Energy Efficiency

Climate Change Mitigation

Visitors enjoying the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. (Photo: fotoluminate)

Visitors enjoying the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. (Photo: fotoluminate)

The high temperatures of recent days has, for some, brought back memories of the deadly July 1995 heat wave in Chicago that killed more than 700 people. While our recent high temperatures don’t come close to breaking records, it should prompt another conversation about our changing climate and our industry’s response to mitigating the impact of a warming planet. In recent weeks, the Royal Institute of British Architects made news by declaring a state of climate emergency.

Last December, 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA issued an open letter detailing the AIA's stance on climate change mitigation, steps the Institute has taken to confront the issue, and how architects can get involved. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

Climate change and the heightened severity of weather events will cause increased loss of human life, more frequent crop failure, and more displaced people. This will destabilize governments, increase the risk of conflict, and hurt the global economy…The science is irrefutable.

The building sector accounts for roughly 40 percent of current global greenhouse gas emissions. By achieving significant emissions reduction in our own sector of the economy, we can contribute a large portion of the solution.

As architects, we have unique skills to explain the challenge to a wide audience, and the design knowledge to find more ways to reduce building emissions. We are equal to the task. But we must not wait.

Buildings are major producers of carbon, so climate change poses both major obstacles and opportunities for architects around the world. I am proud to be a part of an industry that is taking a stand. You can read the entire call to action here.

Chicago's City Lights

Chicago's WBEZ91.5 looks at why that tell-tale orange is becoming history.

Chicago's WBEZ91.5 looks at why that tell-tale orange is becoming history.

This week the Washington, D.C.-based  American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy  issued its “2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard,” finding that Chicago ranked among the top 10 cities in the country for having strong energy efficiency policies.

Chicago’s rise came from benchmarking and energy transparency initiatives, said David Ribeiro, ACEEE research analyst and one of the authors of the report. One Chicago ordinance requires all commercial, residential and municipal structures of 50,000 or more square feet to submit whole building energy data annually to the city and have it verified every three years.

The ACEEE's scorecard documents and compares actions cities can take to enable or improve energy efficiency. The report’s metrics measure policies and programs that achieve one or more of the following: directly reduce end-use energy consumption; accelerate the adoption of the most energy-efficient technologies; provide funding for energy efficiency programs; set long-term commitments to energy efficiency; establish or enforce building performance codes or standards; reduce market, regulatory, and information barriers to energy efficiency.

An important component of a city's energy efficiency program involves the choices made regarding lighting. The release of the report reminded me of a segment which aired on WBEZ91.5's program Curious City last month which attempted to answer the question: How has energy efficient lighting affected the view of the Chicago skyline? In the story, George Malek, director of ComEd’s energy efficiency program, confirms that sodium vapor lighting — and its tell-tale gold glow — is on its way out. And, he says, the transformation is driven by a city-wide movement toward efficient lighting.

What are you doing to measure/modify your building's energy efficiency? Take a moment to follow the links to these stories and feel free to comment below.