India Schedules Sustainability Summit

Sustainabilty stakeholders in India will convene in New Dehli next month to discuss green buildings and cities. Green Habitat Summit India 2013 is scheduled for August 20-21.

The Summit will focus on technologies, strategies, and financial mechanisms that can help the ULBs and states achieve sustainability goals – from building infrastructure and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to promoting a thriving green economy.

India's booming economy and population must address sustainability issues fast.
India’s booming economy and population must address sustainability issues fast.

The summit will bring in government agencies, entrepreneurs, private enterprises and the civil society to share their experience and deliberate on areas like sustainable buildings, energy efficiency, renewable energy, building materials, wastewater management, solid waste management, and waste-to-wealth initiatives and to chalk out a sustainable and green roadmap for habitats, including buildings, housing projects, townships and cities.

Green Habitat Summit India 2013 aims to identify green technologies and direct the ULBs and states towards sustainable and eco-friendly development.

Dr. Sukumar Devotta, Former Director, National environmental Engineering Research institute (NEERI) and convener of the event, said, “It is a compelling case for sustainable infrastructure projects to have a clear and well-structured road map. I hope that The Green Habitat Summit 2013 will bring together all stakeholders including leading think-tanks and practitioners and provide valuable insights, which can be put into action.”

Mr. Nesar Ahmed, Former President, Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), founder of Universal Knowledge Foundation (UKF) and Adviser with HexaGreen, said, “Measuring impacts on environmental, social, and economic aspects of our buildings and cities is only a first, albeit essential, step towards a sustainable future. We need to create financial framework to help sustain the urban future of India.”

Thought provoking issues that the summit will deliberate on:

  • Energy Efficient Buildings: What are all stakeholders up to?
  • Solid Waste Management: Enough or require more innovative ideas?
  • LEDs: Green vs. Price
  • Urban Design in 21st Century: Where have we been mistaken and what is the way forward?
  • Beyond BRTS & CNG: What do we need in Urban Transportation?
  • Green Building Materials: Breaking the barrier
  • Sustainable Water Management: Where are the gaps and how do we bridge them
  • LEED & GRIHA: Do they need to change?
  • Green Investing in India: Has it gone well over the years?
  • Getting environment clearance: Perception Vs. Reality

HexaGreen is an initiative by DevCom Media Pvt. Ltd. with a vision of bridging the information and communication gap in the environment sector through websites, events, and research. It provides a digest form of all important happenings, policy matters, and actions taken in the sector, trend reading of the future of the business and representation of the same in pithy to-the-point anecdotes culled out from worldwide sources with high degree of India-centricity, opinion and analysis from corporate executives and thought leaders offering insight and inspiration on trends and best practices and valuable resources to help increase the effectiveness of online browsing.

The details related to the summit can be obtained at


Lakshmishree Sinha, +91-98110-06805,

Performance Data on 60,000 Buildings Now Available

If you are interested in the energy performance of buildings, you now have an easy place to turn to: the Buildings Performance Database. Launched this week by the U.S. Department of Energy, it makes information on 60,000 residential and commercial buildings free to the public.


It enables people to perform statistical analysis on anonymous data from tens of thousands of commercial and residential buildings from across the country.

Users can compare performance trends among similar buildings to identify and prioritize cost-saving energy efficiency improvements and assess the range of likely savings from these improvements.

A glimpse at the DOE's database
A glimpse at the DOE’s database

In addition to where the building is located, you’ll find its age, size, function, electricity and fuel consumption, equipment information and operational characteristics.

Commercial and residential buildings consume roughly 70 percent of U.S. electricity production consumption in the nation.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Building Energy Inc. developed the database.

Perhaps some of the data comes from the eight cities that now require building owners to disclose their energy (and sometimes water) use each year: Boston; New York City; San Francisco; Seattle; Minneapolis; Austin, Texas; Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. They also require disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions.


Six Strategies To Promote Sustainable Cities

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The percentage will rise every passing day. So how can we make cities greener, leaner, and healthier for people and the planet? Following is a link to some of the big ideas that came out of the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference held April 25, 2013.

