Rocky Mountain Institute

Carbon Free Buildings Initiative

The Growth in the use of the word “must’ has become notable as a belief in something that is certain Examples in use are we must:

  • Construct only zero-carbon buildings
  • Retrofit 5% of buildings annually
  • Ensure electric and efficient appliances

Note the increased use of the Future Perfect Tense in response to “must.”  Examples are by 2030 we will:

  • Retrofit large numbers of existing buildings to be all-electric, grid-interactive, and efficient.
  • Create building industry platforms to support technology dissemination, supply chain development, and business-led interventions.
  • Raise public awareness of health and climate costs of fossil fuels in buildings.
  • Design and advocate for carbon-free building policies in 20 key US states representing 70% of direct gas use.

The Secret Life of Materials

Goals Leading to Design and Construction Choices

Objective: Percent reduction embodied carbon in building materials

The following resources offered by RMI address specific performance specification, use of sensors on time, money, material, circularity in recycling, sequestration, and technology

Low-Cost, High-Value Opportunities to Reduce Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Giving America’s Infrastructure a Clean Start

Concrete Solutions Guide

Reducing Embodied Carbon in Buildings

Policies Leading to Projects and Priorities

The US Federal Government Takes the Lead on Low Embodied Carbon Buildings

U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) approved a series of procurement principles to shift to low embodied carbon building materials and approaches.

Colorado Passes Embodied Carbon Legislation

The bill requires the office of the state architect and the department of transportation to establish policies that include the maximum acceptable global warming potential for specific categories of construction materials.

Don’t Look Up

It wasn’t mortifying George, it was liberating! www.monbiot.com

For every concerned adult, it is the same old story and it can cause emotional collapse.

“I was reminded of my own mortifying loss of control on Good Morning Britain in November. It was soon after the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow, where we had seen the least serious of all governments (the UK was hosting the talks) failing to rise to the most serious of all issues. I tried, for the thousandth time, to explain what we are facing, and suddenly couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears on live TV.”

Losing It Posted: 10 Jan 2022 02:20 AM PST. Following is what reminded him of tragic pointless action.

The incredulous air of a planet death film. We die slow, so duh! The planet can too. ACT!

How do you process bad news? What is your sense of urgency? Have a look at: “My Represent Us Story,” and the “Unbreaking America” video with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Silver. Nearly two million people saw it by February 2019.

The following 12 minutes is the answer.

It has succeeded west coast and northeast. Our friends in Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansaw, Missouri, and all over the South are working. Are you? It is just 12 minutes. Get the verticle line answer.


Planning Hazard

Other than the occasional declaration of a national park, housing produces the largest demand for land. Land acquisition and regulation in the public interest for urban development and renewal, on theother is one of the hottest buttons ever legislatively produced and upheld as law. It may be time to rework this established foundation for managing new challenges aimed at sustaining the welfare of the nation and its people.

The impact of climate change on real estate development has stimulated anticipation of a new combination of eminent domain rights and land-use zoning useful in de-stimulating investment by location. This authority, however, will follow, not lead new industry trends focused on climate impacts. New price-mechanism led by mortgage bank lending and insurance company practices are rapidly reshaping the regulatory environment.

Hazard Assessment

The heightened assessment of climate impacts has begun. It will alter state and local protection of the nation’s watershed. The question is will it be in the interest of the general welfare. The wilderness urban interface will be focused on fire and flooding hazards more sharply than ever. The four early indicators examined here are instructive of two possibilities. First is whether an up from the grassroots leadership will emerge with effective, replicable legislative solutions. Second, whether obstructions to an effective national land-use policy will reduce the plausibility of a timely response.

  1. Recently U.S. Congress introduced legislation to require the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to provide rules for finance disclosures examining climate change impacts. (here) and pubic responses (here). Federal legislation lacks consensus as  law makers remain willing to “wait it out” leaving the hazard guess work to the industries involved.
  2. The Federal Housing Finance Agency also has published a Request for Information for public input on this topic and collected numerous responses (pdf here)
  3. The Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB)(here), is an international consortium of businesses and NGOs, who publish annual guidance on accounting for climate risk in financial statements. The CDSB has yet to establish a “risk-standard” useful for the protection people in flood hazard areas.
  4. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maintains Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) identify Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). SFHAs are into divided into different flood insurance rate zones based on the magnitude of the flood hazard.

Hazard Awareness

While the legislators seek consensus, federal agencies request public input, and the international community struggles to lead, we find FEMA. It is a post-trauma agency. Their maps often are out of date regarding the ongoing production of single-family housing by an average of five years. Why? The maps establish plans for disaster readiness. They have an indirect influence on local land use and zoning policies. In this regard, FEMA estimates that thirteen million people in the United States (2020) — four percent of the population — live in SFHAs, the high flood-risk areas. On the other hand, The National Insurance Journal research identified 29 million flood risk properties outside the official flood zones (here).

About one million single-unit structures are part of the 1.5 million built in the United States each year (pdf here). The demand for housing still connects directly to flood-hazard areas. A mortgage and insurance may not be available; however, development loans will continue based on off-site collateral. The onus of risk by the occupants has accepted policy. What is becoming a concern is due to the growing number of households willing to be a risk yet require a public response.

David Burt is the founder of Delta Terra Capital, a climate risk intelligence agency aimed at institutional investors. In his testimony submitted to the Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis (3.20.21), he wrote:

“the damages to residential real estate will be roughly .85% per year, 58% higher than the amount collected by insurers to cover it.”

The risk assessment shared with large investor clients is vastly different than that shared with Joe Public looking for a house. See the deep end data drill down using Freddie Mac STACR 2020-DNA6 Credit Risk Transfer (CRT) securitization. (here).

Get Examples

The following example of the public response to addressing flood-hazard risk involves six watersheds west of the Hudson River in New York State. Funding combining city, state, and federal sources began in 2011 following the flood impact of Hurricane Sandy and more recent impacts such as the extreme rainfall of Hurricane Ida. The NYS watershed environments provide fresh, forest-cleaned water to over twenty million people without filtration. As a result, Flood-hazard analysis and related climate change impacts have become vital to the retention and resilience of this resource.

The Local Flood Analysis Program (LFA) served fourteen municipal areas preparing mitigation plans. The Stream Management Implementation Program (SMIP) examined design/construction activities, regulating implementation through a Local Flood Hazard Mitigation Implementation Program (LFHMIP). While voluntary, the City-Funded Flood Buyout Program (FBO) provides at-risk property holders with eligibility for a FEMA buy-out as well as assistance for those not eligible. In addition, New York implemented two other programs to engage the public and professionals with long-range planning with public funding. These are the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program and the Sustainable Communities Planning Program.

