Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

June 25, 2020 by  
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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right Paolo Natali Thu, 06/25/2020 – 00:30 According to polls, it was  mid-March  when most of us in the United States understood the severity of COVID-19. At the same time, we collectively were searching for data to drive lifesaving decision-making. Close all business and keep people inside homes? Or allow some degree of freedom? What would be the exact growth curve of virus cases, and most important, how could we flatten it? By early April, a consensus had emerged around the role of accurate data, even if it could not help contain a first wave of infections. This lesson on the importance of actionable data did not go unnoticed for those of us working on industrial decarbonization. With growing consensus on the gravity of the climate crisis, countries and companies are adopting carbon reduction targets. If we are to learn from the pandemic, there’s one critical element for any effort to have a chance of success. Less catchy than a target reopening date, and perhaps more like an immunologist telling you to get tested: Do we have the right data to act upon? Pressure is growing to take action The question is relevant because there is mounting pressure to take action against the climate crisis. Pressure to make emissions visible has been around for a while: Consumers want to know how much carbon is embodied in the products they buy. Investors are concerned about the viability of long-term assets in high emissions sectors at risk of being hit by negative policy or market developments. For example,  one chocolate bar  could emit as much as 7 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 30 miles in a non-electric car. Alternately, if the cacao is grown alongside agroforestry or reforestation, the same bar could have zero or even negative emissions via the trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If consumers knew the difference, would they pay a premium for the climate-smart chocolate? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. This year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, made thundering news in his  annual letter to investors , touting, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Since then, the asset manager  backed two proposals  at the annual general meetings of both Chevron and Exxon, related to the manner these companies conduct themselves in relation to Paris Agreement targets. Earlier in the year in Australia, investors at both Woodside Petroleum and Santos passed annual general meetings motions to  adopt a “Scope 3 ” (indirect emissions) reduction target. This trend of shareholder and consumer scrutiny has strengthened in recent months, and most S&P 500 companies — in fact, 70 percent of them — already make climate-related disclosures to the reporting platform CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Translating demands into dollars Yet, to date, there is no way to exactly translate these demands for action into dollar figures. You walk around trade conferences (or, more likely these days, Zoom workshops) and everyone is asking: What’s the premium that a consumer is willing to pay for low-carbon products? Is a bank really willing to decline loans for an investment that fails to fulfill certain sustainability standards, for example as pledged by the 11 global banks that signed the  Poseidon Principles  for shipping finance in 2019? If the European Union agrees on a border price for carbon, what should it be? All of this pricing talk begs the question: How can we have such discussions without clear metrics that everyone can stand by? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. For a start, while financial accounts are reported via one of two standards — U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) — a variety of methods can be used for carbon accounting (CDP accepts 64 of them). While financials make the performance of a chemicals company comparable to an iron ore miner, the carbon accounting metrics differ in a way that is difficult to reconcile. This becomes a problem for an automotive company, which needs to combine the performance of both to make an accurate declaration about the carbon content of a product that has over 30,000 parts. It is also a challenge for a fund manager who needs to combine stocks of different sectors, and has a fiduciary duty to use financially material metrics to do so; or for a commercial banker who lends money to different asset classes, and needs to determine the amount of “climate risk” involved in each investment decision. