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Snapshot Columns Repository

Andy Frank

How Efficiency Can Be Treated As An Energy Resource

April 11, 2018

By: Andy Frank

Energy efficiency is weird. You can't see it or feel it, yet it has been, by far, the most dominant source of energy to heat, cool and power buildings in the last 40+ years. It's the energy not used; the reduction of wasted energy that once flew out the window — literally. Investments in energy efficiency are usually made for non-energy reasons, like building occupant comfort, yet, for those in the know, it is the cheapest form of energy. Think of it like a whimsical riddle (what is all around us and yet invisible?) that happens to be central to whether we can keep this planet safe.

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Lisa DiCaprio

The Social Cost Of Carbon & Why It Matters

March 03, 2018

By: Lisa DiCaprio

The social cost of carbon is a key environmental concept that assigns a monetary value to the economic damages caused by each new ton of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. This concept, which was supported by President Obama as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is now being undermined by the Trump administration as part of its overall strategy to eliminate as many restrictions as possible on fossil fuel extraction and consumption.

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Nilda Mesa

Germany and U.S. Climate and Energy Policies at the Local Level: Common Puzzles

January 04, 2018

By: Nilda Mesa

For all that we may think Germans have climate and energy policies figured out, they are tackling many of the same issues as we are, with a few twists. So I found when participating in the U.S. Embassy's Speakers' Program in the fall of 2017, when I traveled to five cities in Germany to exchange ideas and speak about how New York and other U.S. cities and states are moving forward in the face of a new federal reality, and how sub-national governments relate (or don't) to federal governments, and in their case, to the European Union.

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Tom Sahagian

NYC's 80 x 50 Goal: Is it Realistic? How Do We Get There?

November 01, 2017

By: Tom Sahagian

As you probably know, "80x50" means reducing greenhouse gases produced in New York City 80 percent by the year 2050. As a practical matter this almost certainly means we must reduce the combustion of fossil fuels by 80 percent — either by increasing energy efficiency or by increasing the amount of energy we produce without using combustion (or, most likely, a combination of the two). This shift must take place in every sector — transportation, industry, buildings, etc., but I will focus here only on buildings.

Technically, there is no doubt that 80x50 is achievable. But it's not going to be easy. The biggest obstacles to success will not be technological — in my experience they are almost always fear and inertia on the part of decision-makers.

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Christophe Jospe

How A Blockchain Token Can Scale Renewable Energy

September 04, 2017

By: Christophe Jospe

What is a blockchain?

The hype about blockchains can be illustrated by a 2010 purchase of 2 large pizzas at $25 using 10,000 bitcoin, the first currency built on a blockchain. At today's prices, the same person could have bought more than $40 million worth of pizza. A common misconception held by people who do not work or invest in the ballooning field of blockchain and digital or "crypto" currencies is to consider bitcoin and blockchain synonymous. They are not. A blockchain is simply the underlying technology infrastructure that, among other things, creates bitcoins.

At the core, a blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable, immutable and secure way. Once something has been recorded in a blockchain, it is there forever and cannot be changed. One way to think about this technology is to compare it to the transmission control protocol and internet protocol (TCP/IP). In simple terms, TCP/IP is what makes the internet run by creating rules that can move data around. Most users don't even know about it or care to understand the mechanics. Internet users just know that when they have web-compliant devices, they can do more. Blockchain exponentially improves this framework by building an a more secure and efficient way for transactions to occur between anything connected to the internet. Slowly at first, blockchain applications will come into our lives, and over time, replace TCP/IP entirely. The magic will happen under the hood.

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Joyce Klein-Rosenthal + Jeffrey Raven

Urban Heat And Urban Design — An Opportunity To Transform In NYC

July 18, 2017

By: Joyce Klein-Rosenthal + Jeffrey Raven

How can planners and designers work with large urban centers to prepare for the adverse impacts of climate change, while also adapting to current climate variability and extreme weather events? With a substantial expected increase in daily average temperatures in coming years, mid-latitude cities such as New York are also expected to experience more frequent and intense heat waves (NYCPCC, 2015; USGCRP, 2016).

