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The Smarter City

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 “Organizations today are embracing a more sustainable approach to business – one that takes into account the environmental and societal impact of their activities. By factoring this accountability into their strategy, they implement new ways to source, manufacture, and distribute goods in a more sustainable manner, often while simultaneously lowering costs. And, based on more transparent and proactive engagement with employees, consumers and the communities where they operate, organzations are becoming better equipped to create products and services for a smarter planet.” Corporate Social Responsibility – IBM

One of the recent articles linked in the Current News & Events section, IBM’s Top 5 Predictions for Smarter Buildings for 2012, only touches the surface of IBM’s commitment to the role technology can contribute to helping develop smart buildings and communities. To see just how committed they are, IBM has provided this fascinating video presentation, The Smarter City, explaining how we can build a smarter planet – city by city – today. Topics range from Transportation/Traffic, Airports/Rail, Public Safety, Healthcare, Education, Energy and Utilities, Economic Development, to Social Services. Included is a short documentary and a HELP (?) section that explains how to navigate through the video.   Continue Reading →




What is Smart Growth?

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Smart buildings. Smart cities. Smart growth. What’s the meaning of all this “smart” talk? In the most basic sense, all three are associated with sustainability and social responsibility, with smart buildings and smart cities individually and collectively supporting smart growth.

So what is smart growth, and why is it important? With respect to sustainability and social responsibility, smart growth is of critical importance. In 2010, 82 percent of Americans lived in urban communities (towns and cities) and by 2050 it will be 90 percent. For the first time in history, more than half of the people on Earth live in cities, and urban populations are projected to double by mid-century. Towns and cities are responsible for approximately 65 percent of all energy used, 60 percent of all water consumed and 70 percent of all greenhouse gases produced worldwide. As compared to less densely populated rural areas, urban communities offer increased potential for resolution of environmental and social problems, generate jobs and income, relieve pressure on natural habitats and areas of biodiversity, and with proper governance they can deliver education, health care and other services more efficiently. In essence, smart growth is about urbanization.

Enter smart growth.

The challenges presented by sustainable urban development are immense. Smart growth, an urban planning and transportation theory, values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health. Utilizing growth management tools to encourage sustainable communities, combat sprawl, and strengthen urban centers through existing infrastructure, smart growth is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and many other environmental organizations, such as Smart Growth America. USGBC promotes smart growth through their LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System and the EPA’s support is focused around their EPA Smart Growth Program.

The EPA has compiled a set of best-practice examples of adopted codes and guidelines from around the U.S. that support smart growth, grouped into six categories:  Continue Reading →




Are CFL lamps ready for prime time?

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As we get closer to banning the use of incandescent lighting and mandating alternatives, such as CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lamp), more data is being made available that should be cause for untethered public debate — in consideration that some of the information we are currently reviewing could be credible. Most everyone, whether or not they really understand why, agree we need to remain diligent in finding reasonable ways to curb our energy consumption and reduce emissions. We get that. However, we also get the fact that government intrusion and manipulation generally makes a travesty of otherwise promising green energy technology, such as wind turbines and electric vehicles. As sustainable professionals we do understand and are confident we’ll get there — with technology that considers human health as well as the environment. It may be that CFLs are ready for prime time… maybe not.

Via examiner.com Many consumers in the dark about dangers of CFL bulbs  Continue Reading →




Nature Journal of Science Discredits Man-Made Global Warming

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This should be welcome news for both Global Warming believers and non-believers alike, as a long awaited scientific study refutes the Global Warming theory.  

BIGGOVERNMENT has just published a summary analysis of this Nature Journal of Science study, based on research conducted by CERN.

Nature Journal of Science, ranked as the world’s most cited scientific periodical, has just published the definitive study on Global Warming that proves the dominant controller of temperatures in the Earth’s atmosphere is due to galactic cosmic rays and the sun, rather than by man. One of the report’s authors, Professor Jyrki Kauppinen, summed up his conclusions regarding the potential for man-made Global Warming: “I think it is such a blatant falsification.”

The research was conducted by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which invented the World Wide Web, built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and now has constructed a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreates the Earth’s atmosphere.

Nature Journal has been the holy-grail of scientific research publication since it was established in England in 1869.

For Nature to now publish research that eviscerates the Anthropogenics theory heralds a tectonic rejection by academia of support for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The UN protocol requires every nation on earth to reduce their atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gas to 94.8% of 1990 levels to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The U.S. Senate legislation that Nature sought to stridently lobbying for is named “America’s Climate Security Act of 2007”; commonly known as the Cap-and-Trade Bill.

