Solar-powered Lowell Justice Center will be Massachusetts first LEED Platinum courthouse

June 4, 2020 by  
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Half-an-hour north of Boston, the Massachusetts city of Lowell has recently welcomed the new Lowell Justice Center, a modern facility on track to become the state’s first LEED Platinum-certified courthouse. Designed by Boston-based Finegold Alexander Architects , the $146 million courthouse has consolidated a series of courts and service offices that had formerly been located in outdated and dysfunctional buildings across Lowell and Cambridge. The Lowell Justice Center also serves as a new and welcoming civic landmark that emphasizes transparency, local history and community. Located on a 3.2-acre site within Lowell National Historic Park, The Lowell Justice Center serves as the cornerstone of the city’s Hamilton Canal District development masterplan. The 265,000-square-foot modern building comprises 17 courtrooms , a variety of office spaces and a two-story entrance lobby that can accommodate waiting lines of over 100 people at any time. Related: Renzo Piano reveals designs for Toronto courthouse targeting LEED Silver “The justice center is designed to create a welcoming and calming environment, featuring generous natural daylight, warm finishes and public art that reflects the diverse history and culture of Lowell,” said Moe Finegold FAIA, principal in charge for Finegold Alexander Architects, in reference to the quadrilingual quotations and words about justice that decorate the building as well as the natural material palette and artwork that pay homage to Lowell’s textile history. The courthouse is also universally accessible with sloped walkways and offers easy access via public transportation, car or bicycle. Ample glazing reflects the courthouse’s values of transparency while letting abundant natural light into the building to minimize reliance on artificial lighting. The center has also been designed in response to its site and to follow passive solar principles to meet high standards of energy efficiency. In addition to highly insulated walls and high-performance mechanical and lighting systems, the courthouse also contains a chilled beam HVAC system and photovoltaic panels to help achieve performance targets 40% better than code. + Finegold Alexander Architects Photography by Anton Grassl Photography via Finegold Alexander Architects

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Solar-powered Lowell Justice Center will be Massachusetts first LEED Platinum courthouse

Silver Oak becomes worlds most sustainable winery

June 2, 2020 by  
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After a devastating fire ravaged the Silver Oak Winery in California’s Napa Valley nearly 15 years ago, the owners turned tragedy into opportunity when they rebuilt the facility to target the most stringent sustainability standards in the world. After achieving LEED Platinum certification, the redesigned winery has now also earned Living Building Challenge (LBC) Sustainability Certification from the International Living Future Institute — making it the world’s first LBC-certified winery. Sagan Piechota Architecture led the redesign of the Silver Oak Winery with sustainable services provided by international engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti . Founded in the early 1970s, the family-owned Silver Oak Winery now covers 105 acres of land in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley and is dedicated to producing only Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery is the largest building globally to achieve Living Building Challenge certification and meets requirements of all seven LBC performance petals including site/place, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. Related: LEED-seeking winery in Uruguay is built almost entirely of locally sourced materials “The Living Building Challenge is considered to be the world’s most rigorous green building standard,” said Thornton Tomasetti in a press statement. “It encourages the creation of a regenerative built environment and is based off of actual rather than modeled or anticipated performance. Silver Oak was awarded the certification after more than five years of planning and construction.” The Silver Oak Alexander Valley project comprises two buildings — the tasting room with event spaces and offices and the production and administration building — totaling over 100,000 square feet. All materials used were vetted to meet the Red List Imperative, which restricts the use of the most harmful chemicals. Rooftop solar panels power all of the winery’s energy needs, while solar thermal energy systems and CO2 heat pumps provide heating. To minimize water consumption, the winery uses recycled hot water systems and a water-management system that captures and treats rainwater as well as wastewater for reuse. + Silver Oak Winery Photography by Damion Hamilton

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Eco-friendly spiritual living at Holy Wisdom Monastery

