How cities can influence the energy system

August 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

How cities can influence the energy system Heather House Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:45 As U.S. cities and counties transition to clean energy for their own operations and communities, many are finding that stakeholders and policies beyond their jurisdictions affect their ability to purchase clean energy. Policy and regulatory decisions made by states, utilities, public utilities commissions and wholesale market governing bodies determine the clean energy procurement options available to cities and counties. This can create challenges for meeting locally defined resolutions and commitments. To overcome these challenges and drive faster progress on renewables and carbon-free goals, local governments are starting to engage with old stakeholders in new ways to change the rules of the game. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. To help cities and counties better understand potential high-impact engagement opportunities, the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator released a new interactive tool, the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker . The tool highlights efforts by local governments to work directly with the institutions and decision-makers who influence their ability to access clean energy and control the broader electricity system. Here are four ways local governments are engaging with stakeholders to decarbonize their electricity supply: 1. Partnering with investor-owned utilities Cities and counties often are required by state law to buy electricity from a regulated investor-owned utility (IOU) and lack the ability to choose their electricity supplier or generation source. While some IOUs offer renewable energy programs, these options don’t always meet city needs. Worse still, some cities have no options for purchasing renewable electricity. To overcome these circumstances, some local governments are partnering with their utilities. For example, the city of Denver and Xcel Energy developed a partnership agreement in 2018 to define and collaborate on shared climate and energy goals. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. These types of partnership agreements can lead to the creation of new renewables programs or custom utility solutions that enable local governments to purchase renewables on a large scale. In North Carolina, Duke Energy and the city of Charlotte signed an agreement that laid out the ways they could partner on clean energy work. One year later, Charlotte became the first city to sign a large-scale deal through Duke Energy’s new Green Source Advantage green tariff program. 2. Engaging in state-level regulatory proceedings Many key decisions around the implementation of state energy policies, including decisions that govern IOUs, are made by state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs allow stakeholders to voice their needs as electricity customers, which can be a good opportunity for local governments to advocate for more renewables. However, engaging in commission proceedings can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process for local governments with limited resources to navigate. Increasingly, cities and counties are asking for more renewables on the grid by commenting and providing testimony to their state PUC. This includes commenting on their utility’s integrated resource plans (IRPs), long-range plans that communicate how an electric utility intends to develop new generation assets over the next 10 to 20 years. In many states, utility IRPs are required by law and providing input on them can be an impactful way for local governments to influence their regional grid mix and increase renewable energy generation. During the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) IRP process, the city of Indianapolis submitted a public letter to encourage IPL to explore a more aggressive retirement scenario for the Petersburg Coal Generating Station and increase renewable generation. Indianapolis cited an October report by Rocky Mountain Institute that found that clean energy portfolios declined in cost by 80 percent since 2010, are lower-cost than new gas plants and are projected to undercut the operating costs of existing gas plants within 10 to 20 years. In comments to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), the city of Atlanta asked Georgia Power to expand residential energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, provide greater access to utility data to improve energy efficiency efforts, increase municipal access to renewable energy and build a new local microgrid to improve community resilience. In response to customer comments such as these, the PSC required Georgia Power to more than double solar energy procurement over the next five years from one gigawatt (GW) to 2.2 GW. Local governments are also increasingly advocating for alternative forms of utility regulation and business models. This includes performance-based regulation (PBR), a type of utility reform that incentivizes electric utilities to demonstrate performance on metrics such as greenhouse gas reduction, efficiency and customer service. This approach contrasts with traditional “cost-of-service” business models that incent utilities to build more physical assets, which generally result in new buildouts of gas power plants and pipelines, locking in emissions for years to come. The city and County of Honolulu and the County of Hawaii have been actively engaged in advancing PBR through workshops, working group meetings, filing written comments to Hawaii’s PUC and creating thoughtful proposals recommending new PBR mechanisms for their utility to adopt. 3. Influencing statewide energy policy When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Local governments are starting to get involved at the state level by calling for changes to state climate and clean energy legislation. There are a few high-impact policy pathways that cities can pursue: Removing barriers to solar Local governments are asking state policymakers to remove barriers that prevent renewable energy procurement. Stakeholder input recently helped pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 , which created the state’s first clean energy standard and lifted constraints on existing state laws that limited access to third party financing options that can bring down the cost of renewables. Similarly, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, alongside other large customers and local governments, successfully called for increased access to third-party financing for renewables , which ultimately would make clean energy procurement more affordable for consumers. In Utah, local governments came together to ask the state to enable high-impact pathways for procuring renewables , leading to the ratification of the Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019. These local governments are collaborating with the state’s electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to develop a utility program through which they can purchase 100 percent renewable energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Phasing out fossil fuels Cities and counties are advocating to retire uneconomic fossil fuel power plants by enabling or expanding securitization legislation. Securitization can be used to allow utilities to issue bonds based on the guaranteed returns they are making from the uneconomic plants and use the proceeds to build or buy cheaper renewable energy. The shift to lower-cost generation allows utilities to both make more money and lower rates for their customers while phasing out fossil fuel power plants. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. Enabling or expanding community choice aggregation Community choice aggregation (CCA) allows local governments to have full control over their electricity supply, providing the ability to procure renewable energy for their municipal operations, residents and in some cases, small businesses. To make progress toward community-wide renewable energy targets, cities are starting to push for legislation to enable CCA or to expand renewable procurement through an existing CCA. CCA can be a key mechanism for achieving community-wide clean energy goals if a city’s electric utility does not offer the procurement pathways needed to achieve its renewable energy target. Cincinnati has signed the largest municipal renewable energy deal in U.S. history, in part because of the control the city had through its CCA program. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. 4. Getting involved in wholesale energy markets Rules made in wholesale markets can impact local government clean energy goals and present obstacles for clean energy procurement. Participation in market-level decisions and stakeholder processes traditionally has been dominated by utilities and generators, but that is starting to change. One recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could hamper the development of renewables in states that participate in the PJM wholesale electricity market . The decision directs PJM to implement a  minimum offer price rule for renewable generation resources supported by state policies such as renewable portfolio standards and zero emissions credits. This rule effectively would raise the minimum price of renewables and, ultimately, ratepayer costs across the board. Some states, including New Jersey and Virginia, are considering leaving the PJM capacity market to preserve their ability to offer incentives to develop renewable energy. The PJM Cities and Communities Coalition is the first ongoing collaborative effort for cities to address barriers in the PJM wholesale energy market. As part of the coalition, cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago are joining together to provide education to members on market issues, considering becoming formal voting members and identifying priority issues where cities can engage. One of the coalition’s early efforts was a public letter o the PJM Board of Managers during its search for a new CEO, urging the search committee to hire a candidate who could move the PJM market toward a clean energy future. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Identifying and replicating local clean energy successes Engaging with utilities, commissions, state policymakers and wholesale market governing bodies is new and unfamiliar territory for many local governments. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Once they decide to engage, local governments often struggle to dedicate the resources and funding necessary to participate in ongoing efforts. Regardless of the approach, collaborative efforts are key to overcoming these challenges and enabling more effective participation. This allows local governments to leverage limited local resources, reduce political risks and develop a strong collective voice. This collective voice, in particular, often can be more powerful than one local government acting alone. The Local Government Renewables Action Tracker is an important new resource cities and counties can use to see how other local governments are engaging with stakeholders and evaluate the options available for advancing their own clean energy projects and goals. As cities and counties continue to develop their voices as large energy consumers, we should expect to see them get more involved in state regulatory proceedings and legislative hearings, innovative city-utility partnerships and market decision-making processes. Local government engagement such as this has significant potential to accelerate decarbonization in the United States by dramatically expanding local access to renewables for city operations and communities alike. Pull Quote By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Contributors Lacey Shaver Topics Energy & Climate Cities Policy & Politics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Power pylons at sunset. Photo by  Matthew Henry  on  Unsplash Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash Close Authorship

