If you have been living in a cave the past couple of weeks, then you missed T. Boone Pickens' plan (see video above) for reducing our dependence on foreign oil. T. Boone is an oil tycoon that made more money on crude than many of us can even begin to comprehend. Now, he is backing alternative energy (wind, solar, etc.) as a way for us to successfully survive and not put every penny into our gas tank. On a different note, ff you want some perspective to our current situation, check out this article in the NY Times written on December 1, 1990. Seems like the airlines complain about the price of crude oil regardless of price. That industry is jacked up anyway.
"A challenge for green finance is the ongoing struggle among appraisers and underwriters to understand the value and risk of sustainability."--Scott Muldavin, Executive Director of the Green Building Finance Consortium in San Rafael, CA.
Whether we are talking urban sprawl or the Ghostburb phenomenon, our nation and global economies and enviornments are definitely in flux. Our reliance on big oil has us feeling the pinch every time we fill up. The energy and economy crisis of '08 provides a great opportunity for advancement...advancement in new technology and business ventures. Odds are, something huge is going to hit...but who knows when. In the meantime, there are a lot of ideas of what life may be like in the future. Popular Science has a cool site describing what they call the "Green Mega City." The Green Mega City integrates a pod car, driverless bus, energy highway, Maglev Skytrain, Algae Park, power sidewalks, etc. into the whole city's infrastructure. Just click the navigation arrows for descriptions of each.
The Mississippi Lofts are a new mixed-use development (56,000 square feet) coming to Portland's Mississippi Historic District. It looks as if they are going all out on this one. Brownfield redevelopment...check. Storm-water Management system...check. Use of regional materials...check. Certified wood, use of low-e paint and materials, water efficient landscaping...all check. The are shooting for LEED Golf certification, which requires between 39-51 points on a LEED scorecard and the Mississippi Lofts are attempting to receive 48 points. They are scheduled to be completed by next month but by the looks of their blog, they seem to still be in the construction phase. HOA fees seem to run from about $170 to $300 per month depending on the unit. Some of the smaller units are going for about $393 per sq/ft (737 total square feet) where as the larger units go for about $341 per sq/ft (1172 total square feet).
Hopefully, as more companies begin to adopt a full-service green strategy, you will hear more "Work from home!" and less "Get to work!" A panel at the recent CoreNet Global Summit encouraged U.S. corporations to implement worker mobility "telecommuting" programs in an effort to reduce carbon footprints. Gervais Tompkin (no relation to Ricky Gervais), principal at architectural firm Gensler, reports that about 73 million square feet of office space was delivered in the US during 2007. Alternatively, studies have found that as much as 55% of the nation's office space is underutilized. At HP in the UK, instituting a mobility program resulted in consolidating more than 2,800 workers in 451,000 square feet of office space down to 165,000 square feet...resulting in a 49% energy savings! Given the transition from the manufacturing to the service sector AND the focus on corporate globalization over the past 50 years, mobility programs of one variety or another should be carefully considered at many, if not all, service firms in the US. In theory, all you need is a computer and an internet connection, right?
I came across a couple green sites recently...they provide wind and solar information based on your address. The first is findsolar.com. This site helps determine the solar viability of your home. Once basic information is entered (address and power company), the site spits out the utility savings per month, total cost, solar panel size, tax credits and anything else you would need to know before you installed a solar panel on your house. The second site is firstlook.3tiergroup.com. With this site, after you create an account, you can figure out how much wind hits your property by providing your location. These sites provide excellent initial cost info on the solar and wind investment decision. When you consider the fact that installing a solar panel can cost between $30,000 and $60,000 (before credits), you want to make sure that you are figuring out all of the relevant costs and benefits of a particular decision.
Driving through Southern Utah, there are three things that always catch my attention. The red rock terrain, the green golf courses, and the heat. Just last week, my wife and I drove through St. George and it was probably 85 degrees...in April. Temperatures start to average in the mid 80's starting in May and usually last till October, getting to the upper 90's and 100's in June, July, August and September. The heat provides the perfect opportunity for residents to embrace green building...and that seems to be the case in St. George. A housing panel is weighing plans for the construction of a green housing development aimed at households earning between 60% and 110% of the area median income. The Flats at South Point will save residents 50% or more on heating and cooling costs and will have a targeted home value between $180,000 and $230,000 . An affordable green development in the ballpark of $135 per square foot. That's awesome! The first phase of construction is slated for completion around July 2008.
10 cities have been chosen by the AIA's Center for Communities by Design to work with architects and local stakeholders to work out a plan for implementing sustainability. By participating, the cities, which include Detroit, Tampa, New Orleans and Fort Worth (and 6 other cities), will be able to mentor and provide a blueprint to neighboring cities on how to implement various aspects of sustainability. The program will address neighborhood revitalization, transportation infrastructure challenges, as well as offer strategies to improve air and water quality.
As a consumer, this is a great story. Marin County (north of San Francisco) is taking on energy giant, PG&E, and wants to change how and where their residents obtain energy. And they want to change it now. They are calling the movement Marin Clean Energy. They have created a CCA (community choice aggregation), which allows a local board to not only negotiate energy rates but also the source from which the energy is being supplied, whether that be PG&E or another supplier. Although the Marin case could backfire if PG&E drops the rate of natural gas over the next couple of years, if more communities and municipalities join the fray and demand control of their energy, competition will ensue, which would drive the price we pay for energy down. I am curious to see how this progresses.