Archives For economy

loose sbestos insulationMost people that have conducted maintenance on a home or apartment in the last two decades have probably bumped into asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous material whose strength and resistance to fire and decay made it a popular choice for numerous products in the first half of the 20th century including floor tile, adhesives and building insulation. Continue Reading…

historic grid mapWe often use the utilitarian, rational deployment of street grids as a boon to our best cities. American cities like New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. stand as the result of a preplanned order deployed to guide expansion over time. In many ways it has worked. Partitioning up the city has helped to shape a straightforward process for development, creating defined districts for zoning along with a web for transportation. But as the way we interact with the city evolves, including the buildings within it, the grid lags behind, representing the same functions that it did centuries ago. These massive infrastructural frameworks have grown to the point of being outmoded, trailing the urban evolution around and within them. We are at a point for a reassessment for how best to use this wealth of connective tissue that provides access to and from our homes, our jobs and our leisure both inside and outside of the city.  Continue Reading…

green applianceIn its basic definition, efficiency relates to a given amount of energy or effort it takes to accomplish a certain task relative to the least possible amount. It is true that a more efficient system/solution/product will use less energy than a less efficient counterpart, but in order to gauge its place within the topic of sustainability we have to ground the term and its use in realistic conditions. What we end up with is that “efficiency” is a much more incomplete thought that most people treat it. As an idea, it is a component of a direction more than a solution. Continue Reading…

DC inauguration 2013In his inauguration speech, President Obama dedicated some time to addressing the environmental contingent that was left out of the gamut of the election. In all of the months of campaigning and formal presidential debates, the topic of sustainability was a no-show, with both candidates staying away from a subject that could probably do little to help either of them when it came to the polls. While it was nice to see that the environment is still on the President’s radar screen, the pressures on the country’s budget and other issues currently claiming the main stage could still breed a healthy amount of skepticism for how much environmental legislation we will see in the President’s second term. Continue Reading…

parched corn fieldAs unfortunate and costly as the rash of American droughts is proving to be, the small silver lining is that more Americans are pairing these adverse effects with the possibility of a warming climate. While greater acceptance of climate change is a progressive step, it is not necessarily indicative of the following, and arguably more important, step of decisive and constructive actions that amount to meaningful change in stemming actions that contribute to a hotter planet. As we pace through an increasingly warm decade, the question remains of how much do we have to turn up the heat before we try and take ourselves out of the oven. Continue Reading…

With some exceptions, the learned, hard-working professionals of any industry usually wish that the American populace knew more about what they do and why they do it. Artists long for a time when a greater portion of the population to be schooled enough in art to join the larger discourse. Farmers and factory workers would take pride in more people having a first hand knowledge of what their daily routines require in order to arrive at the fruits of their labor that we all use. And architects, consistently claiming that few people understand what it is they actually do, struggle to communicate effectively with the vast majority of Americans.

Metrics provide a means of packaging and conveying professional, industry-specific knowledge to a non-professional public. I recently reflected on sustainability’s need for reassessing its means of communication and finding new ways to reach a broader audience in a positive way. Part of that transition can include further development of more sustainable metrics that condense large quantities of complicated information and inform a larger portion of our daily decisions. Continue Reading…

When it comes to building more sustainably, the time is now. A feasible rebuttal could be, “The time to build greener buildings has been every day for the past decade.” This would be true. However, the current conditions present a ripe opportunity for buildings with more ecological stewardship not only because building greener makes sense, but because we may be at a point where an advance in green building practices can make the most difference for the industry’s future growth.

But the construction market is strapped now? Precisely. Continue Reading…

New light bulbs[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]The signing of the federal budget for 2012 marked the latest effort by Republicans to forestall the coming legislation that will begin the phase out of the traditional incandescent bulb. The time and energy spent on debating a law that was signed into being 4 years ago under a Republican President exemplifies the misdirected focus of our elected officials not to mention their blatant disregard (or ignorance) of efficiency’s importance. Thankfully, their tribulations are unlikely to have any material effect on the movement that the forces of American capitalism have been welling behind for years now. Continue Reading…

Solar Power Costs Money[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]To date, the success of renewable energy production in the U.S. has been intrinsically tied to the availability of subsidies that help to make the younger and cleaner forms of power more financially competitive. As we near the end of 2011 the industry players are becoming antsy as the future of subsidized aid for renewables comes into question once again. An increasing public focus of trimming an ever-growing federal deficit, a stagnant job market and the financial woes of European economies on the other side of the Atlantic make for a challenging backdrop for the next phase of clean power. Will renewable energy fall into another trough of its historical boom-and-bust cycle or has its recent, successful years helped to cement itself into necessity in the greater American economy?

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fossil fuel power[tweetmeme source=”intercongreen”]Few would dispute the need for due attention given to our antiquated energy infrastructure. Whether it be generation, transmission or coordinating both with end use, our current efforts are decidedly piecemeal and moving at a pace far slower than what is necessary for not only a more efficient, but a much cleaner grid. While government subsidy programs have helped renewable energy markets achieve impressive year over year growth rates, our combined renewable portfolio still only accounts for around 12.7% of all of the electricity our country uses. We need a new national model that helps wane us off of (and eventually close) fossil fuel power sources while simultaneously spurring a more substantial construction and research of renewable energy options. Continue Reading…