Archive for the ‘Global’ Category

As we mentioned previously, Sherwood’s John Leys was invited to speak in Ottawa last week on the topic of alternatives to the Lansdowne Live project. Here’s a nice writeup of the event in the Ottawa Citizen, including this mention of Sherwood:

John Leys, of Sherwood Engineering, an American firm with experience in developing brownfield sites said it wouldn’t take long to clean contaminated soil.

He pointed to the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal where it took 15 months to remove 700,000 tonnes of soil from a 43-acre site — three times as big as Bayview.

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Lansdowne Live

Controversy has been brewing in Ottawa over a proposal to turn a brownfield site into a stadium, to be called Lansdowne Live. John E. Martin, an Ottawa businessman, has invited Sherwood Engineers to join a group of politicians, government officials, architects, developers and community leaders to a private breakfast meeting this Thursday, Aug. 27, to discuss the situation. Sherwood will be presenting a case study based on our experience turning a brownfield site into a stadium in San Francisco. We will let keep you updated about the project as the dialogue continues.

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Daylighting urban streams has long made sense aesthetically, but now the environmental, traffic calming, and air pollution benefits can be quantified based on new studies of the famous Cheonggyecheon running through downtown Seoul.

From the New York Times:

Cities from San Antonio to Singapore have been resuscitating rivers and turning storm drains into streams. In Los Angeles, residents’ groups and some elected officials are looking anew at buried or concrete-lined creeks as assets instead of inconveniences, inspired partly by Seoul’s example.

By building green corridors around the exposed waters, cities hope to attract affluent and educated workers and residents who appreciate the feel of a natural environment in an urban setting.

Environmentalists point out other benefits. Open watercourses handle flooding rains better than buried sewers do, a big consideration as global warming leads to heavier downpours. The streams also tend to cool areas overheated by sun-baked asphalt and to nourish greenery that lures wildlife as well as pedestrians.

But four years after the stream was uncovered, city officials say, the environmental benefits can now be quantified. Data show that the ecosystem along the Cheonggyecheon (pronounced chung-gye-chun) has been greatly enriched, with the number of fish species increasing to 25 from 4. Bird species have multiplied to 36 from 6, and insect species to 192 from 15.

The recovery project, which removed three miles of elevated highway as well, also substantially cut air pollution from cars along the corridor and reduced air temperatures. Small-particle air pollution along the corridor dropped to 48 micrograms per cubic meter from 74, and summer temperatures are now often five degrees cooler than those of nearby areas, according to data cited by city officials.

And even with the loss of some vehicle lanes, traffic speeds have picked up because of related transportation changes like expanded bus service, restrictions on cars and higher parking fees.

“We’ve basically gone from a car-oriented city to a human-oriented city,” said Lee In-keun, Seoul’s assistant mayor for infrastructure, who has been invited to places as distant as Los Angeles to describe the project to other urban planners.

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There was much excitement last summer with the passage of Senate Bill 1258 (Lowenthal) in July of 2008. The bill called for the California Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to draft new standards for graywater use (note that the spelling is generally “gray” in the US and “grey” in the UK)  in CA that will probably take effect in 2011. Of particular excitement was the explicit mention of “indoor and outdoor uses”.

For close to 2 decades, graywater reuse has been regulated by Appendix G in the CA Plumbing Code with the California State Water Resources Control Board having ultimate administrative authority. The only express reuse application noted in the UPC is an underground irrigation distribution field, which is configured in an eerily similar fashion to a septic leach field. While there is an ‘alternative methods and means’ section in Appendix G, the permitting process proved so cumbersome and expensive that there are only a few permitted graywater systems in all of California, while there are hundreds and likely thousands of unpermitted systems.

The DHCD is in the process of developing and adopting new code to govern the reuse of graywater in California. SB 1258 calls for stakeholder input, which is critical because the DHCD has limited experience dealing with this issue. Unfortunately, the DHCD chose the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ (IAPMO) Chapter 16, which is more restrictive than Appendix G, as the starting point for this new legislation.

However, the stakeholder input process has met with some success in evolving IAPMO’s standards. Lara Allen of the advocacy group Greywater Guerillas summarized the following highlights of the new draft:

1. Washing machines are exempt from permits for residential use as long as they follow specified guidelines.
2. Mulch basins are a legal way to infiltrate greywater (before gravel was specified that is mined from river beds – mulch is wood chips and can be sustainably generated locally)
3. “Simple systems” are defined in the new code and there is language that could lead to local interpretation of exempting these systems from a permit. We still urge HCD to go further and exempt “simple systems” from permitting.

The legislation is still in draft form, and the code writers could make it either better or worse, so interested parties can participate in the ongoing stakeholder input process to encourage the DHCD officials to write an even more user-friendly code. Check out this web site for opportunities to become involved.

There is a critical paradigm shift that needs to occur among graywater regulators so that application systems are not seen as close cousins to leach fields, but rather as efficient irrigation distribution systems.

