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  • Re-Sus-Citate Resilience and Sustainability for the Health of our City | Michele Oberholtzer | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    their efforts lead to widespread impacts Through herd immunity a society can effectively eliminate a threat that might have otherwise been a public health disaster On the other hand a high proportion of unvaccinated people can lead to broad negative impacts where those who are too young too poor or too ill to be protected are put at risk When it comes to severe weather New York City is certainly among those most vulnerable with its vast resources clustered so close to sea level If we all participate there can be real reduction in greenhouse gas levels yet if enough cities or nations fail to participate they will diminish the efforts of the others Here s the good news New York is on track to be a national and international leader on environmental issues While we cannot hope to influence global climate trends on our own we can be a positive force for increased sustainability that can make a tangible difference In 2007 New York City adopted PlaNYC a set of interrelated policies with a shared goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 by 2013 3 One component of PlaNYC is a mandate that large buildings complete an annual energy benchmarking report Local Law 84 of 2009 Similar legislation has now been passed in major cities around the county Washington DC San Francisco Austin Boston Chicago and Seattle 4 all have energy benchmarking laws aimed at improving building efficiency Together these cities make the whole herd safer By taking the first step New York has blazed a trail for sustainability with a widespread positive influence While the analogy is useful climate change is not just a metaphorical health threat extreme weather and other consequences of climate change can have life threatening impacts The challenges are daunting and the issues complex but with greater understanding and sustained commitment we can have a strong positive impact With a new mayor coming into office on January 1 2014 New York City has the opportunity to build on the significant environmental efforts of Mayor Bloomberg As of September 24 2013 resilience was added to the scope of the Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability 5 Meanwhile millions of dollars in federal aid remain to be spent on post Sandy recovery 6 and the City Council currently faces proposed legislation that covers broad environmental issues including plastic bag management building heat retention and flood management 7 Bill de Blasio has the power to sign or veto these bills and if they become law his administration will have the responsibility to implement similarly progressive legislation Change happens whether we like it or not but we are not helpless spectators Sustainability efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions can reduce the frequency and severity of extreme weather events Resilience measures to buttress our defenses can diminish the consequences of what we fail to avoid There cannot be one without the other The health of this City depends on our ability to apply this lesson Re Sus

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2013/12/resuscitate.php (2016-02-10)
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  • Buildings Tell The Truth | Chris Benedict, R.A. | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    the profession from energy use building science physics and holistic thinking We watched the rise of hundreds of green guidelines and programs and the misuse of modeling software operated by people who had never touched a building and we watched the money flow towards this lots of it Introducing Passive House In late 2005 I was challenged to look at a German idea called Passive House The claim was that the Germans were making buildings without boilers WOW Could that be possible here North East Sustainable Energy Association NESEA allowed me to put together a series of sessions at their 2006 conference to hash it out and Henry and I participated along with thought leaders John Straube Betsy Pettit Marc Rosenbaum Katrin Klingenberg and a representative from Passive House Institute Darmstadt These sessions inspired many people including me to see how the Passive House protocol would work here and most of what is going on right now in the North East is a product of those first conversations Passive House was great for us as we had already deployed much of what was required to meet the standard all we had to do was figure out how to upgrade the work and keep the construction cost in check The history of the movement here has been contentious It is my hope that the guiding concepts and clear goals of the Passive House movement will weather the controversy and that we can bring the movement to full market acceptance I am pleased to announce that I will be joining the board of Passive House US But I think the best thing I can do for the movement is build a Certified Passive House apartment building for the same price as typical construction Calling Foul In 2008 we started reading about a report put out by New Buildings Institute claiming that LEED certified buildings used 30 less energy on average than non LEED certified buildings Buildings tell the truth and frankly we could not imagine how the claim was true given the structure and priorities of the LEED guidelines in comparison to our own visceral experiences practice and data Upon analysis of the study Henry determined that an improper statistical analysis had been done and the article that he wrote about this went viral An important part of his article a part that gets overlooked because of Henry s pointed critique of the NBI study and how it was portrayed by USGBC is the description of a new and more relevant building rating system a system based on mechanical equipment size Its ridiculously simple yet incredibly profound because all of the good work in the building is embodied in the size of the machine Mayors Task Force for Greening the Code It was demoralizing to watch LEED seep into codes and laws When Mayor Bloomberg created his Taskforce for Greening the Code Henry and I were invited to participate Our main objective was damage control We knew it would mean challenging Urban

