Posts Tagged ‘Green’

Phone Companies Hanging Up the White Pages

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

 Goodbye to the white pages.  The white pages are heading into retirement, as regulators in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida have approved Verizon Communications Inc.’s wish to no longer distribute residential phone books. According to phone companies, the majority of people now look up numbers on the internet instead of consulting the bulky book.  “Anyone who doesn’t have access to some kind of online way to look things up now is probably too old to be able to read the print in the white pages anyway,” quipped Robert Thompson, a Syracuse University pop culture professor.  There’s also some sound environmental reasons for discontinuing the white pages in terms of using less paper and ink.

The initial phone book was issued in February, 1878, in New Haven, CT.  It was a single page that listed 50 customers, and eventually grew into a book that was a staple in American homes for generations.  In an age when more people rely exclusively on cell phones (which aren’t listed in the white pages), the big books have become an anachronism.  Additionally, caller ID systems on land lines have the ability to store many frequently called numbers.

In the last three years, states that have granted permission to stop publishing residential lists or that have pending requests include Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.  In New York alone, discarding the white pages will save 3,375 tons of paper annually and conserve the energy required to print, bind and distribute the directories.  Despite the impending demise of the white pages, their business-oriented counterpart – the yellow pages – is faring quite well, according to the Yellow Pages Association, which says that more than 550 million combined residential and business directories are printed annually.

Emily Goodman, a doctoral student at Northwestern University whose dissertation is about the history of the white pages as information technology, said “The telephone directory stands as the original sort of information network that not only worked as a kind of a social network, but also served as one of the first information resources.  It’s sort of heartbreaking…even though these books are essentially made to be destroyed.”  Goodman hopes that the white pages will be archived for their historical, genealogical and sociological importance.

Google Partners to Create Mid-Atlantic Offshore Wind Farm Transmission Grid

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Google is expanding into offshore wind farm transmission grid. Google is expanding its horizons by partnering with Good Energies, a New York-based investment firm that specializes in renewable energy, to create a $5 billion, 350-mile-long transmission grid to support offshore wind farms along the Atlantic Seaboard.

Each of the two firms has agreed to take 37.5 percent of the equity portion of the project – named the Atlantic Wind Connection — and are looking for additional investors.  Trans-Elect, a Maryland-based transmission-line company, hopes to begin grid construction as soon as 2013.

“Conceptually, it looks to me to be one of the most interesting transmission projects that I’ve ever seen walk through the door,” according to Jeff Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which administers interstate electricity transmission.  “It provides a gathering point for offshore wind for multiple projects up and down the coast.”  The proposed grid will have a capacity of 6,000 megawatts, the equivalent of five large nuclear power plants.  The system will be located in shallow trenches on the seabed in federal waters just 15 to 20 miles offshore and stretch from northern New Jersey to Norfolk, VA.  It will harvest power from wind turbines situated where the winds are strong and the towers will be largely out of sight.  Richard L. Needham, director of Google’s green business operations group, described the plan as “innovative and audacious.  It’s an opportunity to kick-start this industry and, long term, provide a way for the mid-Atlantic states to meet their renewable energy goals.”

Trans-Elect says that the first phase – stretching from northern New Jersey, to Rehoboth Beach, DE – could be completed by 2016, with the rest of the system becoming operational in 2021.  Using offshore wind to generate electricity is more expensive than coal, natural gas or onshore wind, though experts predict offshore turbines will be used more frequently to meet state requirements for locally generated renewable energy.  James J. Hoecker, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, described the Atlantic transmission grid as “a necessary piece of what the Eastern governors have been talking about in terms of taking advantage of offshore wind.”

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley To Receive Legacy Award for His Sustainable City

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to be honored with legacy award that bears his name. Who is the recipient of the inaugural Mayor Richard M. Daley Legacy Award for Global Leadership in Creating Sustainable Cities?  It’s none other than retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley himself.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, architecture critic Blair Kamin said “Chicago’s lame-duck mayor, famous for his green thumb and his iron fist, will receive the award at the annual Greenbuild conference in Chicago this November, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced.”

