Is solar power a viable alternative to fossil fuels in New England?

By: Jessica Damicis, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Solar power is increasing in popularity as a renewable energy resource.  Reasons for the surge in popularity of solar power include rising energy costs, improved and more cost-effective solar panel technology, widespread interest in sustainability, and the need for resilient electricity.

Photovoltaics (PV) which use receptor panels to produce energy from the sun can be placed on open land or roof areas to produce energy for businesses or residences, which may then sell excess energy back to the electric utility. The use of these PV systems can reduce dependency on fossil fuels, the electric grid infrastructure, and reduce risk of power outages in strong storms. The reduced dependency on non-renewable energy can help the business or residence become more sustainable, lessening their impact on the environment through carbon emissions. Unlike other renewable energy sources such as wind and hydroelectric, solar panels require little maintenance and their productive life can be 25 years or more.

A common belief is that PV’s are only effective in regions with bright, year-round sun. While it is true that solar power potential is more modest in New England compared to other sunnier regions of the United States, the total solar power potential easily exceeds the entire electric needs of the New England region. For example, Rhode Island’s State Energy Plan suggests the state could develop over 1,800 MW of solar energy by 2035.

For residents and businesses in Massachusetts and Rhode Island there are several options for solar power—even for those who do not own their property!

Homeowners and businesses who own the building they occupy can do an assessment to see if solar power is viable for their property. Many solar companies offer these assessments to interested property owners and provide quotes for initial cost and payback period.  Owning the PV panels is a greater cost advantage to the property owner, and loans are available to aid in the initial upfront cost.  Property owners can also elect to lease panels for minimal upfront costs.  Leasing is a great option for a property owner who is unable to afford the upfront costs, does not want to wait a year for tax incentives, or who wants to avoid dealing with maintenance of the panels.

Green power programs are another great option and are available for those who do not own their property or who are unsure if they are ready to install PV’s. These programs do not have the same cost savings benefit or property resiliency benefits that installing panels on-site provides, but it is a great way to promote green jobs locally and to support sustainable power. These programs— such as the ones offered through Mass Energy (www.massenergy.org) in Massachusetts and through People’s Power and Light (www.ripower.org) in Rhode Island—allow energy users to switch to renewable energy by paying a few cents more per kW on their energy bill. For an average residential household this might be around $10-20 per month. The green energy programs use the revenue made to invest in new renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, and to maintain existing infrastructure. While this is an extra cost instead of savings compared to owning PV’s, these payments into green energy programs are 100% tax deductible.

With so many great options to utilize solar power, there are many ways to “green” your electricity with photovoltaics. Ultimately, the best option depends on the goals a property owner or renter is looking to achieve. It is clear, however, that even in New England solar power has many benefits for power consumers.

To learn more about solar power, please visit

 

Supporting a Community to Build a Rain Garden

By: Marc F. Weller, P.E., Pare Project Engineer, a member of Pare’s Rising Professionals Committee, and on the New England Water Environment Association Young Professionals Committee

Two Pare engineers recently participated in the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) Young Professionals Committee’s first annual Community Service Project.  The Committee’s goal was to build green infrastructure that would have an impact on a community and promote environmental sustainability.  It was decided to construct a rain garden at the Common Fence Point Community Center  in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Funding for the project was generously provided by the Van Beuren Charitable Foundation through the Rhode Island Green Infrastructure Coalition; and was supported by the Eastern RI Conservation District.

Once the project and location were determined, the members of the Young Professionals worked tirelessly to design and organize the details of the raingarden.  All of this work paid off the day of the event!  More than 45 volunteers gathered at the Common Fence Point Community Center, with most of the help coming from residents in the community. Six residents stood out for their dedication to the project by donating their professional expertise and use of heavy equipment for the project.  Without the media outreach, excavation equipment, and horticulture expertise, we would not have been able to construct the raingarden.  Many residents helped move loam and mulch, build a rip-rap spillway, and plant various shrubs and flowers.  It was an incredible display of community camaraderie.  The rain garden project was completed in about seven hours, which was much faster than expected and solely attributed to the amazing community support.