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How cities can influence the energy system

How cities can influence the energy system

August 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

How cities can influence the energy system Heather House Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:45 As U.S. cities and counties transition to clean energy for their own operations and communities, many are finding that stakeholders and policies beyond their jurisdictions affect their ability to purchase clean energy. Policy and regulatory decisions made by states, utilities, public utilities commissions and wholesale market governing bodies determine the clean energy procurement options available to cities and counties. This can create challenges for meeting locally defined resolutions and commitments. To overcome these challenges and drive faster progress on renewables and carbon-free goals, local governments are starting to engage with old stakeholders in new ways to change the rules of the game. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. To help cities and counties better understand potential high-impact engagement opportunities, the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator released a new interactive tool, the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker . The tool highlights efforts by local governments to work directly with the institutions and decision-makers who influence their ability to access clean energy and control the broader electricity system. Here are four ways local governments are engaging with stakeholders to decarbonize their electricity supply: 1. Partnering with investor-owned utilities Cities and counties often are required by state law to buy electricity from a regulated investor-owned utility (IOU) and lack the ability to choose their electricity supplier or generation source. While some IOUs offer renewable energy programs, these options don’t always meet city needs. Worse still, some cities have no options for purchasing renewable electricity. To overcome these circumstances, some local governments are partnering with their utilities. For example, the city of Denver and Xcel Energy developed a partnership agreement in 2018 to define and collaborate on shared climate and energy goals. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. These types of partnership agreements can lead to the creation of new renewables programs or custom utility solutions that enable local governments to purchase renewables on a large scale. In North Carolina, Duke Energy and the city of Charlotte signed an agreement that laid out the ways they could partner on clean energy work. One year later, Charlotte became the first city to sign a large-scale deal through Duke Energy’s new Green Source Advantage green tariff program. 2. Engaging in state-level regulatory proceedings Many key decisions around the implementation of state energy policies, including decisions that govern IOUs, are made by state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs allow stakeholders to voice their needs as electricity customers, which can be a good opportunity for local governments to advocate for more renewables. However, engaging in commission proceedings can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process for local governments with limited resources to navigate. Increasingly, cities and counties are asking for more renewables on the grid by commenting and providing testimony to their state PUC. This includes commenting on their utility’s integrated resource plans (IRPs), long-range plans that communicate how an electric utility intends to develop new generation assets over the next 10 to 20 years. In many states, utility IRPs are required by law and providing input on them can be an impactful way for local governments to influence their regional grid mix and increase renewable energy generation. During the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) IRP process, the city of Indianapolis submitted a public letter to encourage IPL to explore a more aggressive retirement scenario for the Petersburg Coal Generating Station and increase renewable generation. Indianapolis cited an October report by Rocky Mountain Institute that found that clean energy portfolios declined in cost by 80 percent since 2010, are lower-cost than new gas plants and are projected to undercut the operating costs of existing gas plants within 10 to 20 years. In comments to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), the city of Atlanta asked Georgia Power to expand residential energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, provide greater access to utility data to improve energy efficiency efforts, increase municipal access to renewable energy and build a new local microgrid to improve community resilience. In response to customer comments such as these, the PSC required Georgia Power to more than double solar energy procurement over the next five years from one gigawatt (GW) to 2.2 GW. Local governments are also increasingly advocating for alternative forms of utility regulation and business models. This includes performance-based regulation (PBR), a type of utility reform that incentivizes electric utilities to demonstrate performance on metrics such as greenhouse gas reduction, efficiency and customer service. This approach contrasts with traditional “cost-of-service” business models that incent utilities to build more physical assets, which generally result in new buildouts of gas power plants and pipelines, locking in emissions for years to come. The city and County of Honolulu and the County of Hawaii have been actively engaged in advancing PBR through workshops, working group meetings, filing written comments to Hawaii’s PUC and creating thoughtful proposals recommending new PBR mechanisms for their utility to adopt. 