Friday, January 11, 2019

Chicago Beats Better Buildings Challenge in Just Five Years

Recently, the city of Chicago announced it met its energy efficiency
goal five years ahead of schedule. The energy savings have
translated to more money and new jobs in the city.

Last week, the city of Chicago announced that it had met its Better Buildings Challenge goal five years ahead of schedule. Set back in 2012, Chicago committed to reducing its energy use by 20 percent over the next ten years. However, after just six years Chicago has reduced its energy use intensity by 22 percent.

Part of a Department of Energy (DOE) energy efficiency campaign, the Better Buildings Challenge asked cities across the United States to reduce energy use intensity. The challenge encouraged cities to use sustainable design practices to improve the energy performance of existing buildings.

When Chicago joined the Better Buildings Challenge, it launched Retrofit Chicago, a city-wide energy efficiency program. The program provides resources for commercial residential, and municipal buildings to implement energy efficient renovations. As a result, Chicago was able to provide building retrofits, smart HVAC systems, energy-saving LED lights, and more improvements to residents who could not otherwise afford them.

The Chicago Better Buildings Challenge has a made a big impact on the city. The reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission has helped improved the city's air quality. Additionally, the initiative has created more jobs for energy auditors, building performance analysts, and other contractors with energy efficiency experience. But most importantly for developers and residents alike, the energy efficiency campaign has reduced utility bills and operational costs for structures. Chicago has cumulatively saved almost $48 million in energy costs due to the challenge.

The Department of Energy isn't the first entity to recognize Chicago for its commitment to sustainable design. Previously, the city won awards in both 2017 and 2015 for green building and eco-friendly upgrades. The city was recognized by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for having 70% of its office spaces being LEED or ENERGY STAR certified.

To learn more about Chicago's Better Buildings Challenge, visit the Better Buildings website. To learn more about energy efficiency and how to get involved in this dynamic career path, visit Zack Academy.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Washington D.C. Passes Landmark Energy Law

Washington D.C.'s new energy bill could reduce the city's
carbon emissions by more than 40 percent in 2032.

Earlier this week, city officials in Washington, D.C. voted unanimously in support of a substantial energy bill. The new bill, Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, is a road map to reduce the District's emissions by more than 40 percent. Called one of the strongest energy requirements in the nation, the new bill will allow Washington, D.C to generate 100 percent of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2032.

If Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the bill as expected, Clean Energy DC will have a large impact on energy efficiency and carbon emissions in the city. By 2032, utility providers must derive 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources. By 2041, at least 10 percent of that energy must come from solar power.

Additionally, the bill governs carbon emissions from transportation. By 2045, all public transportation and privately-owned vehicle fleets in D.C. will have to be zero-emission vehicles. This does not apply to private, individual transportation choices but it does create more eco-friendly public transportation.

For developers and construction managers, the bill includes additional legislation for building requirements. In Washington, D.C., buildings account for 74 percent of the city's carbon emissions. Once enacted, all buildings over 50,000 square feet must reach minimum energy efficiency levels by 2026. Although the specific standard has not yet been set, lawmakers are expecting it to be as aggressive as the rest of the bill's provisions.

For now, city officials plan to place the onus on utility companies to meet the renewable energy standards. Washington, D.C. intends to annually increase its energy efficiency standards until it reaches its goal of 100 percent in 2032. Energy suppliers that fail to meet the benchmark will pay fines to D.C.'s Renewable Energy Development Fund. These fees will be used to help implement cost-saving, energy efficient solutions in low-income communities.

The fees will also be used for job training to meet the demand for more contractors with backgrounds in weatherization, energy analysis, and other energy efficiency fields

While other smaller cities have already reached 100 percent renewable energy goals, Washington D.C. would be the largest city to do so. If signed, all businesses, governmental institutions, museums and residences in the capital would be powered by sustainable energy. Put another way, the White House could be powered by renewable energy in just 14 years.

To learn more about the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Act, read the bill. To learn more about energy efficiency training and sustainable design, visit Zack Academy.

Trump Administration Unveils Federal Lead Action Plan

An inter-agency effort produced the new Federal Lead Action
Plan. This plan aims to reduce U.S. childhood lead exposure
through four points of action.

Last week, the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled the Trump Administration's Federal Lead Action Plan. This new plan is an inter-agency effort to reduce childhood lead exposure.

Developed through the collaboration of 17 federal departments and offices, the Lead Action Plan aims to reduce lead exposure by working with states, tribes, local communities, businesses, property owners, and parents. The plan focuses on increased public education and communication with stakeholders to reduce childhood lead exposure.

"The Federal Lead Action Plan will enhance the Trump Administration's efforts to identify and reduce lead contamination while ensuring children impacted by lead exposure are getting the support and care they need," Andrew Wheeler, EPA Acting Administrator, said in a recent press release.

Lead exposure has been a public health concern both at the state and federal level since recent crises in cities such as Flint, Milwaukee, and Baltimore made headlines. Lead exposure is associated with neurological, bone, and blood disorders. Although high levels of acute lead exposure can cause death, public health officials are more concerned about small amounts of lead exposure over a lifetime. Like all heavy metals, lead poisoning is cumulative. This means small amounts of exposure over time can build up and cause irreversible defects. The effects of lead poisoning are pronounced in children as lead exposure can interfere with cognitive and physical development.

"Implementing this plan will help federal agencies, along with our state and local partners, advance efforts to remediate home health hazards and keep children safe from lead poisoning," Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, said in a recent press release.

The Lead Action Plan summarized its blueprint for reducing lead exposure in four goals. The four goals of the Lead action Plan are:
  • Reduce Children's Exposure to lead Sources
  • Identify Lead-Exposed Children and Improve their Health Outcomes
  • Communicate More Effectively with Stakeholders
  • Support and Conduct Critical Research to Inform Efforts to Reduce Lead Exposures and Related Health Risks
The Lead Action Plan will help federal agencies divide and conquer the four major roadblocks of childhood lead poisoning prevention.

To read the full Lead Action Plan report, visit EPA's website. To learn more about getting certified to perform lead paint inspections or removal, visit Zack Academy.