Top Sustainable Cities: Portland + San Francisco, the Eco-Innovators

Top_50_overall There are cities and leaders in the US that are taking bold steps to change public perception of green principles, and I wanted to share their words and vision with you.  I’ve included a new section on my right sidebar for some informative, watershed videos.  I use the word watershed because future generations will respect these leaders for their foresight, they will be heros.  Are you one of these leaders?  If you’re a CEO, can you count yourself among the lonely ranks of eco-warriors like Ray Anderson, Jeff Immelt, and Lee Scott?  If you’re a mayor, can you count yourself among the growing ranks of eco-leaders like Gavin Newsom, Tom Potter, Mufi Hannemann, Greg Nickels, and Will Wynn?  If you’re not a mayor or CEO, are you an eco-leader in the world that you live in? 

There’s a video on the right with Tom Friedman speaking.  You’ll know him from the bestselling book, The World is Flat.  He makes some critical points, but one of the most important points is that the chase for sustainability will create money-making, business opportunities for innovation in the 21st century:  opportunities that the US is currently abdicating to China.  Do we want to shift our middle east energy dependence by becoming dependent on China for renewable energy technologies?

So SustainLane released its yearly Top 50 US Cities, which is a report card on urban sustainability.  I was surprised to find Dallas at #24; one thing that holds us back is our addiction to cars–I don’t see how that will change without 10-30 years of persistent city planning + changing, considering how the city is currently laid out.  That’s okay, however, the rankings are there to get us to study other cities and make positive changes.  You can read about each city at SustainLane.  I encourage you to watch the video on #1 Portland (urban transportation and LEED building superstar) and #2 San Francisco (recycling superstar). 

Skyscraper Sunday: LEED-Certified Maple Leaf Square in Toronto

Maple_leaf_rendering Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Limited (privately-held corporation with ownership of Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Marlies Hockey Club, Air Canada Centre, and Leafs TV + Raptors NBA TV) is behind an innovative, forward-looking project development called Maple Leaf Square.  Being inspired by the mixed-use projects developing around sports franchise centers such as Dallas and Miami, the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Corporation will be unique in one significant aspect:  it’s green, LEED-certified, that is.  The project, designed by KPMB and Page + Steele, contains two aspiring towers (54 + 50 floors) built on top of a seven story podium, all including the following:  900 residential condominiums, boutique hotel with about 170 rooms, 6,000 square foot daycare, over 200,000 square feet of office space , indoor/outdoor swimming pools, fitness facilities, and high-technology restaurants, sports bars, and retail stores.  It’s the quintessential multi-use development of the future, blending sports, entertainment, living, vacationing, night life, and work. 

Green Features:
In addition to being one of the most technologically advanced building structures in the world, the project contains some important green features (note, technology also can make a building green):  green roof, energy-efficient appliances in every suite, Enwave (low cost, energy efficient supplier of heating, cooling, and domestic hot water supply), individual storage/bicycle lockers, and close proximity to Toronto’s PATH system.  Technologically, the building will use RFID door locks and Intelligent Building Technology (visit the website for a demonstration).

The project has been welcomed with open arms by the public; reports vary, but the Residences of Maple Leaf Square are reportedly 95% sold already.  Talk about unmet demand for a modern, green structure!  Available residences range in size from 400 – 2,100 square feet and price from $200,000 – $1,400,000.  North Tower opens in October 2009 and South Tower in March 2010.  Found by EarthChangeII.

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Redondo Beach House, a Modern Container Dwelling [Video]

Redondo Beach House

If you’ve ever been to a port terminal, you’ve seen the mass quantities of shipping containers used to transport goods all over the world.  With the trade imbalance–US importing more than exporting, the containers that aren’t returned to their origin, waste away here in the US.  But there are a few creative architects such as Adam Kalkin, Jennifer Siegal, and Peter DeMaria (his home pictured above and below), who are using these containers as the basic structure for custom built homes.  The fact is, materials such as steel and wood cost big-time money and perpetually increase in price due to world demand; according to the video, Anna + Sven Pirkl are getting their 3,500 square foot home built at $125 square foot (a pittance for that area’s custom build price that ballparks at +$250 square foot). 

The LA Times also wrote an article about what the family is going to do with the home (think:  zip line + climbing wall). 

Read more »

London's Innovative Container City Video + Business Plan Question

[Total Time: 5:06 minutes] I found this informative, richly entrepreneurial video on Container City, which is a container-based urban development in London.  Here in the US, we have some work to do, to get to the point that we support this variety of innovative development.  Demand for a place to rent has been through the roof, so they added another level of container modules to rent out a few more funky flats.  The website is at the following link:  Container City

BUSINES PLAN QUESTIONS: 
I’m writing a business plan based on a container based retail enterprise.  If you have experience working with these containers, could you email me with information on the costs of acquiring a container (including transportation, rehab, + wiring for use)?  Any other information and experience that you may have with these containers is welcome!  Entrepreneurial architects, your expertise is demanded!!!