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2013/10/buildings_tell_the_truth.php (2016-02-10)
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  • Building Efficiency and Blower Doors: Essential Responses to Sandy | Ken Levenson, A.I.A. | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    Power Because BEE is essential to our storm resilience it should be concretely addressed in the response to Sandy by the City Council and Mayor Thus far City BEE efforts have been segregated within PlaNYC and while this trailblazing initiative has achieved significant gains in energy efficiency it too focuses heavily on the symptoms of our buildings problems and not their root causes For example while PlaNYC has addressed the critically important aspect of mechanical systems commissioning and their efficient operation PlaNYC does not significantly address what is making the loads so big and the systems so large in the first place The root cause of this deficiency is the actual building construction While building construction is complicated an initial and significant response addressing it and the resulting efficiency need not be Real progress can be made in tackling the root causes by focusing on measuring the airtightness of building enclosures and making them airtight Why specifically airtightness Because it is fundamental the cornerstone of an energy efficient as well as comfortable and healthy building Airtightness is even more important than thermal insulation A leaky building compared with an airtight one otherwise similarly thermally insulated can have up to five times more heat losses 1 Air leaks are the biggest liability in regards to BEE As such airtightness is also the essential physical metric of the world s most rigorous building energy standard Passive House Passive Houses be they apartment buildings office buildings or schools are very airtight and energy efficient achieving up to 90 reduction in heating and cooling energy demand from typical buildings existing today while being very comfortable healthy and affordable And a Passive House building without power should provide safe shelter through the coldest days of the year as it achieves an indefinite interior temperature equilibrium of approximately 55 degrees Today airtight Passive Houses are soaring in popularity across the globe New York City now has dozens of projects totaling over 150 000 SF of either complete or under construction Passive House projects The world wide leader is not in Germany but is Brussels Belgium This northern European capital has gone from zero square feet of Passive House in 2007 to over 3 5 million square feet today and government regulation mandating Passive House for all new and substantially renovated private and public buildings starting in 2015 As Brussels and others are demonstrating the Passive House real world feasibility the challenge should no longer be why we can t do it but instead how can we do it And the first step in answering how is by specifically focusing on airtightness Fortunately a building s airtightness can be readily measured at minimal cost with a blower door test A blower door is a programmable fan device that can pressurize and depressurize the building s interior volume of air to determine how tight or leaky the building enclosure is When a blower door test is done air leaks can be quantified located and sealed making a more

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2013/08/airtightness_blower_doors_and_passive_house_essential_missing_responses_to_hurricane_sandy.php (2016-02-10)
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  • Language Matters, Or What Should I Do With My Banana Peel? | Kendall Christiansen | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    of New York City s biosolids were land applied to replenish soils Referred to as co digestion combining sludge and high energy organics nearly twenty of the largest utilities in the U S are going beyond wastewater to take in other sources of organic material including food scraps from food processing industries as well as food markets and institutions Utilities in Boston and Chicago are shopping for organic wastes that can take full advantage of available capacity in their digesters While most utilities use that biogas for their own heat and power needs some are converting it into biofuel for fueling their vehicle fleet Privately owned merchant digesters are popping up too nine of them in Ohio and two more in western New York developed and operated by Quasar Energy which morphed from an accomplished composting company which also partnered in the recent Five Farms project in Rutland Massachusetts Another sign of an emergent industry the American Biogas Council launched in 2011 helps advance this new industry as an equal partner to other forms of renewable energy like wind solar and geothermal Once headed down this path other opportunities arise four U S cities are assessing the efficacy of food waste disposers a k a garbage disposers to divert residential food scraps from garbage trucks into the water resource recovery system In this form the methane biogas is cheaper to transport and is easily processed into clean water biogas and biosolids Philadelphia Tacoma Chicago and Milwaukee and Boston later this year are installing and measuring the waste reduction benefits of disposers in target areas with early indications that an advanced disposer with some education to optimize its use can make a huge difference making clean kitchens and environmentally responsible systems Three Northeastern states Vermont Connecticut and Massachusetts are adopting either by statute or regulation bans on the landfilling of all organic wastes focused initially on food waste generated from larger institutions and food related companies Such bans will accelerate the expansion of biogas production systems as well as complementary composting operations Why is this such a big deal a veritable paradigm shift With food waste estimated to be the fate of as much as 40 of the food produced each year 6 and most of it getting buried in landfills the opportunity to exploit food scraps as a renewable resource is an opportunity too good to waste Even EPA has targeted food scraps as a primary area of focus 7 In short now there s hope for your banana peel because it doesn t have to be trashed at the landfill or the incinerator Instead it can serve as a renewable resource that replenishes soils renews water and reduces greenhouse gas emissions 1 The Water Resources Utility of the Future A Blueprint for Action NACWA WERF WEF From the foreword This project was advanced because a group of industry leaders arrived at a shared realization that the challenges and opportunities faced by wastewater agencies are unprecedented and that some of

