|William A. Verkest, P.E.|
The future of sustainability has arrived. Are you ready?
William A. Verkest, P.E.
A new United Nations-backed report by over 600 scientists from 40 countries says, with at least 90% certainty, that human activity is contributing to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will offer their full report later this year. The report should compel all business and civic leaders towards action.
Municipalities across the country own and operate billions of dollars worth of facilities. Investment in municipal facilities is a matter of public policy. These facilities are acquired, leased or constructed by local government agencies to provide goods and services to citizens while creating jobs and strengthening the local economy. Billions of dollars are spent annually for the construction, renovation and operation of these facilities. As civic leaders, municipal officials and professionals, it is our responsibility and obligation to achieve continuing economic prosperity while protecting the ecosystem and providing the highest quality of life for our citizens.
Sustainability: The definition used by the U.N. reads, "A sustainable society meets the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Two profound, life-changing events are converging to create the most significant crisis of modern time—the warming of the earth's atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, and the rapid depletion of global petroleum and natural gas reserves. As these events intensify over the coming years, they will dramatically change how we live and how we relate to the natural world.
Combining the annual energy required to operate residential, commercial and industrial buildings along with the embodied energy of industry-produced building materials such as carpet, tile, glass, and concrete exposes buildings as the largest energy-consuming and greenhouse gas-emitting sector.
The American Institute of Architects, recognizing that buildings are a significant source of global warming, launched the "2030 Challenge" to make all new buildings carbon neutral (meaning new buildings will use no fossil fuel/greenhouse gas-emitting energy to operate) by 2030. The U.S. Conference of Mayors in June 2006 voted unanimously to approve Resolution 50 that called for the immediate energy reduction of all new and renovated buildings to half the national average for that building type, with increased reduction of 10 percent every five years so that all buildings designed by the year 2030 will be carbon neutral. (See the full text of Resolution 50 at www.aia.org/SiteObjects/files/cote_sust_mayors.pdf.)
Despite the magnitude of this ongoing investment and expenditure in facilities, these facilities are one of the largest sources of energy consumption in our cities. Buildings account for an estimated 48 percent of all greenhouse emissions, compared to 27 percent for transportation and 25 percent for industry.
As a result, large building owners and operators, such as municipalities, are uniquely positioned to have a profound impact on energy usage in our country.
I urge all APWA members to work with designers and building operators in your municipality to design high-performance and carbon emission-neutral buildings and implement practices supporting the cited goals.
We know that with advancement in technology, best management practices that incorporate sustainability, and through proper planning, better material selection, and incorporating natural heating/cooling and renewable carbon-free resources, much can be achieved. I urge all of us to take the 2030 Challenge seriously and put it in practice in our everyday life at work and in society by: (1) utilizing green practices in designing and remodeling our municipal facilities; (2) installing low or no carbon emission renewable energy; and (3) conserving energy and reducing waste and, above all, supporting and preserving our ecosystem for which we are responsible.
APWA, through its Technical Committees, publications, infoNOW Communities and support staff, has an abundant pool of resources to help you in taking the lead against global climate change. You can make a difference! Are you ready?
President Verkest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.