A rain garden is a depressed area in the landscape that collects and allows rain to slowly infiltrate into the ground, minimizing runoff and filtering the water. The 760-SF rain garden was designed to capture 50% of the runoff from the community center roof that would otherwise infiltrate into the ground and eventually discharge into the Mt. Hope Bay without any kind of treatment.  Two roof leaders were tied together with new PVC drain pipe and discharged into to the rain garden.  The rain garden was constructed using four inches of 50/50 loam/compost mix and 3-inches of pine bark mulch.  Native plants are preferred in the rain garden because they have already adapted to local environmental conditions and require far less water.  With this in mind, over 400 plants native to Rhode Island, including bearberry, milkweed, and azaleas, were planted within the garden bed.  A small rip-rap spillway was also constructed to allow for the release of water that may build up in the garden during heavier rain events.

Since the day of the event, the community has taken a special interest in the rain garden and have added approximately $4,500 of additional plants and material! In addition to adding new flowers along the perimeter, large stones have been installed to help stabilize the slopes.  The rain garden has really become a reflection of the camaraderie of the Common Fence Point community.

The project was a great experience to help a community that was engaged and willing to help …and we had fun doing it!  Several residents shared how the community center used to be the focal point of the neighborhood.  Movie nights, dances, and impromptu neighborhood parties used to be a staple at the community center, but for one reason or another, those activities have become few-and-far-between in recent years.  This event helped revitalize that sense of community, and we are optimistic that this construction will help inspire the return of those community events.

From an engineering point of view, we enjoyed putting the design skills cultivated on other projects at Pare into use on this community project. It was a great experience to actually get our hands dirty planting this raingarden side-by-side with our neighbors.

Click here to learn more about raingardens on the Environmental Protection Agency Rain Garden Information Website and how you can install one in your own community.

Pare’s Sustainability Committee Has Been Invigorated

By: Lindsey Machamer, LEED AP, Senior Engineer and Chair of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Pare’s Sustainability Committee is a group of committed professionals enthusiastic about incorporating innovative sustainability into our business operations, local community, and design practices. Over the past year, we have attended conferences, been involved in organizations, and studied the nuances of the newest sustainability rating systems.  Those activities have influenced our goals for the future.  We are excited to help guide planning and engineering within the Pare community into a future where we can create a better built environment. We are excited to share our efforts and goals.

First, we have revisited an analysis of our own company’s impact on the environment.  Our analysis includes Pare’s waste generation, transportation impact, and buying practices.  To advance this initiative, we will continuously review our options to reduce our impact on the environment. As part of this, we encourage Pare employees to expand our sustainability efforts beyond the walls of our office.  For World Environment Day last June, we led our coworkers on a lunchtime nature walk on the outdoor trails nearby and shared recommendations of nearby hiking trails for employees to explore with their families.

Pare’s lunchtime nature walk for World Environment Day

And, of course, we encouraged everyone to appreciate biodiversity this year with our 7th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest. You can review the photo entries here.

Congratulations to Brian Dutra, an engineer in Pare’s waterfront group, who won the contest this year with his photo “Green Sea Turtle”!

Looking outward in addition to inward, we’ve spent time this past year giving back to our local communities through education, service, and activism. We have made presentations this year at local schools to show how new development can be kind to our water resources and nature. For example, we led an activity at Lincoln High School to demonstrate how mindful site selection can reduce the impact of a new building on the surrounding environment. We also shared with the 11th and 12 grade students at Blackstone Valley Prep High School how the rain that falls on their new school reconnects into local drinking water supplies. We tried to help them see the role that engineers have in design for the environment. In 2018, we are building on the momentum we have created to encourage students, the community, and ourselves to think sustainably. We have a distinct interest in helping create a future world of bright minds and friendly spaces.

Finally, to further our dedication to provide quality services, we have compiled what we’ve learned at building industry and infrastructure events and are adapting them in ways to share with our peers at Pare.  For example, at the ASCE International Conference on Sustainable Infrastructure  in October we learned from leading cities in the world about how they are using the Envision rating system and other sustainability tools to guide development.  At the Greenbuild International Expo, in Boston in November, we joined in on the enthusiasm of the motto, “all in for green buildings.” We attended presentations on natural alternatives for resilient infrastructure, soils restoration, and water neutrality, among many others. We are committed to staying current with the most innovative case studies and design practices.   Our goal is to help guide our communities and clients to make decisions and pursue development that consider wholistic impacts on environment, society, and economic factors.

