carbon-neutral

A Streetcar Named OC

A Streetcar Named OC

Over the past several months, we’ve been working with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) on the conceptual stop design for a streetcar system that will transform the community and small-business landscape of Santa Ana and Garden Grove in Southern California. In a way, it’s like a revival of the old streetcar that ran from LA to downtown Santa Ana—but in a new era of transportation!

Day One: ‘B’-ing Green (and Supporting Carbon Neutrality)

Carbon Neutrality is the first of the 12 Design Principles and the first day of our 12 Days of Earth Day.

To be carbon neutral means eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuel related to all human activities. In the built environment, this is a big challenge. It means considering the emissions related to activities at all scales and interactions – from the manufacture of materials to building construction and life cycle operations, from transportation to infrastructure, landscape to city planning. 

 
RNL's new bike share program makes it look easy ‘B’-ing green. 

RNL's new bike share program makes it look easy ‘B’-ing green. 

As a company, we’re also looking at what we’re doing internally to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

So we decided to strap on our bike helmets and hit the road in some shiny new RNL-branded B-cycles. Today, RNL announced the launch of a new bike share program at the Denver office. Rob Ollett, Project Architect at RNL Denver and a big cycling enthusiast, is spearheading the pilot program.

“Denver is growing quickly, and biking as a mode of transportation will enable better connections to our community and help reduce traffic and pollution,” Rob said. “We take our responsibility as architects, designers and planners seriously, and we’re committed to building a world with a brighter, greener future.”

The $100 million of public funding is comprised from two main sources: federal dollars for multi-modal transportation projects and support from Great Outdoors Colorado. No financial support is from the Colorado General Fund. -   Bicycle Colorado

The $100 million of public funding is comprised from two main sources: federal dollars for multi-modal transportation projects and support from Great Outdoors Colorado. No financial support is from the Colorado General Fund. - Bicycle Colorado

Slowly but surely, Colorado is becoming a more bike-friendly state. Denver B-cycle reported last year that riders covered an estimated 803,490 miles in 2014 - up from 560,424 in 2013. And last September, Governor Hickenlooper announced that $100 million would be prioritized for bike projects over the next four years. According to advocacy organization Bicycle Colorado, the Colorado Pedals Project is a multi-million dollar initiative combining public and private funding to make Colorado the best state in the nation to ride a bike.

So look out for those RNL-branded B-cycles on the roads, Denverites.

 

The only power we ever have as designers: To Advocate

Foster's Droneport in Rawanda (Rendering: Foster+Partners)

Foster's Droneport in Rawanda (Rendering: Foster+Partners)

Norman Foster stepped into the fray of politics in the UK to combat what he called a short-sighted approach to airport expansion near London.  His message was specific, but also geared toward a much grander scale of thought - the design and investment in infrastructure is critical to our future chances of living better.  "Infrastructure," Foster says, "is not to solve the problems of today, but to anticipate the issues of future generations."  

Foster's recent work, dealing with anything from droneports in Africa to development on Mars, may sound far-fetched, but as described by Rowan Moore in his article for The Guardian UK, they begin to anticipate a new thinking on infrastructure's role in the livelihood and sustainability of our cities. Even though Foster see's his only power as an architect being as an advocate for change,  these explorations into solving the future's problems are perhaps among the best uses of the design community's creative energies.  

THE CLEAN – BUT LONG - POWER PLAN

This week the social media world was lit up by the release of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. At over 1,500 pages long, let’s jump straight to the synopsis:

The plan calls for US electric power plants in total to reduce their CO2 emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.  Each State has been given its own targets, based on how offensive their power plants are currently. Each State can decide how exactly it will meet their specific target: switch from coal to natural gas, boost renewables, push commercial and residential energy efficiency programs, enact cap-and-trade systems, whatever works best for their economy.

32% sounds huge, but let’s not forget power plant emissions are already 15% lower than 2005 levels thanks to the recession, improvements in wind technology, increased energy efficiency programs, and falling natural gas costs making coal seem less favorable. This doesn’t mean the plan falls short, but that carbon regulation is needed in other sectors to keep the momentum going – vehicle emissions, industry and agriculture.

If you are interested, this article does the best (most concise) job of describing what the plan entails: http://www.vox.com/2015/8/4/9096903/clean-power-plan-explained

And this article has a great infographic showing the targets per State: http://grist.org/climate-energy/map-stacking-up-the-states-under-the-clean-power-plan/  

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

DEAR LEED BIKE-RACK HATERS

We all have our own personal sore points with the LEED rating system, but for some reason the bike rack credit seems to be one of the more highly divisive. Why all the hate for bike racks? This post does a great job of reminding us that LEED is about more than just building energy use. 

“The energy content of the gasoline used by the typical office commuter each year is comparable to the energy used by his or her share of the building where he or she works.”

photo credit: Todd Dwyer

photo credit: Todd Dwyer

COFFEE AND… ELECTRIC VEHICLES

Who would have thought… Seattle has one of the highest adoption rates of electric vehicles (EV) in the US. And Seattle City Light, the utility company, is one of the few in the US that is carbon neutral (90% of energy from hydropower, the rest from wind and carbon offsets). So that makes it the perfect city for implementing a city-wide smart charging program. ‘Smart’ charging combines EV charging stations with real-time price signals from the utility so that they can choose to charge when electric costs are lower. 

photo courtesy of greenbiz.com

photo courtesy of greenbiz.com

A 2030 CHALLENGE HOW-TO GUIDE

New Buildings Institute has released a guide describing a prescriptive path to meet the current 2030 Challenge goal. The guide offers various options depending on the needs of your project and the optimum strategies to reach varying levels of stringency depending on the local code. 

And a shout out to BoCO with this added piece of information:

‘The Guide has also been adopted as the basis for the prescriptive path for complying with the energy code in the City of Boulder, Colorado, currently the most stringent in the country’

UCD School of Business | RNL Design

UCD School of Business | RNL Design

THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE (COMMUNITY SOLAR) GARDEN

Still on the topic of community-scale issues: With the goal of making solar more accessible to a wider range of US communities, including low-income households and people who rent rather than own, the White House announced a new initiative to ramp up community solar projects across America, and install 300 MW of renewables in federally subsidized housing developments by 2020. When would we consider community solar? In multi-family housing projects where the budget, or the building design, doesn't support on-site PV but partnering with a 3rd party to provide residents with a community-based PV system makes a good business case (selling point).