Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Circuitscape GIS Tool Highlight by Starla Delorey

Circuitscape is an open source tool that applies circuit theory to identify connectivity conservation. It is currently being used to identify and prioritize wildlife corridors. Existing habitat areas are used as sources and sinks, cost factors are used to create a resistance map, and the tool calculates the probability of movement across the landscape. Gene flow can also be modeled using voltage.

In urban planning we could use this tool to model pedestrian traffic. We could identify the probability a community will be able to walk to a resource and use that information to identify areas we could improve. There must be many more applications of this tool. Please comment if you think of any!

For more information on this tool go to:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Upcycling Historic Buildings - Chrisanne Beckner

As a field, historic preservation has been identified as the enemy of progress. Those of us who love significant architecture seemed to resist innovation, ignore progress, and stand in the way of exciting new projects. Clearly, this was an inaccurate assessment. Those of us who love good architecture tend to love the old as well as the new, and we’re always documenting the latest architectural trends defining our built environment. But we’ve heard the criticism, and we’ve sat down with green architects, and we’ve begun to find common ground with the most forward-thinking developers.

Clearly, preservationists are not the first to embrace sustainability, but now we’re actively chasing innovation and pushing the building trades into new and creative directions. No longer made up entirely of individual efforts to save a single landmark, document a demolition, or educate a homeowner on the short life of replacement windows, the preservation movement sees its new role as integral to smart growth. You’ve probably heard the new mantra: “The greenest building is the one that’s already built.” Hardly a new concept, this one asks us to recognize the value of irreplaceable hard woods already embedded in our buildings, that storm windows can preserve original divided lights without threatening your heating bill, that tearing down a warehouse and replacing it with new “green” construction trashes all the energy, workmanship and materials that went into the original. Preservationists are the new advocates of upcycling! But how do we help old buildings become green buildings? The National Trust for Historic Preservation is providing the research (http://www.preservationnation.org/issues/sustainability) and we have the National Trust’s Green Lab in our own backyard (www.preservationnation.org/issues/sustainability/green-lab). But if you want more evidence that green preservation has gone mainstream, take a look at the California Office of Historic Preservation’s aggregated articles, resources, etc. on green preservation. Looks like it’s not getting regularly updated in 2010, but it clearly traces the first five years of the green preservation movement (ohp.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24861).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rainwater Harvesting - Pros and Cons

Rainwater harvesting benefits you in many ways. First of all, it offers a modicum of INDEPENDENCE from your municipal water service. It is a great BACK UP in areas where summer droughts are frequent. If you pay a heft price for water (particularly for watering your garden) it provides water almost for “FREE.” The water is SOFT and requires much less laundry soap compared to municipal water and if you are one of those trying to AVOID ARTIFICIALLY FLUORINATED WATER – rainwater harvesting is your choice source for water.

Rainwater harvesting helps RECHARGE YOUR GROUNDWATER and aquifers and is also a wonderful way to PROTECT YOUR AREA’S RIVERS and lakes. By reducing the amount of rain water that runs off your roofs and pavements, deluges your water bodies with excessive mud, and washes off aquatic habitat by fast flowing sheets of water, rainwater harvesting better mimics the natural process of gradually releasing rainwater into your area’s waterbodies during heavy downpours. Thus water that would have otherwise created havoc in your rivers is instead trapped for later use during dry spells.

Another way that trapping water can help your community is to reduce the impact of rainwater on your MUNICIPAL WASTE WATER PLANT and related costs. Your city might be among the many where these pipes are combined with your sewer pipes. Therefore during downpours, the water you could have captured is sent down the gutters, through the stormwater pipes and into the sewer system. When this system is overloaded during heavy rains, the stormwater that is mixed with the sewer overwhelms the waste water treatment plant, causing untreated water to be released into your river and lakes – with the obvious consequences of contaminating your local water and poisoning aquatic life.

Rainwater harvesting therefore allows you to save money, be a little more independent, and express your passion for your local environment.

However, you need to be careful; areas that are dry will consume this saved water quickly. Therefore the COST OF LARGER STORAGE needs to be assessed against the cost of the system. Also, you need to check if your local rivers are tied to any NATIVE AMERICAN TREATY RIGHTS. In some places, Native American treaties give the Nations the right to capture rainfall in the rivers, and courts might consider your little rainwater harvesting system, an infringement on the Nations’ access to rainwater. Also, if you decide to use the rainwater for potable purposes, it can get FAIRLY PRICEY PRETTY QUICKLY. This may make it out of many people’s reach. Also, rainwater harvesting is associated with some level of MAINTENANCE AND UPKEEP above and beyond that for piped municipal water. The water needs to be frequently chlorinated or checked for unwanted microbes; you need to make sure that if you will use this water for potable purposes, that your Ultraviolet treatment system and your filters will clean your water of all harmful microbes and bacteria. Some local codes will not yet allow these systems to be your primary source for water - so check with your city hall before you decide to build one. Lastly, these barrels can be UGLY!!

Hope I have not dissuaded you. The reasons for not rainwater harvesting are easily outweighed by the many benefits of doing so. This is the simplest way to be green.

Next: Rainwater Harvesting for Irrigation

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rainwater Harvesting

WHAT IS IT? I am investigating a new (old) trend that involves catching rainwater where it falls - this is known as rainwater harvesting. In many arid and semi-arid cultures of the past, people did just that. These wise people built elaborate underground tanks that not only cooled their rooms above, but provided water. I understand that this was also typical practice in some parts of the US till about the early 1900s.

WHAT IS IT USED FOR? Rainwater thus harvested can be used for irrigation, laundry, toilets, sinks, showers and drinking. Depending on the precautions taken by the household, untreated water can be piped directly from the tanks for irrigation, doing laundry and flushing toilets, unless you have a pet that loves the toilet bowl. If so, then it is generally recommended that the water should be treated. This applies to all potable uses of the water.

COSTS? Before you determine the end use for your system, consider the potential costs: storage, spigot, plumbing, pumps, filters, UV treatment etc. Using untreated water is much less expensive than treating the water. Costs for treating the water varies from low-grade treatment for laundry and showers, and high-grade treatment for potable use of the water. Next Pros and Cons of Rainwater Harvesting