AEC pros for net zero, co-living in SoCal, energy economists' criticism of California solar mandate, OSHA still open amid shutdown, and pilot program funding for efficiency upgrades
OSHA Unaffected by Federal Government Shutdown
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues to operate as usual despite the federal government shutdown. OSHA is operational and fully funded through Sept. 30, 2019. In fact, OSHA is doing more enforcement than it did at the end of the Obama administration, according to a Washington, D.C. attorney quoted in a Business Insurance.com report.
OSHA is being affected, however, by the stalled nomination of a new director. The delay has “left a leadership void at OSHA, with the agency unable to embark on or advance major regulatory initiatives,” the publication reported.
AEC Professionals Should Push for Net Zero Projects
Architects, engineers, and construction professionals should move aggressively to encourage more clients to build to net zero, says Gunnar Hubbard, FAIA, LEED Fellow, in a column posted at Real Estate Weekly. Dire warnings in the latest climate report by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change require bold action in the built environment, Hubbard writes. “Not all clients are environmentally aware or proactive to the same degree,” he writes. “Regardless, we must do everything in our power to educate them, and should not wait for them to ask how their projects can be more sustainable.”
The AEC profession has the knowledge and the tools to achieve net zero, and in many cases the budget allows that standard to be reached, he writes. This can be done by making the investment and ROI clear, “and getting away from unreasonable paybacks of 3-5 years as a cap on improved performance.”
Thermally sound, climate-responsive architecture including taking into account sun path movement and wind direction, and defining levels of comfort for the building type are critical. That approach, combined with smarter system selection for ventilation and comfort that can be tuned for increased controllability and performance will help achieve the net zero goal.
California Pilot Program Funds Heat Pumps, Other Efficiency Upgrades
California will launch a pilot program to install of high-efficiency electric heat pumps and other energy efficient upgrades in up to 1,667 San Joaquin Valley homes. The program will provide state-of-the-art electric-powered heating systems and appliances at no cost to low-income homeowners and renters in 11 communities where heating systems fueled by propane and wood contribute significantly to air pollution.
The upgrades will include super-high efficiency heat pump water heaters and space heaters, solar water heating, advanced weatherization measures, induction cooktops, smart thermostats, and high-efficiency electric dryers. All the appliances will include service guarantees.
California’s Rooftop Solar Mandate Draws Criticism from Energy Economists
California’s mandate that most new homes be equipped with solar panels beginning in 2020 is drawing criticism from energy economists. Critics charge that the new requirement is inefficient in striving for climate goals and benefits wealthier people.
The mandate would reduce the Golden State’s emissions by an estimated 700,000 metric tons over three years, which is far less than 1% of the total emissions in the state, one economist says. Many energy economists say the mandate will be less cost-efficient than building more solar and wind farms to power the energy grid.
More Southern California Developers are Open to Co-Living Designs
With Southern California policymakers looking to encourage higher-density development, the concept of co-living spaces has increasing promise. Proponents believe that the model can support more lifestyle needs and family structures than typical multifamily projects and at a lower cost.
As a result, co-living projects are gaining favor by developers. For example, KTGY recently expanded its co-living brand Co-Dwell. The firm says that co-living could be an answer to a dire shortage of affordable housing.