3. Influencing statewide energy policy When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Local governments are starting to get involved at the state level by calling for changes to state climate and clean energy legislation. There are a few high-impact policy pathways that cities can pursue: Removing barriers to solar Local governments are asking state policymakers to remove barriers that prevent renewable energy procurement. Stakeholder input recently helped pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 , which created the state’s first clean energy standard and lifted constraints on existing state laws that limited access to third party financing options that can bring down the cost of renewables. Similarly, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, alongside other large customers and local governments, successfully called for increased access to third-party financing for renewables , which ultimately would make clean energy procurement more affordable for consumers. In Utah, local governments came together to ask the state to enable high-impact pathways for procuring renewables , leading to the ratification of the Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019. These local governments are collaborating with the state’s electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to develop a utility program through which they can purchase 100 percent renewable energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Phasing out fossil fuels Cities and counties are advocating to retire uneconomic fossil fuel power plants by enabling or expanding securitization legislation. Securitization can be used to allow utilities to issue bonds based on the guaranteed returns they are making from the uneconomic plants and use the proceeds to build or buy cheaper renewable energy. The shift to lower-cost generation allows utilities to both make more money and lower rates for their customers while phasing out fossil fuel power plants. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. Enabling or expanding community choice aggregation Community choice aggregation (CCA) allows local governments to have full control over their electricity supply, providing the ability to procure renewable energy for their municipal operations, residents and in some cases, small businesses. To make progress toward community-wide renewable energy targets, cities are starting to push for legislation to enable CCA or to expand renewable procurement through an existing CCA. CCA can be a key mechanism for achieving community-wide clean energy goals if a city’s electric utility does not offer the procurement pathways needed to achieve its renewable energy target. Cincinnati has signed the largest municipal renewable energy deal in U.S. history, in part because of the control the city had through its CCA program. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. 4. Getting involved in wholesale energy markets Rules made in wholesale markets can impact local government clean energy goals and present obstacles for clean energy procurement. Participation in market-level decisions and stakeholder processes traditionally has been dominated by utilities and generators, but that is starting to change. One recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could hamper the development of renewables in states that participate in the PJM wholesale electricity market . The decision directs PJM to implement a  minimum offer price rule for renewable generation resources supported by state policies such as renewable portfolio standards and zero emissions credits. This rule effectively would raise the minimum price of renewables and, ultimately, ratepayer costs across the board. Some states, including New Jersey and Virginia, are considering leaving the PJM capacity market to preserve their ability to offer incentives to develop renewable energy. The PJM Cities and Communities Coalition is the first ongoing collaborative effort for cities to address barriers in the PJM wholesale energy market. As part of the coalition, cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago are joining together to provide education to members on market issues, considering becoming formal voting members and identifying priority issues where cities can engage. One of the coalition’s early efforts was a public letter o the PJM Board of Managers during its search for a new CEO, urging the search committee to hire a candidate who could move the PJM market toward a clean energy future. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Identifying and replicating local clean energy successes Engaging with utilities, commissions, state policymakers and wholesale market governing bodies is new and unfamiliar territory for many local governments. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Once they decide to engage, local governments often struggle to dedicate the resources and funding necessary to participate in ongoing efforts. Regardless of the approach, collaborative efforts are key to overcoming these challenges and enabling more effective participation. This allows local governments to leverage limited local resources, reduce political risks and develop a strong collective voice. This collective voice, in particular, often can be more powerful than one local government acting alone. The Local Government Renewables Action Tracker is an important new resource cities and counties can use to see how other local governments are engaging with stakeholders and evaluate the options available for advancing their own clean energy projects and goals. As cities and counties continue to develop their voices as large energy consumers, we should expect to see them get more involved in state regulatory proceedings and legislative hearings, innovative city-utility partnerships and market decision-making processes. Local government engagement such as this has significant potential to accelerate decarbonization in the United States by dramatically expanding local access to renewables for city operations and communities alike. Pull Quote By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Contributors Lacey Shaver Topics Energy & Climate Cities Policy & Politics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Power pylons at sunset. Photo by  Matthew Henry  on  Unsplash Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash Close Authorship