BeFunky_green citypeople.jpg

Sustainable Infrastructure Key To Growth

“To date, the trend towards urbanization has been accompanied by increased pressure on the environment and growing numbers of urban poor,” said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, at the launch of the report in Nairobi, Kenya.

Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.
Singapore is one of the cleanest and most efficient cities/countries in the world.

“But unique opportunities exist for cities to lead the greening of the global economy by increasing resource productivity and innovation, while achieving major financial savings and addressing environmental challenges,” Steiner said.

The report, ‘City-Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions,’ argues that sustainable city infrastructures can sustain economic growth while using fewer resources.

Around three-quarters of the world’s natural resources are already consumed in cities, and the proportion of the global population living in urban areas is set to rise to 70 per cent by 2050.

The study says much greater effort is needed to support new and improved infrastructure for water, energy, transport, waste and other sectors – generally located in and around cities – to wean the world off unsustainable consumption patterns, and avoid serious economic and environmental implications for future generations.

The report, which was produced by the UNEP-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP), features 30 case studies around the world that show how sustainable infrastructures have created scores of green jobs and reduced environmental degradation.

Fore example, in Melbourne, Australia, carbon emissions dropped by 40 per cent after the introduction of energy efficiency measures in public buildings, while in Cape Town, South Africa, a re-fit of low income housing with solar water heaters and efficient lighting has saved over 6,500 tonnes of carbon per year, cut respiratory illnesses by 75 per cent, and reduced the cost of hot water for poor households.

Other efforts involve reducing oil consumption by moving more people and goods onto public transport powered by electricity, or re-establishing urban farms to supply locally grown food.

The cost of meeting the urban infrastructure requirements of the world’s cities between 2000 and 2030 is estimated at USD 40 trillion – both through the building of new infrastructure or retrofitting existing facilities, the report states.

“Older cities may have to retrofit and replace inefficient infrastructure into which they have been locked for decades to achieve decoupling, but newer and expanding cities have the advantage of flexibility. They can ‘get it right’ the first time,” said the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Joan Clos.

“In an era of rising energy prices, an early transition to systems that consume increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources will pay off quickly,” Clos said.

The report also provides recommendations for city planners to minimize environmental damage and maximize the potential for using resources more sustainably.

U.S. Cities With The Greenest Buildings


This week, the EPA released its annual list of the 25 American cities with the highest number of Energy Star certified buildings.

According to the EPA, 16,000 Energy Star certified buildings in the U.S. helped save “nearly $2.3 billion in annual utility bills and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to emissions from the annual energy use of more than 1.5 million homes” by the end of 2011.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a press release, “More and more organizations are discovering the value of Energy Star as they work to cut costs and reduce their energy use. This year marked the twentieth anniversary of the Energy Star program, and today Energy Star certified buildings in cities across America are helping to strengthen local economies and protect the planet for decades to come.”

Jackson blogged for HuffPost in March, “After 20 years, our vast network of partners gives Americans a wide-array of innovative choices for saving energy and cutting costs every day.”

America’s 4.8 million commercial buildings and 350,000 industrial facilities expend $107.9 billion and $94.4 billion a year on energy costs, according to the EPA’s Energy Star program. Yet an estimated 30% of that cost – enormous as it is – is actually wasted due to inefficient technologies. What’s more, according to Energy Star, if the energy efficiency of our commercial and industrial buildings was boosted by an attainable 10% across the board, that would result in reduction of greenhouse gases equivalent to taking 30 million vehicles off our roads (or about as many cars and trucks as are registered in Illinois, New York, Texas and Ohio combined).

How do you make sure a green building is really greener? One convenient way is third party certification. The gold standard has been the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program from the U.S. Green Building Council. Another one increasingly gaining familiarity is the EPA’s Energy Star label program, which was extended from appliances and electronics to whole structures fairly recently.

According to the EPA, the number of Energy Star-qualified buildings across the U.S. has soared by more than 130% from 2007. What does that really mean? Energy Star buildings use 35% less energy than average buildings and emit 35% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In January, the U.S. Green Buildings council released its 2011 list of top states that have implemented their LEED certification program. LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” is a system that “provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions,” according to the USGBC.

