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LEED-certified green buildings are great for the environment, but as it turns out, they maybe not great for your cell signal.
At the University of Colorado, where the number of bars on your cell phone goes up and down as you walk across campus, things are particularly grim in the newly constructed LEED buildings.
For most CU students, spotty cell phone reception has become the norm on campus and has gotten worse with the construction of new environmentally friendly buildings. University officials say they’re hard at work on ways to improve cell phone service on campus.
A recent analysis of signal strength found that there are weak spots across campus, particularly in newly constructed buildings that meet LEED environmental standards, said Greg Stauffer, communications manager for CU’s Information Technology Services.
“The problems in LEED buildings had to do with improved insulation and UV filtering windows affecting signal strength,” Stauffer said. “It was an unexpected effect of the new construction, but we’re working on addressing the issue as quickly as possible.”
That means they’re eligible to be named one of five groups that would be awarded $20,000 — and the voting takes place online. Anybody can cast a vote once a day through Sept. 10.
If it won, the CRC would be using the money to jump-start a program we’ve been hearing rumblings about for months: The ReSource Tool Library.
As the name suggests, a Tool Library is a place where citizens can borrow tools from a comprehensive, centralized tool inventory. By sharing resources, a Tool Library leverages communal purchasing power to ‘do more with less’, and puts tools in the hands of those with limited means. In today’s tough economy these are valuable assets for a program that also educates, conserves resources, and strengthens civic infrastructure.
CRC is the only finalist from Boulder, and there is one other finalist from Colorado: Rock the Earth, out of Denver.
While visiting Denver over Memorial Day weekend, I walked from my downtown hotel to the lower downtown area and the South Platte River. I did not expect to see a revitalized waterfront with very busy bicycle paths lining the river along with new apartments and condos.
I had the same experience! I lived in Boulder before from 2005-2007, left, and came back in 2009. On my first trip back to downtown Denver, I was really impressed with the changes. The river is a much more prominent part of the city now thanks to that area, which is called Confluence Park (due to the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek).
Laura had written here that ClimateSmart was in trouble — and at the Camera that the ClimateSmart home loan program is indefinitely suspended (though the ClimateSmart commercial loan program is not). The trick is that it’s yet another loan and multiple entities have claims to that debt — and they all want to have the first claim to it. Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal does a far better job of explaining the financial side of the PACE/Fannie/Freddie entanglement than I do.
More recently, Grist caught up with a Longmont teacher who came this close to retrofitting her home, but ended up frustrated with ClimateSmart.
“I was looking forward to a warm winter,” she said.
That’s when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac threw the program into confusion by sending letters suggesting that mortgage lenders should steer clear of PACE, arguing that PACE liens could not take priority over mortgages. The government-chartered mortgage giants are concerned about losing out if homeowners with clean-energy assessments default on their loans.
Boulder County commissioners, along with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D) and others, urged Fannie and Freddie and their federal regulator to clarify their cryptic letters and resolve the issue. But last week, after having already delayed the program once while awaiting resolution, the county felt compelled to cancel the latest round of ClimateSmart funding.
“We had a couple hundred homeowners who were applying for $3 million in financing for projects who have essentially been hanging in limbo,” County Commissioner Will Toor said. “We initially hoped the issue would be quickly resolved. It hasn’t been. While we still believe that it will eventually be resolved, we couldn’t ask our homeowners and local green building contractors to just remain in limbo.”
Read more of Kayla Thomason’s story over at Grist.
Taking advantage of the sun doesn’t mean you need costly solar panels. Passive solar is the heating and cooling of a building naturally by means of efficient site placement and energy efficient materials. Strategic positioning of a building in relation to the sun can be enough to heat your home and seriously cut your costs. Here in Boulder, we get a lot of sun, and you’re either fighting it or you’re working with it. Architects in Boulder know the value of passive solar: Read more
Smart growth. Sustainable cities. These terms get tossed around a lot. And, typically, they are used in reference to new buildings and new communities. What about our existing buildings and our aging cities?
Living City Block is taking aim at this question. By combining urban revitalization with a focus on energy-efficiency retrofits and cutting-edge renewable technology, they are trying to set an adoptable standard for urban sustainability.
Raising the bar
Typical building renovations increase energy efficiency by 10 percent. Pretty marginal. If you consider the fact that 80% of the existing buildings in the U.S. will still be in operation 50 years from now, that’s not exactly pushing the envelope to a sustainable future.
What if you could cut the energy consumption of an entire community by half? Even better, what if that community could produce more energy than it consumes?
Boulder isn’t the only city that gets complaints and controversy when trees are in the way of city projects — at the moment, Longmont is going through some of that as they look at a plan to reduce Lefthand Creek’s flood risks:
Residents of the Southmoor Park neighborhood gathered Thursday night at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church to question the necessity of removing 169 trees around the creek in order to expand the channel and reduce the risk of area flooding, according to the city.
The approximately $5 million project, funded by the 2007 Storm Drainage Bond approved by Longmont voters, is intended to reduce destruction in the event of a 100-year flood, according to city officials.
What? What is this? I haven’t seen a single ad for this — not that I’m complaining.
Plot Summary: “Furry Vengeance” is a live action family comedy in which an ambitious young real estate developer, Dan Sanders, faces off with a band of angry animals when his new housing subdivision pushes too far into a pristine part of the wilderness. Led by an incredibly clever raccoon, the animals stymie the development and teach our hero about the environmental consequences of man’s encroachment on nature.
The movie opens this week.
Here’s what I would have written for the logline: Read more
Boulder is getting tough on rentals.
In its bid to actually meet the carbon-cutting goals laid out by the Kyoto Protocol (to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012) the city has realized that it has to find some way to make landlords step up to the energy-efficiency plate.
The problem is the “split incentive.” Why pay to upgrade a rental unit when you’re not footing the monthly energy bill?
And in a university town like Boulder, where rentals make up more than 50 percent of the housing stock, getting landlords on board is key.
This week, the city unveiled a proposed set of point-based rules for a program it calls “SmartRegs.”
Under the program, landlords would be required to make improvements that could include installing energy-efficient appliances, sealing ducts or better insulating.
The city’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions coming from homes by 94,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2012. The SmartRegs program, it’s estimated, could make up about 45,000 tons of that goal.
If approved, rental properties would be required to achieve 100 “points” — including two points of mandatory water conservation — based on a lengthy list of possible improvements.
Like Mexican food… and reclaimed wood tables?
I know Laura’s excited about this place, with which I have no personal experience, but here’s something cool about Mexican restaurant Pica’s, whose Boulder location is slated to open in May: They wanted to used some kind of reclaimed materials for their tables.
Who do you think had the answer for them? Yep, it was ReSource.
The solution – birch veneer doors of which there were an abundance of at Resource. Our fine carpenter in-residence for Picas the next few weeks, Shawn Watt-Hoven, gave the thumbs up and got to work right away. Each door produces two tables.
Really, I just think it’s cool that they’re blogging the process of opening this location. Pretty neat.
Anyway, the place apparently has a loyal following (though the Yelp reviews look sorta love-it-or-hate-it, don’t they?), and I’m never opposed to new Mexican food places with sustainable sensibilities.