Building with Nature: the Dutch Sand Engine
Jan27

Building with Nature: the Dutch Sand Engine

“Cities are emergent systems, with only 5 to 7 thousand years of history, mostly during the relative climatic stability of the Holocene,” said guest editor Kristina Hill, an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. “We’ve never tried to operate a city during a rapid climate change, especially not on the scale of population we now have, with our largest cities housing upwards of 20 million people.”

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ESA Policy News: September 27
Sep27

ESA Policy News: September 27

WILDLIFE: letter of support for conservation programs
UNITED NATIONS: IPCC report released
HOUSE: testimony on climate action plan
EPA: new carbon standards for powerplants
SCIENCE: Golden Goose awards

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New World Trade Center goes for gold
Jun24

New World Trade Center goes for gold

By Peter Janetos, ESA public affairs intern On September 11th 2001 the two iconic towers overseeing the New York City skyline, were reduced to a heaping pile of rubble and destruction. Twelve years later, a new World Trade Center (WTC) complex is emerging that aims to achieve the “gold” certification in its building design.  LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) was developed under the US Green Building Council to recognize and certify both buildings and communities that aim to improve energy savings, reduce carbon dioxide emissions, intelligently manage resources, conserve water, and improve indoor environmental quality.  The certifications range from “certified”, 40-49 points, to “platinum” 80 or more points. So what exactly does the environmentally friendly building design of the new WTC entail?  For starters it will use a technique called daylighting to reduce the use of interior lighting.  Eduardo Del Valle, Director of Design Management told Popular Science that “if enough daylight is coming into the window it automatically dims the interior lights. It’s all about reducing energy consumption. Every space within 15 feet of the facade will be equipped with dimming devices.”  Studies show that natural sunlight is better for the human body than artificial light so an added benefit could be reducing illness and increased productivity. The WTC requires construction workers to use only ultralow-sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) to reduce air pollution associated with this extensive construction project.  In particular ultralow-sulfur reduces nitrogen oxide.  ULSD fuel is so effective that New York State and city now require it for construction equipment used for public construction projects have to use ULSD.  They plan to help reduce local air pollution surrounding the new towers with ample public transportation options, encourage carpooling, and new facilities for bikers to reduce air pollution from commuting. WTC will harvest both the rain and take water from the Hudson River, conserving water and reducing costs.  Rain will be used on new cooling towers, and to water the vegetation within the 16-acre complex.  Hudson River water will be used with the new Central Chiller Plant to cool off the transportation hub, the 9/11 museum, rental space, and non-commercial activities.  Seventy five percent of the new WTC is made of post-industrial recycled content, reducing the carbon footprint in building construction and saving energy by recycling goods instead of manufacturing new ones.  WTC also recycles 80 percent of waste it generates on site. If the new WTC acquires Gold certification and continues to implement these smart building designs, it would be a monumental achievement for the city of New York.  Many other buildings in New York have acquired Gold and Platinum certification but the sheer...

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Psychologist, green building manager, religious leader urge ecologists to move beyond their own scientific community

The Ecological Society of America’s 96th Annual Meeting is taking place in Austin, Texas and kicked off on Sunday, August 7 with an Opening Plenary Panel featuring Richard Morgan, Austin Energy’s Green Building and Sustainability Manager, social psychologist, Susan Clayton of the College of Wooster, and the Executive Director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Matthew Anderson-Stembridge.  Joining the trio, was ecologist Laura Huenneke, ESA Vice President for Public Affairs, who moderated the discussion.  The group explored the management, psychological, and religious and moral aspects of ensuring that Earth’s life support systems remain resilient in the face of human demands. In her opening remarks, Huennke said that the ecological community understands it has much to learn from other communities and that advancing the goal of stewardship of the planet will require multiple efforts by many different communities.  She said that ecologists should “listen very deeply” and work collaboratively with others. Richard Morgan explained that because Austin Energy is a city-owned electric utility, it must be responsive to its citizens, who want to see the utility take environmentally responsible actions.  Increasing energy efficiency and reducing waste are a key part of Earth stewardship, said Morgan.  The old fashioned way in which building permits are still issued, he said, are holding back the degree of progress that would be possible if these were updated.  The same prescriptive codes used in the 1980s are still in effect; if the real impact of a building in a community were taken fully into account, said Morgan, it would dramatically reduce energy consumption using already-existing technology. Matthew Anderson-Stembridge expressed his gratitude to ESA in inviting him to the Plenary and said that the open letter members of the scientific community send to religious leaders in 1990, set a course for many communities of faith to embrace care for the environment as part of their charge.  He said the term ‘steward’ is particularly meaningful to communities of faith and helps define our relationship to each other and to the environment.  Anderson-Stembridge encouraged ecologists to use the “universal human venue” of storytelling and then provide the facts. Susan Clayton recommended that ecological scientists be mindful of language choices in speaking about environmental issues.  She reminded the audience that because many people react negatively to well-known but politically affiliated people such as Al Gore, one should avoid associating such people with an issue because doing so can prevent an audience hostile to someone such as Gore from hearing your message.  It’s important to learn something about your audience and find a way to connect with their values, said Clayton; find language that resonates with where they...

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Green roofs: not just for looks

What is an innovative method to reduce both heating and cooling in buildings, reduce storm water run-off, preserve natural habitats and even refrigerate warehouse beer? According to scientists at the Ecological Society of America’s 95th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh: green roofs. These vegetated roofs, as the ecologists explained yesterday in “Rooftop ecology: what is a green roof and why should ecologists care?” provide a wide array of economic, architectural and environmental benefits.

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