After 20 years of academic supremacy and hundreds of billions of dollars of costs; the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory seems headed for the dust bin of history. Perhaps the admirable action of the Nature Journal of Science to place scientific integrity above partisan politics will be a valuable lesson for the scientific community in the future.   Continue Reading →




Solyndra, Inc. announces plans to file for bankruptcy

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Putting aside the fact that we the people have long debated the extent of government intervention in our free enterprise system, let’s begin with this, via wikipedia:

Free market capitalism consists of a free-price system where supply and demand are allowed to reach their point of equilibrium without intervention by the government.

Businesses succeed only when they can supply viable products to meet a demand, and demand simply cannot be fabricated or forced. So why am I talking about this here? First, this is personal. We recently borrowed great sums of money from our grandchildren to help jump start the economy and put people back to work. Secondly, the government has demonstrated a complete lack of competence in distributing these large sums of money. In doing so, in this instance, it makes our jobs as sustainable professionals much more difficult by casting a shadow on responsible environmental stewardship. And, unfortunately, this one does reek of politics and the corruption associated with politics.

via The Washington Examiner, David Freddoso: Obama’s big green gamble: Solyndra

In late May, when President Obama was in California for his fourth fundraiser for Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., he also made a point of dropping by Silicon Valley to praise his own stimulus package.

“It is here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter, more prosperous future,” Obama said of a solar energy company that had recently received taxpayer backing. Obama spoke of the company in glowing terms and used it as an example of how the stimulus package is creating jobs all over America.

“We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra,” he said. “[T]hrough the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations. This new factory is the result of those loans. Since the project broke ground last fall, more than 3,000 construction workers have been employed building this plant. Across the country, workers in 22 states are manufacturing the supplies. … Solyndra expects to hire 1,000 workers to manufacture solar panels. …”

Solyndra was the very first company to receive a Department of Energy loan guarantee under the stimulus bill. When it was awarded, Vice President Biden said the project was “exactly what the Recovery Act is all about.” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said it would help “spark a new industrial revolution that will put Americans to work.”

But even if Solyndra is a good example of what the stimulus package can do, it might not be the kind of example Obama wants to publicize. Jim McTague of Barron’s noted over the weekend that, two months before Obama’s glowing speech, PricewaterhouseCoopers released a fear-filled note in its audit of the company, which has accumulated losses of $558 million in its five-year lifetime. The firm noted that Solyndra “has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholders’ deficit that, among other factors, raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.”    Continue Reading →




Obama’s ‘green jobs’ fizzle

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This is not intended to be a rant or a political statement – merely an impassioned opinion. Okay, perhaps the headline is a (little) bit over the top, I borrowed it from the recent wizbang article, Obama’s ‘green jobs’ fizzle. However, given my position on the subject, I couldn’t come up with a more appropriate replacement.

When I started a small design/build company in 1983, my second project was a partial berm residence. At that time, many of the private building related energy reducing strategies were passive solar and/or earthen bunker structures, drawing on principles going as far back in time as the caveman. “Renewable Energy” technology was practically non-existent, with green technology companies struggling to hang on and keep their heads above water. It was apparent for renewable energy to progress and the technology to succeed, the industry needed to be substantially subsidized  by private investors and, to some extent, the government.

Fortunately, private investments in renewable energy technology began to materialize, and as a result the industry steadily evolved in a positive direction. Additionally, organizations such as the U.S.Green Building Council (USGBC) came on the scene and developed green building rating systems that promoted renewable energy. Unfortunately however, during the past several years, politicos have taken control, in my opinion, to gain political capital from large corporate players and environmentalists. In their efforts to “appease”, many of these policy makers are ill-informed, misguided and, seemingly, concerned more about the political bandwagons they associate with than being responsible environmental stewards. So what could go wrong? To begin, as we’ve witnessed recently with AGW and Cap n’ Trade, these (failed) policy proposals are extremely detrimental to those of us who support and advocate a more reasonable pro-environment position. It’s proving difficult to get consumers attention when rebuttals to these devisive policies are garnering most of the spotlight. The best selling author Michael Crichton coined the phrase “Environmentalism as a Religion“.

Wind turbines? Not much coming from the environmentalists, or the government for that matter, about the impact of these massive wind turbines on the bat habitat. Farmers depend heavily on bats to help control pests and in Pennsylvania alone, bats save farmers an estimated $277 million annually. High speed rail? Several states have returned stimulus funds when they realized the untenable costs associated with maintaining this form of mass transit. The California High Speed Rail Project will cost more than expected – much more than the original estimated cost of $33 billion as presented to the voters. That estimate was revised to $43 billion, and if the entire system over runs the budget by the same percentage as the first leg is expected to, the total cost will likely be somewhere between $63 – $87 billion dollars. This project is over budget before a single foot of track has been laid. Due in large part, most ironically, to environmental impact studies. This has become a national embarrassment.     Continue Reading →




Social media history becomes a new job hurdle

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Most novices launching websites labor through the perplexing task of trying to understand and implement procedures and techniques designed to increase site traffic. SEO, post titles, key words, tags, links, trackbacks, pings, commenting on other sites and forums, etc. are all important considerations. So when you read an article, post or other commentary, there was generally a great deal of behind-the-scenes prep work done before it was published.

