For eons, humans have used thick, thermally massive walls to store the heat of the day and to warm their homes at night. Due to America’s persistent dependence on fossil fuels, passive solar walls enjoyed brief mainstream popularity during the fuel crises of the mid-20th century, and residences across the country benefited from reliable, renewable heat. As gas prices declined, so did homeowner and developer enthusiasm for these low-energy systems. As we face a massive climate change calamity and most residential heating systems today are still served by volatile fossil fuels, it is time we revisit and incorporate passive solar technologies into our new buildings and renovations.
First, let me acknowledge that my own life is harming the planet on which we live. I drive a car, I buy stuff packaged in plastic, I have pets – all things that I know to have a negative impact on the planet that sustains me, my family, my friends, and everyone else.
I recently returned from a fascinating trip to Israel. My trip covered a large portion of the country, which is a little larger than New Jersey. Being able to drive to different areas gave me the opportunity to take in all the amazing features in both rural and urban settings. Although traveling for pleasure, this trip turned into a captivating educational experience. In addition to the history lesson, I learned about Israel’s approach to remaining sustainably sound, even in a desert climate. There are many technologies and processes used in other countries that originated in Israel. This blog post will discuss several of the sustainability challenges Israel faces and how the country has conquered these challenges, including some of the technologies that came out of these adversities.
I recently had the privilege to travel to Colombia with Engineers Without Borders to assess the needs and resources for an irrigation project for family farms. Colombia is very well suited for coffee and sugar cane, but the dry season is too harsh for more sensitive plants like basil, lettuce, spinach, and peppers. For this, farmers need drip irrigation, water catchment, water reservoir, and water diversion. Our group’s goal is to develop an affordable, sustainable, and replicable design as a pilot project for ten farmers in central Colombia. We are working with Food 4 Farmers, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), Nueva Realidad, a Bogota based NGO, and Nuevo Futuro, the local coffee cooperative. We knew what our goal was before we started, but we had no idea what to expect from the trip. Here are our impressions of the country with which our team returned.
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley was born in my home town of Jericho VT in 1865. My town is situated in Vermont in a unique way that allows for a lot of annual snow (by Vermont standards). Not only does Jericho get a lot of snow, but we also seem to be situated in such a way that we get perfect snowflakes that don’t clump together. This is what allowed Mr. Bentley to become one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He invented his own way of catching flakes using black velvet, so they wouldn’t melt or evaporate before he could get a picture of them.
While this is off the topic of energy efficiency and optimized building functionality, it’s relevant to sustainability, specifically the long-term health of businesses and the people they employ. The United States’ health care system is in crisis. As a nation, we spend over twice the amount on health care than other developed countries, but rank last in terms of health care outcomes, such as equity, efficiency, and mortality rates (see: How Bad is U.S. Health Care?). As the cost of health care rises, the financial hardship of staying well not only burdens those who need help the most – the sick and the poor – but also those businesses committed to providing health care to their employees.
According to various studies, the United States is beating its energy reduction and renewable energy production goals beyond any federal predications. Total energy consumption in 2016 was 17% lower than expected, wind power production was 79% higher, and solar production was 383% higher than the United States Department of Energy predicted in a February 2007 report, as stated in the October 5, 2017 Statista Portal. In addition, a 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report finds that 45% of the 1.9 million workers in the Electric Power Generation and Fuels technologies are in the low-carbon emission generation technologies (renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas).
Early this year, Cx Associates and the Vermont Green Businesses Network (VGBN) were awarded the Burlington 2030 District Director contract. Cities and towns that become an established 2030 District commit to the Architecture 2030 Challenge, which requires all new buildings, developments, and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. Cx Associates and VGBN, as the Burlington 2030 District Director, are tasked with developing a roadmap for the newly established Burlington District and assisting it to become self-sufficient.
I recently attended the CleanMed Conference and Exposition in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This event, organized by Health Care Without Harm and Practice Greenhealth, “has gained a global reputation as the premier conference on environmental sustainability in the health care sector.” This blog post will discuss the conference content as well as a few key points from several of the workshops I attended.
Earlier this month, the New England chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Committee on the Environment held their annual leadership summit in Burlington, Vermont. As the keynote speaker, Clark Brockman – principal at SERA Architects and a leader in his field – delivered a presentation on district scale solutions for net zero energy and water in communities.