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Arnaud Brohé & Thomas Huberland

How Passive Houses Took Over Brussels

May 01, 2017

By: Arnaud Brohé & Thomas Huberland

The Brussels Capital Region has experienced an energy revolution in the last ten years, transforming it into a lodestar in the passive house movement.

As early as 2010, the European Union issued the nearly zero-emissions buildings directive (or NZEB directive), triggering the movement toward low-emissions buildings in all Member States but giving them the freedom to follow their own path toward the implementation of the directive. Prior to the NZEB, Brussels (Belgium) launched a contest for exemplary buildings starting in 2007 to generate momentum around sustainable buildings by granting subsidies to construction projects exemplifying outstanding energy performance, architectural quality, low environmental impact, and scalability. In total, between 2007 and 2013, 253 projects received grants for an amount of €36 million. However, there was still a long way to come close to the NZEB target and a bold move was required for the Belgian capital city, where 70% of the energy consumed is used in buildings that are rather old: 90% of them were built before 1980. Nonetheless, the Brussels regional government saw an opportunity to become a European leader in building energy performance under those challenging circumstances and started working on a new legislation for the 400,000 square meters (4.3 million square feet) built every year in the heart of Europe.

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Mark Ginsberg with J Russell Beaumont

Start To Prepare Today For Adopting Passive House Tomorrow

March 01, 2017

By: Mark Ginsberg with J Russell Beaumont

The City of New York has a binding goal of 80% carbon reduction from 2005 levels by 2050. Because buildings consume 75% of energy used in New York City, creating more energy-efficient buildings will be essential for meeting this goal. Mayor de Blasio has pointed to the Passive House (PH) standard [1] as one of the few building energy standards capable of delivering the results to meet carbon reduction goals.[2] PH also creates resiliency by creating buildings that are less dependent on heating and cooling systems to maintain suitable indoor temperatures[3] While PH or an equivalent will likely be incorporated into the City's building codes, making this transition happen smoothly requires planning.

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Charles Komanoff

Almost Unnoticed, Flat Electricity Demand Is Crushing U.S. Carbon Emissions

January 11, 2017

By: Charles Komanoff

In a stark change from the last century, U.S. electricity usage has barely budged since 2005. The flattening of power production is a big but unheralded reason that carbon emissions from the U.S. electricity sector have nosedived.

In a December 2016 report, I estimated that CO2 emissions from U.S. electricity generation in 2016 will be 27 percent below the baseline level from 2005. This means the power sector is now more than four-fifths of the way to the 2030 goal in the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, to cut electricity emissions by 32 percent.

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Elizabeth Derry

How Mortgage Lenders Can Boost Sustainability

November 02, 2016

By: Elizabeth Derry

If you're like me then you've spent some serious time contemplating society's inertia of energy efficiency and carbon reduction. At summits and roundtables, practitioners, myself included, eagerly debate the viability of the newest "emerald bullet," whether it be new tech, codes, or policies that will finally catalyze large scale energy reduction. But what if the key to our low carbon future isn't something new, but something old and familiar, and as ubiquitous to American life as Sunday night football and pumpkin spice lattes?

Mortgage lending!

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Rob Crauderueff


July 06, 2016

By: Rob Crauderueff

A Green Systems Approach for Affordable Housing

Affordable and supportive housing organizations in New York City have an unprecedented opportunity to save money by greening their existing buildings. This is big news for a sector that — as a matter of mission and regulation — cannot increase rents to keep up with rising utility and fuel costs.

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Jon Lukomnik

It's Taken 500 Years For Corporate Environmental Reporting To Be On The Edge of Maturity

May 10, 2016

By: Jon Lukomnik

We're on the eve of a new dawn in environmental reporting by companies and investors. Some may think that's a bold prediction. Just a few months ago Ernst & Young and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute concluded that only slightly more than half of large, publicly-traded American companies even list climate change as a risk. And, for those that do, "disclosures often are generic and do not provide clear, concise and insightful information... a listing of generic risks."

So why do I think it's about to change? First, there is now a body of information reported and able to be analyzed. Second, mainstream investment houses like Goldman Sachs are building billions of dollars in investment products that rely on environmental data. They are not about to let disclosure backslide. Third, heavyweight members of the financial establishment — including Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, former SEC Chair Mary Schapiro and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney — are committed to making it happen.

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