Affordable Green Efficiency for the People

Green and efficient energy strategies are not just for well-heeled companies. At the Green Institute, an eco-industrial park that is redeveloping an old area of Phillips, one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis, there is no furnace. Nonetheless, this state-of-the-art green office park and light manufacturing facility is comfortable through the long, cold Minnesota winters. Instead of turning to a conventional boiler, when executive director Michael Krause was designing his headquarters, he chose a simple and elegant machine to heat and cool the center; it is just a pump and fan, really, with two large iron pipes sunk deep into the ground: It's a geothermal heat pump, or ground-source heat exchanger.

A geothermal heat pump is a beautiful thing. It works on a simple principle. While the air above ground fluctuates wildly with the seasons—with documented temperatures as low as -70°F in Montana and reaching a record high of 134°F in Death Valley, California—just below the surface of the earth, a few feet beneath the frost line, the temperature is relatively constant and moderate the world over, ranging at most from 45°F to 70°F. By sending fluid through a closed loop of pipe down into this friendly climate and back up again, the heat pump extracts heating or cooling from the crust of the earth and runs it through a simple heat exchanger like a home HVAC system, providing a stable, reliable, and comfortable indoor environment in all seasons.

The system is exciting as much for what it lacks as for what it does. There is no pilot light, because there is nothing to burn. There is no boiler, no noise, no soot or CO2, no contribution to childhood asthma or bad air days, and no fuel bill, except for the electricity to circulate the pump and run the fan. By using something as simple as the earth's surface temperature to derive energy and provide a basic service like heating a Minnesota office building in the dead of winter, this machine not only blurs the lines between energy efficiency and renewable energy, but also shines a stark light on all the pollution, waste, and needless cycling of energy we take for granted in a modern city.

Congressman Ed Markey from Massachusetts is fond of saying that energy independence and climate solutions go together like peanut butter and jelly. The same could be said about energy efficiency and renewable energy. They are both clean, restorative energy solutions that break dependence on imported and polluting energy, and frequently savings from energy efficiency allow green buildings to invest in greater capital costs up front for clean-energy systems that cut long-term energy bills. From an economic perspective and in practice, it is clear that energy efficiency is at the center of making a clean-energy transition work. Efficiency and renewables are best when they go together, hand in hand.

Green building is full of efficient and renewable technologies— simple, elegant, and clean—that underscore the excitement of our coming clean-energy revolution. Building-integrated photovoltaics are one example that puts solar panels right into a building's skin of windows, facade, and shingles, turning the structure itself into a generator of clean, renewable energy. When you move through a green building, you see for yourself what can be done, cast in bricks and mortar, bamboo and glass. Green buildings speak to what is possible and make efficiency come alive in a real place, enhancing the quality of life for the people inside.

These buildings are not just laboratory specimens. In the heart of New York City's historic Harlem neighborhood, Carlton Brown is the private-sector developer of a multifamily, mixed-income housing development, 1400 on 5 th. It was the first of what is now a string of energy-efficient, affordable, and neighborhood-scale developments that Brown has undertaken, using renewable energy and good design to uplift communities from Trenton, New Jersey, to Jackson, Mississippi, and soon New Orleans and Baltimore.

Guiding Brown's work is a simple if ambitious set of goals designed to bring green affordable housing to the people who need it most. "We start out with a core set of beliefs," he says. "Otherwise, you are just doing stuff."29 He sets clear benchmarks for his projects to make a difference. They use 50 percent less energy than the building code dictates. They cost 10 percent below the index of median housing prices. They improve indoor air quality for the residents of the building, and they involve the community in setting design goals. As president of Full Spectrum New York, Brown—a steady, thoughtful leader and tireless champion in a nearly ever present porkpie hat—is proving every day that green building can be affordable; and that modern, advanced, energy-saving construction is for everyone; that clean energy can empower community and, indeed, is the future of our cities.

