Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

West Coast Green is this week in San Francisco, and I am honored to be among the distinguished list of speakers at the event. I will be co-presenting a panel on Integrated Water Systems with Paul Kephart from Rana Creek and Andy Mannle this Friday, October 2, at 11am. The panel we did last year, “The Sexiest Large Scale Water Design Applications We Have Ever Seen”, was S.R.O. So they’re bringing us back for an update, which we’re calling (somewhat less racily) “The Whole Pitcher.”

Also at West Coast Green, Sherwood will be participating in the “Greening Fort Mason Design Slam.” The event was created to brainstorm design strategies and practical ideas for the continued evolution of Fort Mason Center as a leading environmentally sustainable destination. I will be facilitating this charette this Friday October 2 at 12:30pm along with a number of great minds from WRT, The Grove Consulting, Van Meter Williams Pollack, Solutions and PEC. You can read more about it here and register to attend the conference here.


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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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Local water supply in rural India

Local water supply in rural India from the New York Times

  • Dr. Nocera at MIT is reserching the ability to capture energy through photosynthesis, so that we can harness solar energy at night
  • A cap and trade system for carbon emissions is looking like it is gaining consensus as the best option for  accounting for externalities of pollution, but how much will it cost our society?
  • More on green schools, this time talking about “the halo” system that enables natural light to shine into the classroom even on cloudy days at Da Vinci Arts Middle School in Portland, Oregon
  • Design your own graywater capture system!
  • Google tackles office greening in London. Best way to increase recycling? Take away trash cans at individual desks.
  • How can a hotel go green but still cater to visitor needs? Take a hole out of the soap bar…
  • A new analysis report was released recently, showing that India could face a severe water supply problem if they do not change their usage patterns soon

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Green Inc, New York Times’s great blog about the economics of green industries, has very interesting piece on how PUR is achieving success through a new marketing campaign.  Known for their filters here in the US, they also market disinfectant powder that can be added to water.   They have been marketing it in developing countries as a way to provide clean water to underserved communities for 8 years, but started achiving great success last year when they changed their marketing strategy to a social marketing technique that stresses this as a public health need similar to handwashing or immunizations.

Image from Citypages.com
Image from Citypages.com

Water was also in the news yesterday when a coalition of bottled water companies filed a lawsuit against New York State to try and stop a new 5 cent deposit from being placed on bottled water.  The issue at hand? Water that adds sugar, such as Vitamin Water, is exempt from the deposit.  I’m all for a deposit tax on bottled water, but how the law was created that doesn’t cover all plastic drink bottles is beyond me, and seems to be suspicious as to which lobbyists were involved in the creation of this legislation.

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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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The AIA  is toasting their Top 10 Green Projects in SF tonight, including Chartwell School. This is the 13th year of the Top Ten Green Projects program, and included contributions of more than 9,000 AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) members and 65 state and local chapters.

We are very excited that Chartwell School was chosen as one of this year’s Top Ten, and we hope it continues to be an inspiring model as both a Green Building, and a Higher Performing School.

The evening will include remarks from guest Bob Ivy, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record and VP/ editorial director of McGraw-Hill Construction Publications, including GreenSource. Toasts will be led by special guest and Cote founding chair, Bob Berkebile, FAIA, and will feature a tribute to Cote leaders Gail Lindsey, FAIA, and Greg Franta, FAIA.

Congratulations to everyone who helped Chartwell make the list, and to all the students and staff at Chartwell school!

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Solar and Wind Powered Monitoring Station (USGS(

Solar and Wind Powered Monitoring Station (USGS)

Setting up monitoring stations in remote places can be difficult without things we take for granted like an energy source to plug in to.   Solar powered systems are ok, but what if you need accurate information on rainy days?  The USGS Maine Water Science Center solved the problem by using solar and wind power combined on a snowfall measurement device.  The devices are essential to prediciting flooding hazards and projected reservoir volumes associated with snowmelt.  The combination of the two systems enable the use of a ” windmill that powers our measurements on windy and cloudy days, and solar panels that power them on calm, sunny days,” says Bob Lent, chief of the USGS Maine Water Science Center in Augusta.  USGS plans on installing 4 of these systems this summer, after testing in Agusta last winter.

(via EWRI)

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