Green Renovation for a Green RevolutionJanuary 29th, 2011 | Posted by in Current Events | Green Building | Living Green | Sustainability
An interesting report from the U.K.: a study of the most polluting cities in the world shows that cities that pollute the most aren’t the ones we might consider first. People seem to often think that visibly-polluted cities in the developing world are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It turns out this is a misconception!
As U.S.A. Today reports, cities like Nepal, India, and Bangladesh emit less than half a ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (meaning gases including carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxide). But the highest emitters in the world are in the developed world, including Rotterdam, Denver, Sydney, Washington, Minneapolis, and Calgary. Each of these cities emits more than 17 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita. The study was funded by a London-based NGO, the International Institute for Environment and Development.
The lead author of the study, urban specialist at the World Bank Daniel Hoornweg, is keen to point out the two main drivers of greenhouse gas production on the level of the individual: lifestyle choices and consumption patterns, such as the Western consumer demand for Chinese goods. From previous studies and reports, we also know that building energy consumption is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
But one of the more empowering things about knowing that it is lifestyle, consumption, and building choices that most significantly contribute to climate change is known that these are things we can change on and individual – and social – level.
It gives us hope, then, to read another recent article published in GreenSource that retrofitting buildings to be more environmentally-friendly is a growing trend (and actually one that might prove to be more environmentally-sound than new construction, which requires the new extraction of natural resources). McGraw-Hill Construction already estimates that green building accounts for five to nine percent of the renovation market by value, and this is expected to expand up to 30 percent by 2014. Green renovation can apply to any human building – for family homes, commercial institutions, and industrial buildings.
There are a few examples of these green renovations already, one of the most famous being the Empire State Building’s $20 million dollar retrofit that aims to reduce energy consumption by up to 40%, according to Business Insider in a 2009 article. By installing (6,500) triple-glazed windows, insulating radiators, and updating the ventilation systems the building could earn a rating of 90 from EnergyStar, and a gold rating from LEED.
GreenDepot’s flagship store on the Bowery, in New York City, is another excellent example of green renovation – one which has earned a LEED Platinum rating. Located in the bottom floor of a five-story building, the store has served as NYC’s first branch of the YMCA, an X-ray equipment manufacturer, a restaurant supply store, and a meditation center for Tibetan Buddhists. Renovation – rather than demolition and new construction – is not just an effective way of reducing construction costs, it is also a dedicated application of a “reuse” ethic.
Since we already know that reinventing our lifestyle and consumption patterns to make a sustainable society demands reducing our consumption, reusing what we already have, and recycling what cannot be reused (reduce-reuse-recycle), retrofitting buildings with recycled and other green building materials is a significant and meaningful step towards creating green cities. It’s a step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, whether you find yourself in one of the top carbon-emitting cities, or anywhere else.
IDEAS FOR RENOVATION and RETROFIT
The building sector accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and consumes a full 70% of all electricity produced. Hence, one of the most significant ways in which individuals contribute to greenhouse gas emissions is through their household energy consumption. Heating homes and heating water are two of the most energy-intensive activities that occur in a home. So, here are some ways to help the homeowner make the most significant reduction of energy consumption:
Bonded Logic Ultra Touch Insulation. We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it. This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating. Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home. For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.
Water heaters are one of the largest consumers of energy in the average home, and swapping out an older-model water heater for a new, energy-efficient model can substantially reduce energy costs. The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater is an especially energy-efficient model, qualified by ENERGY STAR. It combines heat pump technology with traditional electric elements to save the homeowner up to 62% on annual water heating expenses — even up to $320.