A good hour-long podcast discussion between Alex Steffen and Angie Coiro about the future of cities. Skip the first 8 minutes or so to get to the meat of it.
A good short English primer on Passivhaus design elements, and the standard itself. If only there were more English documentation.
A long format talk by Hans Rosling at the Open Knowledge Festival, on the importance of not just liberating public data, but also using it to weave engaging stories for the public about the facts of the world as we know it exists today. It does no good to allow students to debate why women in the Muslim world have more children than elsewhere, because it isn’t true. Sweden still sends foreign aid to China, even though China just bought Volvo. People think that 30% of our power comes from wind and solar, because wind and solar grew 30% last year. Why don’t more activists demand good data? Why don’t they use it to build fact-based cases for their causes, instead of seeking out only the data that confirms their pre-existing ideologies?
Note: Rosling’s talk begins at 35 minutes into the archived video stream.
Passive Passion is a good 20 minute long film introduction to the German Passivhaus energy efficiency standard, which reduces building energy use by 80-95% (depending on what existing code you compare it to). It looks at the roots of the design standard in Germany, and gives a few examples from the tens of thousands of Passivhaus certified buildings in Europe, including single family homes, row houses, apartment buildings, public low income housing, and office buildings. They talk about what makes the standard work: airtight building envelopes, super insulation, no thermal bridging, heat recovering ventilation. The film also looks at a few builders and designers in the US trying to popularize the cost effective implementation of these methods. It’s clearly possible. The examples are out there today. We just have to decide to do it! If we’re going to get to carbon zero, someday our buildings will all have to function something like this.
Adam Greenfield has 100 short thoughts from his upcoming book, The City Is Here For You To Use. He’s somewhere between an urbanist and a science fiction writer… exploring the near future, or unseen present, of cities. How do networks change cities? Their structure, purpose. Is that good, bad, unavoidable?
Passive Passion is a great 20 minute long documentary about the German Passive House energy efficiency standard. It looks at the roots of the design standard in Germany, and gives a bunch of examples of implementations in Europe, from single family homes to row houses, apartment buildings, public housing, office buildings, etc. Talks about what makes the standard work: airtight building envelopes, super insulation, no thermal bridging, heat recovering ventilation. Also looks at a few builders and designers in the US trying to popularize these methods, and do it cost effectively. Clearly it’s possible, we just have to decide to do it!
The Empowerhouse is an affordable, net-zero Passivhaus design, that came out of the Solar Decathlon competition. In collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, the team as built a duplex in the Washington DC area that is site net-zero, despite having the smallest solar array of any of the homes entered in the competition. It was able to do this because it took a Passivhaus approach, aggressively minimizing all loads first, sealing the building nearly airtight, and super-insulating it. They also integrated a rooftop garden and terrace. By sharing the heat management equipment between the two relatively small units, they were able to reduce costs substantially. All this means the low income residents will spend much, much less on energy over the lifetime of the building. We need more affordable housing that looks like this.
With this year’s expiration of the Kyoto Protocol and our Climate Action Plan (CAP) tax, the city of Boulder is looking to the future, trying to come up with an appropriate longer term climate action framework, and the necessary funding to support it. To this end there’s going to be a measure on the ballot this fall to extend the CAP tax. I’m glad that we’re talking about this within the city (and county), because at the state and national level, the issue seems to have faded into the background. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. This year’s wildfires, the continuing drought that’s decimating the corn and soybean harvests, and the phenomenal 2012 arctic melt season are just appetizers. If the last decade’s trend holds true, we’ll have an ice-free arctic ocean some September between 2015 and 2020.
The major sources of emissions, broadly, are electricity generation, transportation, the built environment (space heating, cooling, hot water, lighting), agriculture, and industry (the embodied energy of all the stuff we buy, use, and then frequently discard). The extent to which local government can impact these areas varies. We interface with embodied energy most directly when it comes to disposal and at that point, the materials have already been made. Similarly, most of our food comes from outside the region. Our most ambitious project so far has been the exploration of creating a low-carbon municipal utility. We’ve also potentially got significant leverage when it comes to transportation, land use, and the built environment, since cities and counties are largely responsible for regulating those domains in the US.
Design Explorations of the Lower Colorado River, a landscape architecture course taught by a friend of mine at Cal Poly, in which the Colorado River is taken to be the primary client, and human needs are assumed to be real, but secondary. All we have left is gardening. We might as well do a good job of it!
Alex Steffen gave one of the keynotes, at the first SXSW Eco Conference this fall, talking about good cities as the single best leverage point we have in reducing GHG emissions. It’s broadly the same collection of ideas as his forthcoming crowdfunded book Carbon Zero: A Short Tour of Your City’s Future. Looking forward to its eventual release.