Archives for posts with tag: Urban Sustainability

Trash: the big topic for many Angelenos over the past couple of weeks.  For most of us, waste is something we don’t think about much, and can’t wait to get rid of; while we try to recycle as much as possible, and use reusable containers and the like, we still generate a tremendous amount of trash.  When we’re done with a wrapper or a soda cup, we generally can’t wait for it to be out of our sight.  However, if you’re working in the waste industry, you don’t have that luxury.  In Los Angeles, trash is currently handled in two major ways: residential waste it picked up by the city, and private waste haulers take care of commercial and large apartment buildings.  For the latter group, trash pick up is a regular cost to incur, but because they can chose the private handlers themselves, there is an argument that the environmental and safety standards these handlers are held to are lacking.  In fact, two young waste workers were recently killed due to the hazardous materials and lack of proper equipment at their place of work.  While many people, especially owners of apartment buildings, are happy with the current system and the level of flexibility it allows them, there are others who believe the environmental and safety impacts are too great to ignore.

A plan was put before the LA Board of Public Works, changing the current free-market system of private waste hauling to a franchise system, either exclusive or non-exclusive.  This means that the system would be highly regulated and companies would have to be approved by the city.  The Bureau of Sanitation put forth a set of recommendations based on their data, which was approved unanimously by the Board- the next step was a hearing on what to accept for the city.

The hearing took place on Monday, February 13th, and I was lucky enough to be informed about it ahead of time, and was in attendance.   Read the rest of this entry »

Due to my fortunate connections with Antioch University and their new low-residency MA Urban Sustainability Program, I was invited to attend their field trips during their residency a few weeks ago.  The first trip was to the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council) of Los Angeles, located in Santa Monica.  While the NRDC does great work in LA and all over the country, our main reason for visiting was to take a tour of the facility, which is LEED Platinum and pretty neat.

So the building is LEED certified and greener than most an all- but what does that mean?  Whats going on there that makes it so much more awesome than any other building?

(achem) The List of Cool Green Components at NRDC LA:

1 – Many components are easy to incorporate into almost any building- it can be as simple as choosing a particular brand of carpeting or lighting.  In this building, however, almost everything inside was made from recycled materials, lacked formaldehyde and other hazardous chemicals often found in building/decorating materials, and was produced locally ( = less fuel/money on shipping)

Check out this lighting device, for example.  All throughout the office were these cool overhead lights that through a simple twist on the common office lighting device, provide light through both the top and bottom, letting light reflect all over the ceiling.  This means a lot more light in the room per bulb!  No point in covering up most of a light bulb with a shade, and then using more lights in each room.

I didn’t nab pictures of all of it, but to give some more examples:  the carpets were made from recycled materials that could be easily broken back down to their original bits and be reused again; the counters in the kitchen and copy room were made of compressed recycled paper and sealed with green sealant; chairs came from recycled plastics; countless desks and tables were made from scraps…the list goes on.  The best part is that they all looked perfectly normal and office classy.

2 – A green building doesn’t have to look like a space ship.  The NRDC building blends in perfectly with the Santa Monica style.

The patio at NRDC manages to be both functional and match the local style, as does the architectural design of the building.

3 – Its about going back to the basics.  People need light and fresh air, and by making those more accessible within the building, you not only cut down on health costs, but on heating and cooling bills as well.

These ceiling “pop-ups” allow for a place for hot air to rise, cooler air to flow in, and natural sunlight to come down.  They look like a natural part of the rest of the building, and are super easy to incorporate into a design

4 – SOLAR PANELS!

So, yes it is true that PVCs are not as efficient as we’d like them to be, are relatively expensive, and can be a pain to install.  But the truth of the matter is, they can seriously cut down on electricity needs from other sources, you can get a hell of a tax break, and most places you’d buy them from come with installation.  Plus, if you’re a relatively handy person, they apparently aren’t that hard to put up.

The moral of the story is: it isn’t that hard to be greener with building!  A story we’ve heard many times before, but this time you’ve heard it with the help of the NRDC.  For more info, check out their website.