shorter charging times are well within reach. “As the technology advances, easy charging stations will become increasingly realistic,” said Amanda Cleary, BE’s manager of sustainability.
Coming out of City Hall today, we stumbled upon a press conference reaffirming the groundbreaking green-ness of the new green buildings measures first unveiled on Earth Day and due to pass the council this week. Measures that include a new energy code and more efficient lighting, energy benchmarking and training for building operators. But one measure no longer included, according to a rather damning story in the Times this weekend, is mandatory decennial energy audits for commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet, which would be required to replace inefficient building systems if they are not up to current standards. The main culprit, as with many things these days, is the recession:
“It’s another unfunded mandate, and this is just not the time for it,” said Stuart Saft, chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, an opponent of the plan. “Come back in five years when we’re past this recession. At this point it’s just a slap in the face.”Hence the press conference today, though it was not being hosted by the building owners and operators opposed to the bill but half-a-dozen environmental groups in favor of it—big ones at that, such as the Environmental Defense Fund, NRDC, and the Urban Green Council (aka USGBC NY)—along with as many council members, who will be voting on the green building legislation Wednesday. This group was not there fighting for the reinstatement of the missing measure but instead bowing to its removal while arguing the package of bills would still set New York on a historic path. "This is fair and responsible," James Gennaro, chair of the Environmental Protection Committee, said. "We'll get to 30 percent one way or another." Let's hope so.
A crumbling row of ten Renaissance Revival apartment buildings, which were once the first black-owned property in North Harlem, are about to be remade again as one of a growing number of affordable, sustainable housing complexes sprouting up across the city. The project, which according to the Daily News, is set to begin by year's end, is being tackled by affordable housing guru Jonathan Rose and his Smart Growth Investment fund, who bought the buildings in January as the fund's first acquisition in its cheap-and-green portfolio. Dattner Architects, experts on both affordable and sustainable housing, is responsible for the retrofits [PDF], which include a photovoltaic array on the roof, efficient energy systems, lighting controls, new windows and insulation, and sustainably sourced materials. In addition to making it a more conscientious project, it also makes it a more feasible one, as these features open it up to stimulus and HUD moneys targeted at sustainable buildings—to the tune of $3 million.
If you've passed by One Bryant Park in the past month or so, you may have noticed what looks like a kind of leafy-green Stonehenge clustered in the lobby of the Bank of America building. The three monoliths and twenty-five foot tall archway are made of galvanized steel frames seeded with thousands of ferns, mosses, and lichens, an installation designed by a team from Wallace Roberts & Todd, led by designer Margie Ruddick and sculptor Dorothy Ruddick. The piece is meant as a reminder of the building's green cred, as the Cook + Fox tower achieved LEED Platinum. Unlike the original Stonehenge, we don't have to wonder how this one was built. In fact, you can watch it being assembled in the above time-lapse clip, which compresses the entire 42 hours of installation into a mere 30 seconds. Watch as the mysterious shruboliths rise before your eyes, and check some photos after the jump.
Planetizen published an interesting piece over the weekend looking at the relative disconnect between sustainability and starchitecture, or how form may have gotten futuristic of late, but not with the future in mind. The article's a little plodding at times, though the argument is valid and clear:
Many contemporary buildings embody the age-old conflict between individual expression and the common good, while some appear almost antagonistic towards the environment. Frank Gehry's aluminum billows and Daniel Libeskind's tilted spires are largely aesthetic accents that use computer-aided design to create forms unbuildable, if not unimaginable, even a decade ago. The sheer expense of iconic libraries, concert halls, and corporate headquarters contradicts environmentalism’s drive for efficiency.As if answering the call, the Rocky Mountain Institute launched a new site today, Green Footstep, designed to help architects calculate the carbon impact of their buildings. According to Victor Olgyay, a principal at the institute, their calculator is different than predecessors because it helps determine the building's footprint over the life of the building, not simply at inception, something most buildings—including in the LEED spectrum—fail to take into consideration. Having never designed a green building ourselves, we can't speak to the efficacy of the site, but it certainly look impressive and operates intuitively, so it's worth checking out. Should you do so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
New Yorkers, grab your paint brushes and rollers. That's the message from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as he and Mr. Global Warming himself, Al Gore, kicked off NYC Cool Roofs, part of the city's new service program that gets volunteers to paint city roofs white. A cheaper and less intensive alternative to green roofs, white roofs help keep buildings cool by reflecting the suns rays back from whence they came—though they don't address stormwater issues like their verdant cousins. “It’s such a simple concept—anyone who has ever gotten dressed in the summer knows it—light-colored surfaces absorb less heat than darker surfaces do,” Bloomberg said from a factory rooftop in Long Island City earlier today. “Coating rooftops with reflective, white paint can reduce roof temperatures by as much as 60 degrees and indoor temperatures by 10 to 20 degrees." Gore thanked the mayor for keeping the city "at the forefront of enacting innovative policies that reduce our carbon footprint.” While the Times calls white roofs a stop-gap measure, and more green roofs would obviously be the ideal, they're gaining in popularity, particularly with the Obama administration. The city's program is currently in the pilot stages, with plans to cover 100,000 square feet of LIC rooftops over the next two weeks. The area was chosen for its expansive industrial buildings that make it one of the hotter spots in the city—as well as easier to paint. While the Building Code now requires many new buildings to have white roofs, the city's sustainability czar, Rohit Aggarwala, noted that 85 percent of buildings that will exist by 2030 are already built. "As a result, we must include existing buildings in our efforts to cool the City," he said. "The NYC Cool Roofs program, combined with the building code requirement that re-roofing projects include reflective coating, is critical to meeting the City’s goal of reducing citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.”