Greenbuild International Conference and ABX2017 Expo

Our efforts over the past year have outlined a three-pronged approach in our current goals. We will endeavor to apply innovative sustainable design concepts in our projects, to inspire and enrich our community through outreach, and to improve internal operations to make the work place more sustainable. While we will be working hard to achieve our goals, we will be having fun and enjoying nature on the way.  We look forward to sharing some of the details with you!

Exploring Foxborough’s Biodiversity for the 2018 City Nature Challenge

By: Lauren Gluck, Senior Environmental Scientist and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

This past weekend, Pare’s Sustainability Committee hosted two BioBlitz events in Foxborough as part of the Boston Area City Nature Challenge (CNC). It was a great opportunity to get outside and explore biodiversity in a town that Pare calls home! The events were open to Pare staff, family and friends, and to the public.

Exploring the Canoe River Wilderness

The CNC is an annual international competition to see which metropolitan area can photograph and document the most species in one weekend using this iNaturalist app.

Screenshot of iNaturalist City Nature Challenge 2018 App

None of us had used iNaturalist prior to the CNC; however it is safe to say we are hooked. Not only does it let you record your observations, but it also assists in species identification using photo recognition and input from the iNaturalist community! We highly recommend it for nature lovers of all experience levels.

Screenshot from the iNaturalist app. Check out our observations!

The Foxborough Conservation Commission has an excellent “Guide to Conservation Land & Open Spaces” which we used as a resource to plan out our BioBlitz destinations.

On Saturday we explored the Canoe River Wilderness, an expanse of diverse conservation land that extends into several neighboring towns. We followed the trail around Greeley’s Pond on East Street, where we explored forested uplands, wetlands, and riverine habitats bordering the pond.

Capturing some plant observations by the Canoe River

We veered off the trail to explore a vernal pool. we found spotted salamander egg masses and a newly hatched wood frog tadpole.

Discovering vernal pool wildlife in the Canoe River Wilderness

On Sunday, we visited the site of the Lincoln Hill Camp on Oak Street, a former children’s camp which is now protected as a conservation area. Remnants of the past were found throughout the property, making it a very intriguing site to explore.

After exploring the ruins of the camp, we found a trail down through the woods to a certified vernal pool on the property. There was an abundance of species to be found here, from salamander egg masses to fairy shrimp!

Spotted Salamander egg mass found in the vernal pool

Next, we wandered down toward the Rumford River, where we found a variety of different environments including a beautiful Atlantic White Cedar swamp.

Our team of observers contributed 117 observations to the challenge throughout the weekend. I am proud to say that the Boston area ranked consistently high in the CNC competition! Of the 69 participating regions, we had the 10th highest number of observations, the 13th highest number of species, and the 3rd highest number of people participating in the challenge! Not bad when you consider that the growing season has just begun here in Massachusetts.

Thank you to those who participated, and we encourage everyone to give the iNaturalist app a try during your next walk in the woods.

Celebrate Earth Day with Pare by Voting in the 7th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest

By Victoria Howland, P.E., LEED AP, a Project Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

This year for Earth Day, Pare is participating in the Boston Area City Nature Challenge. Join us April 28th or April 29th for a BIODIVERSITY competition with cities around the globe! We are hosting events where we will explore Foxborough’s open spaces to identify as many species as possible. Nature lovers of all ages and experience levels are welcome to join. Register here to join us.

The City Nature Challenge is a fun competition with cities across the country to document the most species during April 27 – 30, 2018 and anyone can participate by joining an event or documenting the plants, animals, and fungi they see anywhere in the greater Boston area with the iNaturalist app. The iNaturalist app is a downloadable app that allows the general public to record and submit their observations that will contribute to scientific databases like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility  and help scientists find and use data.  Learn more at: Boston Area City Nature Challenge.

In that spirit, the Sustainability Committee at Pare is pleased to share our 7th Annual Earth Day Photo Contest.   The theme of the contest this year is “Biodiversity!”

Please enjoy the photos submitted by Pare’s staff below, and vote using the poll located at the bottom of this post. The winner of the 2018 Earth Day Photo Contest will receive a Gift Card to B-Good. Voting will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 27th and winner will be announced in our next blog post.

Photo 1: Flowering Tree

This photo of a flowering dogwood tree was taken in Krakow, Poland.

Photo 2: Biodiversity in a Bucket

Vernal pools host an incredible amount of biodiversity. These wetlands, which dry up every summer, provide a nursery of sorts for a wide variety of species from wood frogs to dragonfly nymphs. Species in this photo include yellow spotted salamander eggs, fairy shrimp, water mites, and caddisfly larvae.

