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Snapshot Columns Repository

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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Ken Levenson, A.I.A.

Passive House Emerges in New York: Effective and Affordable

March 10, 2016

By: Ken Levenson, A.I.A.

At long last climate science, public policy and effective remedial actions are coming into growing alignment and Passive House is amassing real-world validation as a powerful tool to achieve needed results. Here's what's been happening.

The science of climate change is now strong enough to alarm even the normally complacent. As Justin Gillis reported in The New York Times recently, scientists now believe runaway global warming could likely require the abandonment of our coastal cities in the 22nd Century and beyond. The constituent horrors of such prospects are simply magnitudes beyond anything humanity has faced in history.

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Richard C. Yancey

Actively Passive

January 13, 2016

By: Richard C. Yancey

Passive House startled me. Despite working for the nonprofit Building Energy Exchange, preaching the virtues of energy efficiency to New York City's real estate community, my first experience of a Passive House was indelible. Heading home from a walk in Prospect Park on an August evening, tired and hot, I somewhat begrudgingly agreed to stop by my wife's recently completed green roof project. It was a new installation and the young plants needed water to take hold and thrive. Leaving behind the leafy green of the park, we made our way through the steaming streets of Park Slope to the recently renovated brownstone, and its magical interior. It was summer in the city: hot, gritty, sweaty, noisy, smelly. We passed the ripe, pungent garbage, at the curb, the roar of the garbage truck, and the hot, loud blasts from window air conditioners, like small jet engines. A muggy afternoon, the car horns and exhaust hung in the air malevolently.

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Shravya Jain

NYC 2030 District: A Living Lab Of Sustainability Efforts And Innovation

November 11, 2015

By: Shravya Jain

The verdict is in: 2015 is on track to be the warmest year on record. Fortunately, 2015 also promises to be the year when nations sign a climate agreement that will alter the course of history. Understanding that national ambitions to combat climate change need bottom-up support, the United Nations sponsored the Compact of Mayors — a global coalition of city leaders pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and head towards sustainability and New York City is one of those leaders. Consecutive mayors have made greenhouse gas emissions reduction as well as enhancing the resiliency of our built environment a priority. At present, the cities spew more than 51 million tons of greenhouse gases per year — a majority of which is building-related, so there is much to be done to meet Mayor de Blasio's goal of cutting our carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

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Lauren Kurtz

Climate Scientists in the Crosshairs

September 01, 2015

By: Lauren Kurtz

The scientific method is based on the belief that research results should be subjected to the utmost scrutiny. But this principle can be turned on its head and scientists operating in politically controversial areas, particularly climate science, have been attacked by ideologically motivated groups trying any means possible to discredit, distract, and intimidate. Such tactics have included hate mail, death threats and even an anthrax scare. Less violently but no less noxiously, attacks via the legal system are an increasingly common way for self-styled "skeptics" to go after climate scientists with whom they disagree.

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Victoria Anstead

Do Tourists Care?

August 04, 2015

By: Victoria Anstead

This question provoked passionate — and divided — responses from participants at a recent Innovators Think Tank on the effects of climate change on travel in the Caribbean and other coastal areas. Held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, it was sponsored by the Washington, DC based Center for Responsible Travel (CREST).

I was there with the aim of expanding the dialogue associated with climate change from one of dueling dire predictions and dramatic uncertainty to one that factored in the intellectual and emotional effects of the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, individually and collectively.

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Constantine E. Kontokosta, Ph.D., PE

Data and the City: The Promise and Perils of Urban Informatics

July 07, 2015

By: Constantine E. Kontokosta, Ph.D., PE

While the marketing rhetoric around Smart Cities is replete with unfulfilled promises and the persistent use (and mis-use) of the term "big data" has generated confusion and distrust around potential applications, the reality remains that disruptive shifts in ubiquitous data collection — including mobile devices, GPS, social media, and synoptic video — and the ability to store, manage, and analyze massive datasets require the next generation of practitioners of urban policy and planning to have new capabilities that respond to these innovations. For students in the emerging fields of Urban Informatics and Civic Analytics, core competencies cross traditional boundaries of computer and data science, public policy and urban planning, and business and technology management. This results in requirements for both technical and non-technical (or non-computing) skills, as well as breadth and depth across informatics disciplines and domain applications. These include knowledge of programming (Python, R, etc.), data mining and management (Hadoop, MapReduce), applied mathematics and statistics, machine learning, and visualization (CartoDB, D3).

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Marcia Bystryn

How New York City Can Deliver On Its Zero Waste Goal

May 06, 2015

By: Marcia Bystryn

On Earth Day, Mayor de Blasio presented a bold vision for a New York City that sends zero waste to landfills. This ambitious goal figured prominently into the sustainability section of his OneNYC plan. I believe we can get there, but it will require a great deal of focus and innovation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announces the release of “One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City,” a comprehensive plan for a sustainable and resilient city for all New Yorkers

New York City currently sends four million tons of waste to landfills every year. Landfills are notorious emitters of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. Sending waste to out-of-state landfills is expensive too — in 2012, it cost the City over $85 million. Removing organic material from landfills not only reduces methane in the atmosphere and carbon emissions from collection and long-haul carting trucks, it also presents an opportunity to harness its positive value as a potential clean energy source or compost input. The City knows this export option is not sustainable over time.

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