Richmond Adopts a Street

The Richmond office’s Adopt-A-Street pilot effort for the 3400 block of West Clay Street is complete!  In total we picked up (7) 50-gallon bags of trash between August and October 2010.  It may not sound like a lot, but even just a few Styrofoam cups and fast food bags can look awful.  Since this location does collect quite a bit of trash and has high visibility for the neighborhood, we are proceeding with formally adopting this location.  We are now eligible for a sign from the Clean City Commission stating that Moseley Architects has adopted that street.  Thank you to everyone who has volunteered for cleanups in the past or has committed to future cleanups!  Richmond employees, please see Mike Caudle if you would like to volunteer for a future cleanup. 

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The Electric Cars are Coming!

Yes, Tesla has sold over 1,000 of its sports car and will be offering a second model at $57K, roughly half the price of the original Tesla Roadster, but what about the rest of us non-Hollywood moguls?  Well, the electric cars are coming.

Nissan already has 20,000 deposits on the $32K Leaf which is battery electric, 5-door , 5-seat with 100 miles range.  Hugs from polar bears are optional.

Toyota has plans to offer a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius, 500 of which are alread in fleet trials around the country.  A dealer offering was planned for 2011, but recalls on the standard Prius may delay that.  A proposed pure battery electric version is intended for late 2011.

General Motors will be back, (have you seen Who Killed the Electric Car? You can catch it online at TopDocumentaryFilms.com and other film documentary websites) with the Chevy Volt, which is a plug in hybrid with 40 miles electric range, and a supplemental gasoline-operated generator to give another 300 miles.  They intend to manufacture 10,000 in 2011.

Ford plans to offer the Focus in four versions in 2011: Battery Electric, Plug-in Hybrid, Hybrid, and conventional drive train.  Ford already sells the Transit Connect Electric compact van.  Richmond plans to acquire four of these, possibly acquiring 40 additional electric vehicles if they pan out.  The media reports that the van can do up to 80 mph and has an 80 mile range.  I guess at full speed you can only drive for an hour.  But in Broad Street traffic who knows, you might sit in one spot all day.

Mitsubishi already has the best-selling micro-compact electric car in Japan, and will offer a modified version for the US market in 2012 with a 50 to 80 mile range in a low $30K price range.

The Chrysler GEM, which looks a bit like a space-age golf cart, is an under 25 MPH light vehicle priced under $10,000.  There are about 40,000 distributed around the United States in university towns, fleets, and retirement communities.

Chrysler plans to offer an electric version of the subcompact Fiat 500 in 2012 with a 100 mile range and a $32K price tag, and expects to build 56,000 of them in 2014.

Fisker is producing a luxury sports plug-in hybrid in the $90K range for 2012 with a questionably sustainable 403 hp, and will have to overcome the model name: Karma.

And how much in these announcements will change.  A lot is our guess, but it does seem that we are at the beginning of a new era in automotive design.

Green Buildings and Health/Productivity

In September 2010, a study was published in the American Journal of Public Health called “Effects of Green Buildings on Employee Health and Productivity”.  The study was conducted by researchers at the School of Planning, Design, and Construction at Michigan State University.  They investigated the effects of improved indoor environmental quality (IEQ) on perceived health and productivity in occupants who moved from conventional buildings to green office buildings (based on LEED ratings). They found that improved IEQ contributed to reductions in perceived absenteeism and work hours affected, and to self-reported improvements in productivity. The conclusion to the preliminary findings is that green buildings may positively affect public health.

 The study focused on absenteeism attributed to asthma and allergies, work hours affected by asthma and allergies, and work hours affected by depression and stress.  Data was collected through pre- and post-move surveys.  The end result was a productivity improvement of 2.6 percent averaged across all occupants.  The researchers intend to continue collecting data to capture different seasons, and to see if any perceived benefit that is just excitement over a new building causes the results to change over time.

 The article can be accessed here:

http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/100/9/1665

 Or for Moseley employees a copy has been saved in LEED Resources in this subfolder:

 M:\LeedResources\Files for Public Use\Reports and Studies

Plant Species with Potential IAQ Benefits

In looking for ways to promote healthy indoor air quality in our Raleigh office, a number of our staff indentified some useful research regarding the plant species that are suspected to have positive effects on IAQ.  Click here for a link to a particularly good summary (we have also saved the relevant information in a handy one-page document on our servers).  There is also an interesting chart detailing the observed effects of each plant species on different chemicals and contaminants.

Although we would have also liked to see more recent studies confirming such effects, having a few extra plants around the office didn’t strike us as a bad idea even without the IAQ benefits.  Each employee ended up bringing a few from these lists from their local nursery / garden center – and in the process we discovered a few green thumbs in the group that were particularly adept at propagating new plants from cuttings, allowing us to extend the new swath of greenery even further!