The Greenbuild Conference & Expo will be held in Chicago at McCormick Place West November 17 – 19.  Roger Platt, Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Law for the USGBC, said “USGBC is incredibly honored to be part of Mayor Daley’s legacy as a world leader in demonstrating how a nurturing and sustainable city can be the highest service to a community.  This award is in recognition of the Mayor’s visionary and planet-changing leadership that has created the amazing legacy of a green city.  We are looking forward to bringing our Greenbuild conference back to one of the world’s most sustainable cities.”

Chicago holds the honor of being one of the first cities in the United States to adopt LEED certification for its public buildings.  Additionally, the city boasts the largest number of LEED-certified buildings in the nation.  “During Daley’s 21-year reign as mayor, according to city officials, Chicago has planted more than 600,000 trees, constructed more than 85 miles of landscaped medians and built more than seven million SF of planted roofs – more than any other city in America,” Kamin said.

Green Construction Comprises One-Third of All U.S. Projects

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Green buildings now one-third of all construction. Although construction in the United States has been slow since the financial meltdown of 2008, there is one niche segment that is thriving – green construction.  According to McGraw-Hill Construction, green buildings now comprise one-third of all new construction, an increase of two percent over 2005, a surprise in an industry that is historically slow to change.

A case in point is the new Silver LEED-certified Ross School of Business building at the University of Michigan.  The environmentally friendly building incorporates technologies such as dual-flush toilets, which use 0.8 gallons of water instead of 1.6 gallons.  Firm in the knowledge that LEED certification is worth the money, the University of Michigan is now committed to going green on all new construction projects that cost $10 million or more.

Terry Alexander, Executive Director of the university’s Office for Campus Sustainability, notes that the added cost of LEED certification is actually a small percentage.  Because the university already saves energy and water in its new buildings, the extra cost on a $100 million Silver LEED project would be just two percent.  That includes the hard cost of eco-friendly features as well as soft costs for the paperwork required to achieve LEED certification.  Alexander says that Michigan is confident that the LEED plaque sends a message about the university’s environmental priorities and that it increases the school’s prestige with students and employees.

Is It Hot Enough for You?

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Global warming is already impacting Chicago-area weather, foliage and wildlife.It’s not your imagination.  Chicago’s weather is getting warmer and climate scientists, botanists and zoologists have collected evidence that show real-time changes in seasonal timing and weather patterns that are altering the region’s ecosystems.   Writing in the Chicago Tribune, reporter William Mullen says “This is what experts say we should expect in the future:  Shorter, warmer winters with fewer but more severe snowstorms; longer, more intense summers with fewer rainfalls and more drought, but also an increase in sporadic, intense, basement-flooding downpours; lower lake- and river-water levels; and less winter ice cover on Lake Michigan and area streams.”

Chicago Wilderness, a regional alliance dedicated to protecting nature and enriching life, has issued the “Chicago Wilderness Climate Action Plan for Nature”, a far-reaching plan designed to guide local governments, companies and conservation groups on coping with environmental change.  “We’re in for warming regardless of what we do now,” said Robert Moseley, director of conservation with the Illinois Nature Conservancy and the plan’s lead author.  As an example, the Arbor Day Foundation’s 1990 national “U.S. Hardiness Zone” map put Chicago in Zone 5, where winter temperatures can fall as low as 20 degrees below zero.  By contrast, the 2006 map placed Chicago in Zone 6, where the coldest winter temperatures register at 10 below zero.

According to Mullen, “Too much CO2 can warm the planet too much, and in the last 240 years, the fossil fuel-powered Industrial Revolution raised atmospheric levels from 280 parts per million (ppm) to more than 380 ppm, raising worldwide temperatures at an alarming rate.  As countries like China and India industrialize, the increase in CO2 levels is accelerating, and so is global warming, climate scientists warn.”

Field Museum bird expert Doug Stotz notes that “chronology mismatches” are already occurring.  “We see oaks leafing out two or three weeks earlier than they used to in the Chicago area.”  Climate change means that some native bird species will disappear while others currently common in the South will move north.  Called “invasives” and “exotics”, these birds can act as predators towards native species.  And, there are other consequences.  Kudzu, the fast-growing vine that chokes trees in the Southeastern United States, has been found in Evanston.  Armadillos, which once weren’t seen north of Texas, have been sighted in downstate Illinois.