Data is requested on Hazard Assessment, Awareness, and Local Examples and the connection to housing affordability: (initial locational sources in NYS (here).

Rainfall Flooding

“Hurricane Ida devastatingly impacted our area, the urgency to understand this kind of threat and determine the risk it poses became abundantly clear.”

RPA

Use the link below to see a full version of this map and the article. A strategy to protect the community from the likelihood of more intense rainfall is available now. Question the integrity of the E21 Street catch basins due to recent construction. (E21 Post) This is a reasonable first step. Would you explore Portal 311 (here) on this issue?


Source: RPA Measuring Flood Risk in New York City Housing and Basements

About 180,000 small residential buildings in NYC are vulnerable to rainfall flooding – 168,000 have basements, 123,000 below grade. In addition, the community is susceptible to “nuisance flooding,” however, the city’s data is incorrect regarding the “below grade” data.

Issue: The community has been made more vulnerable due to concrete and other material dumping into the catch basins at Kenmore and Albemarle. As the map suggests nuisance and deep flooding surround the historic structures of the community, along with new multi-story construction. An investigation may be needed. Mitigation may be essential. However, AKNA, the school, and whatever the new Church-Bedford site will yield ad “development” would likely be at the lower end of a very long list of remediation actions under the heading of flooding resiliency for this city. Assurances are needed with all new construction.

A 311 Portal is available to call out this problem. A good first step has been to question the data. Note the new build (existing and proposed) is not on the map, and second, call out trouble with the catch basins on the East 21st. Street and wherever you see a problem. I have observed three dumping acts that could have compromised catch basins along E21 Street. They were, 1) during construction of the new building on E. 21st. 2) during construction on Albemarle Terrace and 3) during sidewalk repairs along with the Dutch Reform Church. Only the new E21 construction was reported.

Take a Moment to Examine the Big Picture

Focus on Priorities

The Climate Requirement (II)

The current public investment scheme is labeled the American Jobs Plan (here). A primary purpose of jobs through the proposed infrastructure framework is a contract to build or rebuild something. But, unfortunately, what Congress has written is a catalog of pointlessness entitled “The Same Old Story.”

Every urban planner and economist must recognize this public investment proposal as a misallocation disaster. An effective plan for jobs that includes resilience must include unbuilding. Without a deconstruction approach, the commission to ‘build back better” is a vulnerable policy offering little more than sustainable corruption. The single reason for this is not merely old story politics. It is the ridiculous relic of state boundaries represented.

The Infrastructure Framework establishes a bias towards known projects like roads and bridges because they are profitable for the builders. The environmental benefits are, at best, arguable. At worst, an acceptance that nothing changes but the slices of bacon. Positive results require decades to measure, not terms of office. The addition of jobs will be meaningless if the same world is rebuilt for future generations. The serious problem is not choosing new things to do but stopping what we have done.  Here is an example.

Sources of U.S. Electricity Generation – 2020

Based on 4.12 trillion kilowatt-hours in 2020

Electric vehicles will run on coal and gas. Not including nuclear power, fifty-nine percent of the electricity generated for electric vehicles is from fossil fuel. Add a source of dangerous radiation, and the percentage rises to 79%. However, two positive factors are possible.  The first is a centralized source of production capable of a conversion to clean sources. The second is revealed in the basic lessons learned by making room for human-powered vehicles.

The Alternatives are Coming

A straightforward, low-cost green infrastructure policy would be to re-imagine and re-invest in existing rights of way through deconstruction alongside effective investments in social change. For example, the goal demanded by the Climate Requirement (here) is to create fast, efficient mobility services to high-value locations. Its achievement is fueled by investing in infrastructure that leads to social change. The foundation that will help demand this kind of investment is to confirm an inherent human right to the freedom of movement. The objective to prove progress in achieving this goal is to provide more choices in ways to move.

Planners and economists recognize the high value of places created by service concentrations in dense urban settings. For instance, technological cultures, university campuses, health facilities, and business hubs serve large regions with highly prized specializations. In addition, the economic demand for these goods and services is strong enough to produce transit centers linking multiple forms of movement. An effective green plan would recognize the high value of city-center to city-center mobility by recognizing well-established competitive differences. The problem is identifying the high cost of free parking due to the sheer expense of dependence.

The “center-to-center” specializations are not limited to dense urban settings offering high-value services. Effectively re-imagined, a similar place to place destination service could include access to a world of forest trails, lakes, and natural environments. Trips lasting hours, days, or weeks for recreation provide the nourishment that only large open spaces can provide when untouched by private vehicles.

Making it Persuasive

  • Creating fast, efficient mobility services to high-value locations provides for the management of human environmental impacts. But, more importantly, managing that investment includes where public funds are not allowed. Examples are along river basins and their flood plains, green fields used for food production, forest and wildlife habitats, even the simple pleasure clean natural sources of water.
  • The USA benefits from biodiversity. However, infrastructure is the primary driver of habitat destruction. To reduce conflict, a creative, re-crafting of American transportation is far more than saving a species of butterfly. It is about bringing lives of quality to future generations who will meet the challenge of living in new ways.
  • The builders of structures in low-density environments between city centers will recognize a significant center-to-center investment policy as a threat. For example, there are fifteen transit-linked places between Boston and New York. A federal, regionally structured infrastructure strategy will offer “as is above, as is below” resources designed to produce fast, efficient transit services within these sub-regional centers.
  • High-speed linkages between NYC, Boston, Newark, Washington DC, and Philadephia have similar links. A stop at Newark could have the same connections planned for communities throughout N.J.  Transit sizing existing roadways would link an range of neighborhood downtowns where the same degree of specialization could occur between small businesses, local cultural offerings along the shore, and into the hills of the Garden State.
  • Supply-side incentives and demand-side subsidies would illustrate how to increase value by undoing a long list of practices that will weaken reinvestment in the decades ahead. The policy does not threaten low-densities, it produces a powerful center-to-center alternative.
Amtrak’s Proposed Northeast Corridor NextGen High-Speed Rail Lines in 2040

The basic transit example is an undoing of single-purpose roadways designed to serve everything everywhere using cars and trucks. Instead, a federally led regional infrastructure plan offers a competitive alternative.

The stylized map above shows comfortable high-speed rail through the region. A similar approach can produce clean energy, water, and fresh food. It does not directly undo what is being done, but it establishes a competitively new way to Transit-based living with a few practical examples. Yet, without a national policy, that is all they will become. Creating more center-to-center choices utilizing the well-understood functions of regions can sustain the quiet life of low-density neighborhoods while providing unlimited opportunities for growth through density.

