Hi All,

A friendly reminder that I am presenting in one of three great webinars presented by the State Bar of California.  The webinars will be on May 12, 19, and 26.  If you can’t make these dates, you can register by the date of the event, and listen any time in the three months afterward.

The first webinar is “Sustainable Development: Moving Beyond Green Building Toward Sustainable Building and Sustainable Master Planning” I will discuss alternatives to LEED and the many factors interested parties should consider when designing and developing sustainable buildings and neighborhoods.  Jeff Conner (Conner & Associates), Matt Burris (CTG), and Patricia Chen (Miles Chen Law Group, P.C.) will join me  in a roundtable discussion that will discuss LEED as well as other ways to develop a sustainable project (i.e. ICC, GreenPoint Rated, or independent assessment).  Each approach requires unique planning and permitting.  More information can be found by clicking here.

Our webinar is the first of a series.  There are two more webinars that are really worth checking out.  The first is , “Sustainable Development: Charting a Course to a Sustainable Future Through CEQA Compliance and Effective Climate Action Planning – Demystifying AB 32 and SB 375″ and the second is “Sustainable Development: The California General Plan Law and General Plan Updates: The Future of Sustainable Development”

We hope to catch you online at these events!

Geof Syphers is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Codding Enterprises, developer of Sonoma Mountain Village, a One Planet Communities development in Rohnert Park, California that aims to be close to net zero…as a village!

We’ve written about Sonoma Mountain Village (SOMO) before.  Click here to review that post. Now, as an Earth Day special, please enjoy the interview I conducted with Geof a few days ago.  Click here for the full text, or just click on the “Interviews” tab at the top of this page.

The thing that makes the interview so relevant to Earth Day is SOMO is a One Planet Community.  This means that if every community on the planet lived like the residents in SOMO, we would only use the resources available on one Earth.  As it stands now, if everyone on the planet lived like the rest of the United States, we would need multiple Earths to support our lifestyle! (Click here to take a fun, albiet non-scientific, quiz to check your sustainability footprint).

So, Geof, and the group at Codding are onto something.  Enjoy the information in the interview, and have a great Earth Day!

I have a core belief that one can not complain unless one provides a solution (that is certainly part of the reason for this blog). Perhaps a number of people went to Al Gore with the same complaint.  Inconvenient Truth was heavy on problems and light on solutions.  Well, Al Gore’s new book, Our Choice: A Plan To Solve The Climate Crisis, is all about solutions, and it is a must read.

The central theme of Gore’s work is that civilization must price carbon emissions based on the effect they have on humanity.  There are other solutions Gore provides, but without monetizing carbon emissions, Gore’s plan falls apart.  It’s not a new concept (cap and trade), and Gore admits that.  If you don’t believe in cap and trade, the book is still a very valuable read.  There is something for everyone.

The book is very well written, and easy to read – which says a lot given the sometimes technical and dense content.  Gore is less colloquial than Tom Friedman (click here for my review of Hot, Flat, and Crowded) whose style sometimes loses efficacy to gain mass appeal.  Gore is more academic, but concise.  And on top of that, it’s just plain interesting.  As with Inconvenient Truth, there are graphics and photos to keep the book flowing through the technical parts.

The first half of the book systematically establishes the foundation of the problems we face (a quick summary of Inconvenient Truth), and provides options for the solution.  Mr. Gore addresses the issues with each sector of industry: energy, manufacturing, transportation, farming, housing (though there is really no section on green building per se) and then lays out all of the options for a solution (solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration).

Our Choice is the kind of book one will use as a reference.  Not only does the book provide significant policy arguments, it backs up the positions with facts and science (and a healthy analysis of psychology).  The real take-away is the book drills down to risk/benefit analysis for each approach to solving the climate crisis.  Is nuclear energy really an option?  Can carbon capture and sequestration work for coal-fired power plants?  Our Choice asks the reader to make the choice based on the well-defined pluses and minuses for each technology.

The second half of the book focuses on the challenges of convincing the populous and governments that change must occur now.  Climate change detractors and some members of the Republican Party may take issue with some of this subject matter.  The first half of Our Choice is generally non-partisan, but the second half contains some chapters that take on detractors – many of whom are Republican.   A lot of the content in these sections is re-hashed argument, but it needs to be aired and recorded.  In so doing, the differences of opinion are laid out, and some progress can be made toward a political solution.

Mr. Gore has stated repeatedly that our need to create renewable energy is not just a matter of global warming, it’s a matter of national security.  I agree.  As someone who finds political labels a liability, I suggest we consider at least that rationale.

Al Gore does that and more. Our Choice is a great book to help anyone understand the diverse options we face.

My friends over at the Kellogg Alumni Club are at it again with another great clean tech event. On Wednesday, March 17 the group will host a panel discussion on two emerging clean industries: transportation and energy – including nuclear power. Can that, too, be clean?