Photo 3: Water

Water plays a significant role in any ecosystem.  Although Mother Nature tries to keep herself balanced, we humans don’t always help. We tap into the resource and, at times, take more than our fair share. During a water ban last summer, nature tried all it could to find the water it needed; it’s obvious Mother Nature is teaching her children to read.

Photo 4: Beehives

One hundred and fifty beehives pollinate flowers and provide raw honey to support both the ecosystem and the local farmers’ markets on Oahu, Hawaii.

Photo 5: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

It is inspiring to see a coexistence of nature – plants, species and beauty – all in an initially manmade environment: Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Additional fact, the park opened on Earth Day in 1998.)

Photo 6: Hyacinth Macaw

The hyacinth macaw exhibit near the center of the Brevard Zoo in one of many unique close encounters with the more than 550 animals at the zoo.  The zoo, whose mission is “Wildlife conservation through education and participation,” boasts diverse ecosystems across its 75 acres including tropical grasslands, tropical forest, tropical hardwood, grassy plains, savannahs, and estuarine lagoons, amongst others.

Photo 7: Townshend, VT

Taken in Townshend, VT this picture shows multiple ecosystems coexisting next to each other. In the foreground the Townshend lake (outside of the frame the Townshend dam) and in the background Stratton Mountain, part of the beautiful Green Mountain Finger Lakes National Park.

Photo 8 Guatapé, Colombia

When a hydroelectric complex was built in Guatapé, Colombia in the 1970’s the landscape changed radically from agricultural fields to a lakes region made up of hundreds of islands.  This photo shows how the people and ecosystem of Guatapé adapted to this man-made flooding.

Photo 9: Hypopitys Monotropa

Most plants make their own food, but those lacking chlorophyll steal from their neighbors! Pinesap (Hypopitys monotropa) absorbs its nutrients from fungi in the soil.

Photo 10: Rooftop Garden

Up on a rooftop in the city, a garden in a planter attracts local wildlife, becoming a part of the local ecosystem.

Photo 11: Hikin’ the banks of the Mighty Mo

This photo includes a boy reflecting on the wonders of nature – the Missouri River –  sustaining life for the fish, tadpoles, and snapping turtles within the muddy water, allowing wildflowers an opportunity to flourish along its banks in the shadows of a magnificent tree grove, and providing nourishment for millions and millions of acres of farmland just out of view.

Photo 12: Children Walking

An appreciation for nature and its biodiversity begins at a young age.  Curiosity and wonder about the world around us is natural for children and must be encouraged and fed.

Photo 13: Green Sea Turtle

This photograph of a green sea turtle was taken at a coral reef off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. Coral reefs are home to over 25% of marine life, making them one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet.

The polls are now closed–We will soon be announcing the winning entry that best represents our theme of “Biodiversity!” 

 

 

 

 

 

A Seawall for All: The Seattle Waterfront Project as a Model for Future Redevelopment

By Brian Dutra, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Coastline Along Marblehead, MA

New England’s coastline is home to some of the Nation’s first and largest waterfront communities, with nearly 6,100 miles of tidal shoreline in the region. Unfortunately, the nation’s coastal infrastructure is deteriorating, which greatly impacts these communities.  According to the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card, Ports and Inland Waterways were given a grade of “C+” and “D”, respectively, with a need to modify or replace structures that have far exceeded their design life.  The need to rehabilitate or replace these structures is further emphasized as the infrastructure along the coastline continues to age and deteriorate.

As we evaluate and rehabilitate New England’s coastal infrastructure, an ongoing project in Seattle, Washington can provide a template for innovative and sustainable design improvements.

The billion dollar “Waterfront Seattle” project is a total waterfront reconstruction along Elliot Bay that began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2023. Similar to a number of New England’s Ports, The Elliot Bay Seawall was built between 1916 and 1934 and has exceeded its original design life. The original concrete seawall was built on approximately 20,000 timber piles.  Deterioration of the structure had led to instability of the seawall and the development of sinkholes behind it. The design and reconstruction of the new Elliott Bay Seawall incorporates several sustainable features, providing ancillary benefits to the area’s infrastructure, tourism, and environment.