March 3, 2020 by  
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A basket of bread comes around, and the person next to me removes a chunk, holds it up and says, “Bread of life.” I accept it and do the same for the person on my other side. It’s the first time I’ve ever attended a religious service so egalitarian that all participants are assumed qualified to give each other communion. Earlier, the part of the service where folks exchanged the sign of peace seemed to go on forever; instead of a restrained handshake with their nearest neighbors, people were walking all over the room hugging their friends. This is a Sunday morning gathering at the  Holy Wisdom Monastery  in Middleton, Wisconsin. The unconventional group of Benedictine nuns who run the monastery oversee a whole host of enterprises, from managing a retreat center to restoring the surrounding prairie. While church attendance has declined rapidly in the US, with a Pew Research Center study reporting that more than half the population attends church between zero and a few times a year, Holy Wisdom has a robust turnout even during a Sunday morning snowstorm. What is it about this non-denominational Christian monastery that draws people from the progressive area around  Madison ? The welcoming attitude of the congregation, the relatability of the presiders, the gender-neutral language when speaking of divinity and the eco-spirituality of Holy Wisdom attract many people who are looking for a deeper connection with others and with the earth. An eco-retreat center In the 1950s, three Benedictine nuns from  Iowa  arrived in Madison to start a girls’ high school. They purchased 43 acres of pasture land overlooking Lake Mendota that would eventually become Holy Wisdom. But big changes were happening in the Catholic Church in the early 1960s. In 1966, the sisters closed the high school and re-opened as the Saint Benedict Center. The retreat center was ecumenical, meaning it was open to all denominations. As more retreatants attended events at the center, the sisters felt very connected to people they met from other faiths. “Praying with people from different denominations changed our hearts to be ecumenical hearts,” Sister Mary David Walgenbach said as she showed me around on a snowy February morning. Eventually, the sisters began a long, slow process to become an ecumenical order of nuns open to Protestant women as well as  Catholics . Nowadays, all kinds of people go on  retreat  at the monastery, either as individuals or in groups. The retreat house accommodates 19 people, plus the monastery has two more isolated hermitages for people seeking solitude. “There are more and more people who want to get away from everything because our world is more and more connected in every way,” said Sister Denise West. Buddhists are frequent visitors. “The Dalai Lama was here in ’79, so Buddhist groups like to come,” said Walgenbach. Sometimes they’ll do 10-day retreats, using the monastery’s nature trails for walking meditation and taking meals in silence. Nonprofit organizations also rent the monastery’s meeting facilities, plus breakout rooms. The sisters replaced their original Benedictine House — which was deconstructed and 99.75% recycled or reused — with a new, eco-friendlier monastery, which opened in 2009. The 30,000 square foot, two-story structure is “right-sized” at half the size of its predecessor. The sisters worked with Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction, Inc. to envision one of the country’s greenest  buildings . In 2010, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded Holy Wisdom Monastery a  LEED  Platinum rating. Four years later, the monastery became Madison Gas and Electric’s largest solar customer. The monastery building generates 60% of its energy needs. The sisters are aiming for 100% eventually. “For us, sustainability is not a trend,” Sister Joanne Kollasch said on the monastery website, “but a commitment to the earth—a 21st century expression of 1500 years of Benedictine tradition.” The designers carefully planned the location of windows based on the orientation of the sun to reduce glare and minimize unwanted solar heat gain. The new building also uses geothermal heating and cooling. Friends of Wisdom Prairie The monastery’s grounds cover more than 130 acres, including woodlands, Lost Lake, gardens, orchards, nature  trails  and restored prairie. Lots of animals live on the property, too, with whom the sisters try to live with in harmony. As Sister Mary David Walgenbach showed me around the monastery, we stopped in a room downstairs that the sisters use for prayer. She told me about a  turkey  that would often catch sight of his reflection in the room’s windows while they were praying. “He’d puff up, turn around,” she said. “And we would split laughing.” When somebody suggested setting bow and arrow hunters on him, the sisters leapt to his defense. “We said, ‘You can’t harm Brother Tom!’” Walgenbach remembered. They fed him from the back door of their house to help him through a harsh winter. Come spring, he flapped off with a roving band of hens. The five sisters couldn’t take care of the monastery’s land without a lot of help. “We depend on  volunteers  all over the place,” said Walgenbach. While they’ve been relying on volunteers to help restore prairie lands since the 1990s, the more formal  Friends of Wisdom Prairie  was established in 2014. The sisters are thrilled to have Greg Armstrong, who directed the University of Wisconsin Arboretum for twenty years, as their director of land management and environmental education. The Friends raise funds for caring for the land, including reducing runoff into the lake and constructing a bike trail. Environmental volunteers join in work parties while learning about ecological land management. Sometimes the Friends host special events, like moonlight snowshoeing on the monastery’s trails or lectures on subjects like owls of Wisconsin or climate change and eco-spirituality. Life among the sisters Times have changed and religious life holds less allure to most people than it did 60 years ago. “Not a lot of  women  are flocking to become sisters,” said Walgenbach. “But we have a niche.” Holy Wisdom attracts women looking for a more contemplative life, who share Benedictine values like listening, respect and silence. The five sisters live together across the lake from the monastery. Walgenbach and Kollasch entered religious life as Catholic nuns in the 1950s. Sister Lynne Smith, a Presbyterian pastor, became the first Protestant sister in 2000. Sister Paz Vital, a lifelong Catholic, and Sister Denise West, who comes from a secular background, both joined the order in the last few years. The sisters often have a sixth woman staying with them who is going through the six-month Sojourner program for spiritual seekers. That’s what originally brought West to Holy Wisdom. “I came here to learn spiritual life with zero intent of becoming a sister,” she said. But once she was back home in New York City, the former  schoolteacher  felt an undeniable pull back to the monastery. It’s a pull that many progressive Christians around Madison feel, judging from the Sunday morning turnout when I visited, or the 100 people who showed up the day before to help the sisters devise a ten-year plan. People are hungry for connection with the divine, each other and the land , and Holy Wisdom fills this void for folks in Madison and further afield. Images via Teresa Bergen and Kent Sweitzer