There are a lot of interesting web sites tracking these developments. Art Ludwig of Oasis maintains a great web site that tracks the history of graywater legislation in California. Check it out here.

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Speaking at a conference organised by his Foundation for the Built Environment, Prince Charles said slums like Dharavi, featured in SlumDog Millionaire, offer a better model than western architecture for housing booming urban populations, reports the Guardian reports.

Slums, shanti towns, and informal settlements have environmentally and socially sustainable attributes including using local materials, walkable neighbourhoods, and a mix of employment and housing. Prince Charles described this as “an underlying intuitive grammar of design that is totally absent from the faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to ‘warehouse’ the poor”.

In a few years we may recognize that these communities have a “built-in resilience and genuinely durable ways of living,” said the Prince.

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  • Delta goes green by eliminating their paper newsletter. Not so impressive, but they already have an on-board recycling program and have many options to allow customers to purchase carbon offsets. Jet Blue is going green too, attempting to do energy saving things like using one engine instead of two during taxiing, using ground power instead of engines for power at the gate, and eliminating paper tickets.
  • There is some improvement in sulfur dioxide emissions and water quality measures in China, but overall, pollution has increased over last year.
  • Climate bill dies in the Senate – we’ll have to wait until next administration for any kind of movement on the cap and trade issue.
  • Alain Robert scaled the NY Times Building in NYC as a protest against global warming for World Environment Day. He was detained by police on the 52nd floor. I was alerted to the action by swarming helicopters since our office is across town.  Another man climbed the building later that afternoon.
  • Adnam’s brewing company is creating “East Green”, a carbon neutral beer available in the UK only. Among the carbon saving features are using locally grown barley and reusing steam from the brewing process for the next batch.
  • If you have to have a lawnmower (that isn’t a push model), follow these instructions to convert it to solar powered.
  • A portion of Times Square got turned into a park on Thursday in honor of World Environment Day.
  • It is more efficient to turn off your car than to idle if you are going to be idling more than 10 seconds.
  • Guerrilla gardening greens up pockets around New York City.
  • GM is closing four of its truck and SUV plants due to rising gas prices. And they may cancel production of the Hummer.
  • Some major American corporations have been meeting regularly with environmental groups for the past couple of years to develop proposals for federal limits on carbon emissions.
  • Best Buy is testing an electronics disposal program at their stores.
  • Fiji Water is trying to green their image, despite being criticized for promoting bottled water, from Fiji at that.
  • Price does matter, and as a result, driving miles have gone down an estimated 4.3% nationally over this time last year.

Photo of a successful guerrilla gardening effort in London from The Guerrilla Gardening Homepage

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  • Closer monitoring of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is leading to political conflicts.
  • Jesus Leon Santos has rejuvenated agriculture in Oaxaca, Mexico by looking back to the Meso-American agriculture patterns rather than modern techniques, increasing production by 50% over the last 25 years.
  • We have an ongoing battle in our NY office as to whether to keep the windows open or turn on the AC in the summer, due to poor circulation and ac balancing in our office. But at least we can open our windows if we want, unlike many modern buildings.
  • A high school science fair project in Canada may have found a way to use bacteria to help plastic bags decompose in a matter of weeks instead of 1,000 years.
  • Clark Fork Basin Superfund Complex entails gradual removal of Milltown dam in order to minimize the impact of the release of sediment contaminated with heavy metals that had accumulated behind the dam.
  • Atmospheric deposition of DDT in the Antarctic may have led to DDT being trapped in the glaciers, where it is leaking out in the melt water.
  • New federal report on climate maintains that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will significantly impact water supplies, agriculture, forestry and ecosystems for decades.
  • A new Brookings Institution study released maintains that West Coast metropolitan areas are among the lowest carbon emissions per capita in the U.S. Honolulu ranked 1st, followed by the LA region, Portland/Vancouver, and New York City. The report also includes policy recommendations and factors that contributed to rankings.
  • On Wednesday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into a law “a measure that will establish the nation’s first management and protection plan for a state’s ocean waters.”
  • There are a number of gas pumps in New York State that can’t display a price above $3.999/gal.  Some places are getting leeway to sell by the half gallon, but could this be a reason to switch to metric?
  • The Green Machine is a mini-power plant that can convert your waste heat into energy through a closed-loop zero emission cycle.
  • Lake Victoria is rapidly shrinking in Uganda, leading to ever more heightened battles over the lake’s resources.
  • Women’s rights and environmentalism don’t seem like closely related subjects.  However, improvement of women’s rights can help lead to reduced population rates, and over population is a one of the causes of draining our natural resources.
  • Many scientists worry that clean coal technology, including carbon capture and underground storage, has not been sufficiently pursued recently due to high costs; without proven technology and sufficient research, utilities will continue to construct traditional coal plants.
  • American biofuels policy is being criticized as a major factor in the world food crisis and increase in international food prices.

Photo of the Green Machine by Electratherm, from Treehugger.

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