Recently, I read a report where both Google and Bing agreed that social networking is now the Numero Uno – #1 – factor for delivering visitors to websites. Perhaps in support of this proclamation is the fact if you pay attention, you’ll notice the increase in companies linking to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources. In consideration of this newly discovered revelation, I began my quest to connect with as many professionals and other sources as I could on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – with more to come as time permits.

We know that the content on LinkedIn, Facebook and other media sources we use to establish connections and communication is considered public domain. But were we aware that, like e-mail, our actions can, or will, rest somewhere in the heavens forever? Once you say it, it lives on forever.

Well now, who would have thought that a new cottage industry of Cyber Snoopers is seeing gold in them thar hills! The NYT has (disturbing) news where possible employers may look at everything you’ve said or done online in the past seven years. In their article Social media history becomes a new job hurdle :

Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check.

A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years.

And what relevant unflattering information has led to job offers being withdrawn or not made? Mr. Drucker said that one prospective employee was found using Craigslist to look for OxyContin. A woman posing naked in photos she put up on an image-sharing site didn’t get the job offer she was seeking at a hospital.

Given complex “terms of service” agreements on most sites and Web applications, Mr. Rotenberg said people do not always realize that comments or content they generate are publicly available.

As one commenter stated:

Go ahead, search me. I don’t do drugs, my president sucks and since I don’t speak any ‘foreign’ languages I shouldn’t have to press one for english. NOW will you hire me?

Continue Reading →




Be Green: 10 Steps to Keep Your Employees Healthy

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Article written by Barbara O’Brien,  20 July, 2011

Being an employer is more than just providing an energetic and productive work atmosphere; it is setting an example.

The environment in which your employee’s work is actually more important than the type of job they are doing. Regardless of whether your company is in a high-tech, eco-friendly industry, providing a healthy work environment is more important than any output.

Being green is more than just providing an eco-conscious product but ensuring that those staffers working in your offices remain healthy. Beyond your company’s output, it is critical to ensure that your office is as eco-friendly.

The health impacts of these important changes are partially short-term: they provide an environment that ensures the long-term health of employees but also the relative impact on the Earth.

Ultimately, by being a role model, by providing an environmentally conscious work atmosphere has more influence than just producing low-impact products. Continue Reading →




China’s Ghost Cities and Malls

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With all the current reporting that China may be in freefall, I thought it appropriate to refresh this report from 2011. China was trying to game the world into believing they had a robust economy as indicated by their increased auto production and crazy construction projects. The results were predicted: large parking lots to mothball their cars and cities few could afford to rent and shopping malls with few retailers.

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This excellent reporting provides shocking visuals and commentary exposing the issues people, and the government, are faced with by China forcing lifestyles on the population. If there is any lesson to be learned here, it illustrates the fact that if you build it, they will not necessarily come. Or perhaps in these instances… if you build it, they can not necessarily come!

Is China’s rapid and forced development of new cities and infrastructure, with little or no demand, a poor decision to increase GDP? Is it deepening social divisions?

h/t Wizbang:

What happens when a government focuses on infrastructure projects and nothing else? In one case, you get Chinese Ghost Towns! This is what happens when you ignore real market pressures, and focus on just building crap that nobody can afford. This could happen here. Make no mistake, this could be the United States.  Continue Reading →




Environmental Release of Mercury from Broken Compact Fluorescent Lamps

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WARNING: Mercury vapor released from broken compact fluorescent light bulbs can exceed safe exposure levels!

One of the websites I visit frequently is Watts Up with That? – commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news. The site is hosted by Anthony Watts, a former television meteorologist who spent 25 years on the air and also operates a weather technology and content business.

Perhaps it’s coincidence that I ran across his 06 July, 2011 article, Gee, ya think? Proof of what many have said for years, that provides his analysis of a study by Mary Ann Liebert reported in Environmental Engineering Science. Coincidence because I was recently challenged when I mentioned to several of my piers the potential health issues caused by mercury contained in Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs).

In summary, the study states:

However, the TCLP results do not fully reflect the potential hazards of CFLs because the CFLs continuously release Hg vapor once broken. The emission can last weeks even months and the total amount of Hg that can be released in vapor from new CFLs can often exceed 1.0 mg. Since vapor Hg can be readily inhaled by people, rapid removal of broken CFLs and sufficient ventilation of rooms by fresh air are critical to prevent people from potential harms. Effective packaging for preventing the breakage of CFLs and retaining the Hg vapor from broken CFLs is another way to reduce exposure to Hg in transportation, handling, and storage.  Continue Reading →




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