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Eco-friendly spiritual living at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Temple of Poop grows a flowering rooftop with human waste

March 3, 2020 by  
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Latvian design and build workshop Zeltini has made answering the call of nature into an environmental statement with the “Temple of Poop,” a timber outhouse that composts human waste into fertilizer for a rooftop garden. Built on the designer’s property in Latvia, the project celebrates “humanure” while simultaneously raising awareness of the benefits of human waste compost as a potential replacement to animal-based fertilizers. Designed by Zeltini founder Aigars Lauzis, the Temple of Poop — also known as the Z-BIOLOO — was produced as part of the design studio’s mission to better the world with sustainable projects. Clad in blackened timber to recede into the landscape, the contemporary, timber-framed outhouse features a Biolan composting toilet that automatically separates liquid from solids to turn human excrement into compost. Once ready, the compost can be used to fertilize the rooftop garden or the adjacent field. Related: Mirrored outhouse “disappears” into a lush river valley landscape To elevate the user experience, the Temple of Poop features a large, glazed opening to frame views of the landscape. A chimney with a kinetic revolving cowl was installed to extract unpleasant odors from the outhouse and help speed up the composting process. At the same time, a second chimney with an electric fan draws in the pleasant fragrance from the flowers grown on the roof into the building to continually introduce a fresh flow of oxygen. The outhouse walls are insulated to provide comfortable and stable temperatures year-round. “Being a vegan household, we don’t want to use animal-based fertilizers,” the design studio explained. “More than 7 billion people can easily fertilize this planet, and there is no need for meat / dairy industries to do it for us.” The Temple of Poop project was designed and built by Aigars Lauzis and Andis Veigulis in 2018 for approximately 3,000 euros (approximately $3,270). + Zeltini Images via Zeltini