Yesterday, the Times ran a decent though not totally honest and rather obvious piece on how a number of LEED buildings don't actually save much in the way of energy. The Federal Building in Youngstown, Ohio is taken to task for "rack[ing] up points for things like native landscaping rather than structural energy-saving features." Well, our dear friend and fellow blogger Chad Smith takes the Gray Lady to task for its disingenuity. Yes, LEED is flexible, maybe sometimes too much so, but that's precisely what makes it so good, Chad argues, or at least so successful. To wit:
4. One of the reasons LEED and green building is so hot right now is because LEED has been very popular. So like Wal-Mart bringing organic food to each of their stores everywhere, LEED has brought the idea of sustainability to the world of building in the United States. It's a huge success, but one that is not fully realized. [...] 6. The Times article implies that buildings can install a bunch of bamboo flooring and get a LEED rating. In fact, Renewable Materials is one of the hardest points to get in the LEED system. Basically it's bamboo anything, cork flooring, and like wool carpets...and that's it. As a percentage of construction, you'd need to cover every surface in bamboo to make it work. So no one is installing that much flooring in lieu of other sustainable strategies. [...] 9. Some LEED buildings are undoubtedly kicking ass on the energy consumption measure. Let's hear about those too?Be sure to check out Chad's original post for the other six reasons on why LEED's so good. And just to prove we're not on the take from the USGBC, here's one of the first article's I ever wrote for the paper on the need for testing these systems once they're installed. Not only does this verify their efficacy, but it also helps maintain their efficiency. It was true (and underutilized) three years ago, and it's even more true today. Let's just hope Chad's right about five years from now. The more things change...
There is a lot to like about Chicago's Quincy Court, an alley turned public space outside the Mies van der Rohe-designed Dirksen Federal Building that opened this summer. The General Services Administration (GSA) initiated the project to help beef up security around the federal campus, and they can certainly be praised for hiring a design firm to reimagine the space, in this case Rios Clementi Hale of Los Angeles, instead of just bolting a bunch of bollards into the ground. And while the design has a certain whimsy, which may appeal to some, we're having a hard time getting over the giant plastic palms. According to the press release the "sculptural grove" mediates between the monumentality of federal campus and the smaller scale of State Street. The seating and tables are nicely detailed and the project's Pop sensibility is sure to change the way people think about this alley way. But in this age of ecological crisis, and in a city that has made sustainability one of its hallmarks and has worked hard to green the Loop, the plastic palms seem like the wrong message for the GSA to send. Real deciduous trees, after all, provide shade in the hot summer and loose their leaves in the fall when sun is welcome. Ken Smith's artificial rooftop garden at MoMA, which boasts fake rocks, plastic plants, and few environmental benefits, seems like a similar missed opportunity, a one liner that provides intriguing views for neighbors but does little to improve the hardscape environment of midtown Manhattan. Are we being too rigid in our thinking? Should we loosen up and go shopping for some silk flowers?
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has completed the installation of LED fixtures on the necklace of the George Washington Bridge. The 156 light emitting diode fixtures replace the span's mercury vapor lamps and are expected to save $49,000 in energy and maintenance costs annually. The LED fixtures have 80,000-hour, or 15-year, life spans, while the mercury lamps only lasted one year on average. The Port Authority also expects the new energy-efficient fixtures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 220,000 pounds per year. The capital project was approved by the authority's board of commissioners in 2007 as part of an initiative to reduce green house gas emissions at Port Authority facilities.