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How cities can influence the energy system

This energy-efficient home in Spain has a rainwater-fed infinity pool

August 11, 2020 by  
Filed under Green

Find Casa Palerm on the beautiful Balearic island of Mallorca, located in the Spanish Mediterranean. The area is known for its lavish beach resorts, world-famous beaches, stunning limestone mountains and ancient ruins. This home in Spain designed by OHLAB is an example of an energy-efficient architectural design that doesn’t detract from its stunning surroundings. The house itself is an extension of an existing hotel in Lloret de Vistalegre, a region in the center of Mallorca that is rich with wide-open countrysides. Near the hotel’s property farmhouse, Casa Palerm functions as a smaller vacation home . Related: This is one of the only LEED Gold-certified hotels in Spain There is one compact, single level making up the house, which is topped with a pitched roof. The entire structure has a width of about six meters with low-cost beams and no columns. This layout not only favors cross-ventilation , natural lighting and thermoregulation of the interior but also provides a parallel layout to take full advantage of the property’s views. The stretching countryside, as well as the Tramuntana Mountains to the north, can be enjoyed from multiple spots in the house. The living/dining room opens up to a massive porch on both sides, providing excellent ventilation during favorable weather. This panoramic format is built intentionally to have cinematographic proportions of 2.66:1, invoking a feel of being inside an old movie theater. The windows here can be completely hidden in the facade to be opened or closed depending on the season. A wattle (cañizo) pergola on the ceiling expands on both sides to protect the terraces from the hot summer sun and to filter the light and shadows. These energy-efficient choices, paired with the discrete design, help integrate the home into its surrounding environment.  Low-maintenance, drought-resistant Mediterranean plants and deciduous trees make up the garden, providing natural shade and aesthetics. Rainwater is stored in the water-collecting tank under the terrace to be reused for the garden irrigation, toilet tanks and the infinity pool. Natural and local materials , such as the rustic local limestone for the mortar plastering, became essential tools during construction. The home also contains reused ceramic tiles for the roof, local mare stone, sepi wood and artisan cement for the floors and sinks. + OHLAB Photography by José Hevia via OHLAB

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This energy-efficient home in Spain has a rainwater-fed infinity pool

Green-roofed CLT home opens up to a dreamlike garden in Germany

August 10, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Near Hannover, Germany, Bremen-based treehouse specialist and architecture practice Baumraum has completed the Green Dwelling, a green-roofed , cross-laminated timber home built to achieve a strong fusion between the landscape and the built environment. Located on a large 2,000-square-meter site, the house takes inspiration from its lush surroundings, which include an adjacent forest and a dreamy garden developed by perennial specialist Petra Pelz. Natural materials define both the interior and exterior palettes, while large glazed windows strengthen the connection between the indoors and out. The Green Dwelling was created for young clients who wanted a new home that neighbored their parents’ existing residence. When the clients first contacted Baumraum, the conversation began with talk of building a treehouse that then evolved into a commission for the design of a new house in addition to the treehouse. The overarching design goal was to create “an oasis in the green” filled with natural light, ecological construction and strong visual and physical connections with nature.  Related: Sigurd Larsen completes a luxurious, treetop hotel cabin in a Danish forest The resulting home features a Z-shaped floor plan that begins with a garage, side rooms and entrance area at the front of the house, then transitions to a spacious living room with an open kitchen. The layout culminates with a guest room, bathroom, sauna area and bedroom in the rear. Large windows installed in each room provide garden views. The entire structure was built from cross-laminated timber and the natural, untreated larch surfaces were deliberately left visible throughout almost all of the interior. A lush green roof tops the home. On the western border of the property, the architects have also added the Tree House Green Dwelling, a treehouse perched atop an oak tree that serves as a year-round retreat and playground. Three flights of stairs lead up to the treehouse’s 4-meter-tall terrace and the square treehouse cabin , which rises to a height of almost 6 meters. Highly reflective stainless steel wraps around the facade to render the building almost invisible in the landscape. + Baumraum Photography by Ferdinand Graf Luckner via Baumraum

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Green-roofed CLT home opens up to a dreamlike garden in Germany