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Temple of Poop grows a flowering rooftop with human waste

Minimalist, charred-timber tiny cabin is only 129 square feet

March 3, 2020 by  
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Belgian firm dmvA Architects has unveiled a sophisticated and sustainable tiny cabin clad in charred timber. Just shy of 130 square feet, Cabin Y is a lightweight, flexible structure that is easily transportable and reconfigurable. Additionally, the cabin runs on solar power, meaning it doesn’t have to rely on the grid for energy. dmvA architects is known for its long-standing commitment to designing sustainable structures that achieve “maximalism through minimalism.” According to the firm, the inspiration for Cabin Y came from the need for a flexible and lightweight building that could serve a variety of uses, from tiny retreats and art studios to permanent home additions and commercial applications. In fact, the cabin is so lightweight and compact that it is easily transported on a standard-sized flatbed trailer. Related: Transparent, prefab tiny cabin offers the best views of the Italian Alps Using charred larch wood on the tiny cabin’s cladding not only gives the structure a modern, sophisticated aesthetic but makes it more durable. The cabin is comprised of individual wooden sections that are connected by stainless steel tension cables that form an X-shape; this unique construction enables the cabin to be customized to individual needs. Contrasting nicely with the dark exterior, the interior is clad in white oiled pine. The front door to the cabin is a massive glass door that swivels open. This glazed entrance offers sweeping views of the tiny cabin’s setting, wherever that may be, while also allowing the daylight to stream in. The minimalist , 129-square-foot interior consists of one large room with a sleeping loft, which is reached by ladder. The compact bathroom is located in the back of the cabin and includes a toilet and a shower. A rooftop solar array allows Cabin Y to be entirely self-sufficient. The tiny cabin also boasts an impressively tight thermal envelope thanks to hemp insulation . + dmvA architect Via ArchDaily Photography by Bart Gosselin via dmvA architect

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Minimalist, charred-timber tiny cabin is only 129 square feet

LEED-Platinum learning lab is a beacon of sustainability

February 12, 2020 by  
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In a bold move to embrace environmental education, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine recently welcomed the Roux Center for the Environment, a new three-story academic building that’s also been certified LEED Platinum. Designed by Cambridge-based architectural firm Cambridge Seven Associates, Inc. , the 29,000-square-foot interdisciplinary building brings together faculty and students from across campus into a collaborative setting focused on finding solutions to the world’s environmental challenges. Officially opened in October 2018, the Roux Center for the Environment comprises flexible classrooms, laboratories, research labs, teaching labs, offices, conference rooms, common spaces, storage, and other miscellaneous support spaces. Durable, thermally-modified poplar siding clads the east and west facades, while glass wraps around the north and south facades. The walls of glass that surround the front entrance of the building also provide views into The Lantern, an indoor amphitheater -like space that can seat up to 150 people and hosts lectures and informal gatherings.  “Transparency, both physical and pedagogical, enables a clearer engagement of teaching, learning and scholarship,” the architects’ project statement said. “The building’s form is expressed by two bars shifted and angled to one another within the trapezoidal site, with the east bar housing faculty offices and research labs and the west bar containing classrooms and teaching labs. A glazed circulation space connects the two, fostering connections between faculty and students.” Related: Green-roofed CLT classrooms immerse children in nature As a teaching and learning lab for sustainable technologies, the Roux Center for the Environment includes a variety of renewable energy and energy-saving systems that have earned the building LEED Platinum certification. Examples of such systems include the rooftop solar array that offsets 13% of annual electric costs; a gray water reclamation system; high-efficiency mechanical systems for reduced energy usage; an experimental, research-based green roof; and stormwater swales at grade. + Cambridge Seven Associates Images by Jeff Goldberg – Esto

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LEED-Platinum learning lab is a beacon of sustainability

