Monday, January 14, 2013

Beyond LEED: The Living Building Challenge

The Bullitt Center will be the greenest, most energy efficient commercial building in the world, firmly planting Seattle at the forefront of the green building movement. The vision of the Bullitt Center is to change the way buildings are designed, built and operated to improve long-term environmental performance and promote broader implementation of energy efficiency, renewable energy and other green building technologies in the Northwest.  The building is seeking to meet the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge, the world’s most strenuous benchmark for sustainability.  For example, a solar array will generate as much electricity as the building uses and rain will supply as much water, with all waste water treated onsite.

Living Building Challenge was endorsed by both the US Green Building Council and the Canada Green Building Council in 2006.  Living Building Challenge is a certification based on a demonstrated level of rigor: projects can be certified as "Living" if they prove to meet all of the program requirements after 12 months of continued operations and full occupancy. It is also possible to achieve Petal Recognition, or partial program certification, for achieving all of the requirements of at least three Petals when at least one of the following is included: Water, Energy and/or Materials.

The Living Building Challenge is premised on a belief that the 21st century will require a rapid, worldwide movement to ultra-high performance buildings. But for this movement to realize its full potential, these buildings must also be a source of beauty, joy, well-being and inspiration. They will marry architectural titan Louis Sullivan’s “form follows function” precept with the highest levels of efficiency currently achievable. Learning from nature’s preoccupation with maximizing return from scarce resources, they will also be beautifully functional.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2011 Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study Results

For the third consecutive year, MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group have conducted a survey of managers and executives from companies around the world, asking how they are developing and implementing sustainable business practices.

More than 4,000 managers from 113 countries responded to the survey.  According to the respondents, 70% of companies have placed sustainability permanently on their management agendas.  Two-thirds of the resondents said that sustainability was necessary to be competitive in the marketplace.  And, many companies are increasing their commitments to sustainability inititiaves despite a lackluster economy.

On the other hand, respondents indicate that sustainability ranks eighth in importance among other management agenda items.  Economic growth continues to deplete the planet's stocks of natural capital, despite the efforts of many companies to minimize their impacts, decrease their carbon footprints, and cultivate closed-loop production systems.

The authors believe that these mixed results are overall positive, however.  They suggest that the sustainability movement is nearing a tipping point, at which a substantial portion of companies are seeing sustainable business practices as a necessity and are also deriving a financial benefit from sustainable activities.  Leading the charge are a group of organizations that are not merely implementing individual initiatives -- such as lowering carbon emissions and investing in renewables -- but are also changing their operating frameworks and strategies.  The report explores what sets these organizations apart and lessons that other organizations can take from these innovators.

Download the report here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Is Environmental Contamination Responsible for Violent Crime?

America's Real Criminal Element: Lead
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, January/February 2013 Issue

Across the US, violent crime peaked in the early 1990s and then began a steady and significant decline. Not unique to a particular city, this declining trend is seen nationwide, including in New York, Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Newark.  This article explores the reasons behind this trend, and in the process, researched a myriad of criminology theories: crime goes down when the economy is booming and goes up when it's in a slump; crime drops in big cities are mostly a reflection of the crack epidemic of the '80s finally burning itself out; demographics (as numbers of young men increases, so does crime); prison expansion; guns and gun control; family dynamics; race; parole and probation policies; raw number of police officers; and legalized abortion.

The author found a growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and juvenile delinquency. A large body of evidence suggests that the use -- and discontinuation -- of tetraethyl lead in gasoline may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past 50 years. And this relationship seems to hold true for cities of different sizes, both within the US and internationally.

Read the article here.

And several of the cited studies:
How Lead Exposure Relates to Temporal Changes in IQ, Violent Crime, and Unwed Pregnancy
Environmental Policy as Social Policy? The Impact of Childhood Lead Exposure on Crime
Understanding international crime trends: The legacy of preschool lead exposure
The urban rise and fall of air lead (Pb) and the latent surge and retreat of societal violence
Association of Prenatal and Childhood Blood Lead Concentrations with Criminal Arrests in Early Adulthood