The Waterfront Seattle Project replaces more than just the failing seawall; it improves quality of life for both marine life and humans, including a salmon migration corridor and new pedestrian access to the water. The budget for the project includes nearly $350 million for the following:

  • Stabilizing the existing soil and foundations with jet-grouted columns.
  • Installing precast concrete textured walls for the salmon migration corridor.
  • Installing a habitat bench along the wall to increase fish and marine life habitat.
  • Installing a sidewalk and pedestrian space with light-penetrating surfaces

Overview of the Textured Wall and Concrete Shelves (currently behind a temporary coffer dam) from https://waterfrontseattle.org/

What makes this engineering project truly unique is the focus on promoting sustainable and natural environmental growth. The new textured concrete walls will create a salmon migratory corridor where one has not existed for over 100 years. Textured shelves cast into the concrete walls allow plant and marine life to adhere to the wall. The walkway above the new corridor consists of glass bricks installed into precast concrete sidewalk panels that are able to support pedestrian traffic and allow sunlight to penetrate the sidewalk, promoting plant and marine growth below the walkway and on the wall. An intertidal bench, located in shallow water, will also be constructed to simulate a nearshore habitat.

Now fish, crustaceans, and plant life that would typically be found in and around the shallow natural shoreline of Elliot Bay can find their way back to an area that was previously inaccessible. Plants that could not grow in the deep waters along the original wall can thrive on the textured shelves and intertidal benches creating aquatic food for the marine life in the bay. Juvenile salmon that would typically avoid the shoreline of the previous wall due to the lack of light will use the new seawall as a migratory corridor.

As we look to rehabilitate our aged coastal infrastructure in New England, the Waterfront Seattle Project is a prime example of how we can sustainably build and rehabilitate an already established waterfront. A thoughtful and innovative approach can update critical infrastructure while simultaneously benefiting businesses, people, and marine life for years to come.

For More Information:

GIS Day: Celebrating the “Mappiest Day of the Year”

By Sarah J. Pierce, Environmental Scientist/GIS Specialist for Pare Corporation

GIS Day was organized by Esri, a leading company in the field of mapping technologies, and has been celebrated since 1999, after consumer advocate Ralph Nader suggested dedicating a day to show how geographic intelligence touches everyone. According to Esri, “a Geographic Information System (GIS) lets us visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends.” GIS Day celebrates these capabilities and allows users to showcase their unique GIS accomplishments. This year, Pare celebrated the “Mappiest Day of the Year” on November 15 by looking at how we are using this technology in our engineering projects.

GIS can use a variety of sources including GPS data, open source data layers, and CAD-compatible shapefiles to display a variety of data in a visually appealing way. This capability is especially important in providing a meaningful deliverable to a client. Maps and figures typically include aerial photographs of a site as the base map, which is then layered with other data such as wetland locations or other constraints in order to better understand the geographic restrictions of a project. The attributes of the geographically referenced information can be resourcefully stored, analyzed, evaluated, manipulated and displayed.

Pare’s GIS committee manages and uses data to create visualizations of project information so that it can be more easily shared and analyzed.  It gives our engineers the tools needed to complete buildout projections, locus mapping, dam-breach modeling, water system modeling, site constraint analysis, and infrastructure asset management.

As part of our “Mappy Day” celebration, the GIS committee celebrated four recent projects that used GIS to better help the client.

Narragansett Bay Commission CSO Phase III Program

Pare created a GIS database containing shapefiles of select portions of the existing Narragansett Bay Commission Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system within the cities of Central Falls and Pawtucket. This database was generated using scanned copies of the city’s original printed drawings dating back to the mid-1800s.  The digital format was then imported into a hydraulic model using record plans of the existing CSO system and aerial photograph interpretation.  Georeferencing these plans allowed Pare to view the locations of the CSO system in relation to the current layout of the cities and understand flow directions and connectivity within the sewersheds. In addition, Pare used GIS to create visual representations of the proposed project elements of the Phase III CSO Program. These visuals were incorporated into the Environmental Assessment for the project and proved to be valuable in understanding the geographic implications of project elements.

Cumberland MS4 Inventory

The Town of Cumberland, RI contracted with Pare to help bring its municipal separate storm sewer (MS4) system into compliance with the Rhode Island Pollutant and Discharge Elimination System’s reporting regulations.  For this, the Town is required to provide a GIS map of all outfalls, receiving waters, drainage systems, and the contributing areas to the MS4 outfalls.  Pare used existing as-builts and visual observations to compile a geodatabase of all structures and then located all outfalls in the town using GPS equipment. Each outfall includes relevant information including pipe size, material, condition, and even has a photo attached to it within the map.  The Town will be able to maintain this map and add features to it as stormwater elements are built and connected to the existing drainage system.

