Building sustainability from the ground up

August 24, 2017 by  
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Denis Hayes, founder of Earth Day and president of the Bullitt Foundation, knows a few things about building an environmental movement from a strong foundation. He also knows that it’s a long road, but that every brick laid helps society at large, although there’s work yet to be done. Here, he discusses the ins and outs of the Bullitt Center, a “living building” in Seattle, and his hope for the equitable future of the organizations that call it home.

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Building sustainability from the ground up

Denis Hayes has beef with the modern food system

February 10, 2016 by  
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Earth Day founder Denis Hayes is turning his attention to the shortcomings of industrialized agriculture.

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Denis Hayes has beef with the modern food system

Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center

October 23, 2014 by  
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Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center Mike Hower 7:30am Featured Image:  Catch Denis Hayes in person at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27-30 . The Seattle Bullitt Center has been touted as one of the world’s greenest commercial buildings. Spearheaded by the Bullitt Foundation, which offers grants to organizations working to advance environmental initiatives in the Pacific Northwest, the six-story, 50,000-square-foot building was completed last year and is undergoing certification for the Living Building Challenge — a standard more ambitious than LEED. To be declared a Living Building, a structure must be self-sufficient for energy and water for a full year and meet standards for the materials used and the indoor environment. The standard also requires that the building helps restore the natural environment. The Bullitt Center is the brainchild of Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation, who has been at the forefront of the sustainability movement since serving as national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. Since then, he has fought countless legislative, cultural and courtroom battles and authored several books and articles aimed at advancing the interests of human, urban and industrial ecology. Next week at VERGE SF, Hayes will showcase the Bullitt Center and how it embodies the concept of human, urban and industrial ecology. I recently had a chance to chat with Hayes to learn more about the project ahead of his presentation. Mike Hower: Can you please explain how the Bullitt Center is a ‘living building’? Denis Hayes: The Bullitt Center is an example of biomimicry in the built environment. It more or less functions like an organism. For example, it has a nervous system that senses what the temperature is outside, what the temperature is inside, whether the wind is blowing, what direction it’s blowing from, how fast it’s blowing, whether or not it’s raining, how intense the sunlight is and how much carbon dioxide is built up inside. Just like your autonomic nervous system, the computer absorbs all of this information and plugs it into a few fairly simple algorithms that determine whether the external venetian blinds should be up or should be down and — if down — whether they should be shut or angled upward, whether they are trying to keep heat out of the building or merely reflect light further into the building and eliminate glare. The same system determines whether the windows should be open or shut just like the pores on your body. Like an ecosystem, the Center gets all of its energy (and in fact, it’s net energy positive) from sunbeams that fall on its roof in Seattle. It is a six-story office building that last year produced 50 percent more electricity than it used. It captures rainwater that falls on the roof, filters it, uses it for all purposes, including potable drinking water. It’s the first commercial building in America that treats gray water and re-injects it right into the soil and the water table, right inside a city. Hower: What other sustainable features does the Bullitt Center boast? Hayes: We identified 362 materials that are harmful for people and other living things that are common in buildings — things that are carcinogenic or mutagenic or endocrine disrupting or something — and we kept them all out of the building. The facility has composting toilets and uses a flush toilet system that is