Water is a precious resource. Let’s face it, flushing toilets and urinals with potable water IS waste and we have an opportunity to shift the conversation towards one of water stewardship. As the “yuck factor” begins to subside, we are seeing a growing interest in water reuse strategies. However, the long slog isn’t over. Educating the design community, communicating the benefits of water conservation to clients, and working with regulatory and health officials to develop effective policy is core to the mission of Urban Fabrick Inc. and The William J. Worthen Foundation.
Sea rise and extreme climate are challenging urban planners to be regional planners; they confront civic leaders with the need to take a long view of time and see beyond city boundaries. We also see how global employers can lead in shifting jobs and relocating facilities.
Changing the paradigm from traditional technocratic solutions to those that are more agile, adaptable, and affordable is the key for the future. Although the water sector is conservative by nature, it needs innovation to challenge the status quo and that can overcome the constraints of existing infrastructure, governance, and prior decisions. It’s easy to put blame on governments, which are working hard and dealing at high volume to supply the demand of constituents. Citizens also must change their habits and tastes in order to make change work.
The Olympic motto is three Latin words: citius, altius, fortius – faster, higher, stronger. With electric rail and buses, taller green buildings in thriving mixed use neighborhoods, and resiliency with distributed renewables, these three attributes will also be said of Los Angeles in ten years.
Setting ambitious solar energy goals and demonstrating commitment through municipal solar installations are both fundamental in setting the tone for solar growth in a community. Goal setting provides an opportunity to institutionalize a shared vision of a solar-powered future, and a strong goal ensures that progress towards that goal becomes embedded in all future city decisions.
Traditionally, cities, facing increased demand for water, along with variable supply, have relied on large-scale, supply-side infrastructural projects such as dams and reservoirs. This is termed ‘supply-side’ management. However, supply-side management is costly in economic, environmental and political terms.
By combining intelligent storage, solar, and energy efficiency, schools may eventually save billions of dollars that can be put towards better classrooms, more teachers and aids, and better learning. Intelligent storage is helping schools with peak shaving, rate optimization, arbitrage, and demand response.
Smart and efficient buildings are having a big impact. In a typical school building, 30 percent of energy is for lighting. LED lighting uses only a fraction of the energy of older lights. Using the internet of things (IoT), lights can be automatically turned off when a network of low-cost sensors detects that a room is empty. Classrooms designed to make good use of natural light help students learn more, have fewer behavioral issues, and use less electricity. Studies have documented up to 26 percent test improvements in natural daylight environments.
Something interesting happens when an individual building manager starts sharing their building’s progress, and tracking their performance against others. A sense of collegiate competition begins to develop, and in-person updates make it easy to ask questions and learn from each other’s progress. This group also creates a connection between the people doing the work and public sector partners trying to help them do it – creating a mutually beneficial support system. Stakeholders are able to do things like clarify utility incentives and public reporting requirements, and our public partners can hear directly from users of their programs to troubleshoot and find opportunities to improve.
Three world-class cities in California: Los Angeles, San Francisco and Palo Alto, from January 2016 to June 2017 piloted this program on 45 blocks. Each city experienced The Cool Block program successfully addressing two massive unmet societal needs: a scalable solution to address climate change, and overcoming the social isolation people feel living in our urban-centric world. Doing the right thing for our children’s future on the planet in collaboration with neighbors proved to be a winning formula.
Imagine what might happen if distributed power was installed at publicly owned facilities and resources. Every school, every police and fire station, along with critical intersections, could be equipped with an uninterruptable power supply in the form of PV panels and lithium-ion-based energy storage systems. Public spaces, critical street lights and businesses would remain illuminated.