Deep-End

The reshaping of the urban landscape is a high priority. Therefore, it should not be surprising that organizations focused on changing will come from Infrastructure.org for a complete review of everything capable of changing the roadway. You can find insight into a simple question: Will the infrastructure bill 2021 make my subway/train service better? This article from a transit specialist in Portland, OR will show you how very hard that will be to discover (here). Or from Streetsblog.org this comic gem on the deep-end mess of the car culture. Voting is closed, but have a look (hither).

The transformation of roadways into multiple vehicle service corridors began in post-war Europe.  The fastest way to establish a sense of this right-of-way change is by watching three short videos on how the bicycle transformed three cities. Next, I included a look at the deep end involving hundreds of other vehicles. Finally, I selected a few to examine the potential of small vehicles in dense urban settings.

Amsterdam

Groningen

Utrecht

Other Payload Alternatives

Citroen Ami 

Renault Twizy

Point A to B

All of them demand smooth roads. More data on the long-term savings accused to their management and maintenance. Stumble through the following. Somewhere, there must be a thread of principle in the following:

The Climate Requirement I

Dr. Christopher Jones is a UC Berkeley professor and the CoolClimate Network director. Like many who have examined the climate crisis thoroughly, he has told everyone the truth. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand. In other words, we know what to do. However, a more helpful definition of the problem is to find out why global implementation will not occur.

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation.

EPA

After a half-century of work by esteemed scientists, the self-interest paradox continues to allow thousands of successful micro-projects to be funded. Yet, simultaneously, the implementors consistently agree to a global failure. Despite tangible micro-efforts and these life-affirming successes, it seems the global breakdown is not regulatory, nor is it architectural or engineering. It is not due to the inadequate investment in technology or the lack of enforcement. The truth is far more fundamental. 

The fossil fuel industry membership passively accepts global action on climate change, the barometric bomb, and a rapidly spinning climate-change roulette wheel. As a strategic business decision, it is well outside of tactical public controls. Perhaps a nonstrategic approach is a better accessory to the required response of science to law. After all, since the first crack of lightning threw Homo sapiens to the ground, wind, rain, and thunder have been given a numinous heading. A bow to the Gods is not the answer.

Now that the idea of sustainability is lost, what is being done? First, the psychology of resilience is supported as a hedge on all standing and proposed real-estate assets. Second, four business drivers provide an evaluative framework for daily decisions. These monitor 1) regulatory changes, 2) litigation trends, 3) technological transformations, and 4) specified barriers linked to market operations associated with climate change. Third, these steps involve advanced practices associated with large businesses undergoing consolidation against significant dislocation threats and climate risk. The top example involves the operations of 20 fossil fuel companies linked to a third of all GHG emissions in the modern era. With precise data, the mysterious Doppelgänger of Climate Change is presented. The climate requirement is to grapple with this knowledge.

We are not in the presence of weather as an expression of divinity – it’s twenty fuel companies.

Fingers and Toes Solution

A fingers-and-toes acquisition can reset reinvestment patterns to 100% clean energy. This is not a radical step. According to Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute, as Matthew Taylor and Jonathan Watts reported for The Guardian, twelve of the 20 companies are state-owned. Climate accountability is possible because the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.

Actual climate impact costs are embedded in evasion processes. They are challenging to discuss openly due to the presumption of confidential business information and its exposure. The solution at hand is an eminent domain-style acquisition of the industry. Acquiring one-third of the industry would eliminate the complaint of unstandardized metrics within and across GHG-producing fossil fuel industries. The global acquisition resolves the data obfuscation problem and reduces portfolio risk factors associated with environmental and social issues. A global taking of just one-third of the industry is possible as mitigation today, as it is inevitable and dispositive. The requirement is to force recognition of three facts. The problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand.

Fingers

The global and national policy framework states all people live with risk. That policy includes recognizing a scale that exhibits risk levels by location, occupation, socioeconomic conditions, and many other factors. This, too, is an evasion process. The actuarial tables are available to anyone capable of conducting a premium price check by zip code. In a grueling process, a team of public-interest research individuals can work with web-crawling sites such as Policy Genius to analyze sophisticated pricing that obscures the public cost.

Toes

The American Risk and Insurance Association (ARIA) is a worldwide group of leaders in insurance risk management. Reading the “walking papers” of the two presenters tells a story between the lines in their 2019 Annual Meeting presentation entitled: Rethinking Risk and Resiliency (here). Large swaths of the country are not hazard insured. FEMA, the national guard, and other public entities are the single-payer in this system. The federal and state agencies are the ones who will be called to that number on the roulette wheel in response to a hazard. In all cases, the response will be too little, post-trauma, neatly administered under the Grace of God policy banner regarding your place on the climate change roulette wheel.

Solution

Once again, the problem is well defined, conditions are critical, and a global solution is at hand when research (here) proves that 20 fossil fuel companies account for 480 billion tons of GHGs, representing 35% of carbon emissions since 1965. Yet, as the climate continues to collapse, the current policy allows individuals to perish alone in that notch on the roulette wheel. Next, it will be whole neighborhoods and island nations. It is a trend. Searching for research papers on the subject reveals how and why public policy is weak. One of those papers will be found here.

The climate requirement is clear. Conduct an appropriate remix on the mathematics and the mysterious. Some insight into the remix issue is (here). It is an examination concerning how people live is about where they live. Added motivation on this point is (here) the issue of fire and the stumbling leadership in architecture (here) that includes a modest pitch for hope from Peter Calthorpe.

On the other hand, this new assignment has aimed at the writers, videographers, policy wonks, and activists regarding the existential crisis handed to succeeding generations. Thank all of you for sharing (here).

Climate Central

Changes in weather or global averages in sea levels and temperature from year to year are popular tangents for discussion but only as useful as a local sports talk show. The real news is how improvements in energy generation demanded by the dense urban environment are now responsible for most GHG emission reductions. However, the motivation to change urban conditions in response to climate change remains weak, but envisioning tools by Climate Central that show logical sea rise levels is a step foward.

RLC

The threat alone is not enough. The word “climate” is also used to define a human relations condition of importance in community development. For example, New York City produced 48.02 million tons from all energy sources to reflect a 19% reduction from 2004 to 2013 in three main categories. The main GHG producers are buildings plus street lighting, transportation of all kinds, GHGs connected to urban wastewater treatment, city landfills, and solid waste removal out of the city categorized as fugitive.

climate

Solutions come from the urbanization of energy.