To make his point on radically improving the energy and resource efficiency of construction, Brown looks to other industries. Airplanes, ships, automobiles, and computers all demonstrate different models for design. "A 747 probably has as many parts as a 250,000-square-foot apartment building," he muses, "yet you expect defects in a new building. In an airplane you expect everything to work right from the start." Brown has learned from these carefully modeled design processes. He

With projects like the mixed-use, mixed-income development 1400 on 5th in New York City's Harlem neighborhood, developer Carlton Brown is demonstrating that high-performance green building and affordable housing can go hand in hand. (Harold Rhynie.)

proofs out his buildings before he ever breaks ground, using computerized 3-D design, to optimize energy use, reduce waste, decrease cost, and maximize efficiency. He makes the most of everything, from lumber to labor and the energy, air, and water that circulate through the structure during the life of the building. Green high-performance construction has become a staple of luxury buildings, but Full Spectrum has proven that the same tools can be applied for low-income and minority communities.

Starting from community-based design, Brown builds all his components in a modular factory setting off site according to the community's specifications, from the walls and building superstructure to the plumbing systems. In the process, he improves indoor air quality and creates good jobs. In the manufacturing sector, he points out, you can train someone in six weeks for a living-wage job that it would take them five years to attain in a traditional construction context. He works as a partner with the labor unions who erect the buildings and uses community benefits agreements that connect him to local hiring and training. He has helped the modular construction industry see the potential of green building, working, for example, with a company in Minden, Louisiana, that manufactures precast modular units for prisons, demonstrating how to build green housing with no PVC, low volatile organic compounds, and energy-efficient design to rebuild the Gulf Coast with high-quality housing. "It is kind of strange sometimes how transformations can happen," he says.

Brown has applied his holistic "systems thinking" to the social dynamics of the communities he works in. "Making a community green is just a piece of the sustainability puzzle.You need the human dimensions as well: jobs, indoor air quality, energy use, and honoring the culture of the community with an inclusive process," he says. Regarding his goal of cutting energy use by 50 percent, he points out that "in communities of color, often most buildings aren't even up to code, so you are really talking about an 80 to 90 percent cut in energy and emissions." For low- and moderate-income residents of his developments, this is serious business. You can look at it as a climate issue, but you can just as easily see it in a family's finances. Cutting monthly energy bills by a few hundred dollars is very visible when you are living on $30,000 a year.

At 1400 on 5 th, the results really add up. The average unit is typically saving $1,200 to $1,300 every year. Brown calculates that the net present value from the energy cost savings he will achieve in his four hundred units in two developments in Harlem will be $78 million over the next thirty years, all while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 1,100 tons a year. That's not chump change; it's money that will be invested in local spending, savings, or family vacations, but not in wasted energy.

In Jackson, Mississippi, Brown is taking this approach to scale in a 40-acre downtown redevelopment over twelve square blocks. Using $100 million in tax increment financing (TIF) and backed by the conservative Republican governor, Haley Barbour, and the mayor, it will be the largest green project in the state. The project is incorporating a whole suite of integrated strategies for efficiency and clean energy, from green roofs, to light shelves that bounce sunlight deeper into the units and cut electricity use, to building-integrated photovoltaics and the use of stationary fuel cells developed for NASA and the navy, to cut peak energy use and triple efficiency. The fuel cells will be powered by biodiesel made from local soybean and cotton growers, who would otherwise be producing subsidized crops that would flood African markets and kill local farming in the third world. Fuel will even be made from waste from catfish farming. And of course all of the units use geother-mal heat pumps.

Carlton Brown is making a real impact on big issues like childhood asthma, global development, and climate change, and he's doing it by making millions of small changes on the ground, with green, energy-efficient, affordable housing. He is making homes for families and jobs for blue-collar workers, bricks and mortar you can touch and feel, investment in the heart of communities that need it. He is also proving the economics of energy-efficient and high-performance building. When he built 1400 on 5 th, financing was hard to come by. But he proved that building to the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Standard for low-income residents made sense, and that passing a high threshold for energy-efficient and healthful building materials could improve communities, save money, and create new markets for quality housing, along with high-skill jobs. Afterward, when he built the sustainable condominium complex called the Kalahari down the street, Goldman Sachs was knocking at his door.