Architecture students design and build a LEED Platinum smart home in Kansas

November 25, 2019 by  
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Every year, graduate students at the University of Kansas Department of Architecture enroll in the nonprofit Studio 804 program to design and build a sustainable, affordable and innovative home over the course of the year. In 2018, the group not only accomplished their goal of a LEED Platinum-certified house but also created the program’s first fully integrated smart house. Located in the Brook Creek neighborhood of Lawrence, Kansas, the net zero energy-targeted residence is a shining example of sustainable housing that even comes with an accessory dwelling unit. Located in a flood plain, the house takes the form of two floating, modern glass boxes that are elevated yet accessible with a ramp. The home takes flooding into account and makes water conservation and management a central theme in its design. All stormwater is managed onsite and is either funneled through underground pipes to native plantings or absorbed into the onsite subsurface. Inside the home, low-flow fixtures were installed and all but one fixture are WaterSense-rated. An Energy Star-rated heat pump water heater also helps reduce energy and water use. Related: Students build a low-cost yet high-quality sustainable home from recycled materials The house achieves energy savings through its airtight, highly insulated envelope, Energy Star-rated appliances and use of solar panels on the highly reflective roof. The east side of the building is completely glazed to let natural light flood the interiors and to bring the outdoors in. As a fully integrated smart house, all the appliances can be remotely controlled and “communicate with each other” to ensure energy efficiency. “As we always try to do, we took the potential negative of the site — being in a flood plain — and tried to make it a positive,” Studio 804 explained. “The buildable site was built up with compacted earth above the flood plain. The dwellings are carefully composed glass boxes perched on concrete plinths, off which they cantilever. The buildings seem to float in what is a park-like setting.” + Studio 804 Photography by Corey Gaffer Photography via Studio 804

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Architecture students design and build a LEED Platinum smart home in Kansas

Sculptural, solar-powered home generates more energy than it uses

October 24, 2019 by  
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In the Texan suburb of Addison just north of Dallas, 5G Studio Collaborative has completed the Winnwood Residence, a contemporary home that blurs the line between the indoors and out. Certified LEED Platinum , the single-family home offsets all its energy use with a 10 kW rooftop solar array and geothermal wells drilled beneath the driveway. Walls of glass, large skylights and outdoor living spaces immerse the residents in the landscape and help bring in natural light and ventilation to reduce the home’s energy demands. Completed in 2016, the Winnwood Residence is a sculptural, single-story home that spreads out across 4,600 square feet to embrace varied landscape views, one of which is a land and water conservation park funded by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the U.S. Department of the Interior; the front third of the client’s property has been designated as an extension to the conservation project across the street. To keep focus on the outdoors, the architects opted for a minimalist yet modern design of “a solid black plaster mass sitting within an enclosed garden.” The interiors are also simple and feature white walls of smooth reflective plaster and minimalist decor. Related: Solar-powered Austin home can save owners nearly $100K in energy costs “The exterior finish is black plaster, upon which climbing Boston Ivy is expected to overtake overtime; the shadowy blackness of the exterior surfaces allows one to truly enjoy light, not shadow, filtering through the trees,” the architects explained in a statement. “The architecture elegantly and quietly achieves its sustainability objectives; proposes a new vocabulary of architecture that is decidedly un-local yet celebrates Texas living and is very much about the landscape as it is about the interior.” The building will gradually blend into the lush landscape, which has been repopulated with native and adaptive species. To further reduce site impact, the architects installed a rainwater collection cistern beneath the driveway to minimize runoff and increase water permeability. Geothermal and solar energy power the energy-positive home. + 5G Studio Collaborative Photography by Adam Mørk via 5G Studio Collaborative

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Sculptural, solar-powered home generates more energy than it uses

LEED Platinum Sitka captures the Pacific Northwest spirit with a lush, fog-enabled courtyard