Cities are effective at measuring and then decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) into the atmosphere. The urban focus on energy varies by economic sector and social choice. The choice of fuels that reduce carbon intensity remains economic. However, the lack of choice in controlling external factors is the most problematic. External factors that control the amount of energy needed are population growth by location and the weather in “degree days.” Still, the distinctions between energy and its users are diminishing rapidly for the first time in human history.  Energy use includes the ability to visualize a set of futures based on fact.  The presentation below is not sophisticated climate science. The elevation above sea level is “a,” and the sea-level rise or a storm surge is “b” a long list of coastal cities will have seawater as predicted.

The political readiness for the advent of a new ocean/human/earth “oneness.” is the most disconcerting due to the “fear itself” effect.  The extreme sea level via a vision reveals more than the risks. It exhibits the lack of capacity for a public decision-making process in a privately-held world.  The hidden data involves changes in value. The effect can go one of two ways.  It can push every investor of every square foot into climate change denial for the lack of any other plan, or it can draw every investor into a plan with the capacity to confront the paralysis embedded in such projections.

Given these conditions, the demand for an evidence-based, performance-measured, and outcome-driven protocol that can reach the local need for global effect is now an indispensable policy requirement. People can understand basic units for analysis such as building floor area and total population and apply a per unit/per capita analysis to provide a reliable basis for trend and regression analysis. Energy coefficients established during study periods help determine the change in carbon intensity for each energy source in each sector to yield the percentage of each source contributing to the GHG inventory.

While dense urban cities are the largest producers overall, they offer the best environment for protocol analysis and comparison among all other resilience/mitigation measures that may have an impact on global conditions. Three “get started” sources are here:

  1. GPC – Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  2. LGOP – Local Government Operations Protocol
  3. Climate Central – Download the free Surging Seas CRS Guide

Density Favorites

Our one purpose is to participate in a forum on the complexity of urban density and examine its makers worldwide. In the research for Density, we are reading hundreds of websites, books, and articles. Most are online.  We are not stepping completely away from the dead tree press, but new opportunities are exposed with more than one thing in hand at a time. This is wide open network team. Privacy remaing permanent. Expectations are listed below.

RLC
  1. The objectives implied by this purpose will require the expertise of many contributors with various skills and thousands of locations. For example, the development and use of KML code will add an important online function.
  2. Our team envisions regionally and city-based writers willing to establish a long-term research effort on opportunities created by urban density, The product will describe the problems density helps to solveby analyzing issues, various approaches, and action ideas.
  3. The partnership aims to produce a continuous, worldwide exploration of dense urban environments’ successes (or failures).
  4. Additional excerpts from a working draft of Density includes an offer to join in developing this “partnership project.”
  5. Begin by sending an inquiry below or for a different approach on the policies and politics of Density see Writers Wanted


Posts: New to Old

The White Chair
Michael Wolf The White Chair Prompt The photographer's relationship to architecture equips us with a possibility — an agreement of care for the immense impact of density on human life. …
Road Density
The Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) dataset describes 60 geospatial datasets on road infrastructure worldwide, covering 222 countries and over 21?million?km of roads. The dataset is split into 5 types: …
Urban Mobility
Artists of various urban futures are fond of envisioning the easy movement of people and goods as a visually exciting urban benefit. We see crowded, yet free-flowing shoulder-to-shoulder sidewalks, sweeping …
Evacuation
Don't run, just know where to go. The zones vary Most observers know from experience that the low cost of land and lower population densities occur from the center of …
Create 2,000 Dense Places
I have a plan for 2,000 dense urban places, with 20,000 people each connected to high-speed communication systems. Each is an urban core offering specific opportunities for unlimited growth in a …
Seven Declarations
Declarations develop an emotional capacity for change on behalf of family and community, a town or city, a state and nation, province and commonwealth. The following declarations describe qualities of …
The Unlimited Inside
Unrestrained Outside & Unlimited Insides. How does density save the wilderness, support sustainable agriculture, and do not harm purpose?  If the problem is defined within the global colonization and destruction …
Networks
Human cognitive mapping abilities are well documented. The addition of GPS devices to this research yield maps of everything that moves in the urban world among the stuff that doesn't …
Limited Expansiveness
Sirius, 2006, by Lita Albuquerque, photo by Jean de Pomereu (Domus) From 1800 to 2000, planning, engineering, and architecture, served to create a vast expansion of the urban world. It …
Zoning GHG
New York City's newest set of proposed zoning changes will re-write rules to remove impediments to constructing and retrofitting buildings in every land use. The objective: reduce urban energy consumption and …

Posts: Old to New

Earthdays
Metro = Megacity/Megacorp + OBDCEarthday, urban land use, and management in the 21st century Without a national land-use …
Planet of Cities
This history of human settlements is a story of continuous growth and increasing urban densities that reduce per …
One Bryant Park
In thoughtful research reporting, the requirement, to sum up, should become a higher priority. In Skyscrapers and the …
Zoning GHG
New York City's newest set of proposed zoning changes will re-write rules to remove impediments to constructing and retrofitting …


    Van der Ryn and Cowan

    Challenging smart-growth-talk has seemed impotent until recently. Perhaps this is why it might change.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ecological-Design.png

    A decade ago, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan contrasted sustainability defined technologically and ecologically in their book Ecological Design. They pointed to the hubris embedded in the tech-solution approach unless it was fully tethered by how David W. Orr describes the higher priority of ecological principles. (See one through four below.) Technology is zero-sum +(but not net-zero) when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change.

    • First, people are finite and fallible. The human ability to comprehend and manage scale and complexity has limits. Thinking too big can make our human limitations a liability rather than an asset. (Citicorp, AIG, and the rest…)
    • Second, a sustainable world can be redesigned and rebuilt most successfully from the bottom up. Locally self-reliant and self-organized communities are the building blocks for change. (something that every small successful business knows well)
    • Third, traditional knowledge that co-evolves out of culture and place is a critical asset. It needs to be preserved, restored, and used. (duh, the 2008 election)
    • Fourth, the true harvest of evolution is encoded in nature’s design. Nature is more than a bank of resources to draw on: it is the best model we have for all the design problems we face. (climate change is as more message as measure)

    Technology is zero-sum when placed in a priority higher than these four principles of real change. The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et. al) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous. The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:

    The position of Sustainable America by John Dernbach (et al.) is direct: Sustainable development will make the US livable, healthy, secure, and prosperous.  It was published on January 12, 2009. One can order from Island Press here. For more information, See Dernbach’s website. See “Booksand papers for lists.

