WORLD BANK MEASURES NATURAL CAPITAL
The World Bank has just published "Monitoring Economic Progress", a study that measures national wealth in a new way. For the first time, this study considers natural capital such as land, fossil fuel deposits, other mineral wealth, and clean water along with standard economic measures. The bank intends to foster a new perspective of development economics by accounting for environmental degradation costs and debiting national wealth accounts as countries deplete mineral resources. The study measures the wealth of 192 countries with some unlikely results. Australia comes out on top, followed by Canada. The United States ranks 12th. Over the last decade, the bank has faced heavy criticism of its lending policies. Now more money is going into intangible investments like education and wilderness preservation, and relatively less into pouring concrete and clearing forests. The bank's born-again-green management financed the study after the 1992 environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro. - The New York Times, September 19, 1995, p. B5, by Peter Passell.
THE OFFICE TOOLKIT
New software called The Office Toolkit helps facility managers identify and reduce the most significant environmental problems in their buildings' operation. The Building Research Establishment (BRE) and PA Consulting Group have produced the software in the UK. The Toolkit covers not only the usual environmental aspects such as energy use, CFCs, and Legionnaire's disease, but also the impact of commuting, business travel, and printing. Initial data collection takes five days for a typical 150-person office. From data collected about the office as is, the software calculates "ecopoints" based on the environmental impact of each aspect. For cost-benefit analysis, graphic bar charts compare eco point-based "environmental fingerprints" with corresponding "cost fingerprints". The Toolkit outlines actions - with their cost and environmental effect - that the facility manager can take and helps its users set targets to reduce environmental impact. The software is available for Windows and requires Lotus 1-2-3 or Microsoft Excel. – The Architects' Journal, August 24, 1995, p.44, by John Doggart.
GREEN BUILDING PRIORITIES
It is rarely possible to do everything we would like to reduce the environmental impact of building projects. And easier measures may not always be the more important ones. No simple task, but Environmental Building News took a crack at establishing priorities. From more important to less: 1 Save Energy - design and build energy-efficient buildings. 2 Recycle Buildings - utilize existing buildings and infrastructure instead of developing open space. 3 Create Community - design communities to reduce dependence on the automobile and to foster a sense of community. 4 Reduce Material Use - optimize design to make use of smaller spaces and utilize materials efficiently. 5 Protect and Enhance the Site - preserve or restore local ecosystems and biodiversity. 6 Select Low-Impact Materials- specify low environmental impact, resource-efficient materials. 7 Maximize Longevity - design for durability and adaptability. 8 Save Water - design buildings and landscapes that are water-efficient. 9 Make the Building Healthy - provide a safe and comfortable indoor environment. 10 Minimize C&D Waste - return, reuse, and recycle job-site waste and practice environmentalism in your business. 11 Green Up Your Business -minimize the environmental impact of your own business practices, and spread the word. - Environmental Building News, September/October 1995, p. 1, by Alex Wilson and Nadav Malin.
TWIN CITIES SUBURBS FIGHT SPRAWL
Facing continuing urban sprawl, the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs of Golden Valley, Eagan, and Plymouth are seeking ways to define their town centers and civic identity. Golden Valley, a first-ring suburb, is determined to replace its aging '60s strip malls with pedestrian-friendly, smaller-scale retail development. Golden Valley's citizen task force report is a strong statement about the value of community-based development. "What is required is imagination, skill and commitment. The challenge to developers who may submit a proposal is that they think like pedestrians and propose a development that they would want for their own communities." The report bans big-box retail, free-standing fast-food restaurants, and drive-through facilities. Even in Eagan, a younger outer-ring suburb planned by the private market, the community has recently begun to articulate its desire for a strong sense of place. The community objected to a proposed development ironically called Eagan Promenade. The city is negotiating with the developer for better materials and more landscaping, but it seems unlikely that Eagan's citizens will get a genuine community space in this development. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, to update its procedures and ordinances, the second-ring suburb Plymouth has a six-month moratorium on new commercial and industrial subdivisions. - Architecture Minnesota, September/October 1995, p. 40, by Janet Whitmore.
At home, few people use a towel just once. Yet the Green Hotels Association points out that hotels use tons of detergent and water daily to wash once-used towels and linens. And now signs are appearing in hotels asking guests to change their ways. Beyond laundry, several hotels are responding to a growing environmental awareness more comprehensively. The Anatole Hotel in Dallas, Wyndham Hotels' flagship, features shower heads that save water and remove chlorine, separate spigots for filtered and unfiltered water, energy-saving light bulbs, in-room recycling receptacles, and water-saving toilets. A 60-room hotel under construction near Houten in the Netherlands will have 250 applications of new technology including infrared and controlled water taps, environmentally friendly building materials, a garden where water is recycled, and solar- and wind-powered hot water and electrical systems. - Miami Herald, September 11, 1995, p. 45, by Tom Belden.
VOC REGULATIONS CHANGE PAINT INDUSTRY
The 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1970 mandated that the EPA study and regulate volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from consumer products including architectural coatings. Solvent-based paints and stains emit VOCs. VOCs contribute to smog when they react with other chemical compounds, heat, and ultra-violet radiation. Manufacturers have already replaced close to 80percent of solvent-based architectural coatings with water-borne products that are more durable than past latex paints. Still, reaching 1996 goals will require significant VOC content reductions in solvent-based products. Today's average alkyd gloss interior enamel has 450 grams of VOCs per liter. New regulations are likely to require that it drop to 350 grams per liter, drastically degrading the product's performance and application features. Several years of meetings and exchanges have failed to produce a regulatory agreement among coating manufacturers, painting contractors, and environmental scientists. Now a national standard is not likely to be in effect before September 1996. Yet the predictions that low VOC paints would not perform as well, would cost more, and might not apply as easily as their solvent-based predecessors should prove untrue in the long run. -Architectural Record, September 1995, p. 42, by Lane Blackburn.
WOOD SUBSTITUTES FROM CELLULOSIC WASTE
The Institute for Local Self Reliance (ILSR) has analyzed the rapidly expanding business of producing panel and board products from plant matter waste. Its study "A New Industry Emerges: Making Construction Materials from Cellulosic Waste" highlights 12 companies in a growing industry. Examples of cellulosic waste include paper, sawdust, wheat straw, soy flour, and urban wood waste. The United States generates at least 160 million tons of waste cellulose each year. ILSR estimates that the industry used about 100,000 tons of cellulosic waste to make construction products in 1994 and could be using two million tons per year by the year 2000. "A New Industry Emerges" is available for $15, plus $3.75 for postage and handling, from the ILSR,202-232-4108. - In Business, July/August 1995, p. 6.
COUSTEAU'S FIJI ISLAND RESORT
Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, has joined the owners of the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California to create Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort. The 20-room hotel is on Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji. The South Pacific island retreat combines creature comforts with environmentally sensitive design. Tropical breezes cool the hotel naturally, aided by ceiling fans. At night the resort runs on stored solar- and wind-generated power from a battery system. Kitchen and garden waste are recycled. But more important to the owners is making certain that guests and workers leave the island undisturbed. - San Jose Mercury News, September 17, 1995, p. 5G, by Judy Hammond.