Monday, January 11, 2010

Green is The New Red, White and Blue!

Happy 2010! Sorry for the large gap between postings, but planning activity is ramping up as we prepare for a spring kick-off. On the progress front we’ve refined the design a bit and added tongue and groove cedar to the fourth floor and some other portions of the exterior. Our mechanical engineer is working on the thermal model and as soon as we have the results we will tune the amount of insulation and glazing to meet our zero energy target. We are looking at a variety of energy production options, their cost and incentives, as well as how the building needs to be insulated etc. Our next few posts will be interesting ones.

I could not be more excited about this project and how it’s progressing. One of my personal objectives for Redhook Green (and this blog) is to show by example that a net zero energy building is viable in a place like NYC, and that it can be built cost effectively (with some support available from the government) using new designs and building methods. But why isn’t it happening faster? There are lots of good common sense reasons to adopt some or all of the ZEB strategies, it makes sense, it can save money, it’s the right thing to do, but that does not seem to be enough. It’s like eating healthy and staying fit, many of us just never get around to it.

So each of us that have developed a 'sense of urgency' need to evangelize this issue with our friends and family. I am talking about a serious dialog. What exactly will resonate with folks from different walks of life will vary, but there is one that will fit, be creative. There are at least three major 'roman numeral' level talking points that should be the basis for nearly all compelling “why renewable energy NOW” discussions. We need to get beyond the belief that we can recycle our way out of this problem!
I. The continued warming of the planet based on quickly increasing carbon dioxide levels requires real action and sacrifice on each of our parts.
II. Dependency on oil from “friendly countries” (aka petro-dictators) like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia or Venezuela.
III. The United States needs to take a leadership position in the world market place of renewable energy technology as we did with computing and Internet over the past 25 years.

For most, one or a combination of these positions are generally enough to get people to think.  For one of my friends, who does not buy into the urgency of climate change, but who is a true patriot, oil dependency and American Industrial Supremacy resonated loud and clear. He by no means is he alone in his disbelieve in climate change, in fact the Gallop Poll says that a record-high 41% now say that the seriousness of global warming is exaggerated.  As recently as 2006, says author Lydia Saad in her Gallup Poll article, "significantly more Americans thought the news underestimated the seriousness of global warming, than said it exaggerated it".  
Thomas Friedman, author of "Hot, Flat and Crowded" said in his NY Times article "We will need to find a way to reknit America at home, reconnect America abroad and restore America to its natural place in the global order — as the beacon of progress, hope and inspiration. I have an idea how. It’s called “green.”   
So, once you convince someone on why "Green is The New Red, White and Blue", what's next?  I admit it's not easy yet.  The simplest way to think about what can accomplished is in the areas of conservation of energy (use less) and alternative ways to generate it and what resources there to help cover some of the costs.  Unfortunately there is no Whole Foods of renewable energy and sustainability to just walk around and soak up a new lifestyle, that green-ish lifestyle that I aspire to.  There is no REI-like super-store of trusted gear where you can take your solar panels for a ' test ride' or a place to 'try on' the newest home insulation products for yourself.    And were can companies who are innovating go to showcase their newest products?  Who do you go to to build a multi-year plan  to conserve and/or generate clean power.   How do you maneuver the many government programs, regulations, tax breaks and subsidies? And once you do establish the plan, where will you find contractors that have been trained on really maximizing conservation and energy production options?
Lots of good questions, a few of them I am seriously focusing on as I move through the maze myself.  Standby for some answers.  Please post your thoughts, I'd really love to hear from you.

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