How to prepare your pets for the end of lockdown

August 7, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Between nonstop news and social media use, we’re all too familiar with the effects of COVID-19 on humans around the world. But the lives of our furry friends have also been impacted in ways large and small. Whether your dog is bummed because admirers can’t pet her during walks or your cat is alarmed by your 24/7 work-from-home presence, nobody has escaped the impact of the pandemic . We talked to three veterinarians — Tory Waxman, chief veterinarian at Sundays ; Jamie Richardson, chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary ; and Danielle Bernal, global veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food — who weighed in about how lockdown has affected pets and how to prepare them for our eventual return to the workplace. Related: Fostering and adopting pets during the pandemic How has lockdown affected pets? Bernal: The past few months have seen many of us make sure that we are there for our pets just as much as they are for us. We’ve loved having our dogs sit by our feet, follow us around and go out with them on long daily walks. However, any changes in routine can leave pets feeling anxious or stressed, so it’s important for pet parents to make proper adjustments to help the time at home stay equally as beneficial for both parties. Richardson: Unless your pet is particularly independent, they are likely to have loved having you around almost 24/7 during lockdown! For most pets, it will have been a very enjoyable time — and they’ll have been making the most of the extra attention and cuddles. There are, however, a few other effects that some pets may experience: increased dependency, weight gain/loss of fitness and missed veterinary appointments. If we’re continuing to work remotely, how can we make that situation more comfortable for our pets? Waxman:  Exercising your pets (both physically and mentally) is a great way to keep them content in our new reality. It’s important to start gradually with physical exercise. Once your pup is in shape, a few miles of walking before an important meeting will help ensure they sleep right through it. Additionally, mental stimulation can be very helpful when the weather is bad or you just don’t have time for a walk. For dogs, frozen Kongs, snuffle mats and puzzle toys are all great options. We use a Manners Minder treat dispenser in our office to reward our dogs to rest quietly while we work. For cats, the Doc & Phoebe Indoor Hunting Feeder is a great way to get a cat to exercise while being mentally stimulated. Bernal: Continue a regular routine, allow them to have their own space to retreat to that they feel comfortable in, daily exercise and mental stimulation. Help your dog with some social time with other dogs such as time at the dog park now that most areas are out of stay-at-home orders, and look to doggy daycare options. This will give your dog some doggy time that they simply love as well as bring them home ready for a good night’s sleep! Giving your dog some alone time where you are out of the house is also important, even if you aren’t planning on going back to work anytime soon. Thirty to 60 minutes a day will help minimize their anxiety for when you do go back to work. Remember during these times to avoid emotional departures or greetings and give them their favorite distraction several minutes prior to your leaving the home. Long-lasting food treats or favorite toys are a good tip here. Will they be glad when we go back to work? Will they miss us? Waxman: Our pets will definitely miss us but will also enjoy some time on their own! For some pets, it is hard for them to truly relax with us around all the time. Richardson: Some independent pets may enjoy time to themselves, but many pets may miss us. If the transition back to work is a sudden one, your pet may display signs of separation anxiety, even if they have never experienced it before. Common signs of anxiety in pets include aggression, soiling in the home, destructive behavior, excessive barking/whining/meowing, pacing or restlessness, changes in appetite or weight, change in mood, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, shaking/trembling/tiding, tail-tucking and excessive licking or chewing, which may result in reddened skin and/or bald patches. Bernal: Dogs have loved us being home and even if they are a dog who is content on their own, they will miss having us there to keep them company. There’s a chance that our dog may have become more attached to us than normal, potentially causing separation anxiety in the coming weeks as we start to go back to work or our daily lives. Separation anxiety is a behavioral reaction triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they are attached to the most. How can we prepare pets for the end of lockdown? Waxman: If you expect to eventually go back to work for most of the day outside your home, start teaching your pet in small increments of time to be content when you are not around. Start with leaving them in a safe place (enclosed room or crate) for short periods of time. Make sure to actually leave your home or apartment during these times away — your pet is smart enough to know if you are just in the other room. Also, start up a routine similar to that of your routine if you were to go into the office . Wake up, feed and exercise them at the same time as if you were going to work. Just like us, dogs and cats thrive with predictable routines. Richardson: Associate your absence with positive rewards. When you leave your pet alone, give them a special treat, Kong frozen with peanut butter or low-sodium broth or other high-value reward that you only give during this alone time. Provide a ‘den’ for your pet. Consider crate-training your dog if you haven’t already, or use a gated space. A crate provides a safe space for your dog to retreat to when they are anxious. Cats enjoy a quiet, darker space, tucked away from busy areas of the home. Always use exciting rewards so they come to love this space. Increase exercise and play before leaving. Tire out your pet before you leave. If a pet has lots of excess energy, it’s more likely to turn into nervous energy and fuel separation anxiety. Take dogs for a long walk or run before work, or have a vigorous play session with both dogs and cats to help mentally stimulate and tire them out. Switch up your routine when leaving home. If you follow the same routine, your pet may pick up on this and notice those departure cues: the sound of your keys, putting on shoes or grabbing a bag. Mix things up so your pet doesn’t associate these signals with you leaving and subsequently with anxiety. How will going back to work outside the house affect pets that were adopted during the pandemic? Waxman:  Going back to work will be hard on pets that were adopted during the pandemic, as many have never been left alone for long periods of time. Work on leaving your pet for short periods of time, slowly working up to long stretches out of the house, reflective of your actual workday. For some dogs, going to doggy daycare or having a dog walker will be part of their routine — it’s a good idea to acclimate your pup to these activities now so it’s already part of their routine when you do go back to work. Bernal:  For adopted pets, going back to work may be a new experience entirely for them and exacerbate the chance of them demonstrating separation anxiety. Training your dog to spend time alone is crucial. Doggy daycare or having a walker come in to your home while you are at work is an option for many dogs. Let your dog meet the walker when you are home so they get to know them. For doggy daycare, work with your local facility to see if you can take your dog early on the morning they are due to start so that it is less daunting compared to entering a full room of dogs. What other effects of the pandemic have you seen on pets? Richardson: We have observed that pet owners are noticing things that they may not have previously noticed now that they’re home more frequently — medical problems like allergy symptoms (such as itching or paw licking), the frequency of seizures, changes in mobility or odd behaviors. Pet owners are picking up on things their pet may be experiencing with greater frequency. Images via Bao_5 , Fran Mother of Dogs and Makieni777

