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Sustainable City Startups

Posted by Wyatt C. King

Mar 22, 2014 12:08:11 PM

Among the most intriguing and extravagant approaches to emerge in recent years to address the challenge of urban sustainability has been so-called “smart-from-the-start” eco-cities, medium-sized cities built from the ground up to incorporate the latest and greatest thinking in sustainable technology and design. These built-from-scratch settlements have started to sprout in several countries – so far, there are projects in various stages of completion in South Korea, Abu Dhabi, Portugal, Kenya, and across China—and they are being touted by developers as showcases for the most advanced ideas in resource-efficient living. They are financed largely by governments and deep-pocketed information technology companies that see a huge business opportunity in urban systems—as the global imperative for sustainable living becomes ever-more evident and pressing.

Masdar City, in Abu Dhabi, embodies many of the aspirations of this new urban genre. By combining ancient design features, such as narrow, shaded streets angled to channel desert winds—with modern technology—including solar power, electric cars, and waste-to-energy systems—lead architect Norman Foster initially claimed that the city would be both carbon-neutral and zero-waste. Nearly seven years on, financial reality has set in; ambitions have been scaled back, and the completion date postponed. But the project is still moving forward. Looking ahead, planners intend for Masdar to serve as a test bed for home-grown innovations developed in an on-site research institute they hope will rival MIT.

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Finding the Trailhead into Green Building Codes Work

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Mar 20, 2014 2:44:00 PM

For nearly two decades, Co-founder and Executive Director David Eisenberg of The Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT) “has lead the effort to create a sustainable context for building codes.” DCAT “works to enhance the health of the planet and our communities by promoting a shift to sustainable construction and development through leadership, strategic relationships and education.”

Eisenberg has built in steel, rammed earth and straw, among other alternative building materials, and is a big proponent of strawbale construction. But what he has focused on the most is getting building codes to include alternative materials.

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No Apparent Change

Posted by Ron Jones

Mar 13, 2014 1:38:16 PM

Nobody loves acronyms more than the military and intelligence agencies, so “NAC”, the popular abbreviation for “No Apparent Change”, is commonly used in updated reports to indicate that whatever is currently being observed or monitored has not changed much from previous versions, a convenient way to save time and space.

In this case, I am reporting that NAC applies to the newly updated official policy of the National Association of Home Builders on green building and sustainability. Allow me to explain…

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Measuring Up

Posted by Ron Jones

Dec 23, 2013 12:19:00 PM

GUMPTION. ITS'S NOT A WORD you hear every day. Not in the modern vernacular, for sure. Sounds outdated, almost—I don’t know—hillbilly. But Webster defines it as: “initiative, aggressiveness, resourcefulness,” and then adds, “courage, spunk, guts.”

In my experience, it takes gumption to execute a project that merits national award consideration, let alone make the judges agree. It has a lot to do with presentation. There is no substitute for great images and a clear, thoughtful narrative. After all, it would be impossible for judges to physically visit dozens of entries that come from all around the country, so you have to be part storyteller in order to make yours stand out from the pack.

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Moratorium on Excess?

Posted by Sara Gutterman

Nov 20, 2013 9:17:00 AM

WHILE IT SEEMS that Americans have become more fiscally aware since the recession, we certainly can’t be accused of embracing a culture of frugality. Our excesses are well known by societies across the planet, idealized and emulated by some, hatefully condemned by others.

One consequence of our throwaway economy is a gargantuan amount of trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), each person in the U.S. generates a daily average of 4.5 pounds of municipal solid waste—a collective total of approximately 1.35 billion pounds every day, or over 250 billion tons per year. It’s estimated that Americans spend $100 per ton to dispose of this waste, or over $250 billion per year.

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