Wind Power Cards Available at Whole Foods Market

Wind_power_card

I first heard that Whole Foods was going to be selling a Wind Power Card ($15 family – 750 kWh + $5 individual – 250 kWh) from eco-entrepreneur Shea, a co-founder of Renewable Choice Energy (the provider of the Wind Power Card).  What did I do?  I went a bought a $15 card to offset my blog.  I love Typepad, but they determine my hosting situation and I can’t change that, so I wanted to offset my blog’s impact.  I’m not sure how long this will last, but that’s okay because I’ll find out eventually.  The big question is, however:  Should you buy a card?  The bloggers at boingboing equivocated, but everyone else in the country seems to think it’s a good thing.  I’ll explain what I know, but I hope you’ll continue to research the issue of offsets and wind energy credits, if you have an interest. 

First, if you want to power your home with renewable energy, you can do a few things:  green build your home, install solar panels, put a wind turbine in your backyard, use energy-efficient appliances, etc.  After you reduce your own reliance on the grid in these ways (aka, minimize your own environmental footprint), you have a few more options:  (1) you could buy electricity from an eco-conscious company, like Green Mountain Energy, that feeds clean energy into the distribution grids, or (2) you could buy electricity from your regular company and purchase renewable energy credits in amounts that offset your energy usage.  There are slight differences with each choice.  Importantly, whenever energy producers create energy, it is routed into the regional/national grid, and that grid distributes the power to individual homes.  As a result, the energy grid conducts various types of energy such as coal (primarily), solar, wind, water, biomass, natural gas, geothermal, etc.  Depending on your location, you will receive a concoction of energy from all these types of sources, but the national average concoction = Coal – 52%, Nuclear – 20%, Natural Gas – 16%, Large Hydroelectric – 7%, Oil – 3%, and Renewables – 2%. 

With wind energy credits, and more particularly, the Wind Power Card, you’re not reducing or affecting the electricity bill that comes in the mail each month.  What you do is ensure that the electricity you use is replaced onto the national power grid with wind energy.  Every time you buy renewable energy credits, less non-renewable energy is fed into the grid.  This concept is hard to grock, but it’s true.  Think of this, though:  you’re paying a premium, but if you have money to do this, why not support clean energy generation and pay for renewable energy credits?  We can’t neglect the negative externalities (those that aren’t reflective in pricing) of dirty energy such as coal.  Our energy decision will increasingly impact the way we live in the future. 

Extra Links:
A Closer Look at Whole Foods Wind Power Card Displays [Sustainablog]
Boing Boing Mischaracterizes Wind Credits, WF Wind Cards [Sustainablog]
Support for Wind Power Picking Up Speed [Nurenberg - CNN]
American Wind Energy Association on Renewable Energy Credits [AWEA.org]
Renewable Energy Credits + Offsets Certification [Texas PUCT]

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Bill McDonough's Mixed-Use, LEED Greenbridge Developments

Greenbridge

You’ve heard of William "Bill" McDonough: "Hero for the Planet."  He’s co-author of the wildly popular Cradle to Cradle book and co-founder of the product and process design firm MBDC, which is behind the Cradle to Cradle Certification (C2C) process.  Most recently, the November 2006 issue of Business 2.0 included an article about his sustainable building projects around the world.  McDonough is an architect and the designer of the incredible Greenbridge Developments in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Developers expect to break ground on the project in June 2006 and it will be complete two years later (Spring 2009).  Greenbridge will be the first mixed-use project in North Carolina to achieve LEED certification. 

There will be about 100 residential units in two buildings (7 + 10 stories each), 25,000 square feet of retail space, and 15,000 square feet of office space.  The units include studio – three bedroom offerings ranging from 600 – 2,400 square feet.  As for pricing, we’re talking about $225,000 – 1.2 M.  This development promises to keep in line with sustainable principles boasting amenities such as green roofing and courtyard gardens, solar panels, an urban-style market selling local + organic foods, and a wellness center offering holistic medicine, acupuncture, and massage therapies.  Greenbridge is already 40% sold and is accepting reservations. 

What’s important, however, is that this development is another example of where real estate development for the future should be heading.  Cities are full of buildings that need to be renovated and retrofitted to be more efficient, use less energy, and waste less resources.  These new LEED developments will lead the way in showing other developers that green building has substantial economic + societal benefits.  See also The Daily Tar Heel.

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