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How to prepare your pets for the end of lockdown

Solar-powered House of Music mimics the shape of an orchestra

August 4, 2020 by  
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Bologna-based Mario Cucinella Architects has crafted the House of Music, a solar-powered community landmark in the nearby commune of Pieve di Cento that celebrates the town’s long-standing musical tradition. Designed to represent an orchestra with its individual instrumental sections, the timber-clad building comprises nine small, circular music rooms that connect to a central open space. The ventilated curved oak facade, a nod to musical instruments, not only helps to amplify sound like an instrument’s music box, but it also ensures high levels of energy efficiency .  Completed in 2017 after four years of planning and construction, the House of Music for Pieve di Cento is located in the former Lamborghini production area that had been previously reclaimed and transformed into a recreational park. The recently completed building benefits from an existing cycling path that connects the House of Music to the town center and beyond to an expansion area to the south. The public is encouraged to engage the building via the long curved bench that wraps around the exterior of the building and faces views of the park. Related: Mirage Architecture envisions a solar-powered glass cube for Lithuania’s national concert hall To maintain high levels of thermal inertia and sound insulation, Mario Cucinella Architects constructed the House of Music with a load-bearing masonry structure wrapped in curved oak slats. The flat roofs are topped with a series of curved and elevated disks that help deflect unwanted solar gain and are engineered to promote natural ventilation into the building. A photovoltaic array is located atop the roof as well. The energy-efficient design was informed by the architects’ bioclimatic study of the site.  The well-insulated interiors feature materials that enhance acoustics and reduce reverb. The nine music rooms open up to a central outdoor space that serves as a meeting space and area for ensemble rehearsals and recitals. The architects noted, “The House of Music’s exterior lighting makes it some sort of comforting lighthouse that encourages people to resume musical and recreational activities after the earthquake that shook the area in 2012.” + Mario Cucinella Architects Photography by Moreno Maggi via Mario Cucinella Architects

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Solar-powered House of Music mimics the shape of an orchestra

