Tag Archives: sustainable

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

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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

Tiny House Movement – Part 2

Hopefully you remember this recent blog post about a Tiny House that Lauren Hastings’ sister Sarah is designing and building for a project in the Architecture and Environmental Studies program at Mount Holyoke College.  She is sourcing materials locally and is incorporating sustainable and energy efficient features wherever possible.

It appears this is a trend worth following. This Yahoo Finance article spotlights a Rhode Island couple that did very much the same thing. They moved into their home in January, which they built for an estimated $10,000. Its a sleek 128 square feet…about double the size of a standard office cubicle! Loads of recycled and upcycled materials went into the home, including an old trailer bed for a foundation, reclaimed concrete blocks, and secondhand wood and insulation. They even added their own composting toilet!

Check out their blog Another Tiny House Story for more.

 

And the Winner of PARE’s 3rd Annual Earth Day Photo Contest Is…

Happy Earth Day, everyone – and congratulations to Jay Bowen, the winner of PARE’s 3rd annual Earth Day Photo contest!

We received thirteen great entries this year, so it was a difficult choice! Jay’s “The Plight of the Bumblebee” swept the competition with nine votes.

 

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The “Plight” of the Bumblebee
“More than an annoying summertime buzz
More than a stinger on a tiny ball of fuzz
The Bee works all day to produce the perfect food
A sweet, delicate treat for when you’re in the mood
No need for tools, chemicals, or artificial power
To gently coast from flower to flower
A form of agriculture not to be surpassed
The Bee has perfected sustainability built to last
But the Bee’s population has started to decline
Pesticides and poor environment come to mind
So let’s stay green and give our BeeFF’s a hand
For as Einstein said “No bees, no man”

Jay will receive a gift card to Panera Bread, a company that encourages us to “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously”. To learn about how Panera promotes sustainability and gives back to the community, click here.

Special thanks to all who entered the contest this year! Check them out here.

Photo 1: ”Taking Advantage of a Windy and Sunny day at the Beach” by David Matheson

Photo 2: “Walking on Water!” by Melodie Hebert

Photo 3: “Beauty of the World” by Joe Malo

Photo 4: “Fuel Production Plant” by Simon McGrath

Photo 5: “A Foraging Egret” by Lauren Hastings

Photo 6: “Jellyfish Awareness” by Scott Lindgren

Photo 7: “Roman Aqueduct” by Brandon Blanchard

Photo 8: “Maintaining Our Environment” by Kevin Vivieros

Photo 9: “Great Egret” by Briscoe Lang

Photo 11: “San Sebastian Spain” by Brian Mahoney

Photo 12: “Lake Winnipesaukee Sunset” by Devon Ward

Photo 13: “Mono Lake” by David Easterbrooks

The Entries are In: PARE’s 3rd Annual Earth Day Photo Contest

We are excited to present the entries for PARE’s 3rd annual Earth Day Photo Contest! This year, the Sustainable Design Committee was seeking photographs that celebrate the environment and a sustainable lifestyle, in the spirit of Earth Day.

Take a moment to enjoy this year’s 13 entries.

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Photo 1: ”Taking Advantage of a Windy and Sunny day at the Beach”

On my way back from a day of inspecting dams on Block Island last summer, the state helicopter flew over the figuratively and literally “green” East Matunuck State Beach Pavilion.

 

 

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Photo 2: “Walking on Water!”

Glaciers worldwide are receding due to a changing environment and extent of human impact on the planet with a global trend of warmer air temperatures.This spectacular site and experience will be forever etched in my memory. Every American should see Alaska once in their lifetime – it is breathtaking!

Mendenhall Glacier Juneau, AK (Blue Ice is from the ice which has compressed all the gas inside so much that the apparent color is blue from light scattering, much like a blue sky.)

 

 

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Photo 3: “Beauty of the World”

It’s good to celebrate the beauty of the world when you are on top of it.

 

 

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Photo 4: “Fuel Production Plant”

Fuel Production Plant hard at work in the beautiful Italian countryside. The seeds from these Sunflowers are used to produce bio-diesel. Carbon neutral fuel and beautiful at the same time.

 

 

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Photo 5: A Foraging Egret

A Great Egret foraging in a tidal pond is a beautiful sight, and serves as a reminder of how important it is to protect what remains of our coastal ecosystems.

 

 

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Photo 6: Jellyfish Awareness

I picked this photo to bring awareness to the increasing decline of our world’s oceans this Earth Day. You may ask, why jellyfish? Well jellyfish are what they call an indicator species. Jellyfish populations have been increasing dramatically around the world and represents a decline to our ocean ecosystem.

The population upward trend has been linked to many factors such as; increasing ocean temperatures and acidity, abundant plankton growth from agricultural fertilizers runoff, the overfishing of jellyfish predators such as Bluefin tuna, and a declining populations of sea turtles. All these issues are human impacts that we can effectively change with awareness and action.