Brown believes that too much development is shaped by a politics and policy of scarcity, grounded in the belief that there isn't enough to go around. He doesn't buy it and worries that that way of thinking leads to gentrification and the notion that to improve a neighborhood you must move one group of people out and move another group in. Instead, he is building places that people want to live in, making it attractive for middle-class families to move in and making it possible for low-income families to stay and build wealth. He is doing this using the tools of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Is this a green strategy? As Brown says, "If you don't deal with the social construct, you will never get to the biological one."

We know the power of the slogan "Safety First" for industry. Now we need the slogan "Efficiency First" for utilities and businesses. If we adopt this approach, many a nuclear plant will be avoided, not because of an arguably valid distrust of nuclear energy, but because of an inar-guable trust in efficiency. Before we start plugging in nuclear plants, we first ought to start plugging in energy-efficient lightbulbs and retooling our homes and factories.

But there's a key political construct here as well: Efficiency is just another word for freedom. Increasing efficiency means decreasing the concentration of power, both economic and political, in the industrial megaliths that often dominate the economy. Every kilowatt-hour saved through efficiency is one less kilowatt's worth of economic power that is translated into the kind of political power that allowed Enron to run rampant, and one more kilowatt of economic power for consumers to spend in their local neighborhoods.

The concentration of economic power that derives from an absence of energy efficiency can infect any government of any party, while the broad distribution of that same economic power—and the new choices that come with smart energy use and saved resources—can increase the power of our democracy. All of us have a legitimate and real interest in seeing a reduction of the unwholesome consolidation of power that comes with poor energy choices. By increasing efficiency, we build a stronger society.

We know what we have to do. We have to squeeze the stupefying amount of wasted energy out of our system. The good news is that there is a deep well of wasted energy into which we can drill. We have already squeezed four quadrillion Btus of wasted power from our economy each year through demand management programs,30 but we can go much further. A few more quadrillion, and we'll have our problem licked.

Green-Collar Jobs: From the South Bronx to Oakland

Bracken Hendricks

As the founding executive director of the Apollo Alliance, I have had the opportunity to meet many of the people who are using clean energy to rebuild their communities and take power to shape their destinies—everywhere from union halls in Appalachia to center cities from New York to California.

Majora Carter stands out among this growing movement of leaders and organizers, though she is by no means alone. I first met Carter while she was chatting with Colin Powell at a high-toned event sponsored by President Clinton, her youthful and energetic presence belied by a few gray hairs in her dreadlocks that spoke to her hard-won experience. Grounded by her roots in the South Bronx, she moves easily between the two worlds, one where geopolitical power is part of the air in the room, and one where power is re-earned daily through the hard work of bringing people together to claim their voices in our democracy. She is as comfortable chatting with world leaders as she is training single mothers and returning felons who are reentering society to care for shade trees or build green roofs on energy-efficient buildings. Carter believes in the restorative power of clean energy to create good "green-collar jobs" that drive opportunity deeply into the economy.

The South Bronx is a community cut off from the rest of New York by highways, the great monuments to the automobile-based engineering of Robert Moses's 1960s-era urban renewal. From the roof of Carter's offices at Sustainable South Bronx, looking in one direction you see the Brookner Expressway—a great highway that cuts through the Hunts Point community, isolating it from the rest of the Bronx—and the steady flow of cars that symbolize the current oil economy flowing through the area on their way into Manhattan. Sixty thousand diesel trucks go in and out of this peninsula each week. Looking in the other direction, you can see the smokestacks of the sewage-pelletizing facility and several new power plants recently located in the area, more noxious land uses in an area that has suffered the psychological and environmental health impacts of much of the energy infrastructure and pollution that bring prosperity to the rest of New York. Perhaps most important, you can see houses, where the industrial and residential land uses butt against each other.

