When you think about geothermal power you may think of giant installations benefiting from the heat the earth produces; however much smaller geothermal setups exist. These smaller systems are often called geoexchanges since they cycle heat from the ground to the building above or vice versa. Small residential systems can take a long time to recoup the costs of installation and demand for these small systems keeps increasing. Larger installations for condo buildings can see positive returns very quickly due to the sheer quantity of energy those buildings need. The good news here is that more and more condos are looking to this more sustainable source of heating and cooling.
Lloyd Jacobs, general manager of FortisBC Alternative Energy Services, which has installed geothermal systems in dozens of multi-residential buildings in B.C., said there is “a huge demand” for alternative heating systems in large buildings that might have been heated by fossil fuels or baseboard heaters in the past.
Traditionally, a challenge for geothermal energy is the high cost of digging and installing the borefield — that is, the liquid-filled underground loops that store and supply the heating and cooling to the system.
But Martin Luymes, vice-president of government relations for the Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada, said those upfront expenses are now offset by savings from things like lower energy and maintenance costs in as little as three to five years for large buildings.
Buildings suck up a lot of energy and thus are massive contributors to our collective carbon footprint. After they are built ongoing operational costs are incurred, and the costs are greater on buildings which are inefficiently deigned and built. This has led a team in the states to call for a new approach towards how construction functions in the nation. A green approach to build green is the dream.
Of course, the best thing we can do is work to reduce our demand on new buildings and re-purpose existing infrastructure to be more efficient.
With public demand growing for scalable climate solutions from all levels of government, policymakers can work together to transition the United States from a patchwork of requirements to a set of dynamic, performance-based policies that enable rapid decarbonization throughout a building’s lifecycle. Zero-carbon building codes for new construction address the emissions from buildings constructed each year, while emerging building performance standards and policies can address existing buildings.
Inequality has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we ought to be conscious about this. Wealthy individuals can work from home and afford to move, while others need to be physically at work and can’t move. As a result the prices of houses outside of cities have risen has more people look for more space to accommodate working from home.
We also know that the suburbs are drivers of regressive political attitudes and horrible environmental damage. We ought to be conscious about this too. Since people want to keep working from home and move further from sustainable infrastructure, what should we do? Over at Fast Company they explore this 2020 conundrum.
As we face aclimate turning pointfor which our post-COVID-19 behaviors are especially crucial, it’s important that higher-income individuals who move outward live in an eco-friendly way, especially when manyessential and lower-wage workersmust stay in cities and, often, climate hotspots. “COVID-19 has illustrated a sad truism: We may all be in the same boat, but we all do not have the same paddles,” Daniel Kammen, the other Berkeley study author, wrote in an email toFast Company. Affluent individuals in New York and San Francisco have the financial means to insulate themselves from climate risks, such as wildfires and unsafe air, by working from home and relocating, he explained. “Multiple properties, often larger suburban and rural homes, and longer delivery chains all mean that individual emissions of the affluent rise when they take the extra precautions they can afford.”
Earlier this year Sidewalk Labs (Google) opted out of building a “smart” neighbourhood in Toronto due to local pressure (protests work!). What the “smart” neighbourhood wanted to do was monitor and control the activities of occupants and visitors, which would have likely violated many laws. The business plan was even more outrageous since it set out to mire the city in debt by loaning money to the government to pay for the construction. These so-called smart initiatives are really the privatization, through surveillance capitalism ,of the urban space by massive corporations.
If we want resilient, robust, and nice places to live then we ought to get inspiration from the past. Ice in the desert without AC? That’s possible with technology dating back hundreds of years. We need to take a look at work at the past and implement those solutions in modern ways.
As for dumb transport, there can be no doubt that walking or cycling are superior to car travel over short urban distances: zero pollution, zero carbon emissions, free exercise.
And there’s a dumb solution to the spread of air conditioning, one of the greatest urban energy guzzlers: more plants. A study in Madison, Wisconsin found that urban temperatures can be 5% cooler with 40% tree cover. Green roofs with high vegetation density can cool buildings by up to 60%. Or you could just think like a bug: architects are mimicking the natural cooling airflows of termite burrows. Mick Pearce’s 350,000 sq ft Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, completed in the 1990s, is still held up as a paragon of dumb air conditioning: all it needs are fans, and uses a tenth of the energy of the buildings next door.
When housing prices collapsed in the USA a decade ago corporations saw an opportunity to buy a basic human need and profit off of it. Multiple investment firms bought up cheap property (in some cases they used taxpayer money to do so) that they then turned around and rented to the very people who lost their homes. This led to accelerating inequality and many other societal problems.
The documentary Push (trailer above) explores the history of the housing crisis we’re in and how cities around the world are reacting to it. It’s worth watching if only to understand the situation around us. Hopefully as we bail out poorly performing companies during this decade’s economic claptrap we’ll support companies that make the life easier for people instead of the opposite.
You can ask Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on housing questions right now about anything housing related.
Housing prices are skyrocketing in cities around the world. Incomes are not. PUSH sheds light on a new kind of faceless landlord, our increasingly unliveable cities and an escalating crisis that has an effect on us all. This is not gentrification, it’s a different kind of monster.
The film follows Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, as she’s traveling the globe, trying to understand who’s being pushed out of the city and why. “I believe there’s a huge difference between housing as a commodity and gold as a commodity. Gold is not a human right, housing is,” says Leilani.