Cities around the world are pushing forward with climate action plans and getting creative about how to achieve ambitious climate goals. We’ve been tracking some of the forward-thinking programs like San Francisco’s new rooftop solar law, and the COP21 agreement. Here are a few more programs with sights set on climate mitigation and bettering the planet that are happening now.

2030 Districts curb energy

We’ve said it before: the built environment is responsible for 39% of CO2 emissions. Enter 2030 Districts, an organization created to meet the energy, water, and vehicle emissions reduction targets for existing buildings and new construction called for by Architecture 2030 in the 2030 Challenge for Planning. Originating in Seattle, there are 2030 districts in Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Denver, Stamford, San Antonio, San Francisco, Dallas, and Toronto.

Seattle 2030 is currently working with DLR Group to propose a district energy initiative that will help building owners collaborate for sustainably heated and cooled buildings. For example – if there’s a hotel that generates a lot of heat and wastewater from its laundry facilities and guest rooms, that heat and water could be treated and pumped into a building across the street for heating and cooling instead of being dumped or released. Many cities are interested in the model and we expect to see more city-led collaborations like this.

An Amazon project in Seattle uses a similar shared energy solution in collaboration with Clise Properties, McKinstry, and the City of Seattle. The “district energy” system will capture heat and distribute through underground water pipes, and will heat 3 million square feet of Amazon office space.

A campus district energy system (Source)

Green building ordinances surge

Seattle recently released a new building ordinance to increase transparency and educate customers about energy efficiency. These factors used to be obscured from buyers and tenants until they committed to purchase or lease, but now they can use efficiency data as a factor in their decision making.

San Francisco has a new green building policy that requires all buildings up to 10 stories to install rooftop solar panels. Solar for commercial buildings has been a huge hurdle, and San Francisco is changing the game with this ordinance. Santa Monica followed suit only a couple weeks later, passing an ordinance requiring rooftop solar systems for all new construction in the city, effective almost immediately. The ordinance will contribute to the city’s energy and climate reduction goals, including becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Green renaissance rises

Pittsburgh, home of The Tower at PNC Plaza, which is recognized as the “greenest high rise in the world,” has embraced its “Green Renaissance,” which has revitalized the city. Once choked by smog from coal and suffering from polluted rivers, the push for clean energy bolstered the city’s green economy, reduced energy costs, and added jobs.

Corner of Liberty and Fifth Avenues 838 AM1940Gensler_PNC_01
Smog covers the corner of Liberty and Fifth Ave. in 1940 Pittsburgh, versus one block away today, where The Tower at PNC Plaza stands. (Source)

Water management makes waves

Stormwater management is a growing concern for cities – whether it’s because of storms and floods, or because of melting ice after massive snow storms. Canal Park in Washington, DC is taking an innovative approach to stormwater management with an extensive stormwater collection and reuse system. It includes a rain garden, low impact design tree pits, and approximately 80,000 gallons of underground cistern capacity. Impressively, up to 95% of the park’s water needs for irrigation, fountain water, toilet flushing, and ice rink water comes from storm water management. It’s a model for cities facing water scarcity and extreme weather events.

Seattle also has new regulations that require innovative stormwater solutions such as Green Stormwater Infrastructure or Low Impact Development like bioretention. Seattle’s requirements benefit the urban environment by generating more green space, habitat, beauty, and more.

The Anacostia River in Washington, DC is being transformed from one of the most polluted rivers in the nation into a vibrant, sustainable, and fun destination. The District Department of Transportation has a 30-year, $10 billion initiative to transform the shores of the Anacostia River into a world-class waterfront. The master plan includes investments in the environment, transportation, business incentives, community engagement, and recreation.

In New York, a city known for its leading green building policy with its “One City Built to Last” resilience and sustainability program, has some creative clean water plans. On the East River in Brooklyn, a “floating pool” will serve as a community hub, and will actually clean the polluted river. The special pool has a three-part filtration system that will feed river water into the pool, and out again through additional filters, returning cleaner water to the river than it began. The filters remove any pollutants or harmful bacteria to make the water suitable for swimming. The four year initiative began as a Kickstarter campaign and is now on track to become a reality.

A rendering of the Brooklyn floating pool. (Source)


What inspirational sustainability programs or policies have caught your eye? Comment or share a link below.

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