Archive for the ‘Models’ Category

Models refer to existing sustainable models or frameworks of action that are occurring in cities around the world in both developing and developed nations. A model could possibly be applied elsewhere in a different context. For example, “permablitz” is a model of urban agriculture installation that many people are applying in different parts of Victoria. SustainableCitiesNet.com strongly encourages environmental organisations and institutions to post their own environmental initiatives (ie. “models”) on the site to share with others. To do so visit the “How to use this site” page and follow the prompts.


Never pay an Electricity Bill again? Sounds pretty good to me.

Posted in Models, Movements, Sustainable Cities, Visions by emma.gerard on August 21st, 2013

Source: Climate progress

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photo from: Habitat for Humanity of washington DC

From the article Why Habitat For Humanity’s Newest Homeowner Might Never Pay An Electricity Bill by JOANNA M. FOSTER

Lakiya’s new home is the first super energy-efficient passive house in D.C. It also just happens to be a Habitat for Humanity home.

The house doesn’t look like a futuristic spaceship, but it is different from the other small pre-fab houses along the street. It is a two home duplex with a big wooden porch in front and, of course, solar panels on the roof.

Lakiya’s house started out two years ago as an entry in the Department of Energy’s biannual Solar Decathlon. Dubbed “Empowerhouse” for the competition, it was an ambitious concept brought to life by engineering and architecture students from Stevens Institute of TechnologyParsons The New School for Design and Milano School for International Affairs, management and Urban Policy, many of whom had never even wielded a hammer before attempting this elaborate construction project. The team’s dream was to build a solar-powered house that could not only compete with the most cutting-edge technologies out there, but was actually affordable and something ordinary people would want to live in.

According to Josh Layrea, one of the Stevens engineers, the winning entry from a German team two years before cost over two million dollars. “It was an impressive piece of engineering,” Laryea concedes. “But made for exhibit, not habitation. The entire outside of the house was covered in solar panels.” Laryea and his teammates had a different goal. In a way, they were in a competition of their own, in which they were competing against themselves to see if they could create something that Habitat for Humanity could use not only as a home for a low-income family in the Deanwood area of D.C. but also as an affordable housing prototype for Habitat going forward. The Stevens-Parson-Milano house won the top prize for cost-effectiveness at the Solar Decathlon.

Lakiya’s house was built based on passive house design principles. The basic concept of passive house is to lower energy consumption by being super-insulated and practically airtight. Empowerhouse has 12-inch thick walls and triple-glazed windows and, as a result, uses up to 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than an ordinary house. Such low energy consumption enabled Empowerhouse to have one of the smallest solar panel arrays in the competition, which helps keep construction and maintenance costs down.

As anyone who worked on Empowerhouse hoped, Lakiya’s home is not the end of the dream. Habitat is gearing up to build six more passive houses in Ivy City, a short drive from Deanwood. They’ll look a bit different from Empowerhouse, more townhouses than duplex, but they’ll cost about the same and hopefully pass on the same savings.

“As much as we can afford, we would like to have the highest standard of energy efficiency available for our homeowners,” said Susanne Slater, President and CEO of D.C. Habitat for Humanity. “Our whole mission is to provide affordable housing to low income families, and if homeowners pay less in energy costs, that helps us reach that goal.”

“I really believe that with the mounting cost of electricity, passive houses with solar panels are going to take off,” said Slater. “And our homeowners are going to be out in front of the movement.”

>>> You can read the original article on Climate Progress


Crowdsourcing Science: Citizens Measuring water levels

Posted in Models, Research by Jessica Bird on July 16th, 2013

Source: FastCoExist

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Image from the CrowdHydrology project.

From the article “An Army Of Citizen Scientists Is Tracking Our Water Levels” by Zak Stone.

