Enhancing the city’s role as a carbon sink: the San Francisco experience

Read the full story in Canadian Architect.

What is a “carbon sink,” and how can it help us fight climate change? Carbon sinks act like sponges that soak up more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. We define the process by which we remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as “carbon sequestration.” The most effective carbon sinks use our natural systems (i.e., forests, wetlands, agricultural lands and coastal ecosystems), but buildings also play an essential role. To achieve net-zero by 2040, we need to consider carbon sinks as a means to amplify our efforts to reduce emissions, and we need to measure the efficacy of carbon sinks because good data supports meaningful policy and design.

Here’s how the new US tax credits and rebates will work for clean energy home upgrades

Electrek spoke with Dan Gayer, JD, CPA, a senior manager in the tax practice at Baker Newman Noyes, about how homeowners can claim tax credits and rebates as they work to achieve energy efficiency and lower their energy bills.

This anonymous manifesto outlines how architects can design for degrowth

Read the full story at Treehugger.

An architectural worker tells us where the profession should be going.

Energy Efficiency Rebates for Commercial Buildings

Use this map from ENERGY STAR to find out if your utility offers rebates on the purchase of efficient commercial building equipment that falls outside the scope of ENERGY STAR certification. Illinois companies can also visit the ComEd, Ameren, and MidAmerican Energy websites directly to see their offerings.

Use ENERGY STAR’s Rebate Finder to identify nearby rebates and special offers for ENERGY STAR certified products.

Subsurface Characterization, Monitoring, and Modeling of a Geothermal Exchange Borefield for the Campus Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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This report presents the outcome of research in geothermal energy, specifically geothermal exchange, conducted by geologists, hydrogeologists, and engineers at the Illinois State Geological Survey and Illinois Water Resources Center in partnership with engineering faculty and students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (U of I), who are members of the newly-formed Illinois Geothermal Coalition. This effort brought together a multi-disciplinary and multiorganizational team of scientists and engineers who are focused on advancing the application of geothermal energy technologies for district heating and cooling systems that allow energy end users to meet net carbon neutrality, renewable energy, and grid resilience goals.

The research specifically supported the design and operation of a shallow geothermal exchange system for the U of I and its private partners at the Campus Instructional Facility (CIF) that just recently came online in April 2021. As academic campuses aggressively pursue renewable and sustainable energy sources to reduce their carbon footprints and enhance operational resiliency, geothermal energy has increasingly garnered more interest and is considered an uninterruptible source of heating and cooling, offering greater dependability in supplying a constant energy load with the least impact on the energy grid. Geothermal energy is very attractive because of its long-term environmental and economic benefits, especially since heating, cooling, and dehumidification systems in buildings are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) and are estimated to consume more than 40% of the nation’s electricity.

At the U of I, the administration and students are pursuing an aggressive strategy to obtain a sustainable campus environment and become carbon neutral by eliminating or offsetting GHG emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050. At the CIF, the goal is to exceed the per-building metrics proposed in the 2020 Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) by connecting the geothermal exchange system with radiant heating and cooling as part of an energy-efficient design that is expected to save ~2,839 million Btu (MMBtu) of energy per year and reduce GHG emissions by >70% compared to similarsized buildings. Nearly 65% of that energy load (~135 tons of heating and cooling capacity) will be supplied by the geothermal exchange system.

Unlike in western regions of the U.S. where hot fluids and steam in volcanic rocks are used to generate electricity or for direct heating, in the Midwest region geothermal energy systems typically use thermal exchange technologies that take advantage of the thermal energy stored in the Earth’s subsurface (typically within the upper 100–150 m [~330–500 ft]). Using geothermal heat pumps, refrigerant fluid or water is circulated through boreholes allowing heat to be absorbed or released to the ground (e.g., Lund 2002). The geothermal exchange system takes advantage of the constant ground temperature throughout the year below depths of ~10 m (~33 feet). The ground temperature below this depth is not impacted by seasonal changes in atmospheric conditions, and thus ground-based heating and cooling systems run more efficiently. Furthermore, geographic areas such as the U.S. Midwest region have a consistently variable climate (e.g., cold winters and hot summers), which can maximize the benefits offered by utilizing the natural thermal energy from the ground.

These affordable apartments are designed to use almost no energy

Read the full story at Fast Company.

By using ‘Passive House’ standards, the apartment building uses less energy and saves on operating costs—helping to make units affordable for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

How local governments and communities are taking action to get fossil fuels out of buildings

Read the full story from the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Across the United States, 80 cities and counties have adopted policies that require or encourage the move off fossil fuels to all-electric homes and buildings. As of August 2022, nearly 28 million people across 11 states live in a jurisdiction where local policies favor fossil fuel-free, healthy buildings. And the momentum behind these policies keeps building — dozens more local governments have strong commitments to decarbonize their buildings stock, which will soon become formal policy.

Urban runoff threatens water quality. Infrastructure changes could help.

Read the full story from WUNC.

It’s storm season, and that means flood season.

When it rains, water sheets off the roofs, parking lots, and roads that cover an increasing portion of the landscape. To avoid flooding, city infrastructure focuses on moving all that water into pipes and streams, getting it downstream and out of town as fast as possible. But the current standard for dealing with stormwater makes pollution worse for everything and everyone depending on urban streams, including the people who get their drinking water from farther down the river.

As cities continue to develop at lightning speed, washing our problems down the river becomes an increasingly unsustainable prospect.

Should DC’s empty office buildings get turned into apartments?

Read the full story at Washingtonian.

It’s clear workers will never return in full force. Developers and local officials see an opportunity.

Minnesota initiative aims to lower energy burden in manufactured homes

Read the full story at Energy News Network.

The state’s Clean Energy Resource Teams, a public-private partnership, has targeted manufactured home communities for energy conservation outreach over the last four years.