London Starts Planting Green Walls for Flood Prevention

Earlier this year, Toronto suffered some severe flooding and city planner Jennifer Keesmat composed this great tweet:

One of those programs she is referring to is the tower renewal program which helped energy conservation, local ecologies, and improve housing conditions. Toronto’s mayor ensures these programs don’t get funding.

Here in Toronto where we have a druggy mayor who hates the environment who also sat in an idling SUV during the flooding (idling is illegal in the city). The mayor has gone out of his way to ensure that Toronto treats the local environment worse than it did the year before. I mention this as a contrast to what is happening in England’s biggest city.

In London, they have a mayor who actually knows that climate change is happening and the city is doing something about it. London is no stranger to threat of flooding, indeed the Thames barrier’s lifetime has been reduced due to the increased pace of climate change. With most usable space already consumed, what is the city to do?

London has turned to constructing green walls! The walls absorb water that would otherwise contribute to flooding within the city by soaking up rainwater.

The wall captures rainwater from the roof of the hotel in dedicated storage tanks; the rainwater is then channeled slowly through the wall to nourish plants, simultaneously reducing surface water on the streets below. “The plants themselves will take up rain too, so the rain doesn’t fall on the street below,” says Beamont.

During the design process, Grant picked out native ferns, English ivy, geraniums, strawberry and primroses for the living wall, using the Royal Horticultural Society’s pollinators list as a guide. “My approach is to use native species in natural associations, however sometimes it’s not practicable because of problems with availability or a lack of visual interest or late flowering,” he says. “It’s still necessary to choose plants that are known to thrive in living walls, or are likely to thrive in living walls, and are suited to the aspect and microclimate.”

Read more at Co.Exist.

People Recycle More in Green Buildings

Researchers at UBC have studied the recycling behaviour of people who work in green buildings to those who don’t and found that – regardless of their past habits – people in green buildings recycle more. This is really nifty because it proves that design of an interior space alone can impact how people recycle and the efficiency of waste management.

“Design can absolutely influence people,” Susan Gushe, a principal with the firm, told CBC News.

She says there are several things designers take into consideration when integrating recycling and garbage receptacles into buildings, such as:

  • Locating them in areas where people are likely to use them, such as the CIRS’s kitchenettes.
  • Making bins easy to access for patrons and maintenance staff.
  • Clearly labelling bins.
  • It’s also important to make the recycling hubs look good, she said.

“Do you want to see great big bins out in the corridor? No, not really,” says Gushe. “You want to integrate the utilitarian things in a building into the fabric of the building, so that you don’t have this really ugly stuff sitting out there.”

Read more at CBC.

Empire State Building Gets a Green Overall

The Empire State Building in New York has received a green overall that has cut 20% of the building’s energy consumption and will save the owners a ton of cash.

The renovations are part of a $500 million rehab plan for the building. The building’s owners, Malkin Holdings LLC, filed for an initial public offering back in February which valued the building at $2.5 billion.

The changes to the Empire State include:

–Filling the existing windows with an energy saving gas and adding an additional plastic pane.

–Upgrading the building’s cooling system.

–Using computerized “smart” energy management technology that can adjust temperatures floor by floor.

–Provide tenants with detailed energy use in their space.

–Automatically shut off lights in unused areas.

Read more at CNN.

Denmark Increases Green Energy Transition

Denmark is getting looking to have 50% of it’s energy come from wind power and are looking to further their need to import any energy at all. Not only is Denmark looking to lower the need for foreign energy they are trying to decrease the amount of energy that the country uses.

“Denmark will once again be the global leader in the transition to green energy,” said Lidegaard. “This will prepare us for a future with increasing prices for oil and coal. Moreover, it will create some of the jobs that we need so desperately, now and in the coming years.”

The agreement will help Denmark achieve its goal of supplying 100% of its energy from renewables by 2050, including electricity, heating, industry and transport.

Read more here.

The Growing Industry of Green Cement

Cement is a very popular building material for a lot of good reasons, the problem though is that the process of making it requires a ton of energy. This problem has led to a growing number of people looking into ways to make cement less damaging to the planet. We’ve covered cement on here before.

The Smithsonian has a good round-up of the current world of greening the cement industry. In some ways these solutions can work together.

Though still refining its procedures, Novacem is racing with at least five other companies and university centers to come up with a greener cement. “Given all the attention to carbon these days, a lot of entrepreneurs have popped up,” said MIT’s Jennings. “They see the opportunity side.” With cement a $170 billion-a-year industry, investment money is pouring in.

A California company called Calera has perhaps the most unusual approach: It harnesses carbon dioxide emitted from a power plant and mixes it with seawater or brine to create carbonates that are used to make cement. They can be added to Portland cement to replace some or all of the limestone. Calera is backed by a $50 million investment from Vinod Khosla, a computer engineer who is perhaps Silicon Valley’s most respected and deep-pocketed investor in green technologies. “We are actually making our cement out of CO2,” said company founder Brent Constantz. “We are taking CO2 that would have gone into the atmosphere and turning it into cement.” The technology is still in development, with a demonstration plant in Moss Landing, California, and a partnership with a Chinese group to build a plant next to a coal mine in Inner Mongolia, where they plan to use carbon dioxide emissions to make cement.

Calix, an Australian company, makes cement using superheated steam, which modifies the cement particles and makes them purer and more chemically reactive. The process also separates out carbon dioxide, making it easier to capture the gas and keep it out of the atmosphere.

Louisiana Tech University, like Novacem and Calera, is doing away with limestone altogether; it’s using a paste called geopolymer, which is made of fly ash, sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide.

Read more

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