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2013/06/language_matters_or_what_should_i_do_with_my_banana_peel.php (2016-02-10)
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  • Getting Serious About Daylighting | Yetsuh Frank | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    by 2025 while more stringent and more closely monitored energy codes will drive improvement in lighting across all building sectors As the lighting systems in one of the world s great financial centers is replaced and retuned to meet current codes it is critical that we do not miss a related and significant opportunity the deployment of advanced daylighting controls across the office landscape Our analysis indicates that at least 114 million square feet of New York City office space can easily accommodate the inclusion of comprehensive advanced daylighting controls and that these retrofits could result in electric peak demand reduction of as much as 160 megawatts and 340 gigawatt hours GWh of electricity savings This peak demand reduction is greater than the capacity of the gas fired Far Rockaway Power Station one of several power plants within the city limits 1 The chance to achieve routine peak demand reductions serves as a critical argument in favor of daylighting systems The greatest availability of daylight coincides with the time of day early afternoon and the season summer when electricity demand is highest In addition not all electricity is created equal Electricity is most expensive during peak periods as noted above and peak periods are typically when the most polluting least efficient power plants are brought on line to feed the grid So reductions in peak demand have irrefutable cost and environmental benefits We estimate that deployment of advanced daylighting systems would result in financial savings of over 70 million annually for local building owners and tenants However our analysis also discovered significant challenges to broad implementation of advanced daylighting systems The components of the most commonly successful systems dimming ballasts appropriate controls remain expensive and many existing daylighting systems are not working as intended or have been disabled meaning that often these systems are not delivering expected savings To address these problems our report describes a phased Path Forward that begins with a program to monitor and analyze a series of advanced daylighting demonstration projects to determine the critical elements of successful installations Armed with the set of solutions that are most likely to produce successful outcomes public agencies and energy authorities will be in a position to develop targeted incentives that will encourage adoption The demonstration project phase of this program is critical and understanding the technical and the human sides of performance data is key Most of what people know about previously deployed daylighting systems both positive and negative is anecdotal When anecdotes constitute the knowledge base for daylighting bad things are likely to be the result from perfectly workable solutions being discarded as bad ideas for no good reason to unworkable solutions being constructed out of wishful thinking A systematic demonstration program that will measure project performance interview the stakeholders from designers to constructors to occupants and develop a robust understanding of the project elements is the only way of understanding what distinguishes successful projects from those that are not effective or present continual challenges Today we

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2013/04/getting_serious_about_daylighting.php (2016-02-10)
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  • From Evolution to Revolution: Enabling Clean Energy at the Edge of the Electric Grid | Thomas Bourgeois & William Pentland | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    renewable sources Do current protocols for assessing new T D capital spending include metrics for assessing the extent to which the existing distribution system is making progress in accommodating higher penetration levels of distributed power systems The answer appears to be no Take Con Edison s once in a generation investment in grid modernization which took place under the auspices of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act s Smart Grid program Con Edison received a whopping 136 170 899 in federal funds under ARRA s Smart Grid program which were spent almost entirely on distribution automation devices and communications assets Those distribution automation investments were not designed to expand the electric grid s ability to accommodate distributed generation according to reporting data available on the U S Department of Energy s Smart Grid internet portal New York City can ill afford to miss massive opportunities like these to transform the electric distribution grid Suppose an electric power distribution utility has a choice between capital investment A and B Investment A and B perform the same services for the system as it is currently configured and utilized Investment A costs less than investment B However despite its increased cost investment B augments the distribution system s performance with respect to distributed generation on the network that it serves If B has a future benefit does it get rewarded for that attribute On the contrary If A maintains the distribution system functionality status quo is there any penalty assessed for the risks it poses insofar as the functionality is not improved The metrics that are currently used in assessing distribution system performance and guiding distribution system investments are not likely to give us signals as how amenable the grid is to incorporating distributed power the extent to which its capabilities are being effectively captured and how the functionality of the grid is evolving in certain areas e g its agility flexibility resilience Fundamental changes in the configuration of our electric power generation and distribution system will require concomitant changes in distribution planning the structure and composition of the assets on the distribution system and the operation of the system itself e g the network protection schemes As we make new investments in New York s distribution system we need to ensure that the direction we are heading in doesn t look like this If we create the right system we can more readily insure that as we make new investments in the Distribution System the direction we are heading in looks more like this To guarantee realization of the Commission 2100 Report recommendations we must fundamentally alter the distribution system and the planning and approval process that guides the investments that determine its functionality As long time advocates for environmentally superior high efficiency distributed generation and cogeneration we applaud the Report s conclusions However taking a look back at history we are tempted to ask what will be different this time How specifically will the T D system planning process of the