    The book runs through 28 areas of human behavior that need to change using 100 actions taken within five to ten years and thematically summarized as follows:

    1. Ecological footprint system integration
    2. Greenhouse gas reduction programs
    3. Stimulate employment for unskilled persons in environmental protection and restoration
    4. Stimulate NGOs to play a major role
    5. Organize government initiatives using sustainability principles to prioritize
    6. Expand options for sustainable living choices to consumers
    7. The advancement of public and formal education to higher levels
    8. Strengthen environmental and natural resources law
    9. Lead international efforts on behalf of sustainable development
    10. Systematically improve access to data for decision making

    Planning Together: Part III

    carbon dioxide equivalent in metric tons per square foot, per year

    Two forces are at work in the continuing creation of NYC.  First-force is energy aimed toward “centers.” Second-force moves outward and away from its centers.  Implementing the Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) is an interesting example using a comprehensive urban planning perspective of both. The centers are locations where there are buildings with more than 25,000 square feet in NYC.  The force is generated by a global condition demanding a reduction in GHGs. The focus is on large urban centers within large metropolitan cities.

    RLC-OCCUPY

    xxx

    The CMA requires building owners to contribute to meeting the 80/50 goal.

    By 2050 NYC will reduce GHG’s to 80% of current levels.


    First-Force

    If the legislation passes, the first milestone in the ten-year LTCP will be the City Report’s Conditions (COC). The narrative will draw on the ongoing objective, measurable data that City agencies generate every year over the last five years and punch it into the COC. The COC focus on long-term issues as embedded in the data concerning long-term planning and sustainability will have to face the Climate Mobilization Act’s impact.

    Suddenly the Climate Mobilization Act marches into the room from 2021 to 2024 with compliance requirements through 2029. If there were anything like a 1,300-pound Grizzly in community planning, it would be every building owner in the community with square footage over 25,000 square feet yelling, “the investment in energy efficiency, for the reduction of GHGs, will cost the community jobs and displace residents.”

    The law says tenants will be protected, but we are in a buyer beware world. The following was set from “deepdive

    “When the act originally passed last year, owners of buildings where rent-regulated units make up less than 35% of the total were given an alternate path to compliance due to what officials called “outdated” rent laws in New York State. That path allowed landlords to pass the cost of building upgrades to tenants by charging for major capital improvements through higher rents.”

    “Then in July, the state-level Housing Stability and Tenant Protections Act of 2019 altered how such improvements can be imposed by only allowing rent increases for rent-stabilized units if they make up 35% or more of the units in a building. While this adjustment saves tenants from having the costs of capital improvements and retrofits passed on to them, some councilmembers worried about landlords’ ability to absorb those costs themselves.”

    Elected officials said while more established landlords can likely take on the costs for improvements like HVAC and lighting upgrades. Still, those who manage smaller buildings may not be able to, especially as the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has affected their rental incomes.”

    Residential building owners will see it as a perfect opportunity to displace tenants through major capital improvements with added harassment efforts. Major Capital Improvement (MCI) and careless rule enforcement allow building owners to raise rents on the unsuspecting. Documented abuses in monthly MCI rent hikes over $800 per apartment are well-known and feared.

    Is it possible to imagine that the plan that eliminates jobs doesn’t matter because the people who have them will be displaced anyway? A counter-measure is available if the focus on the green economy is on jobs. The data is available in jobs from the production of a net-zero supply-chain to the production of well-educated people in the universities NYC has to offer. (See list)

    Whether that ridiculous scenario occurs or is more likely in some neighborhoods than others, the Climate Change crisis is that Grizzly in the long term. It has the capacity to push aside all the other issues, education, transportation, public health, arts and culture, economic development, zoning, and land use.

    Set by climate policy, the Climate Mobilization Act’s implementation priority will focus on projects that involve about 50,000 buildings in this category, about 2,500 have a million square feet or more. NYC’s Open Data portal has an example Building Footprints to illustrate that the city can be super-square-foot smart on a building by building basis.

    The GHG reduction goal is a force applied from the outside toward these locations. The impact on sales and acquisitions in real estate markets for all land uses old, new, and proposed will be significant. The buildings are known and mapped. This is where defining the second-force comes into play.

    An old example of a first-force, “center-inward,” and a second-force “center-outward” impact was global thermal nuclear war and auto-technology.  The policy was to spread out urban life, leaving energy-efficient public transit systems behind and in decay. The priority was to produce the massive growth promised in an auto-driven economy.  Hey, it looked great for a long time, but now hundreds of articles available from the GBC and elsewhere talk about the lack of balance in this policy.

    Second-Force

    The building owners and communities involved and informed by the Climate Mobilization Act will be encouraged to understand its requirements. These reactions to a problem will occur outwardly from the lawmakers who know stuff to ordinary people who haven’t been told and may never know.

    The conduct required involves analyzing existing energy use, building condition, and capacity for financing implementation. Depending on the community, facility projects will either fail or comply with their carbon emissions reduction to 26% by 2024 – 2029.  The Green Building Council (GBC) here provides details.  The structures involved are organized by space classification, and fines and penalties for non-compliance may not be significant.  A good example is the Empire State Building will have to pay $1.25 million as a fine for failure.  See story, The New York Times

    SEED

    Poorly defined second-forces can include the displacement of low- and moderate-income households in rapidly complying and gentrifying NYC neighborhoods due to the well-known impact of “major capital improvements.”. A well-funded outreach and community planning process is needed to get beyond the dubious effect of fines. Assured compliance with Social, Economic, and Environmental Design (SEED) and the LEED nod to this issue is essential. The SEED Evaluator and certification framework establishes social, economic, and environmental goals for building projects to measure success. Buildings are the major contributor to global warming. Still, the people of dense cities such as NYC are the low per capita energy users.  The people in the buildings (residents and workers) should have a higher value than the buildings.

    The lessons of displacement are throughout the United States.
    I urge you to hear Colette Pichon Battle. What she knows now, we need to know.

    The Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy and Colette Pichon Battle’s work raises awareness on equitable disaster recovery, migration, economic development, climate justice, and energy democracy. Climate change is not the problem. It is a symptom of a more significant system problem the American people must address. TED presentation (here).

    The NYC Zoning Resolution is now open for business as a negotiating tool.  Mandated inclusion to subsidize rental housing is the most recent example.  A mandated subsidy drawn from the energy savings produced could be used to prevent displacement and sustain affordability.  A therm saved is one earned. The thing is, there is no negotiation with a rising ocean, only the duty to protect all people from all the forms of displacement it will cause.

    Exposure to all the wiggle room (cash savings for wealth owners) could help line up social justice and equity goals with needed compliance. For example, Local Law 84  mandates benchmarking and disclosure of energy use.  However, it exempts buildings with 10%+ (really, seriously) floor space devoted to data centers, trading floors, or broadcast studios.  No Energy Star score is required because disclosing a terrible energy use intensity (EUI) is awful PR. Example abound in this arena of the wiggle.