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. Remember the core of the coronavirus debate: The number of confirmed cases are better known than the total number of cases. This uncertainty generates debatable data, upon which it is difficult to make decisions that will have an enormous impact on the destiny of societies. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. And if the cost of those gases to a community and ecosystem isn’t clearly visible, conversely, how can we measure good interventions so that investors feel confident to put their money toward them? This is particularly ironic because market demand for product sustainability creates a win-win situation for everyone involved: make a plan to increase product sustainability, shape the world to be a better place. In most cases, low-carbon technologies are either readily available, such as in the case of low-carbon electricity and carbon-neutral concrete, or less than a decade away, such as hydrogen-based trucking. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t it happening? And most importantly, what needs to happen? Harmonizing the efforts The current ecosystem of reporting is built on bottom-up efforts that are not harmonized. The previously mentioned CDP has a large database of disclosures. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has a widely adopted set of metrics that companies use to report (including to CDP). The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has — you guessed it — standards solid enough to guarantee “financial materiality,” that is, to allow the analyst in the above example to “buy with confidence” when making investment decisions based on sustainability. The Science-Based Targets Initiative promises to take all this to the next level and link carbon disclosures to the trajectories that companies need to undertake in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Companies that need to report emissions lament that this is too complex or that it doesn’t allow apples-to-apples comparisons due to discrepancies in the way different methods prescribe calculations. Investors lament that they can’t base financial decisions on current metrics, because they aren’t reliable or standardized. Consumers still have to see eco-labels that are truly credible. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. As confusing as it sounds, the good news is that between existing methods, standards and platforms, the elements of a functional system do exist. Despite the gloomy portrait that we often read in the news, of a humankind sleepwalking toward climate disaster due to a selfish inability to act together, this ecosystem actually represents a wonderful testament to the ability of society to recognize a challenge and address it. The importance of climate alignment A few years ago, the Smart Freight Center introduced the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, creating a common guidance for logistics companies to report in a unified manner. The GLEC Framework is a guidance that specifies how disclosures need to be made in each of the existing methodologies and platforms. Once a company discloses according to the GLEC Framework, analysts will be able to compare a disclosure made for different purposes using different methods, and trace back what it actually means. It is urgent that this expand to supply chains at large. It is also imperative that the emissions accounting focus shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. With unified and simplified standards, companies will be able to be easily ranked based on their actual and projected contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement, thus keeping climate change at bay. Why do this? To reap the benefits of being in sync with what stakeholders request more and ever louder. This is only wise, considering that not even a global pandemic and looming economic recession has silenced these requests. According to a recent Deloitte  report , 600 global C-suite executives remain firmly committed to a low-carbon transition. They are perhaps finding opportunity in shifting from risk and need clear data to make their decisions. Pull Quote A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. Contributors Charles Cannon Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Data 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