Below, find the EPA’s top 25 cities with the most Energy Star certified buildings and see if your city made the list in 2012.
1. Los Angeles

2. Washington, DC

3. Chicago

4. New York

5. Atlanta

6. San Francisco

7. Houston

8. Dallas-Fort Worth

9. Phoenix

10. Boston

11. Philadelphia

12. Denver

13. Cincinnati

14. Charlotte

14. Minneapolis-St. Paul

15. San Diego

16. San Jose

17. Seattle

18. Miami

19. Detroit

20. Sacramento

21. Indianapolis

22. Albuquerque

23. Kansas City, Mo.

23. Portland, Ore.

24. Riverside, Calif.

25. Virginia Beach

For the full list of cities, click here.



Rooftop Gardens Make Dollars and Sense

A unique mechanized greenhouse operation delivers its first crop of salad greens, herbs and spinach and begins to pay back a $2-million investment. 

This greenhouse, perched over a parkade in downtown Vancouver, employs a four-meter-high system of hundreds of suspended trays that move to maximize exposure to natural light and to facilitate harvesting.

Alterrus’ vertical greenhouse prototype has been operating in a greenhouse at England’s Paignton Zoo for three years, providing food for the animals. But all eyes are on Vancouver to see if the system can turn a profit as a standalone business, according to the company’s strategic adviser Donovan Woollard.

The Vancouver-based company, which trades on the Canadian National Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of $9.5 million, went back to the market for $500,000 in operating capital earlier this year.

Alterrus showed an operating loss of $417,453 for its most recent fiscal quarter and on its balance sheet, the company states it has accumulated $53 million in losses during its development stage.

“Our priority is to show that this is a viable way to grow food,” said Woollard. “We’ve already shown that VertiCrop can grow produce.”

The parkade greenhouse — built on a 6,000-square-foot space it leases from the City of Vancouver — is just a short bike ride from its prized customers, grocer Urban Fare, and high-end restaurants such as Cioppino’s, Hawksworth, Boneta and farm-to-table concept restaurant Fable.

That proximity is vital because downtown customers will take delivery of their orders from Shift Urban Cargo, a bicycle-based delivery firm. By serving clients within a few blocks of the greenhouse, lettuce can go from greenhouse to plate within hours.

“I like the idea of fresh urban foods right next door,” said Cioppino’s chef Pino Posteraro.

By building upwards in vertical arrays, the Alterrus design effectively turns one square metre of greenhouse into four and produces about 20 times the food of a similarly sized field, Woollard said.

The company’s branding trades heavily on sustainability and the local food zeitgeist, selling produce under the brand name Local Garden.

“It used to be that 80 per cent of what we ate was grown locally, so we are trying to directly replace imported produce from 1,500 to 2,000 kilometres away,” said Woollard. “The way we operate also employs a broader social purpose.”

Alterrus recently won B Corp status, a certification for sustainable business practices. “We are the first publicly traded company to achieve that,” Woollard said.

Plants grown in the VertiCrop system use about eight per cent of the water required for typical California field crops. All the nutrients used in the soilless cultivation system are recovered rather than leaching into groundwater or washing into streams.

Greenhouse workers who pick, wash and pack produce are hired through Mission Possible, a local non-profit agency that helps people find jobs after extended periods out of the workforce.

Most of the greenhouse’s power consumption needs for lighting, temperature control and mechanical operations are satisfied by hydroelectric power, with a minimal carbon footprint.

In addition to their commercial clients, Local Garden greens will be made available to customers of, a firm that specializes in home-delivered organic and local sustainable foods.

Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation

Don’t Let Efficient Use Become Opportunity to Use More

Energy efficiency relates to a given amount of energy or effort it takes to accomplish a certain task relative to the least possible amount. It is true that a more efficient system/solution/product will use less energy than a less efficient counterpart, but in order to gauge its place within the topic of sustainability we have to ground the term and its use in realistic conditions. What we end up with is that “efficiency” is a much more incomplete thought than most people treat it.

A Call for Saving Energy

There are many environmental voices that champion opportunities for our culture to use increased efficiency as a way to reduce the amount of energy and resources that we sacrifice. Amory Lovins famously claimed that Americans have the opportunity to cut their energy use by 30% merely through efficiency measures alone. In 2009, the McKinsey & Company issued a report claiming that not only that “the US economy has the potential to reduce annual non-transportation energy consumption by roughly 23 percent by 2020,” but that it was financially in our best interest to do so by “eliminating more than $1.2 trillion in waste—well beyond the $520 billion upfront investment (not including program costs) that would be required.”

