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Thread: Unintended consequences of green/LEED design

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    Cyburbian AnvilPartners's avatar
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    Unintended consequences of green/LEED design

    We're beginning to see some interesting impacts from Green/LEEDS design and in particular, the use of low-e glass --

    It's degrading/attenuating radio signal...and in some urban settings, creating a need for additional radio equipment to maintain in-building signal strengths.

    I fully support better building design, but I thought this was a surprising impact, and one more log on the bonfire of wireless permits everyone now faces...

    There's lots of approaches and tools to deal with it, but I was surprised to see this pop up -- didn't see it coming...

    RES
    "Sometimes you have to get medieval with it...hammer, sparks, sweat, the whole nine yards...so don't forget your asbestos suit."
    Aphorisms on Public Hearings, Planning Guild Handbook (2001).

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I know that at least 2 LEED Platinum buildings in Greensburg had to add boosters to get cell phone reception. I didn't know that glazing was the culprit. Also extreme use of natural light and the west Kansas sun don't match well. Shades had to added to all north facing glass. From my office sunlight focused directly on the HVAC thermostat for half of each day, caused the AC to kick on it winter.

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    Tweaked the thread title from "Unintended consequences". Carry on.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    I know that at least 2 LEED Platinum buildings in Greensburg had to add boosters to get cell phone reception. I didn't know that glazing was the culprit. Also extreme use of natural light and the west Kansas sun don't match well. Shades had to added to all north facing glass. From my office sunlight focused directly on the HVAC thermostat for half of each day, caused the AC to kick on it winter.
    Its very easy to build a cheap, inefficient building. It is also fairly easy to build an envelope that has good insulation. Lighting and air flow in office buildings are another problem, however.

    Maybe there is some funding at the national or state level to do some efficiency studies [/sarc]

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Here is a macro-economic spin on this. While the policies and technologies behind energy saving homes and cars are extremely important to the health of our planet there are consequences to many. here are a few things to think about.

    1. We are set-up as a consumption-based society. The less some people consume, the more of the cost burden in shifted onto others. The same holds true for how we tax. In the public realm we tax based upon consumption in order to provide services such as sewers and roads. In the private sector instead of a tax to pay for the inastructure, we have a cost per kilowat or cubic foot used.

    2. As we build more 'green homes or buildings' the most suitable place to build these is where the infastructure does not currently exist, or where it is less developed. This is often on the periphery of the urbanized area. While this can ave on many of the costs, it does not save on all of the costs. It also adds buildings into the mix that have a competitive advantage with existing buildings. However, building on the fringe may also mean additional costs to both the public and private infastructure that has to be expanded to meet a reduced usage of water, gas, sewer, or electricity. The costs of this expansion has to be borne by someone.

    3. Because we pay by consumption, the most pain for this expansion is felt by those who currently live or work in the older buildings built with the old technologies. These are often times the poorer areas causing a major shift in who pays with the poor subsidizing the newer developments. The cost of maintaining this expanded infrastructure is being borne less by those who benefit from being green.

    4. This leads to raises in rates accross the board to taxes and fees paid by those who consume more than others. The costs to retrofit the older areas with the new technologies can be cost prohibitive, particularly when these areas are often times more poorer than the areas on the periphery.

    5. You can see this same thing happening in transport costs. You see a lot more cars such as the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion hybrid, Chevy Volt being bought by people who live on the periphery than you do by people living in poorer neighborhoods which are often clustered in inner cities where the added infastructure exists for public transportation. Most public transportation is paid for through the gasoline tax. We are currently seeing a shrinking in revenues coming in that help pay for not only roads but public transportation because people are shifting to more fuel efficient cars, driving less, and because of neccessity using public transportation more due to the higher costs of fuel. Public transit agencies are being squeezed at both ends with declining revenues and more demand for service.

    6. There are no easy fixes to this!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Here is a macro-economic spin on this. While the policies and technologies behind energy saving homes and cars are extremely important to the health of our planet there are consequences to many. here are a few things to think about.

    1. We are set-up as a consumption-based society....

    6. There are no easy fixes to this!
    You're right: we're doomed. We cannot change.

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    Cyburbian AnvilPartners's avatar
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    C'mon

    It should be pay as you go -- a user fee....

    To be equitable, and to be fair it should be a user fee...you use it to make your McMansion, you pay for it...

    otherwise, you pay for what you get...

    It's the only fair way to go about this buisness --
    "Sometimes you have to get medieval with it...hammer, sparks, sweat, the whole nine yards...so don't forget your asbestos suit."
    Aphorisms on Public Hearings, Planning Guild Handbook (2001).

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AnvilPartners View post
    It should be ...a user fee....

    To be equitable, and to be fair it..

    It's the only fair way ...--
    The rich have no need for fairness. Surely you don't think the well-off will allow such a scheme to happen under our current system.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    You're right: we're doomed. We cannot change.
    I would not go that far! Policies and politics need to align themselves. hmmm on second thought you're right!