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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

May 29, 2020 by  
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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business Sarah Golden Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:45 In this crazy upside-down world, the line between residential and commercial energy is getting fuzzy.  Everything changed so quickly, it makes sense that climate and energy teams have yet to figure out how to account for the shift. But as companies such as Mastercard , Facebook and Twitter look at long-term remote work policies, working from home (WFH) is adding a new dimension to corporate carbon accounting.  And it’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy.  It’s still early days for companies thinking about WFH energy usages as part of their own greenhouse gas footprint. Right now, commercial energy use is still high , and it’s not clear when or which workers will head back to the office.  It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. According to Noah Goldstein, director of sustainability at Guidehouse, there also aren’t great calculations for what the GHG impact of working from home would be. The guidance is that the company is only responsible for “additional” energy use, but that is hard to determine without baseline calculations.  “I can foresee some companies accounting for WFH in their 2020 or 2021 footprint, but very, very few in number,” said Goldstein in an email.  Five companies with residential energy programs for the COVID era With people hunkering down at home as we enter a hotter than normal summer , residential demand response will be critical to keep energy affordable and clean(er).  The pandemic began in a shoulder month — meaning a time of year where heating and cooling demands are low as most of the country experiences temperate weather. With restrictions on movement still in effect, grid operators are preparing for air conditioners alone to strain our energy infrastructure. Demand response is a promising solution. According to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie, residential demand response would unlock more than 10 gigawatts of additional energy capacity. This would help utilities and states stay on track for clean energy goals and reduce energy bills at a time when households are struggling more than ever to make ends meet.  Here are five companies with updated offerings tailored to the COVID-19 era, designed to make residential energy use smarter as our homes become our office (and bar and restaurant and concert venue and movie theater…) 1. Google Nest partners with utilities Google recently announced its partnership with Consumers Energy to bring smart thermostats to up to 100,000 households in Michigan. According to its release , those who receive a thermostat will be enrolled in the utility’s Smart Thermostat Program, which shifts energy use to off-peak hours.  The partnership is part of Consumers’ Clean Energy Plan, which is striving to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Shifting energy use during peak times is key to staying on track.  This is just the first in a series of Google Nest’s partnerships. The company is expected to announce three more utility partnerships at the start of June.  Google isn’t the only company teaming up with utilities to gamify demand response. Logical Buildings launched its GridRewards campaign last month to encourage residents to reduce energy usage at key times. Logical Buildings partnered with a consortium of municipalities in Westchester, New York.  2. OhmConnect launches AutoOhms Last week, OhmConnect announced AutoOhms , its newest program that offers cash incentives for “timely, smarter energy use.” AutoOhm will power down energy-intensive connected appliances in 15-minute increments during peak energy times. Customers will receive a text message when peak rates are about to kick in and can select appliances to power down through an app. Through this “gamified” experience, the customer can actively see their energy savings.  The program is available for customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.  3. Tesla Energy discusses Autobidder Always a big dreamer, it comes as no surprise that Tesla’s energy division has its sights on becoming a distributed global utility.  Tesla has been deploying distributed energy assets (think solar, electric vehicles, Powerwalls) while investing in grid-scale energy and storage projects. Now the company’s vision is to control these individual assets as one beast on its platform Autobidder . According to the website, Autobidder allows anyone with energy storage assets — be they EVs, solar plus storage, a home battery, anything — to engage in real-time trading and make additional money from the energy asset.  Apparently, Autobidder already has been (quietly) around for a few years, operations at Tesla’s energy storage facility in South Australia. With Tesla talking about the software, the company is likely hoping for wider adoption.  4. Leap Energy develops a demand response marketplace Leap, a newer company in the world of demand response, is working to create a marketplace to better monetize energy resources. Its vision is to engage connected energy resources that aren’t currently participating in grid flexibility — which, according to its CEO Thomas Folker, is about 90 percent of energy assets. “We are an aggregator of other aggregators,” said Folker in a phone conversation last month. “We don’t physically control any hardware, we don’t acquire any customers. We just provide the software that allows for this all to happen.” The platform allows for end energy users to bid on resources and automatically facilitates the exchange. Its users are demand response companies — such as OhmConnect and Google Nest — and works to increase the value of distributed energy resources while providing flexibility to the grid.  5. Span turns homes into microgrids New on the scene with a fresh round of Series A finance, Span bills itself as a smart panel company that works to integrate a home’s solar, energy storage and electric vehicle. It’s kind of like using a home’s energy assets as a microgrid.  Span’s selling point is energy resilience. The system works to keep power flowing to where customers need it in the event of a power outage, which, the company points out in a release , is of growing importance as California is looking at a future where shelter in place could overlap with planned power outages. (The company is initially focusing on California and Hawaii as key markets.) This increased level of control and connected energy assets also means users can rely on their own resources when the grid has more dirty energy.  This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