Richard M. Daley Remade the Face of Chicago – Despite Controversy

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Whether you loved him or hated him, Mayor Richard M. Daley left an indelible mark on Chicago’s landscape.  Richard M. Daley dropped a bombshell on Chicago with his announcement that – after serving as mayor for 21 years, longer than his father Richard J. Daley – he would not seek an unprecedented seventh term.  As citizens and pundits pondered the reasoning behind the decision and political hopefuls immediately started jockeying to be his replacement, the Chicago Tribune‘s architectural critic Blair Kamin wrote that the mayor “changed the face of his city as well as its tired Rust Belt image.”

According to Kamin, Daley “was the Boss and the Builder – a democratically elected king who could remake vast swaths of the city at will.  He ruled with an iron fist and a green thumb, and he often used the power of the former to carry out the agenda of the latter.”  Daley’s legacy includes planting more than 600,000 trees, building more than 85 miles of landscaped medians and building more than 7,000,000 SF of green roofs.  Public construction of schools, police stations and firehouses are designed with energy-saving LEED standards.  “All that greenery was simply the beginning of Daley’s efforts to transform Chicago from a City Functional, where utilitarian concerns were paramount, into a City Beautiful, where quality of life issues carried equal weight,” Kamin wrote.  “Indeed, Daley’s long tenure – and his unchallenged grip on power – allowed him to take urban design risks that other mayors, nervously contemplating the next election, would be too timid to try.”

Other important public works projects carried out by the Daley administration include the de-malling of the State Street bus corridor; the renovation of Navy Pier into a tourist mecca; the construction of Millennium Park over an unsightly rail yard; the creation of the Museum Campus along the lakefront; and the controversial overhaul of Soldier Field – a move that deprived the stadium of its National Historic Landmark status.

“Daley’s style of operating often seemed to come straight from the playbook of Robert Moses, the all-powerful, mid-20th Century New York ‘master builder.’  Moses believed it was better to get things done now and apologize to his critics later,” according to Kamin.  “Yet Daley rarely apologized, earning him a reputation for arrogance as well as boldness.  Outside Chicago, his high-handedness didn’t cost him.  Within the city, it bred deep resentment, particularly when the economy turned sour.”

As someone who arrived in Chicago when Daley came to power, I saw first hand the transformation of our city into a world-class metropolis.  The redevelopment and architectural boldness did much more than re-inscribe our physical environment – it made the city cosmopolitan and multi-cultural, a focus for exciting ideas and a largeness of spirit, which still surprises people who travel here.  Daley leaves a legacy.

Green Metropolis Takes Aim at Environmentalists’ Conventional Wisdom

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Author David Owen thinks that New York is the nation’s greenest city.  David Owen, a staff writer with The New Yorker, has expanded on his 2004 article entitled “Green Manhattan” that roughs up some of the environmental movement’s most closely held beliefs in a new book entitled Green MetropolisA review by Catherine Tumber, originally published in The Wilson Quarterly, notes that “Eco-friendly suburbanites and small-town residents are only kidding themselves as long as they live in sparsely settled, spaciously appointed, auto-dependent communities.  If they really want to reduce their carbon footprint in any significant way, they should live in densely settled, pedestrian-friendly, public-transit-oriented cities like New York.”

Owen suggests that cities like New York build on their biggest low-carbon asset – their large population densities – and place less emphasis on green buildings, urban agriculture and increasing the size of the city’s parks.  He even believes that Central Park is too big and wasted space that could be used to support even more housing.  Additionally, Owen takes aim at “the spectrum of green-tech fixes under development, from residential solar panels and LEED-certified buildings to ‘net-metering,’ de-concentrated ‘distributed’ electricity generation, ethanol production and electric cars.  ‘Nature-conservancy brain’ and ‘LEED brain,’ as he calls these environmentalist fixations, are too often driven by PR and do little more than distract from the more difficult task at hand:  how to get Americans to kick the car habit and live together more closely, in smaller spaces,” Tumber writes.

According to Owen, New Yorkers are environmentalists because they live in a city where a car is a luxury and residents tend to walk, take the bus or the subway.  “In urban planning in particular,” he said, “the best, most enduringly fruitful concepts have usually arisen accidentally, and have endured not because anyone was wise enough to identify and preserve them but because they serendipitously developed what was, in effect, a life of their own.  Owen argues that New York should be viewed as a model for other cities that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Tumber notes that “Owen makes a point, almost in passing, that also deserves further conversation:  rather than reducing the carbon footprints of apartment buildings or growing food on precious urban real estate, cities should be focusing on ‘old-fashioned quality-of-life-concerns’ such as education, crime, noise and recreational amenities – the very troubles that drove people into suburbia in the first place.”