The ocean here in New England is a part of our heritage, history, and way of life. One way to celebrate Earth Day and ocean sustainability is by thinking of sustainable seafood options. So this Earth Day, check out the New England Aquarium’s “ Blue Plate Special” program with local Boston restaurants, at http://www.neaq.org, and also sustainable seafood buying options and fishery information at http://blueocean.org/ and http://www.fishchoice.com/.

 

 

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Photo 7: Roman Aqueduct

When this Roman aqueduct was completed in the 1st Century, it took advantage of gravity to move water from source to destination in a truly sustainable manner. At the time, it was an ingenious solution to a complex problem – how to reliably distribute one of life’s essential natural resources – when few options were available. Not only does it still stand, rumor has it that it can still carry a steady stream of water.

Centuries of innovation have made engineering marvels like this aqueduct obsolete. But as engineers, we are at the forefront of a renewed interest in progress that protects our planet for future generations to thrive.

 

 

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Photo 8: Maintaining Our Environment

With proper stewardship we can maintain our natural environment for our children.

 

 

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Photo 9: Great Egret

Once hunted extensively for its plumage, which was used to adorn trendy and extravagant hats popular in the late 1800’s, the Great Egret has rebounded tremendously as a result of conservation measures enacted for its protection. It is now common throughout its range, which includes brackish and freshwater habitats in southern New England, and remains protected. The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, and an excellent example of conservation at work.

 

 

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Photo 10: The “Plight” of the Bumblebee The “Plight” of the Bumblebee
More than an annoying summertime buzz
More than a stinger on a tiny ball of fuzz
The Bee works all day to produce the perfect food
A sweet, delicate treat for when you’re in the mood
No need for tools, chemicals, or artificial power
To gently coast from flower to flower
A form of agriculture not to be surpassed
The Bee has perfected sustainability built to last
But the Bee’s population has started to decline
Pesticides and poor environment come to mind
So let’s stay green and give our BeeFF’s a hand
For as Einstein said “No bees, no man” 

 

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Photo 11: San Sebastian Spain

This small, picturesque city on the northern coast of Spain protects the environment while thriving off the sustainability that the ocean and local farms provide.

 

 

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Photo 12: Lake Winnipesaukee Sunset

This view is from my favorite place in the world, an island in the middle of Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Lake Winnipesaukee is the third largest lake in New England and has seen a boom in tourism and shoreline development in the last half century. Boat traffic, septic systems, and other pollution associated with increased tourism and development threaten the health of the lake and its diverse wildlife. People have responded to this threat and now several organizations are hard at work to protect this natural treasure, including the Lake Winnipesaukee Watershed Association, the Lakes Region Planning Commission, and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust. Current efforts include reducing phosphorous levels in the lake, reducing sediment transport into the threatened bays of the lake, and developing a watershed management plan to protect this beautiful lake so people like myself can continue to enjoy Lake Winnipesaukee and its wildlife for generations to come.

 

 

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Photo 13: Mono Lake

Mono Lake, California. July 2012.
Where’s the water? The City of Los Angeles, 330 miles to the south, started drawing water in 1941 from the streams that fed Mono Lake near Yosemite National Park. By 1982, lake level had fallen more than 45 feet, severely impacting this prime breeding site for many of the birds of the west coast. The “Tufa towers” dominating this photo are formed by underwater springs rich in ionized calcium. Since the Tufa formation only occurs underwater, the 25’+ towers testify to our voracious appetite for fresh water, and the disastrous consequences of an unmanaged approach to water usage.

 

 

All PARE staff are invited to vote for their favorite. Please email Deb with your choice by Friday, April 19. The winning photo will be announced on Earth Day, Monday, April 22. Thank you to all who entered!

A Sustainable Alternative to Cape Traffic

As a lifelong resident of the Boston area, trips to Cape Cod have always been a quintessential part of summertime and a relaxing escape from city life. The only major downside? Horrendous Cape traffic!

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is introducing an alternative mode of transportation with the “Cape Cod Flyer”, a new seasonal train service from Boston to Hyannis. The Flyer will run on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, using existing rail lines and MBTA equipment. This will be the first time in 25 years that train service is available from Boston to Cape Cod.

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Once arriving in Hyannis, riders will have easy access to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket ferries, the Barnstable Municipal Airport, and buses. Passengers will be allowed to bring bicycles on board, encouraging visitors to take advantage of the region’s extensive network of bike paths.

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Sandy Neck beach in Barnstable, Hyannis

At $35 for a round trip ticket, the train fare costs less than many would spend on gas – and provides a comfortable, environmentally friendly alternative to gridlock on Route 3.

Read this story on WickedLocal for more information!