May 29, 2020 by  
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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business Sarah Golden Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:45 In this crazy upside-down world, the line between residential and commercial energy is getting fuzzy.  Everything changed so quickly, it makes sense that climate and energy teams have yet to figure out how to account for the shift. But as companies such as Mastercard , Facebook and Twitter look at long-term remote work policies, working from home (WFH) is adding a new dimension to corporate carbon accounting.  And it’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy.  It’s still early days for companies thinking about WFH energy usages as part of their own greenhouse gas footprint. Right now, commercial energy use is still high , and it’s not clear when or which workers will head back to the office.  It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. According to Noah Goldstein, director of sustainability at Guidehouse, there also aren’t great calculations for what the GHG impact of working from home would be. The guidance is that the company is only responsible for “additional” energy use, but that is hard to determine without baseline calculations.  “I can foresee some companies accounting for WFH in their 2020 or 2021 footprint, but very, very few in number,” said Goldstein in an email.  Five companies with residential energy programs for the COVID era With people hunkering down at home as we enter a hotter than normal summer , residential demand response will be critical to keep energy affordable and clean(er).  The pandemic began in a shoulder month — meaning a time of year where heating and cooling demands are low as most of the country experiences temperate weather. With restrictions on movement still in effect, grid operators are preparing for air conditioners alone to strain our energy infrastructure. Demand response is a promising solution. According to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie, residential demand response would unlock more than 10 gigawatts of additional energy capacity. This would help utilities and states stay on track for clean energy goals and reduce energy bills at a time when households are struggling more than ever to make ends meet.  Here are five companies with updated offerings tailored to the COVID-19 era, designed to make residential energy use smarter as our homes become our office (and bar and restaurant and concert venue and movie theater…) 1. Google Nest partners with utilities Google recently announced its partnership with Consumers Energy to bring smart thermostats to up to 100,000 households in Michigan. According to its release , those who receive a thermostat will be enrolled in the utility’s Smart Thermostat Program, which shifts energy use to off-peak hours.  The partnership is part of Consumers’ Clean Energy Plan, which is striving to reach net-zero carbon emissions. Shifting energy use during peak times is key to staying on track.  This is just the first in a series of Google Nest’s partnerships. The company is expected to announce three more utility partnerships at the start of June.  Google isn’t the only company teaming up with utilities to gamify demand response. Logical Buildings launched its GridRewards campaign last month to encourage residents to reduce energy usage at key times. Logical Buildings partnered with a consortium of municipalities in Westchester, New York.  2. OhmConnect launches AutoOhms Last week, OhmConnect announced AutoOhms , its newest program that offers cash incentives for “timely, smarter energy use.” AutoOhm will power down energy-intensive connected appliances in 15-minute increments during peak energy times. Customers will receive a text message when peak rates are about to kick in and can select appliances to power down through an app. Through this “gamified” experience, the customer can actively see their energy savings.  The program is available for customers of California’s three big investor-owned utilities: Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.  3. Tesla Energy discusses Autobidder Always a big dreamer, it comes as no surprise that Tesla’s energy division has its sights on becoming a distributed global utility.  Tesla has been deploying distributed energy assets (think solar, electric vehicles, Powerwalls) while investing in grid-scale energy and storage projects. Now the company’s vision is to control these individual assets as one beast on its platform Autobidder . According to the website, Autobidder allows anyone with energy storage assets — be they EVs, solar plus storage, a home battery, anything — to engage in real-time trading and make additional money from the energy asset.  Apparently, Autobidder already has been (quietly) around for a few years, operations at Tesla’s energy storage facility in South Australia. With Tesla talking about the software, the company is likely hoping for wider adoption.  4. Leap Energy develops a demand response marketplace Leap, a newer company in the world of demand response, is working to create a marketplace to better monetize energy resources. Its vision is to engage connected energy resources that aren’t currently participating in grid flexibility — which, according to its CEO Thomas Folker, is about 90 percent of energy assets. “We are an aggregator of other aggregators,” said Folker in a phone conversation last month. “We don’t physically control any hardware, we don’t acquire any customers. We just provide the software that allows for this all to happen.” The platform allows for end energy users to bid on resources and automatically facilitates the exchange. Its users are demand response companies — such as OhmConnect and Google Nest — and works to increase the value of distributed energy resources while providing flexibility to the grid.  5. Span turns homes into microgrids New on the scene with a fresh round of Series A finance, Span bills itself as a smart panel company that works to integrate a home’s solar, energy storage and electric vehicle. It’s kind of like using a home’s energy assets as a microgrid.  Span’s selling point is energy resilience. The system works to keep power flowing to where customers need it in the event of a power outage, which, the company points out in a release , is of growing importance as California is looking at a future where shelter in place could overlap with planned power outages. (The company is initially focusing on California and Hawaii as key markets.) This increased level of control and connected energy assets also means users can rely on their own resources when the grid has more dirty energy.  This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote It’s not too soon for climate-forward companies to think about how to incentivize employees to make their home (office) run off clean energy. Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Energy Efficiency Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Residential energy is becoming companies’ business

Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact?