Latest PV News

What’s been happening in the PV market?

There is excitement building in the PV market as PV’s with the aid of continuing subsidies known as feed in tariffs and incremental improvements in technology begin to approach parity with the grid cost of electricity. Germany has held a leadership role accounting for 55% of industry demand recently and although it is not a particularly sunny place it has relatively high electricity costs to start with in addition to it feed in tariffs (a feed in tariff is a premium price per unit of electricity generated over the 20 year life of a project.) Geopolitically Germany is highly dependent on Russia for its natural gas. Germany became increasingly uncomfortable when Russia temporarily shut off the natural gas supply to the Ukraine in 2009. In spite of that Germany reduces somewhat its subsidy for new projects each year maintaining a balance the need for subsidies and the continuing improvements in technology. Spain provides a cautionary tale having offered a an enormous subsidy to PVs and other energy projects resulting an many projects that were uneconomic, withdrawal of the subsidies because of a negative reaction from the voters and a subsequent crash in cell prices and industry layoffs as well as useless infrastructure. Going forward Italy, the US, Japan and China are expected to drive 60% of the installation growth in 2010 and overall the market is expected to achieve a 33% growth.

PV ‘s already have grid parity in isolated areas of Italy. The US is driving the market forward with renewable energy portfolio standards, China has its Solar Rooftop Program and Golden Sun Program expected to begin impacting the market next year. Japan will be reinstituting its rebates and feed in tariffs.

We are approaching the turning point where PV technology is less dependent on economic incentives and during 2012 and 2013 unsubsidized PV technology may be viable in places where electricity rates traditionally have been high. Stay tuned, PV has arrived.

News

The cellular items that were collected for the Phones for Haiti program were sent off to ReCellular at the end of February.  Throughout all of the Moseley offices we collected about 35 assorted phones and chargers.  Thank you to everyone who contributed!

Greening Your Spring Cleaning

As we welcome warmer temperatures and (we hope) sunnier skies, you may think about sprucing up your home and undertaking the traditional spring cleaning.  But hold that thought.  Before you reach for the products you currently have in your cleaning arsenal, consider what you may be adding to your indoor environment.

Thousands of chemicals are manufactured every year, and only a small percentage of them are tested before being released for use by consumers.  Thirty percent is a conservative number.  That means a lot of what you could be using most likely was not tested for impacts on human and environmental health.  These chemicals include those that are not only irritating to skin, eyes, and lungs, but that may also be carcinogenic or capable of disrupting your endocrine system.  Some are also bioaccumulative, meaning they build up in fatty tissues, and you’re body won’t break them down.  Consider, for example, that many cleaning products contain synthetic fragrances.  These are actually phthalates, the same chemicals that leach from some types of plastic.

I know what you’re thinking.  How much is it going to cost me to buy the environmentally-friendly (and people-friendly) cleaning products?  There are two good options for green cleaning.

You can buy alternative products that contain plant-based cleaners and oils.  These products do cost a bit more, but keep in mind that they are usually much more concentrated than the synthetic brands and will go farther.  Brands such as Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, and Mrs. Meyers are some common brands to look for.

Your other option would be to make your own using ingredients you may already have or can easily find at any grocery store: baking soda or washing soda, white distilled vinegar, and lemon juice.  You may also need a good liquid soap (plant-based, such as Dr. Bronner’s).  Here are some recipes you might find helpful:

Glass cleaner:  Mix water and ¼ cup white vinegar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  Put all ingredients in a spray bottle, shake, and use as you would a commercial brand.

All-Purpose Cleaner & Scrub:  Mix a little baking soda or washing soda (wear gloves) with water for a scrub, or mix vinegar with water for a more mild cleaner.  Apply to surface and wipe off with a rag or a sponge .  You can add a dab of liquid soap to the scrub to create a thicker paste.

Disinfectant:  Try straight vinegar on most surfaces to kill bacteria, mold, and viruses.  To kill food-borne pathogens, though, you’ll need the traditional hot, soapy water.

Oven cleaner:  Create a paste of water and baking soda and apply to oven surfaces.  The more grease and grime, the more you’ll need, so be generous when applying.  Let stand overnight, then scrub off.

Furniture polish:  Mix 1 teaspoon olive oil with ½ cup white vinegar or lemon juice.  Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces.

Drain cleaner:  Pour ½ cup baking soda into drain and follow with 2 cups boiling water.  If the drain is still clogged, chase the baking soda with ½ cup vinegar, let stand for a few minutes, and flush with one gallon of boiling water. 

For other ideas or more information about green cleaning, visit planetgreen.discovery.com, www.care2.com, www.thedailygreen.com or search “green cleaning.”