AIA Edges Closer to USGBC Standards for Green Buildings

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

It costs more than $100,000 to fill out LEED certified.  Could the AIA offer a better way?  It’s surprising that the AIA still does not endorse LEED standards for green buildings.  There has been some progress in forming some kind of strategic alliance, but that is only in the area of advocacy, education and research.  There is still nothing concrete.  Nevertheless, the Architecture 2030 Bulletin and the AIA 2030 Commitment story are very interesting. The AIA website has many downloadable forms that comprise their own version of building performance measurement.  It’s likely that the AIA will step up to form their own rating system to compete with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), which is a very lucrative non-profit organization that the government chose to use for their own needs to employ green strategies — and when the government chooses a program, everyone else follows.

I hope the AIA will offer an alternative form of measurement to the USGBC.  The USGBC’s process requires too many consultants and specialty firms to work independently on hundreds of credit applications.  Ideally, the architect and his/her engineering consultants should be able to perform all of the analysis as part of their basic services.  As of now, we get huge additional fee requests for the architect/engineers to help fill out LEED forms, and separate fee requests for energy models, LEED consulting, and commissioning services.  It costs more than $100,000 in miscellaneous fees just to fill out and upload credit point applications.  Many think that $100,000 could be used to improve the building’s performance.

Chicago 2016 Shouldn’t End

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Chicago Olyimpics ReactionAlthough Chicago’s 2016 Olympic dreams were shattered on October 2, the experience should be a learning experience about shaping the city’s future.

According to Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribunes Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, “It’s all about whether Chicago can transform its grand defeat on the international stage into a back-to-basics victory on the home front, taking the best ideas from its Olympic quest and carrying them forward to make a better city and better lives.”

Kamin provides these examples:

The long-neglected south lakefront can be given new life with the redevelopment of the former Michael Reese Hospital campus into a mixed-income residential community.  Even though the City of Chicago seems determined to tear down the entire site, preservationist Grahm Balkany believes that the buildings co-designed by noted modernist architect Walter Gropius are worth saving and should be incorporated into the redevelopment.

The Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Washington Park – which was to have been the setting for the main Olympic stadium and aquatic center – is now well-known to Chicagoans because of the publicity it received.  Perhaps it’s time for the Chicago Park District to turn its attention to enhancing this major recreational resource on the city’s South Side.

Chicago’s blue-green city concept – an environmental theme to conserve water, save energy and recycle resources – should not be limited to the failed Olympic bid.  The concept is a sound one and the city should implement this program to improve the quality of life for every Chicagoan.

The Olympic bid doesn’t need to go to waste.  It was a $72 million, three-year master-planning project and we shouldn’t cast it away.

Lenders Get Green

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Marketing green is a new step in the emergence of sustainability.  In a tight credit environment when rates have climbed and LTVs have dropped, green may offer a way to ease the underwriting criteria on a deal.

The green-building revolution is spreading, and the underwriting community has embraced sustainable design because it enhances marketability and income.  To illustrate, net rent in a particular office market may include a $15 psf in base rent and another $8 in common-area costs – the latter driven largely by energy and water-use costs.  It adds up that if you reduce that common-area cost and pass the savings along to the tenant, your building will be more attractive because it operating costs are lower.

Community banks in environmentally conscious markets or in areas where local building requirements foster sustainable projects are offering standard loans with terms favoring green development.  In San Francisco, the New Resource Bank offers qualifying green projects a generous loan-to-value ratio of as much as 80 percent, and a slightly better interest rate than it does to conventional project developers.  Green lenders look for incremental steps such as preferential review, quarter-point interest-rate discounts, longer amortization and relatively small changes in return for LEED or Energy-Star certification.

In Houston, the Green Bank recently moved into a 20,000 SF headquarters specifically designed to earn LEED’s gold certification.  Previously known as the Redstone Bank, it was acquired by a local banker who rebranded it as Green Bank and launched in January of 2007 with a focus on sustainability.  Just 1 ½ years later, Green Bank has $275 million in assets and is creating a group of environmentally conscious companies and individuals.  One vital goal is to educate team members to identify green-oriented customers, whether they are recyclers or LEED-certified construction space users.