In an age of mechanized, digitized labor there are still some jobs where humans get it done better or more cheaply than just about any machinery–particularly when that human labor is crowdsourced by volunteers. University of Buffalo Geologist Chris Lowry figured that out when trying to collet basic information on the water level of streams across a large watershed in western New York, an endeavor that would eat up cash using machinery or time using labor from the lab. After reading an article about a researcher who used crowdsourcing to get the public to help monitor roadkill, “I was like ‘If these people can get people to help out with their research, why can’t I get people to help out with water level measurements?'” explains Lowry. He started simple, printing out a half sheet of paper that said “‘Please text me the water level,’ and it had a phone number. “And then I bought a giant ruler, I brought this into the stream, I put this sign on top, and then I just waited for someone to send me a text message,” he explains. “And sure enough, a couple people sent me text messages.”

That basic idea turned into the pilot project CrowdHydrology at nine New York freshwater sites, starting in 2011. Now, with support from the U.S. Geological Survey, the project will expand to more than 50 new sites across New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The data can help fill in gaps in data collection as budget cutbacks mean the USGS is discontinuing monitoring of certain streams.

When citizens are contributing data, quality is always a concern, but Lowry says control tests–where a pressure transducer measures water levels in the same sites where people are measuring by hand–show that “people who send us text messages do a really really good job.” The level of error turned out to be to be as small as one tick mark on a ruler.

Lowry has found that engaging local communities is the key to getting a high volume of texts from any given site–more so than just foot traffic. And locations where passersby are more likely to take an interest in science–like a nature center–have worked best. “I really think that as scientists we may just be on the cusp of crowdsourcing scientific data. I think there’s going to be a big boom in the future for using these kinds of methods,” Lowry says. […] “On one side we’re using [the project] for cutting edge research. On the other, we’re using it as this outreach tool to foster the next generation of scientist.”

>>> Read the full article on FastCoExist.
>>> Learn more about the CrowdHydrology project on their website.


What’s your carbon Handprint?

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on July 5th, 2013

Source: FastCo.Exist

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Screenshot from the Handprinter video.

From the article ‘An App That Measures Your Positive Impact on The Planet‘ by Ben Schiller:

Greg Norris has worked in the field of lifecycle assessments–what you and I know as “footprints”–for many years. And, not long ago, he started to feel depressed about it. Everything seemed to be in a negative direction, impact-wise. “From the footprint perspective, all you see is bad news,” he says. “I ended up feeling like the Earth would be better off without me.”

So, Norris came up with what he calls “the mirror image of footprints”. Handprints are the positive things we do to reduce damage we inevitably cause from driving, buying stuff, and so on. It’s a form of offsetting. But instead of paying someone to plant a tree in Malawi, you have to take care of the corresponding action yourself. “I asked myself: How can I make it possible that there would be less pollution because of me? The answer is to stimulate change for the better,” he says.

You can create a handprint in three ways. First, you simply cut your footprint: say, by cycling to work, rather than driving. Second, you can champion an action suggested on the platform (carpooling, say). Or, third, you can come up with a completely new idea. In each case, Handprinter calculates the benefit and your part in bringing it about. If, for example, you share a link and someone clicks on it, you get credited with that action. Everything is subtracted from your footprint, which you calculate at the beginning. […]

Norris sees the platform as a way of inspiring positive behavior. If he can get enough people using the app, he hopes to create a virtuous circle of people proposing and rewarding action. As an example, he points to an initiative in Maine that Handprinter has been involved with. Owens Corning has donated 300 water heater blankets, which schools are giving away to residents in return for nine months’ worth of energy savings. The schools will spend the money on new blankets, setting up a positive cycle. (Students can follow the ripple effects on the Handprinter app). […]

>>> You can read the original article here.
>>> You can learn more about Handprinter on their website or try the beta version of the app.


Obama’s plan for climate action: Infographic

Posted in Models, Movements, PostCarbon by Jessica Bird on June 26th, 2013

Source: tcktcktck via Post Carbon Institute
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Infographic: tcktcktck

From ‘Infrographic: What’s in Obama’s Climate Plan?‘ by Heather Libby:

In a major speech today, U.S. President Barack Obama has made the fight against climate change a priority for his second term. Saying he “refuses to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing,” Obama outlined the first comprehensive U.S. Climate Action Plan. […] While the details of much of the Plan have yet to be decided and his continued support for natural gas and carbon capture and sequestration will likely be met with criticism, Obama’s all-encompassing plan to tackle climate change is being seen as a positive signal for bold action from the United States.