This is why the idea of efficiency is so attractive. It is presented as a solution that is not only currently good for the environment, but also is cash flow positive for us in the long run. Even better yet, if efficiency can be baked into things like products, infrastructure or the built environment then perhaps we don’t really have to change much at all. What’s not to like? Onward with efficiency!

But there’s a danger to these kinds of mindsets and the misconceptions that they promote for sustainability. As I have lectured about in the past, the most important aspect of sustainability that I try to impart on others is that sustainability is not a technological fix to supplement a wasteful lifestyle. This is incredibly important. This doesn’t mean that using compact fluorescents, plug-in hybrids, rechargeable battees or EnergyStar appliances is unsustainable, but it means that these things do not embody sustainability. Sustainability is the lifestyle. It is the mindset of using what we need–which for most of us is less than what we use now–in order to help maintain a level of resource balance.

This reality ends up presenting itself in how our culture has responded to cases of increased efficiency in the past. Take some of the large energy-consuming items in the American home for example. The Department of Energy has regulated the efficiency requirements for certain household items since oil embargo in 1973 (perhaps one of the first times that American energy use was called into question on the national level). Since then, things like furnaces, hot water heaters, air conditioning units and heat pumps need to achieve certain levels of energy efficiency in order to be code compliant. The thought would be that it would help make homes more efficient over time, helping us to use less energy as a country… but such is not the case. Despite these efficiency increases, the energy consumption of Americans has remained flat ever since.

Butter’s in the Fridge

Another great example is a look at refrigerators in America. If we start with a fridge from 1947, the data suggests that the size of refrigerators has increased over 250% over half a century. However, after peaking around 1974, the energy used by the appliance has decreased to the point of nearly reaching parity with its ancestry of the late 40′s. Despite an increase in size, the energy load of our fridges can be nearly the same 50 years later due to an 25-fold increase in efficiency. Good stuff, no? Proponents like Lovins would call this a win-win, saying we can use efficiency to lower our energy footprint even as we increase capacity.

But according to New Yorker writer David Owens, not so fast. In his book, The Conundrum (I highly recommend it), Owens outlines some of the indirect repercussions of increased efficiency in refrigeration. I’ve taken some of his assertions into an Intercon diagram below.

The first caveat to this efficiency story is it’s important to remember that while fridges have gotten more efficient it is not uncommon for houses to have increased their cooling load beyond a single fridge. A separate chest freezer, back-up fridge or even wine coolers are all increasingly normal. Also, just because a household replaces their kitchen fridge with a newer model doesn’t mean the old fridge is retired. These older counterparts often find homes as back-up cold storage in basements or garages to keep spare beverages ready for things like football games or beer pong. While perhaps a net increase in enjoyment, it also constitutes a net increase in energy.

As refrigeration has gotten cheaper and easier, it has spread across our commercial landscape as well. Owens asserts that gas stations of today have the same amount of cold storage that grocery stores had in the 50′s and 60′s.

Let’s not forget the contents of these evolving appliances as well. The potential kicker in this equation is that as food capacity and reliability has grown, so has our assumption that food will last longer inside the fridge. As a result, our culture ends up throwing away more food that ultimately goes bad despite staying cold. Since 1975 our food waste has increased by 50% to the point that we now throw away 40-50% of the food that we grow. How does that factor into energy? Our food is incredibly energy intensive. Wasted food represents resources required for fertilizer and pesticides (both petroleum based), harvesting, packaging, transportation and the cooling in both the stores and in our homes. Not to mention that rotting food is the primary source of methane in landfills, a potent greenhouse gas. So in the end, has our increased efficiency actually saved us energy in the long run? It’s certainly debatable.

