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Wow, it's amazing what you can learn from Steamboat Springs City Council. Today, I learned that the bears that live in my part of the city (three that I know of) are pretty stupid. I know that 'cause in the 11 plus years I've been living here, no bear has ever gotten into our standard variety trash cans. Once a week at about 7:00 AM, I take them to the end our our rather long driveway and let the contents be handled by the Waste Management folks. Sure enough, no bear has ever touched them, thrashed them or did whatever intelligent bears do. That said, I really do feel sorry for the rest of you folks who have to put up with the intelligent bears that keep thrashing your trash. Oh, and maybe someone can explain to me how the City's bear population managed to segregate itself by IQ. Sure hope the smart ones aren't reading this and find out where I live. Hmmm...or can they?
I see that reading comprehension isn't exactly a strength in this group. Why am I not surprised.
I see where this is going. OK, let's not have rules. Let everybody have the freedom to choose and live with the consequences. Tell that to the parents of the kids that were on that South Korean ferry that sunk recently. It was just reported that the boat was carrying more than 3 times more weight in cargo than the boat was designed to carry. Tell that to the families who lost relatives in the collapse of the garment factory building in Bangladesh which incidentally happened exactly one year ago. In that case, the building owner violated building design standards and added an extra level and used substandard materials.
These examples go well beyond the scope of LEED, but they are meant to point out that many times we need to have standards and rules, along with the requisite enforcement, to protect the public from unnecessary risk to health, life and property. The question is where do you draw the line.
Personally, I have no qualms about establishing rules for energy and water conservation in the City. Save enough and you avoid the huge costs and associated tax burden of having to add new energy and water systems capacity. Water utilities are paying customers to replace their toilets and water fixtures and are getting substantial returns on that investment. Wasn't Steamboat Springs doing this?
I'm happy to let people be free to choose, so long as the result isn't, as writer Tom Friedman put it, being "as dumb as we want to be," and those choices don't negatively affect me.
LEED can be "gamed," but there are limits. Unless your project meets stringent requirements for things like energy and indoor air quality, it doesn't get certified.
Regarding the NYC study, one would need to understand what's being compared. What are the codes the "other new construction" is following? Did the developer decide to install extra insulation?
First, thanks all for the thoughtful comments...frequently rare in these pages. A few additional points.
LEED (it's not LEEDS), which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, was created at a time when building "green" became popular and many builders, both commercial and residential, were engaged in "greenwashing," declaring that their buildings were energy efficient, environmentally friendly, etc., without any justification. Buyers were desperate for some kind of standard to discriminate among choices and LEED filled that gap.
Regarding the cost of buildings that meet LEED standards, my "poster child" for doing things right is the Poudre School District in Fort Collins. Their facilities people won national awards for designing and building schools that meet/exceed all the LEED standards. About 12 years ago, the City passed a bond issue to build/refurbish their schools. The school superintendent gave the facilities people the freedom to build "green" so long as they stayed within budget. There are a lot of details I could go into, but the punchline is that the Poudre District schools cost 10-15% less to build and 30-50% less to operate than conventional Front Range schools. I teach classes in sustainable engineering and have taken the students to Fort Collins to tour the school buildings and talk to the facilities folks.
Poudre's feat was accomplished not through some magic bullet technology, but by better project design and management. The reason LEED certified building tend to cost more is that the designers and constructors aren't very good at integrating the improved technologies and systems into the building design. Their approach is to do a conventional design and just add sustainable features on the top. I've termed this "accessorizing for sustainability."
Stu Reeve, Poudre's energy manager, has visited Steamboat several times to speak to the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. Sorta like preaching to the choir. Not sure if he's spoken to city or county officials.
Nothing is bad about a person being free to choose what's in their best interests. The ultimate owner ought to be fully informed about the issues, one of which is what it's going to cost him/her to operate and maintain it versus the purchase price. This is about having complete information.
Moreover, this isn't just about one buyer-seller transaction. Many cheap and low efficiency buildings places additional burdens on the City's energy, water and wastewater infrastructure. Required upgrades to meet the additional demands are paid for by taxes.
Are such burdens acceptable as long as they are paid for by the user? I don't think so. Regardless of who pays, more scarce resources are being used.
Hey, Scott. Explain your line of reasoning to the people and officials of New York City, who once thought that their infrastructure designs were sufficient to handle any storm event. Hurricane Sandy changed all that. Now the City and the state are revising their entire infrastructure, having recognized that historical storm data can no longer predict the future. The public and officials in the towns I referenced in my letter probably thought too that their buildings and infrastructure were just fine. I guess those of us who live here should all cross our fingers that record thunderstorms, perhaps during snow melt season, never hit us. Water does flow down hill (I trust we aren't going to argue that point.) and we sure have lots of hills around here, including a really big one. Gee, I wonder where that water will go.
When he lived here, Henry Savage and I frequently went toe to toe in the Steamboat Pilot and Today on sustainability and climate change issues. And, like many in this comment thread, Henry, a former Exxon employee, every so often used what social scientists call the Scientific Certainty Argumentation Method. That method, which goes under the delightfully appropriate acronym S.C.A.M., is a tactic that plays on our sense of fairness. Here's how it works. Find some article, paper, piece of data or just some wild statement that supports your position and challenge those in opposition to refute it. Never mind whether it's true or not. It doesn't matter. What it does do is fuzz up the issue and delay any meaningful action. In the case of climate change, this is just what its opponents want. It is important to realize that scientific certainty on climate change will never be achieved, especially if we leave the test of "certainty" in the hands of the climate change deniers.
I'm taking a cue from local defense attorney Chris Hammond's recent "tongue-in-cheek" letter to the editor about supporting the proposed Sleeping Giant Casino. Chris figured that the resulting increased crime rate would bring him more business.
With a motive similar to Chris's, I fully support all out, pedal-to-the-metal oil and gas drilling throughout Routt County. Heck, we need this energy! I say, go for it! We don't need no stinkin' monitoring wells. One's probably enough. Maybe let's just test the drinking water once in a while. Then if we find something, then we'll take care of it. Anyway, nothin's gonna happen. We know that these oil and gas folks always do the right thing.
So, thank you Citizens Supporting Property Rights group for helping restore my old business. You see, in my former career I led a national engineering organization that cleaned up hazardous waste sites, places where companies dumped toxic wastes without a clue of what might happen if this stuff ever got into ground and surface water. We made oodles of money treating groundwater, digging up contaminated soils, developing alternate water supplies, and other stuff. These companies figured they could do whatever they wanted with these wastes because it was done on their property, that is, until the neighbors started to complain.
Now, I'm gonna just sit back and wait. Extracting oil and gas through fracking is a low margin operation. Not enough money in it to put in proper controls and sufficient monitoring. Monitoring far from possible sources means that they'll be lots of contaminated area before anyone knows about it. That works for me! I'll be back in the hazardous site clean up business and the Citizens Supporting Property Rights group will be busy explaining why their property rights take precedent over their neighbor's property rights.
Had Bike Town USA asked me to rate Steamboat in terms of bicycle friendliness, I would have recommended a designation of tin-or maybe plutonium. While the City was busy painting bicycle logo "thingies" on the streets of Steamboat, the County road department was out resurfacing a stretch of County Road 14, turning a large part of a popular local cycling route into a dangerous and tooth filling loosening escapade. Obviously Steamboat is hoping to use their upgraded "gold" designation to attract more bike enthusiasts to the area and increase tourist revenues. Just hope that nobody looks past the advertising.
Last login: Sunday, March 8, 2015
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