Taking A Greener Approach With Green Districts and Local Records Office

PEKIN, IL – While concrete is literally what holds our cities together, these commercial concrete materials release tons of CO2 gases into our atmosphere each year, contributing to the calamity of climate change says the Local Records Office. And as we take an approach towards creating a green district in the Midwest, such as Pekin, Illinois, we will be able to reduce CO2 emissions and conserve our resources.

What is Climate Change?

The greenhouse effect is when our planet is warmed by radiation from the sun. The solar radiation is reflected back into space and some are trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gases.

These greenhouse gases make our planet habitable by keeping some of the sun’s radiation in our atmosphere: water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4).

In the 1700s humans started burning coal. In the 1900s we began burning oil and later natural gas. And with burning fossil fuels, we are emitting Carbon Dioxide (CO2), where it traps the radiation in our atmosphere.

In the 1700s, there was hardly any CO2, to be exact, 280 PPM (Hess 2014). In 2012, there were up to 396 PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere, a 40% increase.

CO2 accounts for 60% of the human-enhanced greenhouse effect.

Methane is produced by grazing livestock, is a byproduct of the combustions of wood, natural gas, coal, and oil. The concentration of Methane has doubled since 1750 and is 23X more potent. Its heat-trapping ability is 23X greater than CO2.

Nitrous oxide comes from chemical fertilizers and auto emissions and has increased about 18% in our atmosphere since 1750. The nitrous oxides’ heat-trapping ability is 296X greater than CO2.

The earth’s surface temperature has risen 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past 140 years and 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last quarter century (Hess 2014).

From Hess (2012): “This temperature increase over the last 100 years is apparently greater than that of any other century in at least the last 1000 years, and the rate of temperature increase over the last three decades may be greater than at any time in the last 800,000 years. Overall, global temperatures are higher today than they have been in at least 100,000 years, and the last two decades have been the hottest since widespread instrument readings began about 140 years ago. 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since the year 2000.”

97% of climate scientists agree that global temperatures have increased the past 100 years

And how do we know human activity is causing our planet to warm? Doesn’t the planet go through ‘natural’ warming and cooling cycles? The 97% of climate researchers agree humans are very likely causing most global warming (Cooke et al 2016).

“Scientists have gathered evidence and have improved their methods for teasing apart natural and human factors. Today scientists have very high confidence about human-caused global average surface temperature increase – a key climate indicator” reads an article on global warming from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, “Generally, green homes are healthier, more comfortable, more durable, and more energy efficient and have a small environmental footprint than conventional homes.”

While sustainable homes are a large part of the real estate industry, consumer demand, residential builders, federal government incentives, and property owners are taking the steps towards having greener properties.

With two-thirds of consumers demand greener properties, paying close attention to recognizing the link between green properties, the costs in savings and healthier living

And while we continue to face an overgrowth of the population, the resulting infrastructure will mean that each year a city must employ technologies and design elements to reduce resource use and pollution.

Mixed-use developments are also considering using renewable energy sources. The US Green Building Council started a program based on its’ successfulness with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system for individual building and to evaluate concepts of sustainable neighborhoods. And with ideas to integrate: smart growth, new urbanism, and green buildings.

The green-district building -covers buildings, waste, water, transport, and utilities. And twenty-five technologies, as well as design elements, move beyond green buildings into green districts.

As it considers such variables as energy demand, density, population and per capital floor space; then it estimates the effects on annual operating costs and rate of return.

And the building or planning to greener districts also used the model to assess a greenfield location –the district of how much various technologies and designs affect a green district versus a traditional one. Also taking into account the one-square-kilometer of a mix of 70% residential and 30% commercial use and that the mix of technologies will vary. A green district in Canada, for example, will not look or operate like the one in Saudi Arabia.

Permeable pavements, for example, will reduce the flow of water to treatment systems delivered one of the greatest returns on investments.

Enhance building insulation, delivering the greatest return in the Midwestern North American city, had dropped down the scale of return on investment in the Yangtze River Delta due to its moderate heating and cooling needs.

Overall green districts are economically viable and taking into consideration while not every solution costs more than the conventional alternative, the green districts do however have higher construction costs (by nearly 10%)

This comes to $35 million – $70 million per square kilometer, or $1,000 to $4,000 per resident. However, the annual owner operating costs are lower, with savings of $250 to $1,200 per resident. And internal rates of return range from 18% – 30%. All of this translates to break even at the rate of 3 to 5 years, depending on the region and the technologies deployed. And this does not take into account the substantial benefits for the improvement of environmental quality.

Green building districts total impact on the environment are substantially 20 to 40% lower in energy consumption, 60- 65% less in freshwater consumption and wastewater production; 25% less solid waste going to the landfill. And private-vehicle kilometers travels were 50 -80% less.

Other factors also include where these buildings were located and how people move between them.

Overall the local districts are resource intensive and have a greater potential to produce savings when than when resources are cheap or consumed efficiently.

And according to recent research, the congestion’s cost, partly from wasting time from commuting, equals to 1.5 – 4.0% of the GDP. Green districts are gentler to the natural environment, creating less traffic congestion and better air quality, and more livable cities.

Green districts can be a major part of urban revitalization, transforming vacant or even changing areas in existing cities. Hammarby-Sjostad in Stockholm, formerly was a run-down, underused industrial district, has transformed into a thriving “eco-village.” Its 25,000 residents reap the benefits of a transportation system, generating 30-40% less CO2 per household than a comparable nearby district (primarily because of 40% fewer trips by a private car). And the wastewater-treatment system, with hot water that is used in the local district’s heating system, has substantially lower energy costs (from 32-39%).

So given these advantages of green districts, why has it not already become the norm? While one issue is that developers must pay these costs upfront, the owners only see a higher sticker price but not the long-term benefits of saving on the expense of water, energy, and sanitation. So when developers cannot recoup these costs, they don’t even bother.

The best approach is to build these complexes near universities, government complexes, and medical centers. These are the most logical places to start the movement, because of their positions to test out the values of green-district technologies and the design features.