>>> You can access the infographic and full article on the tcktcktck website.


Adapting Agriculture to the Realities of Climate Change

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 20th, 2013

Fig. 1. Impact and capacity approaches to adaptation planning_from Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture

Fig. 1. Impact and capacity approaches to adaptation planning (from Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture)

 

From the article No excuses, no regrets: we can adapt agriculture to climate change now by Vanessa Meadu:

Imagine you’re working for your country’s government and you’ve been given the formidable task of developing a strategy to help the agriculture sector adapt to climate change. Working out how climate models will play out on the ground for farmers, and conceiving options for farmers to adapt is sophisticated stuff, and the challenge is only compounded when the best information remains somewhat uncertain.

You might easily be discouraged, when faced with data and projections that are not sufficiently specific, only applicable for certain crops, or simply missing altogether. Often this uncertainty becomes a political weapon, wielded as an excuse for inaction. But a new analysis published in the journal PNAS debunks such excuses by showing how scientists and governments can cut through uncertainty and make the most of existing knowledge, however conflicting or weak. In fact some countries have done exactly that, and “embraced “no-regrets” adaptation: actions that will benefit farmers and society regardless of specifically how and when climate change plays out on the ground.

The paper Addressing uncertainty in adaptation planning for agriculture is co-authored by researchers from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Livestock Research Institute, and leading universities (Oxford, Leeds, Reading). The researchers point to examples around the world where governments have taken crucial first steps to safeguard food and farming, even when information was weak.

>> Read the full article by Vanessa Meadu for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).


24 TED Talks That Will Help Save the Food System: FoodTank List

Posted in Models, Movements, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on May 30th, 2013

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Photo via FoodTank

The magnificent crew over at FoodTank have put together a rather special list:

 

“TED is a non-profit devoted to “ideas worth spreading”, and you can find literally thousands of free -inspiring and awesome- talks from experts and innovators around the world. We’ve decided to highlight 24 TED talks specifically around food issues that we found compelling and worth sharing. Please check out and watch as many of these as you can. And, most importantly, share this with 24 friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers who might be open to watching a few of these insightful talks – and learning more about the food system.”

  1. Roger Thurow: The Hungry Farmer – My Moment of Great Disruption
  2. Mark Bittman: What’s Wrong with What We Eat
  3. Anna Lappe: Marketing Food to Children
  4. Ellen Gustafson: Obesity + Hunger = 1 Global Food Issue
  5. Tristram Stuart: The Global Food Waste Scandal
  6. Brian Halweil: From New York to Africa: Why Food Is Saving the World
  7. Fred Kaufman: The Measure of All Things
  8. LaDonna Redman: Food + Justice = Democracy
  9. Jose Andres: Creativity in Cooking Can Solve Our Biggest Challenges
  10. Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish: Teach Every Child About Food
  11. Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love with a Fish
  12. Carolyn Steel: How Food Shapes Our Cities
  13. Ann Cooper: Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children
  14. Ron Finley: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central L.A.
  15. Tama Matsuoka Wong: How I Did Less and Ate Better, Thanks to Weeds
  16. Stephen Ritz: Green Bronx Machine: Growing Our Way Into a New Economy
  17. Angela Morelli: The Global Water Footprint of Humanity
  18. Birke Baehr: What’s Wrong With Our Food System
  19. Graham Hill: Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian
  20. Joel Salatin: Thinking About Soil
  21. Roger Doiron: A Subversive Plot
  22. Britta Riley: A Garden in My Apartment
  23. Arthur Potts Dawson: A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants
  24. Ken Cook: Turning the Farm Bill into the Food Bill
>> Go to the FoodTank website to follow up on any or all of these talks.
>> foodtank.org


Made for Walking (and other essential ingredients for a successful urban neighbourhood)

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2013

From Made For Walking_Julia Campoli
Image from Made for Walking

From Not All Density Is Created Equal by Kaid Benfield:

“I just finished a very good – no, make that fantastic – book by Julie Campoli called Made for Walking, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.  … Made for Walking isn’t so much about urban density as about the other things that we need in city neighborhoods – in addition to a level of density – to make city living attractive and sustainable. …