The event is open to the public, and it will be a great way to learn and network with leaders. Ideas will definitely be flowing. The top-shelf presenters and panelists include:

Rod Diridon – Clean Tech Rail Pioneer, Executive, Political Leader, and High-Speed Rail Authority Board Member
Bob Garzee – Clean Tech Automotive Transportation Pioneer and Entrepreneur
Jeff Hamel – Energy Researcher and Clean Tech Advocate

Networking, passed hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar start at 6pm, and the presentations and discussion will go from about 7 – 8:30 pm. You couldn’t ask for a better setting: the beautiful McCormick and Kuleto’s – right on the water. See you there!

Click Here For More Information And For Reservations.

Also, remember Kellogg’s San Jose clean tech event with different panelists, Thursday, April 1. Click here for more information on that!

Some friends of mine are putting on a great event in San Jose, CA April 1 with a panel of speakers discussing innovations in sustainability.  The subject-matter looks to focus on energy, so it’s not exclusivly green building.  Nonetheless, energy and building are inextricably linked (especially with the funding of smart grid and distributed power technologies).  It will be a fun event filled with new ideas and lots of networking.

The title of the event is “The Clean Tech Gold Rush: Where to place your bets in your Investments and in your Career.” The event will be held at Club Auto Sport in San Jose (gorgeous venue).  The organizers have already confirmed Andrew Friendly from Advanced Technology Ventures (his portfolio companies are Solar Junction, AltaRock Energy, Rive Technology, Wakonda Technologies), Kelsey Lynn from Firelake Capital Management, Bob Garzee (Founder and CEO of ETDC), and Eric Wesoff from Green Tech Media (Chief Analyst).

The event is open to the public, and “early bird” $15 tickets are available until February 21.  If you’re interested in learning more about the speakers and the event, click on this link: http://cleantechgoldrush.eventbrite.com/

Stadiums.  They’re large, and they’re empty for large amounts of time.  Because of this strange dichotomy, stadiums are incredibly expensive to operate and maintain.  They are also expensive to build.  Construction of the new Yankee stadium cost $1.5 billion.  All that money and a dearth of environmental considerations. Why?!

A few new stadiums are showing better judgment.  The Washington Nationals started the trend a few years ago with the first LEED Silver professional stadium, (more info here).  The Florida Marlins are joining that club with a LEED Silver stadium of their own.  Other venues are showing a commitment to the environment.   The Phoenix Suns, NY Giants and Jets (VIDEO!), NY Mets, San Francisco Giants, and New England Patriots either have or plan environmental efforts or LEED qualifying measures for their stadiums.  The EPA is even helping some of the projects (More info here)

Let’s not forget these efforts are not always smooth.  Remember the labor controversy around the green roof at the Target Center in Minneapolis? (I’m still looking to see how that was resolved – stay tuned).

But, more to the point, public money is regularly required to build these new structures, so implementing green measures should be a required part of the package.  Generally, states are moving to require green municipal buildings, and the federal government already requires it.  How did the new Yankee stadium get city dollars and federal tax breaks and still end up a relic of inefficiency?  It’s disappointing and short-sighted.  The Federal government and many states have long required that large structures for the public must include sustainable measures.  It’s time all publicly financed stadiums get included.  I’m not saying every stadium needs to meet LEED standards, but at 1.5 billion, I’m guessing they could have found some room in the budget for waterless urinals or solar panels. C’mon Yankees, you lead in everything else!

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints!!  Pitchers and catchers, report in seven days…

Editor’s Note:  The CGBB is always pleased to have Sarah Grilli contribute, and here is her latest post:

On Tuesday January 12, 2010 California became the first state in the USA to pass a state-wide building code that requires comprehensive sustainable construction and energy reduction. Currently voluntary, the CalGreen Codes are mandatory starting January 2011.

The codes focus on all aspects of sustainable buildings (materials, energy, water, construction and other waste). An important piece of the legislation that media failed to mention, however, is the requirement for building commissioning and post occupancy systems management. This often overlooked piece is seen as a huge victory by the USGBC whose LEED version 3.0 also placed significant emphasis on systems performance elements.

Several California environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and NRDC along with, Build-it-Green and the USGBC (the two leading CA organizations with private green rating systems) have opposed certain elements of the codes.  A key concern for some of these groups is the fear the new code will allow developers to market a development as “green” by building to code instead of the more stringent private rating systems.  Thus, the new codes may cause marketplace confusion about the definition of a “green” building.

These concerns are legitimate.  The fight to define “green,” is the subject of constant debate.  Take the term “organic” for example.  The federal “organic” label is regularly the subject of litigation and debate.  Is “green” different?

As sustainable building measures become commonplace, the building community and the public will strive to comprehend what elements make a building “green.”  People may still opt for buildings that exceed the State’s green code, but the state now provides an easier option.  As long as the codes are enforced, smaller California communities without any green elements in their building codes will benefit enormously. This is precisely the reason a national energy efficiency building code is needed.

It is possible that “green building” will follow a similar path as “organic,” and the federal government will pass a national energy efficiency building code (See our post on the subject here and a fact sheet from the EPA here). There will always be variations on quality, but at the end of the day what’s most important is that “green building” practices become the norm.

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