    LEED

    Carbon offsets are allowed. Purchasing unlimited renewable energy credits (RECs), also known, can reduce reported emissions for electricity.  A citywide emissions trading scheme (ETS) focused on greenhouse gas emissions will come up in 2021 and so on.  Every dime should turn into an anti-displacement dollar for one reason — the law outlines “guidelines” most of the specifics have yet to be reconciled. And, in addition to Local Law 97, the Climate Mobilization Act includes other laws:

    Local Laws 92 & 94 – Green Roofs & Solar PV: Requiring green roofs solar PV systems on specific new construction and renovation projects.

    Local Law 95 – Building Labeling: Adjusting metrics used for letter grades assessing building energy performance.

    Local Law 96 – PACE: Establishing clean energy financing tools for building owners

    Local Law 98 – Wind Energy: Obliging the Department of Buildings to include wind energy generation in its toolbox of renewable energy technologies.

    Thankfully, there are resources to help building owners navigate this evolving regulatory landscape. The NYC Retrofit Accelerator supports building owners’ efforts to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency. (calculator) At the state level, NYSERDA has several programs geared towards putting buildings on the path to energy efficiency.

    Voluntary nonprofits are gaining traction to assist institutions with the measurement tasks for a price. A good example is CRIS — The Climate Registry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) measurement, reporting, and verification platform, accessible at https://www.cris4.org. This tool is used by The Climate Registry (TCR) reporting members, TCR-recognized Verification Bodies, and the general public to measure and/or communicate the carbon impacts of organizations of all sizes across all sectors.

    Part IV or back to Index

    Part IV applies to New York City neighborhoods and is available: here

    Housing and Climate

    Tweets from housing advocacy groups warned of the 2008 Recession for five years (here). They see another housing crisis forming in America caused by raising public awareness. It is about how equity was kept away from people by Americans against themselves. It is an issue defined by the nation’s 400 hundred-year heritage of enslavement, cold, racist terrorism, and bigotry. These facts also describe the world’s history, but it is the U.S. Constitution that had some ideas about how moral people could change immoral societies.

    RLC – OCCUPY

    Housing is Equity

    Problems that hurt people and go undefined and unanswered create a climate for authoritarian solutions. The often-told answer is an old retort of hard work, healthy homes, communities, and families. The response is correct but blind to the history of privileges extended to white America as it became the United States. For centuries rights and freedoms were extended to all people. Yet, policymakers made denial of pathways to equity routine. The bias crime barred the accumulation of wealth from property to serve succeeding generations. The quiet yet insidious reduction and denials of opportunity from education are proven. The lack of equity is significant.

    Over a half-century has passed since the idea of forming nonprofit housing development corporations was established by concerned residents and city officials. In Brooklyn and throughout New York City, this emergent network of housing rights advocates works as nonprofit partners with housing developers drawing on various financial mechanisms to defend low- and moderate-income households from the myth of “market rate” access to housing. Formed in the early 1970s, the Association of Neighborhood Housing Developers (ANHD) initially sought to bring equity to families by acquiring publicly owned (in rem) housing and converting it to various local ownership structures. The idea began during the great wave of housing vacancy and abandonment that started in the 1950s that destroyed entire neighborhoods. The pathway to equity remains narrow, easily recognized in the subtle name change of ANHD from developer to advocate. It is now the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (here).

    A public map listing of Brooklyn organizations is (here). One question is whether equity is created for low- and moderate-income households? Brooklyn’s housing rights and development organizations will struggle with the pandemic-stimulated crisis in rental housing. Yet, in this crisis, there is an opportunity to create new partnerships toward equity in housing because the issue is straight forward as this heading states:

    In the centuries that led to the rise of American hegemony, not one person, not W.E.B. DuBois or even Martin Luther King, fully articulated the loss of equity. The voice of Ta-Nehisi Coates is the most current (here). He stands on firm ground because the U.S. has participated in reparations six times. The seventh time should take a long hard look at housing as linked to the displacement challenges posed by climate change.

    Every problem is a housing location problem.

    Ending the Wherever Movement

    After WWII, localities keep a hold on the tail of the revenue bull while blind to the beast. As a result, in the last century, millions of households benefited from federal housing policies with only one location principle – housing wherever you want. However, in this new century reducing the mortgage interest subsidy on the demand side and weakening a long list of development incentives on the supply side has severely weakened federal leadership in housing preservation and development to continue the “build wherever” policy.

    A new housing crisis is in the air for reasons other than systemic racism in America. Every issue connects to a housing problem. For some time, the equity crisis re-establishes classicism under headings such as “culture wars,” but the results change little. The metaphor is weak. Using resilience principles, the facts on every “next disaster” can be different. Technology offers opportunities to build a broader coalition on equity with justice that includes race by correcting past wrongs yet moves forward to circumvent long-established rules of “divide to conquer.”

    The surge of affordable single-family housing in America continues in the hot wetlands of the south with periodic drought and the flat drylands of the south- and northwest with asymmetrical flash floods and fire. However, the onset of climate change will drown the wetlands, scorch and burn the drylands, and cause enormous disruptions in every region of the United States.

    Recurrence Denial

    Denying the annual recurrence of this possibility is a repudiation of science and a political endorsement of catastrophic resolution. I will not be surprised if we experience a bout of biblical pestilence in the narrative of the resistance to this long-term, permanent threat. Long before the direct links to climate change formed, the impacts of disastrous choices in land use development are rightly defined as “environmental racism” by pointing directly at the disproportionate number of low-and-moderate-income people losing equity. The damage and despair reveal a broad swath of painful historic bigotry, but now the dangers are thrown at everyone.

    The opportunity to write national housing policies occurs routinely. The 2020 decade began with unmet demand for five million new homes.

    The opportunity to write national housing policies occurs routinely. The 2020 decade began with unmet demand for five million new homes. It is possible to re-establish national housing development policies as the leading edge of a new strategy re-focused by climate protection. First, it can build on resources that combine restoration with resilience. Second, a new housing policy will create sustainable equity in communities. Finally, the procedures are in place to help people survive the hatred and bigotry injected into the threat of high water, drought, sickness, and fire.

    It is possible to re-establish national housing development policies as the leading edge of a new strategy. First, climate protection will be re-focused on resilience and restoration. Second, it will create sustainable equity in communities. Finally, long standing human rights policy will help people survive the hatred and bigotry far too quickly injected into the threat of high water, drought, and fire.