October 2, 2019 by  
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Local architectural practice Runberg Architecture Group has raised the bar for sustainable design in Seattle with the completion of Sitka, a LEED Platinum-certified multifamily development on target to achieve Seattle’s 2030 Challenge for Planning goals of reducing water and energy use. Built to use nearly a third less energy than the typical baseline design, the 384-unit development features numerous energy-saving systems — Sitka is the nation’s first multifamily project to use a Wastewater Heat Recovery system — as well as a stunning courtyard that mimics the Pacific Northwest landscape with a running stream, tree-covered hilltops and a lounge that resembles a treehouse. Located in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, Sitka is a seven-story building centered on an outdoor courtyard. Runberg Architecture Group drew inspiration from Northwest Modernism and the landscapes of the nearby San Juan Islands to create the project. A sloping green roof and rooftop community garden help capture stormwater runoff as well. The tree-filled courtyard also features a fog system and a treehouse, designed by Seattle’s Lead Pencil Studio, that includes a working fireplace with views of the courtyard. Related: Energy-efficient house embraces panoramic views of Puget Sound “Our mission is to design places where people want to be,” said Brian Runberg of the project’s human-centered design. “When creating Sitka, we asked ourselves what was missing from most of South Lake Union — what would make people feel good about spending time here — and it was green space . We wanted to create an oasis for residents and neighbors in the midst of the hard cityscape.” To minimize energy usage, the architects strategically broke up the building mass to allow natural light and ventilation into the courtyard and interiors. The development also includes LED lighting, EnergyStar appliances, recycled and locally sourced materials, low-flow toilets and fixtures and a high-efficiency 14-foot-diameter fan in the fitness center, all of which contribute to the development’s energy goals. + Runberg Architecture Group Images by Christophe Servieres and Michael Walmsley via Runberg Architecture Group

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LEED Platinum Sitka captures the Pacific Northwest spirit with a lush, fog-enabled courtyard

2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard reveals leading states in clean energy adoption

October 2, 2019 by  
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Just in time for the annual celebration of Energy Efficiency Day, the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. For this year’s report, the states leading on clean energy adoption are Massachusetts and California, while North Dakota and Wyoming still have more than a few strides to go before fully catching up. In step with Energy Efficiency Day’s message of “Save Money, Cut Carbon, Breathe Easier,” ACEEE’s goal is to share tips and tools that promote a clean energy future. No surprise then that ACEEE firmly advocates for effective energy usage to reduce consumer bills and limit pollution . The full report shows Maryland has improved immensely, more than any other state, since last year’s scorecard thanks to a focus on public transit, electric vehicles, utility efficiency programs and more. New York and New Jersey were also listed as “states to watch,” as they have made impressive goals for clean energy and reduced emissions. Related: Minnesota to implement low- and zero-emission clean vehicle standards Meanwhile, Kentucky dropped the furthest in rankings compared to last year, as state utilities have continued to have program funds cut. Ohio also dropped in ranking compared to its position last year, primarily due to a policy that promotes power plants and moves away from renewable energy goals. The Energy Efficiency Scorecard also found that states all over the map are creating policies for greener appliances, improved building energy codes, vehicle emissions standards and general energy reduction goals. ACEEE’s annual scorecard can be accessed here . The scorecard is a resource intended by ACEEE to assist in benchmarking an individual state’s energy policy and progress. On an as-needed basis, the scorecard can be akin to a road map for state-level policymakers to follow, if they choose, as they strive to improve and invest in clean energy goals and initiatives. Utilizing a 50-point scale across six policy categories, the ACEEE scorecard reveals where a particular state may benefit from energy efficiency improvements. The six criteria are appliance and equipment standards, buildings and their efficiency, combined heat and power, state government-led initiatives around energy efficiency, transportation policies and utilities and public benefit programs. ACEEE executive director Steve Nadel said, “If states embrace robust energy-saving measures nationwide, Americans can slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and deliver more than $700 billion in energy savings by 2050,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of ACEEE. “We commend the top states for their clean energy leadership and urge states that are lagging to implement the strategies laid out in this report, so they can deliver energy and cost savings for their residents.” + ACEEE Image via Jpitha

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