In an innovative move, the Town of Babylon has set up an extensive program to work with citizens to pay for energy efficiency upgrades for every home in the town. The basic premise of the program is that the town wants to help residents use less energy, so here’s what they plan to do. They’re going to loan up to $12,000 at the super low interest rate of 3% to pay directly for renovation costs. Under the program, residents get home energy audits that include recommended actions for renovations, including adding more insulation, changing out the HVAC system, etc. The town pays for the renovations and the homeowner then makes payments to the town based roughly on the reduction in payments caused by having a more efficient home. So it’s quite the innovative system.
Here’s some interesting news: a new Department of Energy report claims wind turbines could generate 300 gigawatts of electricity — roughly 20% of the US electrical grid — by 2030. There’s already a website in support of the news at 20%Wind.org. The report doesn’t necessarily predict the future of the wind industry, but it paints a picture of what a particular 20% wind scenario could mean for the nation. The wind industry currently produces about 17 gigawatts of electricity, so we’re talking about significant growth over the next twenty-something years. That said, wind industry growth has been fierce in recent years and is on track to meet these numbers if growth holds pace.
I’m not going to write too much about this project because it’s under construction and we’ll end up doing more when it comes to life. Here, though, is the design for a living building — one that gives something back. It’s the kind of building that goes beyond LEED (although I think it will also get LEED certification, too). Schaar’s Bluff Gathering Center ranks within the top 1% of all sustainable structures, as compared to the USGBC’s registered buildings. How? The structure will generate its own power, react to weather conditions, reuse rainwater, and feed the animals with a trellis planted specifically with fruit vines. Located in Nininger Township, Minnesota, the 3,500 sf Gathering Center will also have an on-site wind turbine, operable windows linked to the HVAC system, a high performance building envelope, automated shading devices, in-floor radiant heating, and rainwater capture and treatment.
The Gathering Center will be a model of sustainable building for the future: living buildings.
Last July, when we brought news that Leonardo DiCaprio and Discovery were going to help rebuild the tornado-torn city of Greensburg, we didn't know the city was so focused on greening its infrastructure. Now comes news that the small Kansas town will require all city-owned buildings bigger than 4,000 sf to achieve a LEED Platinum rating from the USGBC.
You'll note that Platinum is as high as it gets under the LEED program. Greensburg is the first city anywhere to require such lofty standards in city buildings. Additionally, buildings must reduce energy use 42% over current building code requirements.
With a population of about 1500, there won't be many buildings that hit the mark, but it's a noble step in the right direction.