    Two Centuries Out

    Living way up in Maryland’s Appalachian blue ridge range, it is easy to find seashell fossils.  When a friend built a house up there, they removed a boulder covered in Trilobite fossils, and there was a shark tooth that said to me the sea was here for a very long time, and it will be back.

    The following summary of Tweets is from this site’s Tweet-O-Rama (July 2019.

    The idea of a summary is that it may be possible to find threads of principle in policy that alter pervasive opinions.

    One example is the purpose of a large national government.

    As a result, it will be possible to forge new policy from environmental protection as a national defense strategy forced by the bright light of survival and a much more severe focus on the big picture. I offer one example.

    The ocean’s tide can flow up and into the Great Appalachian Valley from Maine’s ports to South Carolina’s shores over the next few centuries. The ancient geological record proves it has been there before. Given a long-term view, getting ready should be a top priority. Preparation for this kind of “sea change” in all its meanings is the most critical action of this century (the original map as shown below is here). Issues like this are just the beginning:

    Hundreds of practical policies governing housing equity and location can be surmised with a review of the location of vulnerable households.

    The percentage of elderly who reside in coastal locations as provided by a Climate Central study.


    Take your pick of issues for building a constituency on housing development and location. If the Gulf of Mexico’s fate is an alga thickened swamp, we need policies for what that means. If the Pacific Ocean’s vast torrents alter the Gulf Stream, El Niño yields unsurvivable surface heat or hundreds of tornadoes and hurricanes. Not being ready is a super bad idea. Whether friendly or with horrible force, heed the words, “the water will come.” The plan seemed different when time itself became for sale, and that is not a surprise if you know how non-fungible tokens (NFT) and blockchains changed all financial transactions.

    Policy People

    Please enjoy looking at the national Tweet-O-Rama organizations focused on housing (here). With those thoughts in mind, it is logical to look at politics as a sport and as a practice that is now very different from the role of leadership that it implies. A growing number of elected national representatives now complain of a system of government that appears to ignore the will of the people.

    Buildings and Energy

    • Improve energy incentives in buildings by centralizing incentives. Update the State Energy Code swiftly and expedite “climate-friendly” projects. Prioritize energy efficiency initiatives for affordable housing.
    • The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) should be raised from 25% to 30%.
    • The Public Service Commission should be permitted to require time-of-use pricing, which allows the price of electricity to more closely track the actual cost of producing it on an hour-by-hour basis.
    • Provide incentives for installing a “smart meter” to allow for data exchange between the electricity provider and the customer’s electric meter.
    • Sub-metering should be required in all buildings to allow building owners to bill tenants for individual electric usage.
    • The State Energy Code should be amended to cover more building renovations; currently, only renovations that involve the replacement of 50% or more of a building’s subsystem must comply with the Code.
    • All new or substantially renovated school buildings should be required to meet green building standards.
    • Water and wastewater treatment plants should be required to adopt energy conservation requirements.
    • Reinstate the State Energy Planning Board

    Land Use

    • The State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations should be amended such that GHG emissions are considered for projects that are subject to it.
    • GHG emissions should be factored into local comprehensive plans.
    • Wind projects, including those offshore, should be encouraged and New York should adopt a statewide wind energy goal as part of its RPS requirement.

    Vehicles and Transportation

    • Continue to strive for a 10% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) below business as usual within 10 years; to this end, New York should initiate a VMT Task Force.
    • Consider imposing feebates on the purchase of new vehicles with low fuel economy and offer rebates on the purchase of vehicles with high fuel economy.
    • Encourage the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles.
    • Include Energy-saving vehicle maintenance techniques as part of the vehicle registration process.

    Additional recommendations

    • Encourage the expansion of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by promoting the adoption of an economy-wide cap on GHGs; in addition, consider lowering the existing cap.
    • Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology should be pursued provided that adequate federal funding is available.
    • Green workforce development should be promoted by enhancing educational and job training programs throughout the state.
    • Encourage the Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement to be aggressive in setting green specifications for certain goods that are purchased by State agencies.
    • Promote methane capture by requiring or encouraging it in all municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills.
    • Improve its floodplain mapping system by taking into account future sea level rise.

    New York State Bar Association Task Force on Global Warming reviewed New York’s existing laws and programs, including existing and pending federal laws regarding climate change.  The Task Force is chaired by Professor Michael Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law.  (Jan. 2009.)  The proposals are organized into four categories: buildings and energy, land use, transportation, and others. In addition, the following was edited from the Executive Summary excerpted in the Law of the Land blog.

    Embed Density

    highwater

    We live in a culture that embeds information and where the most important things tend to go unsaid. All of us put information into machines that will retrieve data on practically anything imaginable, from an alarm clock to an AI for more complex decision-making. Perhaps this will release the unsaid portions about the vital function of cities in human life.

    A recent Rolling Stone article by Jeff Goodell (Flooded City) does not make this point directly but exhibits its results with great clarity. Goodell talks about flooding in New York involving high or low ground impacts with storm surge or microburst variables. The unsaid stuff defines a vast combination of intellectual and architectural ramparts outlined as plans in various locations throughout New York City.

    A talking head presentation at the New America Civic Hall (9.15.16) proved to be very un-civic but managed to remain polite. All New Yorkers will look at a sea rise map, make a quick am “I in or out” assessment and log that in for a personal assessment of risk. Unfortunately, many of the people attending were either outside the lines. Those who were wet on the map had an obvious self-interest with the prospect of land poverty but could not express them over all the talk of the new walls, ramparts, bounded rationality, and cognitive dissonance presentation about investments in resilience.

    Promises

    I suggest how to escape the Chicken Little problems the “flooded city” approach creates. The last half of the American century has offered two promises (maybe three). The first is the promise to eliminate disadvantage as discovered by the individual, the family, community, and nation. The American vocabulary, literature, art, law, and architecture present an exquisite language born of the poetry and forums of each for change and communication. The framers of the Constitution strengthen us. We have been given the tools, created the space, and found ways to speak truth to power. We are skilled in dialogue. We remain encouraged by each battle for social justice and civil society. We are routinely encouraged to confront the world’s history in ways that will keep that promise alive.