Just Using Less

The simple change to the equation that makes it much more environmentally viable is pairing efficiency with a sustainable use of resources of materials–or rather a lack of use. If we each had only one efficient fridge that only stored food that we were actually going to eat then the gains would be more measurable. Efficiency only gives us the gains we choose to preserve and build from, but it also gives us an opportunity to consume more. The same can be said for most of our “green” options today (low-flow fixtures, CFLs, geothermal heating and cooling, hybrid cars). Replacing a product with one that uses half as much energy that one in turn uses three times as much is a step back, not a step forward.

As disappointing as it may be, the solution to our environmental problems will most likely not be a technological fix. It will not be a product that makes it cheaper to consume. The prospect of efficiency should be taken as a supplement, a beginning to a more sustainable lifestyle, not a replacement for sustainability. At this stage in our cultural and technological evolution, lifestyle changes will gain us far more ground than trading one consumption path for another.

Source:Tyler Caine, Cook + Fox Architects

Greenest Building In The World

Bullitt Foundation Sets New Standard

While its official opening is nearly three months away, the Bullitt Center is already being dubbed the greenest commercial building in the world, and the University of Washington’s Integrated Design Laboratory is getting in on the ground floor, literally.

bullitt center sustainable building
The Bullitt Center in Seattle will be unveiled and open for business on Earth Day 2013.

Currently located just west of campus on Northeast Northlake Way, the lab is preparing to move into the first floor of the Bullitt Foundation’s new headquarters at 1501 East Madison Street between downtown and Capitol Hill in late April.

The six-story, 50,000 square-foot building will be the first urban mid-rise commercial building in the United States to meet the goals of the Living Building Challenge. This certification promotes the most advanced measurements of sustainability in buildings. Designed with a lifespan of 250 years, the building includes 26 geothermal wells, deep wells that use the earth’s energy for heating and cooling, and has a 56,000-gallon cistern in the basement to capture rainwater.

The 50,000-square-foot building will generate all of its energy using solar panels, and all of its water will be provided by harvested rainwater. There will be indoor composting toilets, a system of geothermal wells for heating, and the building’s wood-framed structure is made out of Forest Stewardship Council certified wood.

“Now that fossil fuels face serious constraints, it makes sense to turn back to ecology for lessons on how to best organize our cities and industries,” Bullitt Foundation President Denis Hayes said. “We started asking what a building might look like if we viewed it as an organism with a brain, a nervous system, a respiratory system, a digestive system, etc., and that provided for its own needs without harming its neighbors.”

Steve Whitney, a program officer at the Bullitt Foundation, said the building serves as a way for the foundation to show how more buildings can be constructed with sustainable practices in mind.

“It really is a program-related investment,” Whitney said. “The building is offering us some leverage to identify where policies and practices need to be changed and to demonstrate how they can be changed to make buildings like this far more common in the future than they are today.”

While the design lab’s daylight-testing chamber has been moved to a new daylighting lab in the basement of Gould Hall, the rest of the lab’s work will move to the new building.

Rob Péna, an associate professor in the UW Department of Architecture and a building performance consultant at the lab, said the new building will allow them to expand their research, education, and outreach efforts.

“We’ll be teaching UW courses on net-zero and high performance buildings; we’ll be having a series of national forums on how to create high performance buildings, and we’ll be leading public tours everyday on the building,” Péna said.

Péna said the building will also receive a good deal of attention internationally, allowing them to promote the work they’re doing at the lab and the UW as a whole.

“We’re preparing for quite a lot of attention and with that, hopefully, comes an opportunity to showcase what we do at the UW, as well as provide opportunities for research and education for multiple disciplines across campus,” Péna said.

Heather Burpee, a research assistant professor and health design specialist at the lab, said it’s exciting not only to be part of a building that has great goals but also has the opportunity for outreach.

“I think it’s a really important building for Seattle, for the Pacific Northwest, and for the nation to see how we can do things different and in a positive way,” Burpee said.

As the first building of its scale to strive for this level of sustainability, Whitney said the Foundation was able to identify obstacles that come with green building and how to get past them. With that in mind, they’re hoping their work serves as a catalyst for further advances around the world.

“If in ten years, our building is still the greenest commercial building on the planet, we’ll be disappointed,” Whitney said.

Péna said the Design Lab will begin moving into the Bullitt Center sometime in mid-March. The official grand opening of the building is scheduled for Earth Day, April 22.