Upper and Lower Sandra Pond Dam Inundation Mapping

Pare uses advanced two-dimensional modeling software to develop dam failure inundation maps. To aid in emergency management planning, the inundation shape files from the model are used to generate up-to-date emergency contact lists for downstream residents, roadway impacts, and potential evacuation routes. The use of GIS software has been invaluable in providing more efficient emergency management techniques and can even be used in real time to monitor a variety of different dam failure scenarios developing on the ground.

Rhode Island Veterans Home

Rhode Island Veteran’s Home in Bristol, RI

Permits from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and/or the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) can have a significant impact on a project’s design and schedule. To determine which permits were required for the construction of the recently built RI Veterans Home, Pare examined existing aerial photography and GPS-located wetlands. The data was incorporated into a figure to depict the closest wetland resources to the project’s limits of disturbance. These constraint analyses are provided early in the design process to prevent the need for costly design revisions resulting from discovering site constraints in later stages of design.

 

Our GIS Day celebration ended with a “brain mapping” opportunity to explore how GIS could be used in current or future projects at Pare. To see how we are applying this technology to our own work, please visit the online GIS map of representative projects we’re proud to showcase on our website here. We will be sharing more information about our GIS projects in the months to come at http://www.parecorp.com/Services/GIS

From LEED to Envision: Expanding Green Design to Infrastructure

By Matt Alford, P.E., ENV SP, Senior Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

Green design and construction practices have been around for some time, and there are several industry rating systems to help with implementation.  Leadership In Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a sustainable rating system for buildings, is the most widely used system around the world. The LEED program guides the design, construction, operations and maintenance of buildings toward sustainability. It has been 16 years since the first version of LEED, and the number of buildings receiving LEED certification increases each year. And it’s not just about the shiny plaque! It has proven to increase building performance throughout the lifecycle of the building while enhancing the experience of the occupants.  The program provides real long-term cost savings in the operation and maintenance of these buildings. This was demonstrated during the economic downturn of 2008-2009 when, despite the economy, the number of registrations increased. “Green” sustainable design can increase the efficiency of a building, provide long-term cost savings, increase public recognition of a project, and improve quality of life.

But, what about infrastructure? Infrastructure changes the way we get around, communicate, and view the world—it is an essential element to our culture. However, it has different challenges than buildings. Often coordination between several organizations that each have their own agendas and budgets is one of the major challenges when implementing sustainable design for infrastructure.

Similar to how LEED is focused on the occupants of the building, the new Envision Rating System focuses on the stakeholders affected by the project.  Envision is an objective framework of criteria and performance achievements that helps users identify ways in which “green” sustainable approaches can be used to plan, design, construct, and operate infrastructure projects. It also looks to enhance the social, environmental and economic aspects of a project by providing a holistic project assessment and guidance tool to tackle these challenges.  Using the design and building of a new industrial plant as an example, Envision encourages cohesive planning so that how the new plant impacts the historical value of the community is as important as how clean the air is being released thru its smokestack.  The goal of the program is to best use taxpayer dollars, reduce our environmental footprint, and enhance the overall quality of life in our community.

Types of Infrastructure Envision Will Rate

 

Envision is broken down into five categories to evaluate how a project contributes to the overall sustainability of the community.

  • Quality of Life – addresses a project’s impact regarding the health and well-being of individuals and the community as a whole.
  • Leadership – engages the project stakeholders and team leaders to provide meaningful commitment, collaboration and communication with each other.
  • Resource Allocation – dives into the use of recyclable materials and overall waste reduction for the long-term operation and maintenance of the infrastructure and construction.
  • Natural World – how the project preserves and renews ecosystem functions.
  • Climate and Risk – looks at two main concepts: ensuring resilience and minimizing emissions of a project both in the short-term and long-term future conditions.

Using Envision demonstrates an organized and comprehensive approach to decision making.  It embraces the use of best practices and garners support from stakeholders. Effective sustainable infrastructure development cannot be completed without involving several parties.

Similar to the LEED program, Envision has four award levels: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Even if an award is not pursued, it is strongly encouraged to use Envision criteria as a guide or a set of standards for creating sustainable infrastructure. Envision is laying the groundwork for making sustainable design the new standard for all infrastructure projects.