May 29, 2020 by  
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Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact? Jim Giles Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:30 Amid the recent headline-grabbing investments in food ventures, one event went largely unnoticed: FedEx’s involvement in a $200 million raise by Indigo Ag, a company that provides services and data to farmers. Why would a delivery behemoth invest in an outfit that sells seeds? The answer lies in agricultural soils. FedEx wants to offset its carbon footprint, and Indigo knows farmers who can help. Under the deal, Indigo will use FedEx’s money to pay farmers to implement regenerative methods , such as cover crops. These methods will store carbon in soils, earning FedEx carbon offsets. A major corporation is helping farmers earn much-needed revenue by drawing down carbon and increasing soil fertility. It’s likely that other companies will follow. If enough do, we could store hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide in farmland soils. This is welcome news, right? Well, it’s complicated. A few weeks back, I noted that our understanding of how carbon is stored in soil is far from complete . Since then, two new analyses have raised further questions about soil-based offsets. One comes from the World Resources Institute. Ag specialists there are concerned about “additionality,” an issue that has long plagued carbon markets. Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors. Take the case of a farmer spreading manure to build soil carbon. “Because there is a limited supply of manure in the world,” the WRI team noted , “using it in one place almost always means taking it from elsewhere, so no additional carbon is added to the world’s soils overall.” Analysts at Lux Research studied regenerative ag recently and also reached skeptical conclusions . They questioned whether farmers will be able to store as much carbon per acre as some published claims, for instance. “Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors,” the Lux team wrote. These issues are real but not deal-breakers, reply advocates of regenerative ag. What we need, they say, is a transparent and rigorous system that tracks the data we care about, including the duration of carbon storage and the origin of inputs used by farmers. We can then use that system to reward only the farmers that capture additional carbon and store it for the long term. I tend to agree with these advocates, but the debate reminds me of arguments about another kind of offset, and I wonder if there is a cautionary tale here. Forests have huge sequestration potential and are a big part of carbon markets, but for a time forestry offsets were dogged by questions of reliability. Even now, when auditing is much improved and large companies are working to plant a trillion trees , I still encounter skepticism. Lack of transparency is part of the reason why. In the case of forests, at least in the early days, buyers couldn’t be sure that forestry projects in remote regions of the world delivered real carbon benefits. For regenerative ag, the risk is data. Even with rigorous protocols, we need to see soil science data. Lots of it, from multiple ecological regions and with verification by third parties. Because without transparency around soil science data, there’s a double risk: Bad offsets will get funded and the good offsets — the ones that really draw down carbon — will be tainted. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here  to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Soil carbon sequestration markets will grow but are unlikely carbon emissions saviors. Topics Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Carbon Removal Offsets Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Can companies rely on regenerative agriculture’s carbon removal impact?

Smart Tips for Buying ‘Green’ Makeup

October 9, 2019 by  
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There are many reasons why you should consider buying eco-friendly … The post Smart Tips for Buying ‘Green’ Makeup appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Smart Tips for Buying ‘Green’ Makeup

Earth911 Inspiration: Smart Monkeys Ruining Their Only Planet?

September 6, 2019 by  
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Earth911 inspirations. Post them, share your desire to help people … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Smart Monkeys Ruining Their Only Planet? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Inspiration: Smart Monkeys Ruining Their Only Planet?

Award-winning B-Austin Community Project champions communal and sustainable living

August 9, 2019 by  
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Solar collection, EV charging and gray water recycling are just a few of the environmentally features offered at B-Austin Community Project , an innovative mixed-use development designed by local design practice Clark | Richardson Architects . Created with the goal of becoming one of Austin’s greenest buildings, the co-housing project considers more than just energy-efficiency—the health and wellness of its occupants have also been prioritized in the design. The mixed-use complex was awarded with a 2018 Austin Green Award and is in the process of receiving a 4-star Austin Energy Green Building Rating. Located in South Austin, the B-Austin Community Project spans 22,000 square feet across three stories. The timber-framed building comprises 14 modern apartment units as well as amenity spaces—such as community gardens, an on-site gym and a community center—and leasable white box office suites marketed towards heath and wellness businesses, such as those in the massage and physical therapy industry. As part of the City of Austin SMART building program, the development also reserves a fraction of the apartments for low-income occupants earning less than 80 percent of the median income. “B-AUSTIN was conceived as a place to foster community in a sustainable , environmentally friendly setting,” says a B-Austin statement on their website. “In this spirit, we offer residents easy access to a wide variety of professional wellness resources and programs to encourage in-reach among community members.” Related: Austin passes law banning restaurants from throwing out food waste In addition its emphasis on healthy and communal lifestyles, the mixed-use development reduces its environmental footprint with sustainable systems such as a solar array that offsets a quarter of the facility’s electricity needs, LED interior lighting, electric car charging stations, an Integrated Landfill Diversion Plan to make it easier to recycle and compost, a rainwater harvesting system and an adaptive greywater harvesting program to conserve potable water. According to the architects, B-Austin is set to become “the first mixed-use multifamily community in Austin, and possibly the first in the state, to use greywater recycling.” + Clark Richardson Architects Images via Clark Richardson Architects

