Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Historic Preservation: Bath house revisited

 I suppose it’s hard to expect anything different in late July from a blogger located in the Southeast … the thought of heat, the dealings with the temperatures, the slow broil as you walk outside for lunch. The exhaustion. The last minute “make that iced” to the barista. It’s hot out there. …I can’t help but wonder how others found their reprieve....which brings me to the bath house.

The bathhouse is an age old public use, that in my humble opinion, is one of most interesting ways historically and communally people gathered. Throughout civilization, bath houses have played some role in socialization and cleansing rituals. Some societies even attached religion to the practice. In Japan Misogi, is the ritual purification with water.  In Greece the practice of bathing was ritualized, becoming an art – of cleansing sands, hot water, hot air in dark vaulted "vapor baths," a cooling plunge, a rubdown with aromatic oils. In Portland, Oregon the Oasis is a transportable bath house built out of an airstream trailer, complete with grey water management systems and a tankless water heater ....By golly, water is just plain fun.

Well, one creative group has found a unique way to cool off America’s Big Apple and raise awareness for the River- floating pools! So I ask, is this the next generation of public bath houses?

Sustainability: Tool box

Officials in NC now have one more strategy to add to their growing tool box when financing energy conservation projects; Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs).  Effectively, QECB’s allow you to buy-down a 5% interest rate to 1.5% (the federal government provides a cash subsidy for 70% of the taxable interest rate).
These bonds can be used to finance expenditures related to:
1. Reducing energy consumption in publiclyowned buildings by at least 20 percent,
2. Implementing green community programs,
3. Rural development involving the production of electricity from renewable energy resources,
4. Any qualified facility……which include wind facilities, closedloop and openloop biomass facilities, geothermal or solar energy facilities, small irrigation power facilities, landfill gas facilities, trash to energy facilities, hydropower facilities and marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy facilities
5.  Expenditures with respect to research facilities, and research grants, to support research in –
a.       Development of cellulosic ethanol or other nonfossil fuels,
b.      Technologies for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide produced through the use of fossil fuels,
c.       Increasing the efficiency of existing technologies for producing non
fossil fuels,
d.      Automobile battery technologies and other technologies to reduce fossil fuel consumption in transportation, or
e.      Technologies to reduce energy use in buildings
6. Mass commuting facilities and related facilities that reduce the consumption of energy, including expenditures to reduce pollution from vehicles used for mass commuting.
7. Demonstration projects designed to promote the commercialization of –
a.       Green building technology,
b.      Conversion of agricultural waste for use in the production of fuel or otherwise,
c.       Advanced battery manufacturing technologies,
d.      Technologies to reduce peak use of electricity, or
e.      Technologies for the capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide emitted from combusting fossil fuels in order to produce electricity.
8.       Public education campaigns to promote energy efficiency.

Given that this federal subsidy is structured a lot like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC) and that that program is arguably the most successful of all federal affordable housing programs, I see nothing but good fortune in tea leaves for it.

For more general information about QECBs, visit: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wip/solutioncenter/webcasts/default.html (search for QECB)
Source: Mary Tiger, UNC Environmental Finance Center.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sustainability: Policy development

On Friday, June 24, 2011, Governor Beverly Perdue signed SB 708 into law and, with it, approved a new Energy Conservation Code for the residential and commercial buildings in North Carolina. This new code, the fruit of over two years of work (discussions polarized entire sectors of the building trades), aims to save home and business owners money on their monthly energy bills and will work to retain and create jobs in every region of our state. It delivers significant improvements in insulation levels, window performance and building envelope air leakage reduction. The new code also includes the High Efficiency Residential Option (HERO) Appendix which delivers a 30% improvement in minimum energy efficiency over the state’s current energy code.

The new NC Energy Conservation Code has an effective date of January 1, 2012.

Go NC!