The heart of the book – comprising nearly a hundred pages – is a systematic review of twelve walkable neighborhoods in Denver, Columbus, Vancouver, Miami Beach, Toronto, Alexandria (Virginia), Albuquerque, Portland, Brooklyn, San Diego, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Pasadena. …

For each, Campoli provides a context map, site maps illustrating neighborhood form and intersection density – the most statistically significant measure of how walkable a neighborhood is – multiple photos of the streetscape and neighborhood assets, measurements of neighborhood size, density and driving rates, and a discussion of what is going on in the neighborhood that adds to or limits its function for walking and sustainability. She likes them all, as do I.

For example, discussing Portland’s Pearl District, Campoli points out that the city has a goal of evolving a demographically mixed neighborhood, including families with children. This requires, she notes, investment in larger-unit, family-friendly homes; access to public amenities such as schools and nature; proximity to cultural resources such as libraries; and buffering from land uses that might be harmful to children. People in my environmental-group and smart-growth circles talk about this kind of thing, well, never. And yet it’s critical to a sustainable future, which is why I know about 50 people who need to read this book.”

Read the full article – there’s much more including sketches and photos – by Kaid Benfield on the Atlantic Cities site.


Energy co-ops retrofit to lower bills and emissions

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on May 2nd, 2013

Source: The Guardian

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Photo from the Carbon Co-op

From the article “Energy co-ops are cutting household bills alongside carbon emissions” by Simon Birch

For customers, trust is key when it comes to getting advice on improving energy efficiency – and co-operatives have the edge.

Ruth Rosselson is an environmental pioneer. The freelance writer and community trainer is one of the first homeowners to sign up with the Manchester-based Carbon Co-op for a programme of energy-efficiency improvements that will transform her cold and draughty house into a warm and toasty low-energy home. “The main motivation for making my house more energy-efficient is that currently it’s so cold and damp,” says Rosselson, 42, speaking from her Manchester semi that she shares with her partner, Justin. “We also care deeply about the global environment and so we wanted to improve the carbon efficiency of the house.”

Carbon Co-op, which launched in 2011, is one of a new generation of co-ops that are now aiming to address the critical issue of climate change by making houses more energy-efficient, which in turn will slash carbon emissions and in the long-run save homeowners money. “The UK has a legally binding target for cutting carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 from a 1990 baseline,” says Carbon Co-op’s Jonathan Atkinson. “At the same time, escalating fuel bills are leading to more and more people experiencing fuel poverty. Consequently we’re aiming high and offering packages of retrofit improvements to householders that will cut both energy bills and carbon emissions.” […]

“We take the whole house approach to retrofitting and recommend a package of complementary measures such as wall and loft insulation that will improve the energy performance of a house,” says Atkinson. “And because we have a strong ethical strand to our work, we aim to source materials from local businesses such as highly energy-efficient windows from the Green Building Store in West Yorkshire.”

So what’s the key benefit of operating as a co-op in this sector? “The big issue in the retrofitting industry is that of trust,” replies Atkinson. “The big energy companies dominate the energy-efficiency market because they are forced to by Ofgem, the energy regulator. However, very few people trust the big energy companies any more because of the recent mis-selling scandals.” He says people are increasingly suspicious of energy companies trying to sell them big-scale changes, thinking that all the companies want is for their bills to increase. “As a co-op, we’re community orientated and householder-owned with no external shareholders,” says Atkinson. […]

The Birmingham-based Energy Saving Co-op, which like Carbon Co-op launched in 2011, has similar ambitions to be a national player in the energy-efficiency retrofit market. “We’ve already retrofitted 50 homes with a target of completing 600 homes by the end of the year, two thousand homes in 2014 and a plan to eventually operate nationally,” says the chief executive and co-founder Ewan Jones, who aims to fund this expansion programme through its current share offer.

