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Green Building is Now the Law in Dallas

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Dallas has now accepted the first building permit applications under its green building ordinance. Dallas is one of the first major cities in the nation to implement comprehensive mandatory green building standards for both all new residential and commercial construction.

By Resolution 08-1070 adopted unanimously on April 9, 2008 Phase 1 of the law was effective in 2009 and Phase 2 (originally to be effective October 1, 2011) was fully implemented October 1, 2013. 

All new projects must either: meet the minimum requirements of the Dallas Green Construction Code or be LEED certifiable or be Green Built Texas certifiable or be certifiable under an equivalent green building standard. Projects need only be “certifiable” and not LEED certified nor Green Built Texas certified.

Expedited review is available for projects that are at a minimum Dallas Green Construction Code compliant, LEED Silver certifiable or ASHRAE 189.1-2011 certifiable.

Projects must reduce water usage by 20%. LEED projects may achieve 1 point under the Water Use Reduction (20% Reduction) Credit or projects may use 20% less water than the baseline under the Plumbing Code.

Single family residential may also meet the minimum requirements of ICC 700. Lots must be designed so that at least 70% of the built environment is permeable. Projects must utilize drip irrigation for all “bedding areas” of landscaping.

Significantly, as one of the optional compliance paths a project may comply with the Dallas Green Construction Code, which is an enactment of the International Green Construction Code with local amendments. Many have noted Dallas deleted Chapter 6 of the IgCC, the energy conservation provision, and elected instead to keep existing energy code requirements. Also deleted are the chapters for commissioning and causing the code to apply to alterations of existing buildings.

Dallas also accepts approved third party plan review and inspection for its green building program.

The successful implementation of green building standards in Dallas has been widely heralded across the environmental industrial complex, including on the USGBC website. Although there are some minor rumblings that LEED certifiable versus actually submitting a project for LEED certification violates the terms of usage of the USGBC rating system.

Make no mistake, the new code remains controversial in broader real estate world, including across Texas, as mandating proprietary green building standards on private construction. However, allowing a developer the option of selecting among alternative compliance paths for achieving green building, here in Dallas, in Washington DC and Baltimore, may well portend the future of a sustainable built environment.

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EPA Gets an Earful at Coal Ash Disposal Hearings

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

DALLAS, Texas, September 9, 2010 (ENS) – Concerned about the health and environmental dangers of coal ash dumps, hundreds of residents from four states packed a U.S. EPA hearing in Dallas Wednesday, urging the agency to adopt the stronger of two plans to regulate the waste from coal-fired power plants.

The agency’s proposed regulation is the first national effort to ensure the safe disposal and management of ash from coal-fired power plants, which generate some 136 million tons of coal ash every year.

Coal ash landfill beside the Cane Run Road power plant in Jefferson County, Kentucky June 13, 2010. (Photo by Kentuckians for the Commonwealth)

Texas burns more coal than any other state and also produces more coal ash. Power companies can bury it in landfills or store it in impoundment ponds, or they sell it as a component of building materials, roads or pavement.

“EPA must protect the public health by regulating this waste.” said Travis Brown of the Neighbors for Neighbors group in Texas. “Because coal ash is being dumped into unlined mining pits in our community, we are concerned that the groundwater we depend on may become contaminated.”

“Without federal oversight,” he said, “the state of Texas will continue to put profits before people and allow companies to escape cleaning up their own messes.”

“Doctors and scientists are just beginning to learn how the hazardous substances found in coal ash detrimentally affect human health,” said Dr. J.P. Bell, an emergency room physician from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Coal ash is composed primarily of oxides of silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium, magnesium, titanium, sodium, potassium, arsenic, mercury, and sulfur plus small quantities of the radioactive elements uranium and thorium.

“I learned that radioactive coal ash dumps are like sleeper cells, causing chaos down the road,” said Dr. Bell. “The health of citizens not affected until they become patients 20 years later.”

“In my personal experiences with citizens in Arkansas and Oklahoma battling against these huge waste pits, I have seen the negative consequences firsthand. Common sense dictates that the EPA should protect citizens when industry and the states refuse to.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “It’s been an inspiring day, seeing so many people from the region taking action to protect their air, their water, their health.”