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Award-winning B-Austin Community Project champions communal and sustainable living

A Victorian cottage gets a stylish and sustainable makeover

January 17, 2019 by  
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In one of its latest eco-conscious retrofits, Australian architecture firm Green Sheep Collective has given a single-fronted timber Victorian cottage a sustainable transformation in inner Melbourne. The renovation and expansion project combined recycled and eco-certified materials with low-tech, passive solar principles to reduce the carbon footprint of the home while improving livability. Filled with light and contemporary flourishes, the updated house — named Magnolia Soul — has also been designed to embrace the outdoors. Commissioned by a young family with pets, Magnolia Soul was designed with an emphasis on spacious indoor-outdoor living as well as healthy and eco-friendly materials. During the renovation, the architects preserved a mature magnolia tree — a stunning Magnolia x soulangeana — and turned it into a main focal point. In addition to the tree, the existing property conditions also informed the building’s siting, mass and volume, which were all optimized to follow passive solar principles. Moreover, the building footprint is minimized in favor of maximizing the garden area. “A unique folding roof form envelopes and cradles robust living spaces, whose lowered floor level is embraced by adjacent decking,” the architects explained, having created a flexible open-plan interior layout with strong sight lines to the outdoors. “Views of the magnolia tree are intentionally framed by the roof structure, through a high-angled window and bay window seat. The generous and versatile window seat creates a lovely place to relax, read a book, admire the flowering magnolia or sit on the edge of the garden. High angular ceilings offer views of the magnolia, allow dappled light to penetrate deep into the residence and provide stack effect ventilation.” Related: Smart Home targets affordability and eco-friendly design in Australia The home is oriented for optimal thermal comfort : north-facing windows draw in natural heat for winter, while deep eaves and strategically placed windows for cross ventilation combat unwanted summer heat gain. Low-E double glazing and effective insulation also accommodate a temperate climate. Recycled, low-emission and ethnically procured materials were used wherever possible. For added resource savings, the home is equipped with a rainwater tank that reuses roof runoff for the laundry and toilets. + Green Sheep Collective Photography by Emma Cross via Green Sheep Collective

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A Victorian cottage gets a stylish and sustainable makeover