    As it is I live in a small house in an older neighborhood. I can't replace my water heater, my light bulbs with cfls, add dual flushers to my toilet tank fast enough to keep ahead of rising costs for utilities. I am just glad I don't have to drive 40 miles to work like many do. I have a transit option where I live, but using transit places a burden on it while keeping the car parked provides little revenue to pay for it.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    5. You can see this same thing happening in transport costs. You see a lot more cars such as the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion hybrid, Chevy Volt being bought by people who live on the periphery than you do by people living in poorer neighborhoods which are often clustered in inner cities where the added infastructure exists for public transportation. Most public transportation is paid for through the gasoline tax. We are currently seeing a shrinking in revenues coming in that help pay for not only roads but public transportation because people are shifting to more fuel efficient cars, driving less, and because of neccessity using public transportation more due to the higher costs of fuel. Public transit agencies are being squeezed at both ends with declining revenues and more demand for service.
    This may be true on a national level, but most transit dollars come from local or state governments and funding mechanisms vary wildly by state. For example, in California, nearly all transit operating funds come in the form of sales taxes (state/county/city). Federal gas tax money is typically only being used for capital projects. There's still the effect of increased demand and lower revenues to provide service, but that's being caused by the economic slowdown and decreased spending, rather than anything directly related to gas tax revenues.

    As far as unintended consequences of LEED, the biggest thing that I see in this area is just an increase in the price of close-in buildings, which leads to less infill being built. IMO, it would make a lot more sense to remove as many barriers to building in the core while simultaneously requiring LEED building on the periphery, but that's the exact opposite of what has happened, where the most common places to not require any LEED design elements are already in the least environmentally friendly locations, which further exacerbates the cost difference of infill versus greenfield building.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    This may be true on a national level, but most transit dollars come from local or state governments and funding mechanisms vary wildly by state. For example, in California, nearly all transit operating funds come in the form of sales taxes (state/county/city). Federal gas tax money is typically only being used for capital projects. There's still the effect of increased demand and lower revenues to provide service, but that's being caused by the economic slowdown and decreased spending, rather than anything directly related to gas tax revenues.
    Wow thats downright progressive compared to how things work here. Michigan's constitution bans local sales tax and state politicos keep it from being voted on being changed. ten percent of the Michigan Transportation Fund goes to transit. There are some millages to assist this but the total dollars brought in are small potatoes compared to the outlays from the gas taxes.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AnvilPartners View post
    We're beginning to see some interesting impacts from Green/LEEDS design and in particular, the use of low-e glass --

    It's degrading/attenuating radio signal...and in some urban settings, creating a need for additional radio equipment to maintain in-building signal strengths...
    I haven't heard this before. How interesting. So, all I need to do to reduce the cell phone background noise is get my office building to install.... wait that is off topic

    In all seriousness though, the economic impacts DetroitPlanner and others have highlighted for us are great examples of how sluggish our government can sometimes be in responding to changing scenarios. As others noted, it is the way we finance and distribute equity that is the problem, not the fuel efficient cars, decreased gas tax revenue, "green" buildings/homes, etc.
    I highly doubt that even a massive education campaign aimed to point out how inequitably our infrastructure systems are subsidized would sway the opinions of most people. The only solution I can see is to streamline the way things are financed, implement user fees, and let society re-stabilize itself in the post-subsidized-infrastructure world. The cost of living on the periphery would likely skyrocket, which would effectively combat the increased cost of infill development to LEED standards. And if it didn't, then the worst that would happen is that we, collectively, would use less fossil fuels, potentially have lower taxes or more money for social programs, and less inner-city decay.

    Sounds like a win-win to me.

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    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Wow thats downright progressive compared to how things work here. Michigan's constitution bans local sales tax and state politicos keep it from being voted on being changed. ten percent of the Michigan Transportation Fund goes to transit. There are some millages to assist this but the total dollars brought in are small potatoes compared to the outlays from the gas taxes.
    Well, I'm not convinced it's a progressive thing (sales taxes are much more regressive than gas taxes, IMO), but I suppose it is a bit more stable in the long run.

    We're a little off-topic for the thread now, so I won't go into much more , but nearly all of the transit agencies in the state were created by ballot initiatives that included a funding mechanism (BART, Amtrak California, SF Muni, etc) or later had funding mechanisms added via ballot initiative (LA's recent 30/10 plan, numerous BART initiatives, VTA in San Jose, numerous SF Muni initiatives, AC Transit, Golden Gate transit, etc). Only a few agencies were ever created without specific operations funding in place (Caltrain is an example), and those are having the most difficult time now, since they have to fight for funding with everything else.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    We're a little off-topic for the thread now, so I won't go into much more , but nearly all of the transit agencies in the state were created by ballot initiatives that included a funding mechanism (BART, Amtrak California, SF Muni, etc) or later had funding mechanisms added via ballot initiative (LA's recent 30/10 plan, numerous BART initiatives, VTA in San Jose, numerous SF Muni initiatives, AC Transit, Golden Gate transit, etc). Only a few agencies were ever created without specific operations funding in place (Caltrain is an example), and those are having the most difficult time now, since they have to fight for funding with everything else.
    I don't see this being off track. Green design is more than just buildings. We're planners not architects! We need to design a sustainable infastructure system now that we have moved to new green technologies. Green policies have been put in place without thinking about these things. Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that we have Fusions that get 45 mpg, but these, reduced water and energy usages are having a consequence on how we pay for infastructure in the currently built environment while we expand into new areas that need much less water or energy but consume the same kind of infastructure.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    I don't see this being off track. Green design is more than just buildings. We're planners not architects! We need to design a sustainable infastructure system now that we have moved to new green technologies. Green policies have been put in place without thinking about these things. .
    Exactly. My latest work is to try and ensure green infrastructure doesn't get in the way of gray infrastructure. Most people don't know how to design the entire system to be sustainable, and individuals atomistically act in isolation, and "green" policies are part of the culprit.

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