foaming, so that in a typical flush, it uses less than a half a cup of water. All of the waste is composted right on site. It’s the first office building in the United States to be project-certified by the Forest Stewardship Council , which is to say every piece of wood in the building is FSC-certified, so it’s from a forest that has much larger buffers around its drains, doesn’t cut any old growth, has longer rotation times, doesn’t use herbicides and should be able to produce wood 1,000, 2,000 years from now, unlike a typical industrial forest model. Hower: A key objective of VERGE SF is creating a dialogue between cities and tech companies to help scale solutions that ultimately will help them achieve their sustainability and resilience goals. What do you personally believe it means for a city to be resilient? Hayes: It means that the city is redesigning itself with an awareness that the world around it is now inevitably changing and will continue to do so no matter what we do for several more decades into the future, as a consequence of changes that already have been made in the atmosphere. A resilient city is able to accommodate those — whether it’s floods or droughts or hurricanes or whatever the changing climate throws at it. Resilience in human ecosystems, just as in natural ecosystems, is a measure of the flexibility to endure and prosper, regardless of what challenges arise. Hower: How do you believe cities can develop successful public-private partnerships and create a marketplace for things such as smart city products and services? Hayes: There are several things within the city that historically have been and continue to be public sector responsibilities, such as roads, transit, sewage systems, water mains. There are opportunities to privatize some of that, but it’s not clear that there is much advantage in doing so, at least in American cities today. But there are a bunch of other places in the built environment , and especially in buildings and cultural institutions that give life and dynamism to a city, where the private sector, if not influenced by incentives and disincentives, will be driven by market forces to something suboptimal. The typical developer, to be financially successful, spends no more than is absolutely necessary to produce a building that will attract the tenants that it’s designed to attract. He can then fully lease up the building and flip it, ideally within a year or two, to an insurance company or real estate investment trust. The developer moves on to the next project — so it’s about minimizing a building’s initial cost, without regard to its lifetime operating costs. That’s why, for example, cities have energy codes and fire codes, and why America banned lead paint. We have an enormous amount of wood in our building; the ceilings are all wood and the substructures of the floor underneath it and the external beams are all wood. It’s the first wood beam construction in Seattle for a six-story building since 1927. We paid 10 percent more for all of that wood because it is all from FSC forests. If you’re a tenant and you look at it, what you see is simply wood. If you’re a structural engineer looking for its characteristics, it has the characteristics of wood. All of the additional benefits accrue to the forests where it came from and to the workers in those forests; none of them adhere to the developer or the tenants in the building. Yet if we want to continue to have forests 1,000 years from now, we need to have something that incentivizes that. So you can have governments that encourage developers to use wood that is sustainably harvested, either by providing them a swifter path through the regulatory maze or providing them a little bit of additional space on the lot, transferable development rights, some kind of preferential treatment in real estate taxes. There are all kinds of tools available to cities, and they use them for a variety of good purposes. They use them principally for low income housing, but also to bring parks and recreational space into underserved neighborhoods. Some cities insist upon urban art. Only rarely do cities use their tools to promote resiliency and sustainability. But the same tools should be used for those purposes, in a partnership where the private sector can say that “we would love to do this but we can’t make it pencil-out unless we have this incentive.” As long as everyone is honest, it can be a pretty productive partnership. Top image of Denis Hayes by David Hiller. Topics:  Architecture & Design Biomimicry Standards & Certification