The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

August 3, 2020 by  
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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis Maddie Stone Mon, 08/03/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Grist and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. One of the starkest inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic is the difference between the digital haves and have-nots. Those with a fast internet connection are more able to work and learn remotely, stay in touch with loved ones and access critical services such as telemedicine. For the millions of Americans who live in an internet dead zone , fully participating in society in the age of social distancing has become difficult, if not impossible. But if the pandemic has laid bare America’s so-called “digital divide,” climate change will only worsen the inequality that stems from it. As the weather grows more extreme and unpredictable, wealthy urban communities with faster, more reliable internet access will have an easier time responding to and recovering from disasters, while rural and low-income Americans — already especially vulnerable to the impacts of a warming climate — could be left in the dark. Unless, that is, we can bring everyone’s internet up to speed, which is what Democratic lawmakers on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis are hoping to do. Buried in a sweeping, 538-page climate change plan the committee released last month is a call to expand and modernize the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure in order to prepare it, and vulnerable communities around the country, for future extreme weather events and climate disruptions. The plan calls for increasing broadband internet access nationwide with the goal of getting everyone connected, updating the country’s 911 emergency call systems and ensuring cellular communications providers are able to keep their networks up and running amid hurricane-force winds and raging wildfires. This plan isn’t the first to point out that America’s internet infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade , but it is unusual to see lawmakers frame better internet access as an important step toward building climate resilience. While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal.   To Jim Kessler , executive vice president for policy at the moderate public policy think tank Third Way, this framing makes perfect sense. “You’ve got to build resilience into communities but also people,” Kessler said. “And you can’t do this without people having broadband and being connected digitally.” While the internet is often described as a great equalizer , access to the web never has been equal. High-income people have faster internet access than low-income people, urban residents are more connected than rural ones, and whiter counties are more likely to have broadband than counties with more Black and Brown residents. We’re not just talking about a few digital stragglers being left behind: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that more than 18 million Americans lack access to fast broadband, which the agency defines as a 25 megabits per second download speed and 3 megabits per second upload speed. Monica Anderson , who studies the digital divide at Pew Research Center, says that many more Americans have broadband access in their area but don’t subscribe because it’s too expensive. “What we see time and again is the cost is prohibitive,” Anderson said. A lack of broadband reduces opportunities for people in the best of times, but it can be crippling in wake of a disaster, making it difficult or impossible to apply for aid or access recovery resources. Puerto Ricans experienced this in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, which battered the island’s telecommunications infrastructure and left many residents with terminally slow broadband more than a year after the storm had passed. Three years later, with a global pandemic moving vast swaths of the economy online for the foreseeable future, internet-impoverished communities around the country are feeling a similar strain . To some extent, mobile networks have helped bridge the broadband gap in recent years. More than 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, with similar rates of ownership among Black, white and Hispanic Americans. Nearly 40 percent of Americans access the internet primarily from a phone. As far as disaster resilience goes, this surge in mobile adoption is good news: Our phones allow us to receive emergency alerts and evacuation orders quickly, and first responders rely on them to coordinate on the fly. Of the 240 million 911 calls made every year, more than 80 percent come from a wireless device, per the FCC . But in the age of climate change, mobile networks are becoming more vulnerable. The cell towers, cables and antennas underpinning them weren’t always built to withstand worsening fires and storms, a vulnerability that Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T have all acknowledged in recent climate change disclosures filed with the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). And when these networks go down — as nearly 500 cell towers did during California’s Camp and Woolsey fires in 2018, according to the new House climate change plan — it can create huge challenges for emergency response. “Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet,” said Samantha Montano , an assistant professor of emergency management at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. “We’re pretty reliant on them.” Democrats’ new climate plan seeks to address many problems created by unequal and unreliable internet access in order to build a more climate-hardy web and society. To help bring about universal broadband access, the plan recommends boosting investment in FCC programs such as the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund , a $20 billion fund earmarked for broadband infrastructure deployments across rural America. It also calls for increased investment in programs such as the FCC’s Lifeline , which offers government-subsidized broadband to low-income Americans, and it recommends mandating that internet service providers suspend service shutoffs for 60 days in the wake of declared emergencies. Broadband improvements should be prioritized in underserved communities “experiencing or are likely to experience disproportionate environmental and climate change impacts,” per the plan. As far as mobile networks go, House Democrats recommend that Congress authorize states to set disaster resilience requirements for wireless providers as part of their terms of service. They also recommend boosting federal investments in Next Generation 911 , a long-running effort to modernize America’s 911 emergency call systems and connect thousands of individually operating systems. Finally, the plan calls for the FCC to work with wireless providers to ensure their networks don’t go offline during disasters for reasons unrelated to equipment failure, citing Verizon’s infamous throttling of data to California firefighters as they were fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018. Kessler of Third Way said that Democrats’ climate plan lays out “the right ideas” for bridging the digital divide. “You want to be able to get the technology out there, the infrastructure out there, and you need to make sure people can pay for it,” he said. The call for hardening our internet infrastructure is especially salient to Paul Barford , a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2018, Barford and two colleagues published a study highlighting the vulnerability of America’s fiber cables to sea level rise, and he’s investigating how wildfires threaten mobile networks. In both cases, he says, it’s clear that the telecommunications infrastructure deployed today was designed with historical extreme conditions in mind — and that has to change. “We’re living in a world of climate change,” he said. “And if the intention is to make this new infrastructure that will serve the population for many years to come, then it is simply not feasible to deploy it without considering the potential effects of climate change, which include, of course, rising seas, severe weather, floods and wildfires.” Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet.   Whether the House climate plan’s recommendations become law remains to be seen. Many specific ideas in the plan already have been introduced to Congress in various bills, including the LIFT America Act , which would infuse Next Generation 911 with an extra $12 billion in funding, and the WIRED Act , which would authorize states to regulate wireless companies’ infrastructure. Perhaps most significantly, House Democrats recently passed an infrastructure bill that would invest $80 billion in broadband deployment around the country overseen by a new Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth. The bill would mandate a minimum speed standard of 100/100 megabits per second for federally funded internet projects, a speed stipulation that can be met only with high-speed fiber optics, says Ernesto Omar Falcon , a senior legal counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties nonprofit. Currently, Falcon estimates that about a third of Americans have access to this advanced internet infrastructure, with a larger swath of the country accessing the web via older, slower, DSL copper or cable lines. “It would connect anyone who doesn’t have internet to a 21st century line,” Falcon said. “That’s a huge deal.” The infrastructure bill seems unlikely to move forward in a Republican-controlled Senate. But the urgency of getting everyone a fast, resilient internet connection isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the idea that internet access is a basic right seems to be gaining traction every day, even making an appearance last week in presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan . With the pandemic continuing to transform how we work, live and interact with one another, and with climate change necessitating even larger transformations in the future, our need to be connected digitally is only becoming greater. “I think every day the pressure mounts, because the problem is not going away,” Falcon said. “It’s really going to come down to what we want the recovery to look like. And which of the problems COVID-19 has presented us with do we want to solve.” Pull Quote While the internet is often described as a great equalizer, access to the web never has been equal. Everything from search-and-rescue efforts to sending out warnings to getting people directions to shelters is facilitated through various telecommunications and internet. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Social Justice Technology Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Worker on the site of an ecological disaster.