Instrumental Parties

 

And why not!?!   Here are some advantages to doing so:

  • Quantifying the qualitative benefits, including preserving local character
  • Applying a consistent, transparent approach to sustainability
  • Helping communities address long-range needs
  • Evaluating environmental and economic benefits
  • Extending the useful life of a project
  • Improving the efficiency of a project
  • Demonstrating good governance of resources

Just as using a sustainable building rating system as a guide for development has proven to be worth the investment for new building construction, Envision will help guide decisions about sustainable infrastructure projects to be made proactively instead of re-actively in our communities. Imagine a world with less congestion, cleaner waters, purposefully-developed communities, and tax dollars being used more efficiently.  Envision provides the framework to improve the way we develop the infrastructure and its impact on our daily lives

Notes:

Energy Efficiency: A Revolution in Applied Sustainability at Home

By Sarah Antolick, Engineer at Pare Corporation and a member of Pare’s Sustainability Committee

 

Whether you are a climate-conscious homeowner or are simply looking to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket, sustainable homes have become a hot topic in the past few years. In 2010, 40% of U.S energy consumption was from residential and commercial buildings and accounted for nearly 40% of carbon dioxide emissions [1].  As environmentally conscientious citizens and engineering professionals with a stake in the construction industry, we have an imperative to improve our built environment.

Building codes set a standard for the design and construction of our homes while setting a reference point for health, safety and wellness.  Updating the building code is a powerful tool for improving new construction, which comprises a significant portion of our housing market. According to a study by Statista published in 2017, residential housing growth between 2015 and 2016 amounted to 880,000 new units [2]. These new housing units are among the most sustainable and energy efficient as we are seeing higher standards and codes on both the national and local levels.

However, new construction cannot compare to our existing housing, as it is estimated that there are 135.58 million total residential units in the United States as of 2016.  Therefore, it is in our existing homes that we can make the greatest impact on our environment through energy efficiency improvements.

There are many easy ways to reduce energy usage and save money in our homes without starting from the ground up. Savings vary depending on home size, age, current technology usage, product brand, etc., but collectively these technologies provide significant savings.   Items such as LED light bulbs, low-flow shower heads and aerators, and programmable thermostats are simple fixes that can help reduce energy waste.

The impact that can be derived from these simple changes includes:

  • LED light bulbs use 25-80% less energy and last 3-25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs [3].
  • Phantom energy is energy consumed by appliances that are plugged in but not in use which can account for 15% or more of a household’s total energy consumption. Advanced power strips can eliminate this inefficiency [4].
  • Water heating is the second largest contributor to most households’ energy consumption. Simply fixing a leaking faucet can save $35 annually [5].
  • Low-flow shower heads can save both water and energy consumption for water heating. Low-flow fixtures can translate to 25-60% reduction in water consumption annually [5].

Additional savings can be achieved through larger investments such as air sealing by using double pane windows, added insulation, upgraded HVAC systems, and energy star appliances.

The cost of these systems and energy savings vary greatly.  Locally  both Massachusetts and Rhode Island encourage homeowners to invest in these retrofit options through their rebate programs. Mass Save provides services at subsidized cost and provides interest-free loans on long-term investments [6]. Rhode Island has paired up with National Grid to provide both auditing services and rebates for eligible homeowners [7].

Residents of Rhode Island can take advantage of companies such as RISE Engineering for a full spectrum of services from auditing, design, vending, and  installation through the financial incentives process. RISE is one of the oldest providers of energy auditing services with over 35 years of experience working on over 25,000 single-family residences totaling over $800 million in energy improvements. They work with utility companies, municipalities, and program sponsors to offer a comprehensive energy retrofitting experience. https://www.riseengineering.com/

Likewise, in Massachusetts, HomeWorks Energy is one of the companies tackling energy efficiency one home at a time as part of the “Mass Save” program.  This program is to provide Massachusetts residents with home energy assessments including installation of free products including low flow shower heads and LED light bulbs, and recommendations for future improvements through HVAC, weatherization, windows, and solar. HomeWorks collaborates with home owners, municipalities, contractors, and other community partners to help take advantage of Mass Save incentives. https://www.homeworksenergy.com/

A sustainable future starts in our homes, and the first step in unlocking these opportunities is through home energy assessments. Learn how you can start the process at https://energy.gov/energysaver/do-it-yourself-home-energy-audits

Additionally, The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) maintains a comprehensive national database of Energy Incentive Program resources for organizations, businesses, and residents which can be accessed at https://energy.gov/eere/femp/energy-incentive-programs.