Financing the retrofit ambitions of both Carbon Co-op and the Energy Saving Co-op is a major challenge though both co-ops and the wider co-op movement are set to benefit from the green deal, the government’s flagship programme to make millions of homes more energy-efficient, which was launched this year. Essentially a type of personal loan where you pay for the work over time through your energy bill, the green deal is set to kickstart the energy-efficiency market – and co-ops and social enterprises are lining up to take a slice of the action. The Energy Saving Co-op, for example, is now working with a number of co-ops which will act as green deal energy assessors including Energywise, a new Birmingham co-op and the Jericho Foundation, a social enterprise which will install the energy saving kit. […]

>>> Read the full article on The Guardian website.
>>> Find out more about Carbon Co-op and  the Energy Saving Co-op on their websites


The power of Algae – innovative building facade

Posted in Models by Jessica Bird on April 18th, 2013

Source: DesignBuild Source

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Image from Arup

From the Arup media release “World first bio-reactive façade debuts in Hamburg

The BIQ [Bio Intelligence Quotient] house will become the world’s first pilot project to showcase a bioreactive façade […] With 200m² of integrated photo-bioreactors, this passive-energy house generates biomass and heat as renewable energy resources. At the same time, the system integrates additional functionality such as dynamic shading, thermal insulation and noise abatement, highlighting the full potential of this technology.

The microalgae used in the façades are cultivated in flat panel glass bioreactors measuring 2.5m x 0.7m. In total, 129 bioreactors have been installed on the south west and south east faces of the four-storey residential building. The heart of the system is the fully automated energy management centre where solar thermal heat and algae are harvested in a closed loop to be stored and used to generate hot water. […]

“Using bio-chemical processes in the façade of a building to create shade and energy is a really innovative concept. It might well become a sustainable solution for energy production in urban areas, so it is great to see it being tested in a real-life scenario.” — Jan Wurm, Arup’s Europe Research Leader

The system will be officially presented to the media on 25 April 2013 when the biofaçade system goes into operation for the first time.

>>> You can read the original media release on the Arup Website.
>>> You can see more images of the building and read more about it on DesignBuildSource.com.au


Food Incubators: Commercial Kitchens in the Sharing Economy

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on April 15th, 2013

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Image: Union Kitchen’s Floor Plan

From “Share Everything: Why the Way We Consume Has Changed Forever” by Emily Badger for The Atlantic Cities:

“The “equipment library” at Union Kitchen in Northeast Washington, D.C., contains some of the more mundane artifacts of the modern “sharing economy”: an oversized whisk, a set of spatulas, ladles, chopping knives, sheet pans and tongs. “Collaborative consumption,” as it’s also known, is more often associated with the big-ticket items that have given the concept such bemusing cachet. Suddenly, it seems, people are casually lending and borrowing cars, bikes, even brownstones. But this basic kitchenware, hanging in a 7,300 square-foot warehouse, reveals the reaches to which all this sharing could ultimately expand, as well as the reasons why it will have to.

Union Kitchen moved into the space in late November of 2012, taking over what had been the commissary for a chain of local kabob houses. Jonas Singer and Cullen Gilchrist had been looking to expand the kitchen operations for a café they own in the city. But this two-story red brick warehouse situated on a cramped manufacturing block was more space than they needed. So they turned the warehouse – complete with a walk-in freezer, two fridges and prep space for two-dozen entrepreneurs – into a shared kitchen and food incubator. For $500 a month, member chefs get a share of their own prep table, access to communal equipment, pantry shelves, and ingredients at wholesale prices.

By early January, the kitchen already had nearly a dozen members, including a cupcake food truck company, a caterer specializing in mole sauces and chocolate cakes, and the city’s lone Kombucha brewer. It would be prohibitively expensive for any of them to open their own commercial kitchens. But – and this is a related problem – there also isn’t affordable space enough in this growing city to do so.

“The reality is that if D.C. swells from a place where there are 500,000 people in 2010 to a place where there are 850,000 in 2020, well what are we doing with those 350,000 extra people who are here?” Singer asks, sitting on a couch in the kitchen’s lounge. “We’re all living in slightly smaller spaces. Obviously the per-capita number of car owners has to go down. The amount of space like this is going to be much tighter. A lot of the sharing economy just has to do with the number of people living per square foot of land. It’s all about physical space.””

>> Read the full article (there’s much more) by Emily Badger on The Atlantic Cities.