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The digital divide worsens the inequitable impacts of the climate crisis

Villa CasaBlanca is an earthen home made from clay found onsite

July 30, 2020 by  
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The Villa CasaBlanca in Bali puts a new spin on the ancient tradition of cob building — a construction technique using materials such as clay and straw, often harvested from the building site. The home is part of a larger project consisting of 24 similar sustainable luxury homes in a communal eco-village designed by Kurt Beckman and MUD Sustainable Homes. The practice of building cob homes certainly makes sense in the tropical landscape of Bali. Cob homes provide a naturally cool living space with natural resistance to termites, mold, fires and earthquakes. The country is known for the rich clay soil that helps grow its coffee, supply spa treatments and even inspire traditional mepantigan mud wrestling. Unfortunately, the cob building technique largely disappeared following the rise of concrete in the 1970s. According to the designer, the villa is the first and only modern example of a cob and bamboo home in Bali. Related: This glamping hideout in Bali is made entirely out of bamboo Inside, low-energy design considerations include full LED lighting, while outside, a graywater reclamation system and groundwater recharge well help control water flow. Though the cob construction technique naturally cools the space, the designers included additional open living spaces to allow for further access to breezes and natural light. Sustainable building materials for the home include bamboo and sugarcane for its curved grass roof and local volcanic stone for the house’s foundation as well as the bathroom and garden walls. The garden itself is landscaped with edible plants, such as lemongrass, sugarcane, chili peppers, bananas, pineapples, roselle and local herbs. The main building of the 1,291-square-foot villa has three bedrooms with another bedroom and study available inside the guest house. Additions like interior and exterior balconies, bedroom lofts, an upstairs lounge and a swing make the space more luxurious, and furnishings of local Balinese carvings honor the cultural heritage of the area. MUD Sustainable Homes and local craftspeople were responsible for the build of the Villa CasaBlanca, with interior design by Earthwright Eco Design. Located in Ubud, Bali, the project was completed in February 2020. + Villa CasaBlanca Images via Kurt Beckman

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Villa CasaBlanca is an earthen home made from clay found onsite

Off-grid home threads through a South African riverine forest

July 23, 2020 by  
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When a nature-loving elderly couple tapped South African architecture firm  Frankie Pappas  to design their new home, they requested a residence with minimal site impact. The architects responded with a site-specific house that operates completely off-grid and weaves between trees to preserve the natural scenery. Built largely of natural materials , the home — named the House of the Big Arch — seems to disappear into the landscape.  Located within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve between a riverine forest and a sandstone cliff, the House of the Big Arch comprises two main skinny linear volumes joined together at an angle with small additions to the sides. The unusual shape directly responds to the sloped site and the location and size of the surrounding trees. To ensure the preservation of all existing trees, the architects laser-scanned the entire site to create a digital  3D model  that informed critical design decisions.  To “bridge the landscape between the riverine forest and sandstone cliff,” the architects constructed the building with rough stock brick matching the color of the site’s weathered sandstone. The “bridge” portions of the home use sustainably grown timber, and the non-structural walls use glass and aluminum. In addition to blending in with the surroundings, the home operates entirely off-grid and follows passive principles for a reduced energy footprint. Water collected from the roof gets filtered and stored for reuse.  Greywater , stored separately, also gets processed for reuse. A 16-square-meter solar array provides for all the home’s energy needs.  Related: South Africa’s first interior 6 star Green Star awarded to Formfunc The House of the Big Arch spreads across three floors, with an underground cellar for storing food supplies, curing meats and aging wines. The ground floor opens up to  courtyards  and houses a study, library and a small swing beneath the arch at the front of the site. On the first floor, open-plan communal areas connect to a tree-shaded deck and a pool.  + Frankie Pappas Images via Frankie Pappas

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Off-grid home threads through a South African riverine forest

Passively cooled Californian beach house channels Australian vibes

July 21, 2020 by  
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American architect Alec Petros has completed the Seaside Reef House, a timber-clad home that celebrates indoor/outdoor living at Solana Beach, California. Designed for Australian clients, the beach house takes cues from the Australian vernacular with its breezy, coastal appearance. Sustainability was also emphasized in the design, which features FSC-certified cedar and passive cooling strategies . Petros gained the commission after a serendipitous meeting with the client at a local bookstore, where the two coincidentally picked up the same architecture book and struck up a conversation that revealed a shared design aesthetic. The challenge with the project was not only the site’s odd shape but also the client’s desires for maximized ocean views and an open floor plan while preserving a sense of privacy in the densely populated coastal area. Related: A Brisbane cottage is sustainably updated to gracefully age in place As a result, Petros strategically placed a floor-to-ceiling door system and large windows to capture ocean views and cooling cross-breezes along the western and southern facades instead of wrapping the entire building in glass. To further emphasize the indoor/outdoor connection, Petros included deep roof eaves that measure 7 feet in length and a natural materials palette. The open-plan layout and interior pocket door systems help maintain sight lines and ensure flexibility for long-term use. “Another strong detail in the thought process behind the design related to sustainability,” Petros explained in a design statement. “The siding is composed of vertical FSC-certified cedar boards attached to a horizontal sleeper system, which created an air gap between the siding and the water-proofing. This allows sunlight to heat the boards without transferring a majority of that heat into the building itself. The beauty of this design is that it reduces the energy usage on the house where cooling is considered.” The wood siding was also selected for its ability to age gracefully in the humid, coastal region. + Alec Petros Studio Images via Alec Petros Studio

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Passively cooled Californian beach house channels Australian vibes

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