The public hearing is one of seven the EPA is holding across the nation through the end of September on its plan to regulate coal ash. EPA will hold one additional public hearing in Knoxville, Tennessee during the week of October 25, 2010, the exact date to be announced.

The need for national management criteria and regulation was highlighted by the December 2008 spill of coal ash from a surface impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee. TVA, a public utility owned and operated by the federal government, local, state and federal agencies continue to work on recovery and cleanup of the millions of tons of ash that buried a valley and spilled into the Clinch and Emory rivers.

EPA has proposed two main coal ash management approaches. The stronger one treats coal ash as a hazardous waste. It would phase out surface impoundments and move all coal ash to landfills. Each state would have to individually adopt this version of the rule, which would be enforced by state and federal governments.

Protective controls, such as liners and ground water monitoring, would be required at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health, under the stronger proposal. Existing landfills would have no liner requirements, but groundwater monitoring would be required.

The weaker proposal would continue to allow coal ash to be disposed in surface impoundments, but with stricter safety criteria. New impoundments would have to be built with liners.

Existing surface impoundments would also be required to install liners and companies would be provided with incentives to close these impoundments and transition to safer landfills which store coal ash in dry form. Existing impoundments would have to remove solids and retrofit with a liner or close the dump within five years of the rule’s effective date.

This weaker proposal would apply across the country six months after final rule takes effect, but there would be no state or federal enforcement. Citizens or states would have to enforce this version of the rule through the courts.

The coal industry prefers the weaker proposal, which treats the ash as as a non-hazardous product.

Thomas Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, told the EPA hearing in Denver last week that by labeling it as a toxic, the EPA would jeopardize a successful recycling industry for coal ash products such as bricks and concrete that uses nearly half the coal ash produced.

In advance of the public hearings, the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and Sierra Club issued an extensive report on the nationwide scope of the coal ash disposal problem.

The report, “In Harm’s Way” pinpoints 39 previously unreported sites in 21 states where coal waste has contaminated groundwater or surface water with toxic metals and other pollutants.

Their analysis is based on monitoring data and other information available in state agency files and builds on a report released in February of 2010, which documented similar damage at 31 coal combustion waste dumpsites in 14 states.

When added to the 67 damage cases that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already acknowledged, the total number of sites polluted by coal ash or scrubber sludge comes to at least 137 damaged sites in 34 states.

“At every one of the 35 sites with ground water monitoring wells, on-site test results show that concentrations of heavy metals like arsenic or lead exceed federal health-based standards for drinking water,” the report states.

“For years nobody, including the Environmental Protection Agency, has had a full picture of how much of this toxic waste is out there, where it is, or if it is safely contained. It has been dumped with no federal oversight, and utterly inadequate state policies,” said Dr. Neil Carman, Clean Air Program director with the Lonestar Chapter of Sierra Club. “Now that we’re aware, we are finding contamination everywhere we look.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.


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Bloom Box: a practical, clean energy solution for homes?

Sunday, February 28th, 2010


Photo via CNET.

Like many people, I just started hearing about the Bloom Box from Bloom Energy. It isn’t the first time that 60 Minutes has come up with a story about some type of miraculous energy source that seems too good to be true.

Indeed, free energy scams are as old as energy itself!

But here’s why the Bloom Box isn’t actually a scam. It doesn’t ever claim to be a device that creates free energy. It’s just a fuel cell device that makes ultra efficient use of methane or natural gas to generate electricity cheaper and cleaner than buying it from the grid.

And look who is actually using these devices right now:

Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Google, Staples, Ebay, FedEx and others. These are real companies, using a real, functioning device.

Makes you wonder things like, how well would it run on propane? Could you power an entire house off the grid? And how long would the propane last?

Would it be cheaper and/or cleaner if you have a natural gas hookup at your home to use a Bloom Box to generate your electricity instead of getting it from the grid?

How much will they cost for one suitable for a house? What will the payback time be in years?

Want to learn more about the Bloom Box?

The Bloom Energy official web site is starting to offer more details about the device, now that they are actively seeking out media coverage.

CBS 60 Minutes had a segment about the Bloom Box.

CNET has also been covering the Bloom Box, and even live blogged one of their media events.

Readers, do you have anything interesting to say about the Bloom Box?


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