Testing the Numbers on Recycling of Recyclables

single stream recycling truckBy now, most of us know the drill for washing out glass and plastic containers and placing them the blue or green bins rather than bundling them with the rest of the trash. It has been decades since residents were first able to separate out recyclables from other waste for curbside pick-up. What started out as smaller local trends are now mature municipal services in some of the largest cities across the country. However, despite the millions of tons of waste that has been diverted from landfills for a life of reuse, we have certainly not reached the point where we are recycling everywhere in the U.S. and the places that do recycle are often still trashing considerable amounts of waste that could have more life to live. Continue reading

Energy Conservation at Home Needs Real Time Data

Home energy management softwareIn the United States, sustainable progress most often takes the form of ways to engineer a more efficient version of the status quo. Products that allow for a reduction in net resource use while allowing customers to live the same way are seen as a win/win. To be fair, the small advances we can take through greener product choices are a first step and certainly better than nothing, even if course-altering impacts towards a sustainable culture will require the underlying lifestyle to evolve. If greener consumerism is one of the paths that Americans are responding to then the products need to do more than provide a promise for eventual savings. The more that people can connect choices of product usage to resource repercussions in real time, the better the chance that lifestyles can alter to maximize the use of more efficient products. Continue reading

Cook Browning Szenasy Kampschroer Panel

Seeking Sustainability the Building Industry Targets Human Health

Even with the progress that both designers and governmental offices have made in bolstering the ecological stewardship of our new building stock, the average baseline of construction is still notably far from the realm of consistently viable options we have at our disposal, let alone the cutting edge. All too often, too many aspects of our new buildings have more to do with the past than the future. The call for sustainability in the built environment has undeniably gained in strength and continued to garner support from municipalities that raise the minimum standard of building codes. Still, sustainability has faced the same headwinds in the design and construction of buildings that it has in other areas of business as well as the social and political arenas. Continue reading

Hive Farm Proposes Plug and Play Vertical Farming

Mid Rise Hive FarmWhile the interest in the prospects of Vertical Farming have picked up over the last few years with the topic finding its way into more articles and design competitions, we have yet to see a corresponding surge in prototypes going into construction. We have not suddenly come to an ulterior solution for how to supply more locally grown produce to our cities with a reduced carbon footprint behind it by any means, but financing hasn’t yet found a model for vertical farming that seems to be worth bringing past the brainstorming stage. However, a new proposal by OVA Studio that pushes a modular version of vertical farms is in the process of trying to secure funding for prototype design and construction, hoping to be the model that bucks the trend.  Continue reading

Changing the Density Equation for Suburbs

Sidewalk PedestrianSince the beginning of America’s suburban experiment, it has only been recently that effort and interest has welled behind the ideas of walkability and alternatives to a car-centric life outside of cities. While movements like New Urbanism that promote re-investigating the suburban model have swelled with support over the past decade, these projects still represent a minority in development outside of urban centers. Even when aspects like tenets of New Urbanism are employed, the goal of increasing walkability in American suburbia faces an uphill battle until more substantial steps can be taken to alter the parameters for both construction and mobility. Re-orienting the suburbia we know for the pedestrian is inherently fighting against its own DNA. Continue reading

Is LEED v4 Better or just Newer?

USGBC version 4Although the latest incarnation of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system has been around for almost a year, projects have still be able to enjoy the more familiar likeness of LEED 2009. However, the window of time for the grace period of the system transition continues to close with all new projects needing to apply for Version 4 after June 2015. As designers and engineers begin to focus more on the effects of the imminent change ahead, it begs the question as to whether or not the system is simply changing or actually improving. Continue reading

Study Points to Bright and Dark Spots in Corporate Sustainability

Our dedication to the corporate engine that runs our consumer culture makes corporate perspectives on sustainability unavoidably important. It is not uncommon in this country to have localities where the vast majority of residents are diligently proactive on sustainability efforts (say recycling for example) while the participation of businesses remains tepid. With the amount of man hours and resources that companies use in order to do business, they have to be part of any equation that leads to a better outcome.

McKinsey & Company recently released results to a new survey searching for the pulse of sustainability within the world of corporate executives in the global economy. While the tone of the release is cast in a positive light, the survey results point to both the good news and the bad news relating to progress for sustainability in the corporate environment. Continue reading


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