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Denis Hayes: From Earth Day to the Bullitt Center

Stericycle, DOT and CDC help hospitals prepare for Ebola waste

October 23, 2014 by  
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Stericycle, DOT and CDC help hospitals prepare for Ebola waste Janet Howard 7:15am Featured Image:  How do hospitals prepare for the potential Ebola virus waste stream with science-based decision-making and start off with a best management approach to this waste? While this is an emerging topic with evolving practices, the most important resource is The Center for Disease Control and Prevention Web page for interim guidance on the best approaches for protective equipment, segregation, storage, packaging and removal of this Category A infectious material. While this waste stream may not become an issue for most hospitals, preparedness is key. Special process for waste disposal Stericycle , a member of Practice Greenhealth , began working with the CDC and the Department of Transportation in August when the first Ebola case entered the United States. As a result of the collaboration, DOT released a special permit process along with requirements for proper segregation, containment, packaging and removal of this Category A infectious waste to address the needs of Dallas Presbyterian Hospital while maintaining overall public safety. Stericycle, DOT and CDC continue to work together to evaluate the process and prepare to address additional Ebola-related waste needs. At present, each incident is addressed on a case-by-case basis. To prepare for waste disposal, hospital staffers should work with their waste hauler for specific packaging procedures and ensure appropriate supplies are on-hand in the hospital and that their hauler is prepared to manage waste removal and disposal. Additional special permits likely will be required from the Department of Transportation to remove the Category A infections waste (PDF) , a different category from traditional infectious material (Category B). The CDC reports that Ebola requires standard, contact and droplet precautions. It is spread by contact with one or more of the following: infected animals; blood or body fluids (including urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen) of a person sick with Ebola or objects (such as needles and syringes) contaminated with the virus. Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bush meat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only mammals (humans, bats, monkeys and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. According to the CDC site providing guidance for clinicians, the Ebola virus enters the patient through mucous membranes, breaks in the skin or other parenteral means. It infects many cell types, including monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells, endothelial cells, fibroblasts, hepatocytes, adrenal cortical cells and epithelial cells. The incubation period may be related to the infection route (six days for injection versus 10 days for contact). Ebola virus migrates from the initial infection site to regional lymph nodes and subsequently to the liver, spleen and adrenal gland. The CDC reports on the details regarding personal protective equipment. For waste collection, environmental services staff are recommended to wear, at a minimum, disposable gloves, gown (fluid resistant/ impermeable), eye protection (goggles or face shield) and face mask to protect against direct skin and mucous membrane exposure of cleaning chemicals, contamination and splashes or spatters during environmental cleaning and disinfection activities. Additional barriers (leg covers, shoe covers) should be used as needed. If reusable heavy-duty gloves are used for cleaning and disinfecting, they should be disinfected and kept in the room or anteroom. Be sure staff is instructed in the proper use of personal protective equipment including safe removal to prevent contaminating themselves or others in the process, and that contaminated equipment is disposed of appropriately (included in the Category A waste collection). Any mattresses or pillows that are not covered with an impermeable plastic covering should be treated as Category A infectious waste, as well. Check the CDC website frequently for any updates. The CDC also recommends that any room with a patient on isolation for the Ebola virus should be free of cloth materials such as carpeting, curtains or furniture. EPA-registered hospital disinfectants with a label claim for a non-enveloped virus shall be used on all surfaces and all waste should be collected as Category A regulated medical waste, including reusable linens. Sustainability and infection control Sustainability teams , led by infection control, work together to educate new and existing employees, develop posters, strategically place waste bins and monitor waste segregation practices. According to the Practice Greenhealth Sustainability Benchmark Report , award-winning hospitals average a 9 percent regulated medical waste generation with top performers at a 2.3 percent compared to total waste. With waste fees at least five times more than for solid waste, it’s worth the effort, saving anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in waste removal and treatment fees. Top image of biohazard symbol by Maxal Tamor via Shutterstock. This article first appeared at CSRwire . Topics:  Virtualization Health Care

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Stericycle, DOT and CDC help hospitals prepare for Ebola waste

The Passive House Northwest Conference Kicks Off in Seattle March 15th – Register Now!

March 7, 2013 by  
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With growing concern for indoor home health, rising energy costs and climate change, both builders and homeowners are turning to the Passive House  building system as a viable, sustainable alternative to conventional residential and commercial construction. The Passive House  system is based on the concept of passive design — that is, design that doesn’t use mechanical systems like heaters and air-conditioners for heating and cooling, but instead relies on making efficient use of sealed buildings, insulation, the sun’s energy and natural ventilation through careful design strategies. Passive House represents today’s highest green building standard and promises to dramatically cut an average household’s energy consumption and monthly energy bill. If you’re interested in learning more about how passive homes  are influencing architects and helping to shape the building sector, then be sure to check out the  Passive House Northwest 2013 Annual Conference coming up on Friday, March 15 at  Seattle Pacific University . Co-sponsored by Hammer & Hand and NK Architects , the conference will investigate the ways that Passive House  is propelling the built environment towards a higher and greener performance standard. Hit the jump to find out what’s in store at this awesome conference! Read the rest of The Passive House Northwest Conference Kicks Off in Seattle March 15th – Register Now! Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: Brussels Institute for Management of the Environment , Bullitt Foundation , Denis Hayes , energy efficient building , energy efficient construction , energy-efficient homes , green conference , green conference 2013 , green events , green events 2013 , J.O. Dockx , Katrin Klingenberg , passive home , passive house , Passive House certification , Passive House Institute US , Passive House Northwest , Passive House Northwest’s 2013 Annual Conference , PHnw , Seattle Pacific University , Seattle Washington

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The Passive House Northwest Conference Kicks Off in Seattle March 15th – Register Now!

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