Mar 14, 11
Community Resilience: Plan, build, deploy and maintain physical and social infrastructures such that vulnerability to natural and human hazards and disasters is reduced for all members of a community; ensure that communities are adequately prepared to respond to crisis in a manner that is effective and coordinated, and recovery is accelerated. (credit: STAR Community Index)
The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant failures in Japan painfully highlight the importance of resilience, and the emerging consensus among planners and economic development practitioners that resilience must be prioritized along side job creation, conventional public safety, affordable housing, clean air and water standards, public education, etc. Resilience is indeed a recognized priority among those planning and building sustainable communities. And within that realm, cleantech plays a powerful supporting role.
While our hearts go out to the citizens of Japan, the disaster is a learning opportunity for communities around the globe that robust, sustainable energy supply systems, redundant and resilient water and food production and distribution systems, and resilient design deserve our attention and resources.
The nuclear plant failures have highlighted widely reported reminders that the plants, even when shut down, require power to maintain the cooling infrastructure necessary to prevent core meltdowns. Distributed generation, anchored by safe, clean renewable energy production and managed by smart grids and buildings can add stability and resilience to conventional grids and centralized power. At the building level, climate change adaptation experts within Boston City Hall are discussing the need to move power infrastructure out of basements, particularly in coastal, flood prone areas. Indeed, the emergency energy supply system at the Fukushima plant in Japan failed because the switching equipment was located in the basement and damaged by the flooding. While New England faces a much smaller risk of both tsunamis and earthquakes, sea level rise and powerful storms are already a reality.
Recognizing the need to maintain navigable, lighted roadways during disasters, the Dept. of Energy awarded a grant to Solar Boston, to develop a solar powered evacuation route through the City. And the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s effort to develop a vision for a district scale sustainable energy system in the Boston Marine Industrial Park includes an examination of relevant climate change adaptation strategies.
Storm events are increasing in frequency and severity, putting pressure on conventional stormwater management systems. Increasing permeable surface area, and integrating smart stormwater infrastructure including green and blue roofs, bioswales and raingardens with conventional approaches will upgrade urban areas to meet these new challenges, while creating good, local jobs and providing other environmental and human health benefits.
Future posts will examine local food production and passive survivability as it relates to community resilience. Here in New England, while storm and flooding threats may be the most widely reported, a disruption in heating fuels coupled with an extended cold snap could threaten property and lives. What design elements would constitute a dwelling able sustain human life in Boston under such conditions?
Mar 11, 11
Boston launched a new web portal for the City’s “Complete Streets” effort, a streetscape design guideline development process that integrates three key principles: multimodal, green, and smart. While the guidelines themselves are noteworthy, the development process was equally innovative and forward thinking. Led by the Boston’s Transportation Dept. under the leadership of Commissioner Tom Tinlin, many experts across as many discliplines, from within and outside City Hall, academia, R&D shops and advocates, community members and policy makers, participated in an iterative, months long design process that surfaced best practices and reached consensus on a wide array of competing challenges and priorities. The guidelines are a “living document” that will help promote an array of superior design elements on Boston’s roadways that have positive environmental, energy, and human health impacts.
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure, advanced stormwater management, improved biking lanes and related infrastructure - these elements and more will improve the user experience while growing the market for cleantech products and services.
Rising gasoline prices are painful, but GM, Nissan, Toyota, and other electric vehicle manufacturers must be celebrating the timing. EVs face market penetration challenges however, and consumer skepticism may be the smallest obstacle. States and cities have only recently begun to roll out EV charging infrastructure and electric utilities must ensure that grids are ready to handle the increased loads that EVs will create.
GreenTech has been working with a cross agency team here at City Hall to address these and other EV market adoption challenges. Charging infrastructure – public and private, renewable energy integration, permitting, EV awareness, and smart grid integration are all key issues that are on our radar.
We’ve mapped Toyota Prius owners (by planning district) as a proxy for EV adoption. (The East Boston figure – 171 – is inflated due to EVs at dealerships and Logan Airport. The private ownership number is closer to 130.)
Drop me a line if you plan to purchase an EV.