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Links for July 23rd through July 27th

by Mel Starrs on July 28, 2010

in News

These are my links for July 23rd through July 27th:

  • Worldchanging: Bright Green: Transition Towns or Bright Green Cities? – Read the whole article: “That sort of casual eagerness for the death of others is appalling. Worse, the strategy implicit in this vision of transitioning — that there can be local soft landings in the event of a global hard crash, that indeed the only proper scale at which to prepare for a soft landing is at the local level, and that perhaps collapse will solve some of our problems — is delusional.
    Collapse is not a tool for social change. …. Anyone who thinks an energy descent plan prepared by a community group future-proofs them against people like Charles Taylor has simply taken a vacation from reality.
    Local efforts can’t protect against the violence of a systemic breakdown. …To plan for the collapse of large-scale systems is to plan for widespread evil and suffering; ethical planning for the collapse is impossible: post-collapse idealism is oxymoronic.”
  • All power to the wind – it cuts your electricity bills – opinion – 26 July 2010 – New Scientist – “Insofar as there is a problem, it lies in handing control of industrial policy to marginally priced markets. Market-based decisions are not technology-neutral. They favour short-term profits, and that encourages the building of power stations with low capital costs and high marginal costs. That means gas-fired plants, which are tailored to make a profit whether the spot price is high or low.
    In fact, hardly any nuclear or coal-fired plants have been built in the past 15 years, only gas-fired plants, along with renewables installed thanks to support mechanisms such as feed-in tariffs.
    If those mechanisms had been ruled to be market-distorting subsidies and removed, leaving the market to make all the calls, we would see nothing but new gas plants built. This would leave us vulnerable, wondering where tomorrow’s natural gas, on which we would be utterly dependent, would come from – a scenario that has only been prevented because wind turbines receive support.”
  • Linking Green Buildings, Productivity and the Bottom Line | Buildings | GreenBiz.com – Interesting stats: “Indeed, the 2003 California report found average annual employee costs to be 10.25 times larger than the cost of space per employee. The author extrapolates these findings to calculate that a 1 percent productivity increase would therefore have a financial impact over time roughly equal to reducing property costs by 10 percent.”
  • More than Passive – Michelle Kaufmann Studio – “Although he is introduced to me as “one of the world’s great Passivhaus experts” (and having designed over 100 built Passivhaus homes, he has earned this title), Walter is quick to respond saying that is not the title he wants. He clarifies in our conversation as well as during his very compelling presentation the next day. While Walter commends the Passivhaus intentions, he says that it is about more than that. It is about good design. “Designing a Passivhaus is easy. But we need to make sure we are designing good Architecture as well.” It is much more than just calculations and scientific numbers. “Good architecture is not a scientific result.” His message resonates strongly, as this is a fear of green rating programs in general (whether it be LEED, or other), that some architects will simply follow the checklist and not innovate or design.”
  • A Bold New Model for Sustainable Cities – Robert G. Eccles and Amy C. Edmondson – HBS Faculty – Harvard Business Review – “Unlike the real estate developers doing places like Masdar in Abu Dhabi, New Songdo City outside Seoul, and Dongtan in Shanghai (basically “green” real estate plays with a “let’s build it and hope they come” approach), Living PlanIT’s model is to create an ecosystem of large and small company partners that will focus on creating products and services for sustainable urbanization. The people that the partners bring in to produce those products and services will be the anchor occupants of the model city. The hope is that this activity will then attract other businesses and inhabitants.”
  • Commercial Lighting Solutions: Login – With lighting set to be the bete noir of Part L 2010, this looks intriguing (but US based): “The Commercial Lighting Solutions provide actionable “how to” guidance on ways to improve your building interior lighting efficiency and reduce your energy consumption, without compromising quality design criteria. Strategies include the use of high performance commercially available products, daylighting, and lighting controls, all within the context of integrated designs supported by performance specifications.”
  • A Reporter at Large: The Island in the Wind : The New Yorker – Fascinating article on renewable energy in Denmark: “The biggest disappointment, though, had to do with consumption.
    “We made several programs for energy savings,” he told me. “But people are acting—what do you call it?—irresponsibly. They behave like monkeys.” For example, families that insulated their homes better also tended to heat more rooms, “so we ended up with zero.” Essentially, he said, energy use on the island has remained constant for the past decade.”