 References:

1-  http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/

2-  https://www.statista.com/statistics/240267/number-of-housing-units-in-the-united-states/

3-  https://energy.gov/energysaver/how-energy-efficient-light-bulbs-compare-traditional-incandescents#4- https://energy.gov/energysaver/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings

5- https://energy.gov/energysaver/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings

6- https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/energy-assessments/ and https://www.masssave.com/en/saving/energy-assessments/homeowners?gclid=CjwKCAjw1ufKBRBYEiwAPI_r4XLc7hejP5qFEKr-CNvIojqk_8T0rqkUiS2e0feHPIyZVWAFsQUj-xoC9OIQAvD_BwE

7- https://www.nationalgridus.com/RI-Home/Energy-Saving-Programs/ and https://www.nationalgridus.com/RI-Home/Energy-Saving-Programs/Home-Checkups-Weatherization

Join Pare in Commemorating Dam Safety Awareness Day

By J. Matthew Bellisle, Senior Vice President of the Geotechnical Division of Pare Corporation and the Co-Chair of the Dam Management Committee of the Environmental Business Council of New England

Dam Safety Awareness Day was established to commemorate the lives lost in the Johnstown Flood. The tragedy occurred on May 31, 1889 when the South Fork Dam burst sending a flood of water that resulted in the destruction of 1,600 homes, $17 million in property damage (current value of approximately $425 million) and the deaths of 2,209 people (including the entirety of 99 families; of the deceased, 396 were children) in the valley below in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  While this is the worst dam failure in the United States it has become symbolic in our history.  Unfortunately it is not the only incident of dam failure.

As we remember the lives lost and the heroes who worked to minimize damage and save lives, we also must remember the lessons learned in regard to dam engineering. We need to put our own hubris aside and recognize the impact that these engineered structures have on our communities and environment.

This country—especially New England—grew due to the power harnessed by dams during the industrial revolution, by the water impounded for irrigation and water supply, and by the additional navigation afforded by strategically placed and engineered dams and locks.  The dams that have greatly impacted our nation come in a multitude of forms–from concrete and earthen structures impounding large reservoirs, small earthen embankments and structures creating irrigation ponds, hydro-electric structures providing sustainable energy, to historic masonry structures from a time long past.  Our communities are surrounded by over 87,000 dams throughout the United States, which are a marvelous testament to our ability to engineer our surroundings to enable productivity, health, safety, and energy.

As today’ dams provide increasing levels of flood protection, energy, water supply, and environmental resource areas to support our communities, we need to remember three things.

  • First, dams do deteriorate over time. It would be incorrect to assume that the condition of the dam at any point in time will continue to represent the condition of the dam at some point in the future. There also comes a time when a dam is no longer providing a benefit and it should be removed.  It is only through continued diligence, observation, and maintenance that dams, bridges, roadways, and other parts of our national infrastructure will continue to serve the needs of the nation.
  • Second, financial resources are needed for routine maintenance and long-term repairs. However, just because money has been spent on the dam recently, the need for continued inspection by qualified personnel is still paramount to the long term performance of the dam.
  • Third, we are all stakeholders in continuing dam safety.  Ongoing steps to develop and maintain emergency action plans and procedures require support from our local communities to enable efficient notification, response, and recovery.

As we commemorate the Johnstown Flood let us take comfort knowing that dedicated regulators, designers and owners also remember these events and are taking positive steps to mitigate such incidents. Advances in the study of dam engineering have led to enhancements in hydraulic and soil modeling, which in turn have improved our understanding of the integration of the engineered environment with the natural environment. With the support of local and federal regulations we continue to protect the environment and the public by identifying and repairing aging dams, and removing those structures that are unsafe or no longer serve a beneficial purpose.  Ignoring complacency, we are taking positive steps to improve this nation’s dams and support the resources, opportunities and public which are so dependent upon these sometimes invisible engineered structures.

To learn more about dam safety and flooding, please download the two ebooks (‘Living with Dams: Know Your Risks’ and “Living with Dams: Extreme Rainfall Events’ prepared by the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) at  http://livingneardams.org/