    While not as refined, the second promise adds powerful new energy to the promise of eliminating disadvantage.  It is the promise of sustainability. From the Club of Rome to its reflective twenty-five-year reunion at the Smithsonian, a more accurate word, Resilience, now communicates the correct challenge and implies a variety of post-trauma conditions. We now deploy resilience officers throughout the world, but their task is not to look at high water and low land. The resilience mission is different – find ways to draw a line in the sand. It matters far less about where there will be high water until we know how to draw that line in the sand. There is no crystal ball. Pointing to facts is all that scientists can do. Describe where a part of the sky has fallen. Right now, that is more useful than why to avoid tragedy.

    rollingstonegoodell

    Historically, there is the “duck and cover” hedge and the old MAD way to a resilience challenge. The worldview of mutually assured destruction is also composed of private investors who are very active in their demand for public dollars to drive down risk. We need a much broader outline of ways to invest publically in resilience that may come down to clearly explaining the difference between the circle and the grid in urban design as we see it in the national highway system and the urban crisis.

    The content embedded in the promises leading to eliminating disadvantage through fairness and sustainability can help define the architecture presented as walls and ramparts that encircle something. In this design, there is an inside and an outside. Without injecting these two promises into the process, the design of the walls and ramparts will damage more than any violent fire or storm.

    Future articles and public discussions should take a lesson from Elizabeth Kolbert. Her extraordinary review of the science of global change over the last half-billion years defines our entry into the Anthropocene epoch, the knowledge of which might save us all.

    Elizabeth Kolbert is author of Pulitzer Prize-winning, The Sixth Extinction


    The Isle de-Jean Charles

    It is time to get dangerously practical about the local impact of global problems. I would apply the Isle de-Jean Charles Climate Change Refugees (video here) to a New York City example: The action taken in Louisiana occurred when they were down to the last two percent of their land. (get the untold story on the 98%). Can New York or any other city afford to set that standard or hedge that bet that way?

    Un-rough the math here,  $100 million in relocation funds for 20 households applied to the 35,000 families in, let’s say, Canarsie, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. The bill would come to $175 billion. Resettlement at 20HH/year would take a millennium. At 500 HH/year, the cost would be $2.5 billion/year, and it would take 70 years. So buy the property, strip it of its toxins, wait for the ocean to come and you have an artificial reef over the foundations, counter the acidity and make seafood.

    An investment of this kind protects the future. It would prevent the “land poverty” plan currently in play to reflect the ramparts’ tragedy, not the ocean’s. For a place like Canarsie, or the Rockaways (the natural rampart), the test should be whether a quid pro quo is in place, or just another caveat emptor slap in the face, aimed at people of color.

    Truth to power, you cannot get that pitiful amount today for a place like Canarsie. The policy for change remains in the MAD world of catastrophic resolution. The Chicken Little approach does not have a chance unless you do one simple thing. Put that line in the sand and be a little scary.  Draw the wall, present its ramparts across the landscape of NYC or any other place on the planet, and have the courage to ask and answer two questions.  

    Who’s In? Who’s out? Straight up, without weapons, humans are not built to kill, with no claws or fangs. Still, when one group of humans is forced to say to another group facing a life-threatening condition, “you are not selected” now or even in the evolutionary sense, I do not know which group is worse off.

    Rex L. Curry

    A third promise awaits development given an implementation plan.  The positive side of the formation of ramparts and walls is the opportunity to recognize a dense, contained urban life offering new forms of growth. The challenge is to put a stop to the grid humans have drawn on the earth.  The grid is a symbol of the infinite. The sphere or circle is limited. The fuel of unlimited growth within this circle (ramparts and all) is to develop methods for all that enters the encircled urban world will leave in a non-toxic form. Today over 80% of what flows out is toxic.

    Today the planners, engineers, architects, and climate scientists assess the impact of the sea rise, storm surges, and microbursts pounding down the Hudson River Valley on the city’s property. The Flooded City article points out the big picture these professionals paint for owners and policymakers.

    For example, a rise in sea level far less than a meter places 71,500 buildings and $100 billion of property in NYC’s high-risk flood zones. Sea rise is not a complex assessment. Remote earth sensing devices can measure elevation to less than a meter. Some devices calculate small fluctuations in gravitational forces, and for any area in question, they can do so in time. The ramparts and walls encircling vulnerable properties using these tools also exhibit various wrongheaded priorities of great value for reforms and the discussion of fairness.

    The below-ground world of tunnels and conduits (vehicles, gas, power, clean, gray, and black water) of New York City is not climate-proof. Yet, given the positives of the walls and ramparts, the capacity to fragment infrastructure systems to function independently is implied. Still, the policy is dishonest unless the question “who is in and out” is answered.

    Global processes are geologically instantaneous events in the context of the last half-billion years. They occur daily but remain well outside of human experience. We are unlikely to “duck and cover” or step back from the waves of an unobservable rise of the ocean at the base of a massive river basin. Creating the incentives to do so is the challenge of our time.

    Nevertheless, insisting on acquiring and removing toxins from NYC’s waterfront and flood-prone zones may be the best plan of action for no other reason than it will take a century to accomplish. The planning work as it stands today favors protecting property in the short term. It emanates from the boardrooms and public conferences in the old way.  It is about producing jobs through relatively high yield, short-term investments under the heading of resiliency. The discussion of the chemical, biological, and most importantly, financial toxins encircled by these old ways requires a sharper focus by its critics.

    Zoning GHG

    New York City’s newest set of proposed zoning changes will re-write rules to remove impediments to constructing and retrofitting buildings in every land use. The objective: reduce urban energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) production. The bottom line is the $15 billion/year spent on heat and power in buildings representing 80 percent of the city’s carbon emissions.

    Reduction in consumption improves well being.

    Can zoning regulations reduce the urban carbon footprint and lower energy costs? For example, assuring buildings have a good air barrier and insulation on the exterior will yield energy performance. So why is encouraging a good air/insulation barrier (four to eight inches) a zoning issue?

    The added bulk to get energy efficiency is counted under existing regulations.  This reduces the usable space within the building and ends up in a cost/income trade-off, and it tends to build in a substandard “triple net” energy cost transfer from the developer to the leaseholder or owner. The new regulations will exempt the added bulk concerning floor area limits (FAR) and open space regulations (OSR).

    Will this reduce the TDC/ROI energy trade off? (total development cost to return on investment ratio)

    Solar panels, rooftop greenhouses will also be exempt from FAR and height limits in some cases, as long as the greenhouse is on top of a building that does not include house residences. The result of these changes will be slightly bulkier, somewhat taller buildings that are more energy-efficient.

    A number regarding the discount from $15 billion in today’s energy cost and the reduction of GHGs also requires an estimate. The cost of confirming compliance is yet another public responsibility. This requires a factor that is sufficiently offset by penalties that are equal to the obvious incentives.

    The City Planning Commission process began December 19, 2011, with the new regulations’ submission to the five borough presidents and the city’s 59 community boards. The goal is to formalize the new regulations by Spring 2012.