  • Building4Change : Are airtight homes good or bad for occupant health? – “There is already strong evidence that energy efficient homes have a positive impact on occupants’ physical and mental wellbeing. Basic improvements in indoor temperature levels in winter and reduction in fuel poverty can have a significant impact. But there is a shortage of evidence to inform decision-making in this area and it is vital that risks to public health are not increased
    There are a number of areas where more knowledge is needed. Although 0.5 air changes per hour is the accepted norm, we lack a definitive assessment of a safe minimum level of ventilation. There is no comprehensive study on the part that home ventilation plays in ensuring health. We have insufficient knowledge of the actual ventilation rates being achieved in UK homes, impacts of ventilation system design, installation and operation, and impacts of occupant behaviour.”
  • How to test your decision-making instincts – McKinsey Quarterly – Strategy – Strategic Thinking – This means that to protect decisions against bias, we first need to know when we can trust our gut feelings, confident that they are drawing on appropriate experiences and emotions. There are four tests.
    1. The familiarity test: Have we frequently experienced identical or similar situations?
    2. The feedback test: Did we get reliable feedback in past situations?
    3. The measured-emotions test: Are the emotions we have experienced in similar or related situations measured?
    4. The independence test: Are we likely to be influenced by any inappropriate personal interests or attachments?
  • Enough With Jane Jacobs Already | By Andrew Manshel – WSJ.com – An odd article, but it reminded me of the existence of Whyte’s video “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”, which can be found online, worth hunting out: “More attention ought to be paid to the finely grained thinking of William H. Whyte and less to Jacobs’s overblown pronouncements and unprovable theories. Whyte was a close observer of people’s behavior in public spaces and emphasized the importance of the many subtle design features that make people comfortable in parks, plazas and public buildings. Following Whyte, designers, planners and community members need to pay more attention to proven, good ideas, to established data and to the fine points of landscapes and buildings.”
  • They don’t build them like they used to: Steve Mouzon’s Original Green | Kaid Benfield’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC – ‘Original green’ means common-sense things like building with high ceilings, cross-ventilation and shading in warm climates, and building with steep roofs and southern exposure in cool ones. It means using original forms of transportation, such as walking and bicycling, whenever possible, and designing and inhabiting communities that facilitate such self-propulsion. It means growing food nearby, and ‘living local’ as much as possible. It means accepting a wider ‘comfort range’ of temperature; our ancestors, Steve points out, were adaptable and reasonably comfortable within a range of 30 degrees or so Fahrenheit; today people fight over two degrees’ difference in ‘thermostat wars.’ Original green places and buildings have intinsically smaller environmental footprints than conventional buildings and places, especially when lifecycle effects are included, and in many cases even if the conventional ones have the benefit of green technology.
  • Theses on Sustainability | Orion Magazine – Worth reading the entire artcile: “THE TERM HAS BECOME so widely used that it is in danger of meaning nothing. It has been applied to all manner of activities in an effort to give those activities the gloss of moral imperative, the cachet of environmental enlightenment.”
  • Dynamic Thermal Properties Calculator – Free excel tool, includes decrement, admittance and kappa values: “The motivation for producing this tool is a growing need among architects and engineers for more information about the thermal properties of construction elements other than just their U-value. This is needed to help optimise the passive performance of buildings and ensure a high level of inherent energy efficiency. Going forward, it is likely that far more attention will be paid to getting this right given the forthcoming changes to Part L and SAP. Another driver is the issue of climate change adaptation, which is starting to result in greater scrutiny construction materials and their thermal properties.”
  • Climate change weather file generator – CCWeatherGen – Adaptation is flavour of the month: “The CCWeatherGen tool allows you to generate TMY2 or EPW climate change weather files with a few mouse clicks. You can produce ‘morphed’ climate change as well as ‘unmorphed’ present day TMY2 and EPW files from the original CIBSE/Met Office TRY/DSY format files. The CCWeatherGen tool is made available free of charge. However, it is solely distributed WITHOUT the required baseline weather files and/or climate change scenario data!”
  • 2degrees : Discussion Topic – “BSI has announced the launch of its new Kitemark® scheme for Energy Reduction Verification (ERV) which will independently verify and certify those organisations that achieve a reduction in carbon emissions through lower energy use. The Environment Agency has approved the scheme as one of the Early Action Metrics that contribute to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, the UK’s mandatory climate change and energy saving scheme.”