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2013/02/from_evolution_to_revolution.php (2016-02-10)
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  • Obama's First-Term Eco-Legacy and the Road Ahead | John Tepper Marlin | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    debated to death in the Senate After the election of more Tea Party adherents in 2010 it was all over In 1970 it would have been hard to believe that 42 years later the nation still would not have such a carbon tax or a carbon price setting mechanism like a cap and trade system Green issues then had bipartisan support President Nixon s strong Clean Air Act amendments to the original 1963 Act created the EPA William Ruckelshaus became its first head and new water pollution laws were passed after two years What stopped progress OPEC s decision to create an oil shortage Inflation cascaded through private and public prices and economic concerns overtook environmental ones The GOP took on the mantle of environmental deregulation in the name of promoting economic growth although significant instances of environmental progress have occurred under Republican leaders since Nixon The GOP s Opposition to Environmental Rules Is Negotiable President Reagan for example may have cut social and environmental budgets including one third of EPA spending but in his second term he did something important He noted the high cost of ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon CFC gases and he promoted a worldwide reduction via the 1987 Montreal Protocol This Protocol has been described as the most successful international convention ever signed by 197 countries and the European Union and it has stopped the growth of the ozone hole although some aerosol substitutes such as hydrofluorocarbons continue to contribute to global warming even though they don t damage the ozone layer President George W Bush during most of his administration was like Reagan antagonistic to environmental regulation but in the latter years of his presidency he championed significant initiatives to conserve natural resources that became law and he moved the country along on the path toward greater energy efficiency Given that Reagan and Bush 43 added valuable environmental achievements late in their second terms President Obama has some encouraging precedents The fact that his re election results are strong may have something to do with Republican leaders entering the 113th Congress with a more serious inclination to cooperate with President Obama than two or four years ago He now has a real opportunity to achieve more of the change he promised in 2008 Proposals for the President s Second Term Climate change legislation deserves to be near the top of the President s second term agenda Even if the United States magically reduced its emissions to zero the planet will be threatened by the continuing rapid industrialization of China India and other emerging economies For the United States to exercise global leadership on this important topic it must do more at home Some things will happen on their own The Energy Star rating has been shown in several articles by Professor John Quigley and others to raise the value of a property significantly for both sale and rental so this certification has legs Venture capitalists are supporting renewable energy projects Vehicle manufacturers are hard at work

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2012/11/obamas_firstterm_ecolegacy_and_the_road_ahead.php (2016-02-10)
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  • Deficit Could Be X-Factor for Carbon Tax | Charles Komanoff | Snapshot Column | the Sallan Foundation
    resource think tankers and gasp a sprinkling of Republicans been conferring in Washington boardrooms to map a possible legislative path to a carbon tax in the next Congress or even in this year s lame duck session The answer is simple revenue A carbon tax set at higher than token levels will bring in big bucks A U S tax that started at 10 per ton of carbon dioxide and tacked on another 5 each year roughly what British Columbia has done since 2008 would be generating over a quarter of a trillion dollars a year in revenue after a decade Even if only a fraction of that revenue were used to reduce the deficit and draw down the federal debt the contributions from this broadly based tax would be considerable Such a tax would be no slouch in the carbon reduction department Based on my econometric modeling of carbon taxes and emissions at the Carbon Tax Center I estimate that nine years after initial implementation when the tax has grown to 50 per ton of CO2 a level equivalent to roughly 47 cents a gallon of gasoline or 2 4 cents per national average kWh U S emissions will have fallen from last year s level by 600 million metric tons a drop of nearly 11 percent thanks to economy wide changes such as less driving more efficient cars and trucks electricity conservation and reduced use of fossil fuel power plants That prospect is impressive yet it s almost beside the point in Washington circles where the dragon to be slain is the deficit not climate change Just as salient as the magnitude of revenue from a U S carbon tax would be its dependability Again from Econ 101 R P x Q tax revenue equals price tax level multiplied by the quantity subject to the tax The first element in the formula price is known since the tax level is set in the legislation The quantity is almost as predictable true the elasticities that depict mathematically how fast the tax will erode demand and decarbonizes supply can t be pinpointed but the error bands aren t terribly wide Revenue predictability is a carbon tax s ticket into real world discussions about deficit reduction and tax reform Because the tax s revenue generation in any year can be reasonably known it becomes a means to get things that legislators actually want pay fors in Congressional parlance this chunk of the revenue can extend the payroll tax cuts this piece can cut corporate taxes that part can draw down the deficit etc Note that cap and trade systems don t make this cut due to of their built in volatility a result of the fact that the trading market not the legislature determines the price of the carbon permit allowances see graph Nor can non pricing approaches for reducing carbon play in the deficit reduction and tax reform game Carbon regulations like CAFE standards for passenger cars generate zero revenue

    Original URL path: http://www.sallan.org/Snapshot/2012/10/deficit_could_be_xfactor_for_carbon_tax_1.php (2016-02-10)
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