This daily exposure takes a toll on residents. Scanning the area, you can see the sources of tremendous energy demand, terrible air quality, and the paved surfaces that send storm-water runoff from the sewers into rivers laden with oil and pollution in 450 places across New York each time it rains. You can see the clear hallmarks of poverty and economic neglect. However, you can also see the potential of the entire Hunts Point peninsula, the Manhattan skyline beyond, and the estuary near where the Harlem and Bronx rivers converge.

Carter has created a program to train local residents for the jobs of a green economy. To her this work is about organizing her community to reclaim an active role in shaping the future. It is also about learning to see things differently.

"You have to train yourself to see it as an opportunity, or it will go right by you," she tells me. She got her start mobilizing her neighborhood to fight the siting of an incinerator—yet another waste facility that would make her poor community a further dumping ground for the unwanted by-products of the economy. But, as she puts it, "If they only looked at our waterfront as a place to put garbage, it was up to us to look at it as something to inspire."1

Carter sees huge potential within this view of the South Bronx. She sees the seeds of a new economy, one that restores its connection to the land and digs deep local roots, valuing people as it tackles some of the most intractable social, energy, and environmental problems of our day. Although she started Sustainable South Bronx to challenge the construction of a waste-to-energy project, it quickly became clear that it would be far more effective in the long run to fight for new opportunities and positive alternatives. She began to find the overlooked resources in the land, in the people, and in the built and natural environments.

Greening the community became her rallying cry. As she began to acquire the habit of making her own opportunities, they kept coming. She moved from organizing against dumps to organizing to build parks. And as she saw those parks being constructed, she realized that the workers were coming in from elsewhere, so she organized to train unemployed local residents, many of whom were ex-offenders shunned by the traditional job market, and she spun golden opportunities from those overlooked resources as well. "What better way to create a sense of ownership," she says, "than to build it yourself from within your own community?"

She now has a program that turns the Bronx River into a training program for the emerging sector of green-collar jobs, turning out a new class of trainees each year. From riverfront parks restoration, she is moving to create work in brownfield redevelopment, installing green roofs, green industrialization, and soon solar panel installation. All these emerging industries represent new markets for jobs and training for those who need them most.

"Green-collar jobs" is not an abstraction. The environmental sector of the economy is bigger than the biggest Fortune 500 company, representing $341 billion in industry sales and 5.3 million jobs in 2005.2 It represents three times more jobs than the chemical industry, six times the workers in apparel, and ten times the number of people in the pharmaceutical industry. From machinists to clerks, from designers to mechanical engineers to laborers, green quite simply means jobs—it has been an unrecognized sector of the economy for too long. Now, with the arrival of clean technology and the work of solving our climate crisis, it may get the respect it deserves.

The Bronx is not alone. In Oakland, Mayor Ron Dellums and the Oakland Apollo Alliance, ably led by the dynamic Van Jones, are also pursuing the power of green jobs to change communities. They are developing the California Youth Energy Services to train and pay young adults to conduct energy audits. They are partnering with developers to build green buildings on the site of a once toxic brown-field. They are laying the groundwork for "green enterprise zones," where businesses are given incentives to locate sustainable enterprises that hire local residents. Their efforts are even creating a "Green Job Corps," a training partnership that builds a pipeline with local labor unions, Peralta Community College, and the City of Oakland to train and employ residents in the new green economy.

As Van Jones puts it, "The 'green economy' is exploding into a billion-dollar sector—with more growth predicted. Before we find ourselves left behind and left out, those of us working to uplift urban America see now as a good time to ask who is going to benefit from this massive economic growth."3

Majora Carter and Van Jones are working to see that a clean-energy revolution takes place not only on Wall Street but on Main Streets everywhere. We need the skills, talents, and underutilized resources of every American and every community. Everybody Needs to Get on the Bus.

Chapter 5

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