New Technology in Old Buildings

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guest post: Scott Whipple

Sustainability and historic preservation are at odds, right? Well, not so fast. Here in Montgomery County, and in many places across the country, people are discovering that historic preservation and sustainability goals can and do coexist.

Wednesday night, the Montgomery County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) unanimously approved a proposal to install solar panels on the Sycamore Store, an individually designated County historic site. The HPC found that the installation of the solar panels was consistent with the County’s historic preservation review criteria and appropriate for this historic resource, which had been vacant and is now used as a residence. According to the property owner, the solar panels are expected to provide between a third and … Continue reading

MRO Garden Blooms Again

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On the heels of an agriburbia post, we have our own little backyard food supply at park and planning–our vegetable garden is setting up for the season.

The crew of after-work-hours volunteers had already planted some cool weather crops–lettuces, radishes, celery–and moved some estaablished herbs to the stairway beds, but last night we planted in anticpation of warm weather–tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, squash, bush beans, and more chard! We’ve even managed to harvest already–last year’s chard and kale that wintered over–and we’ve found a few sweet, overlooked carrots.

This year, we’re putting flowers in the center, where it’s harder to harvest and we’re putting potatoes on our green roof  near Georgia Avenue, where we hope the cascade of vines will … Continue reading

Bethesda Green, TEDx, and Your Dinner

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Bethesda Green sponsored a TEDx meet up this past Saturday on “Changing the Way We Eat,” and although the speakers were based in New York, the local viewers took time to introduce themselves and their efforts in local food and to discuss the potential for local food in Montgomery County.

 

So after Laurie David talked about the importance of family dinner and Carolyn Steele’s TED talk about How Food Shapes our Cities, we heard from Mike Kennedy, a board member of the innovative model Fox Haven Farm, from Kristina Bostick who works with Montgomery Countryside Alliance to make the County’s Agricultural Reserve into a food porducing resource, and Greg Glenn of Rocklands Farm, which is starting out with … Continue reading

If my grandmother can garden in her town….

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On a recent trip for my aunt’s wedding, I had a chance to stop by my grandparent’s place in a small town in CT. One of the first things I noticed, being who I am, is that the community open space was either play space or community garden space. My grandmother, of course, has a small plot where she can grow flowers and some veggies and generally keep active in a town where there isn’t much else to do – especially for seniors (or kids, for that matter).  I don’t think we can overstate how important connections to nature and food are and how community gardens, playgrounds, and open space bring people together and promote health, well-being, happiness, etc.  … Continue reading

How Does Our Garden Grow

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Well, so far, so good. We survived that freaky hail storm a few weeks ago and the seedlings are grabbing whatever sun they can. With the invaluable help of our building maintenance crew we’ve worked out a way to water the garden with minimal hose lugging.

At last night’s weeding party we even harvested a few sprigs of basil, grabbed as they were about to flower. We also thinned the beets and swiss chard, and staked up the tomatoes, cukes, and pole beans.

 

The Infrastructure Made Me Do It

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Three articles in the New York Times caught my eye this weekend. Bill Cunningham cast his stylish eye on the revelers at reinvented Coney Island, the About New York column did a follow-up on trashed clothing found outside H&M and Walmart, and the City Critic wrote about the potential for water taxis in Hudson and East Rivers. 

They all come down to infrastructure and how you use it. Places, things, and ideas that we’ve abandoned often deserve a second look; they can have new value as our own values change. We used to think it was great to have a car and drive everywhere. Now, gassing it up, jockeying for lane space, and trying to park it can be an expensive pain. A fresh … Continue reading

Rethink Energy

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Last night Michael Schaal, of the U.S. Energy Information Administration spoke about the outlook for future energy demand in the world and the United States.

Some of what he reported will not surprise you; we’ve heard a lot of this before.

Even with increased interest in renewable fuels, most of our energy needs will be met by fossil fuels. Demand increases with population and income, so demand is expected to increase in China, Russia, and India. Technology is helping us find new sources of fossil fuels. Technology is also helping us save energy; for example, the energy savings from more efficient appliances have helped keep US energy demand steady, even as we use more gadgets like cell phones and laptops.

Schaal pointed out … Continue reading

Historic Preservation Can Mean Sustainable Communities and Sustainable Jobs

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 guest blogger: Lisa Mroszczyk

There is another angle to the sustainability argument.

Rehabilitation projects are labor intensive rather than materials intensive. The need for skilled labor creates jobs that are often sourced locally, whereas manufacturers of materials for new construction are not. This results in more dollars going to people within the community, who turn around and spend that money locally, contributing to the viability of the local economy.

Donovan Rypkema, with the Washington, D.C.-based real estate and economic development consulting firm PlaceEconomics, completed a study on The Value of Historic Preservation in Maryland in 1999 which asked “Does historic preservation mean jobs?” The study concluded that, “In Maryland the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes.’”  The report also found … Continue reading

How can planning influence climate change numbers?

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As we start writing the code for the new zoning ordinance, a “big picture” view seems in order. The biggest-picture formula in climate change, called the Kaya identity, is:

F=Pgef

F = Global CO2 emissions (combustion, flaring of natural gas, cement production, oxidation of nonfuel hydrocarbons, and transport) P = Global population (total number of human beings) g = Consumption per person (gross world product divided by population) e = Energy intensity of gross world product (global energy consumption divided by gross world product) f = Carbon used to make energy (global carbon dioxide emissions divided by global energy consumption)

The most obvious thing about this equation – if you remember even grade-school math – is … Continue reading

Old Buildings and Old Energy

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Guest Post by Lisa Mroszczyk

Think of all the energy it has taken over generations to build the County’s existing building stock. This expenditure is embodied energy—the energy already invested to process materials, transport them, and finally construct a building.  Demolition wastes embodied energy.  When that waste is factored in with the energy needed to transport demolished building materials to a landfill and the energy needed to construct a new building on the site, any net energy savings typically doesn’t kick in for three or four decades.

Reusing existing buildings conserves energy and reduces construction and demolition debris in landfills. During National Preservation Month, we are reminded of historic preservation’s role in sustainability.

The Brookings Institution predicts that by … Continue reading