7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

January 17, 2019 by  
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When it comes to conserving water , making small changes can have a huge impact. But many of us don’t really think about water shortages unless we are in the middle of a heatwave, when temperatures are consistently at 85 degrees or more. Extreme heat or not, the water system is overstretched, and with climate change , we can expect to put even more pressure on the depleting water supply. Here are some ways to do your part in conserving water. According to Friends of the Earth , 97.5 percent of the world’s water is locked in oceans and seas, which means it is too salty for humans to use. The remaining 2.5 percent is mostly in the ice caps, so we are all relying on a tiny amount of freshwater to survive. Water isn’t just for drinking. We use it for bathing, cleaning and producing everything from crops to clothing. It’s time to save water, and we need to do it fast. Here are seven ways that you can start conserving water now. As an added bonus, these ideas can also save you money. Change your diet It takes a lot of water to grow, process and transport food. Raising animals for meat and dairy products is also incredibly water-intensive. To reduce your water footprint , reduce your meat and dairy consumption, switch to shopping local and grow food in your own garden. If more people do these things, they will not only lead to a reduction in total water usage but also in less food waste . Related: Vegan diets deliver more environmental benefits than sustainable dairy or meat Have a plan for your garden If you do have a garden , water your outdoor plants early in the morning or at the end of the day, so the water doesn’t immediately evaporate in the sunlight. Also, make sure to water the soil, so the roots get the much-needed liquid. If you water your plants manually instead of with automatic sprinklers, it can cut your water use by 33 percent. American lawns consume a large amount of water, so reduce how much you are watering your lawn. Installing rain barrels to capture rainwater can also be a huge help and can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water every year. Related: New study suggests it’s time to replace modern, grassy lawns Turn off the tap When you let the water run while you brush your teeth, you are wasting over 1.5 gallons of water. If you have leaky taps, you could be letting up to 15 gallons a week go down the drain. Every minute you spend in the shower burns 4.5 gallons of water. So turn off the tap water when you are brushing your teeth, set a timer on your shower to keep it short and fix those leaky faucets. Don’t forget about the outside of your home. Leaky outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses and broken lawn sprinklers can waste water, too. Also, monitor your water bill for unusually high usage so you can discover leaks. Save your dirty clothes When you wash two half-loads of laundry, it uses more water and energy than washing a full load of clothes. Wait until you have enough dirty clothes to fill up the washing machine. This will not only save water and electricity, but it will also lead to lower utility bills. Related: 10 money-saving tips for a green home Use the dishwasher It may be hard to believe, but if you fill up the dishwasher every time you use it , you will use less water than if you washed the dishes by hand — even if you fill up your sink and clean your dishes without the water running. If you use water- and energy-efficient appliances, you will save even more. When you have extra-dirty pots and pans, let them soak first instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean. Wash your car at home Instead of going to a car wash, wash your vehicles at home on the lawn, so you can water your grass at the same time. Use a hose nozzle or turn off the water while you are scrubbing your car so you can save up to 100 gallons of water each time you give it a wash. Recycle ice cubes When you have leftover ice cubes in your drink, toss them into a houseplant instead of pouring them into the sink. When you are washing fruits and veggies , save that water as well to use for watering your plants. Via Friends of the Earth Images via RayMark , Jerzy Gorecki , Pierre Gilbert , Charles Deluvio , Steve PB , Conger Design , Sasin Tipchai and Hans Braxmeier

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7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint

Morpholios new Smart Fill AR feature makes calculating design areas a snap

May 8, 2018 by  
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Many digitally savvy architects can attest to the incredible usefulness of Morpholio’s award-winning Trace —an AR sketch app that just got even better. The team just launched today their newest augmented reality feature, “Smart Fill,” that can instantly calculate any area of your choosing during a live sketch. From homeowners to architects, designers and design enthusiasts of all kinds will find use for the feature—not to mention that it’s beautiful to boot. Available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, Morpholio Trace is designed primarily with architects in mind but its versatility makes it a useful feature for designers of all types. With the addition of Smart Fill, designers can focus more on conceptualizing and expressing an idea instead of crunching numbers. “The new feature is a fill tool that not only calculates the area of the fill, it actually changes as the sketch evolves,” says Anna Kenoff, Morpholio Co-Founder. “Slice a room in half and watch it reduce or, erase a wall and watch it expand.” Related: INTERVIEW: We Talk to the Creators of Morpholio and Trace – Two Mobile Apps Ready to Shake Up the Design World Here’s how it works: after starting a sketch—whether from scratch or a trace drawing over an image—you set the scale and then select the target(s) for area calculation. The Smart Fill feature will instantly generate the calculation based on the scale provided, as well as an “Areas Chart,” which can be exported to Excel and its equivalents. The tool can also fill the selected region with your choice of colors and patterns, making it a quick and beautiful way to estimate the materials or budget needed for a project. You can download Morpholio Trace and TracePro, available for iOS only, in the App Store . + Morpholio Trace Images via Morpholio

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Morpholios new Smart Fill AR feature makes calculating design areas a snap

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