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Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

five

svenwerk

Each year IBM makes 5 major predictions about what new 5 technological innovations will impact our lives in the next 5 years. They call it their 5 for 5 list.

Here are the top 5:

  1. Energy: People power will come to life– normal activities will soon be converted into energy to power our houses, work, and lives.
  2. Security: You will never need a password again– think biometrics and unique identification based your physical attributes
  3. Mind reading: no longer science fiction– linking of phones, computers, and the web to your personal preferences and body actions
  4. Mobile: The digital divide will cease to exist– mobile devices are making access to information and technology universal
  5. Analytics: Junk mail will become priority mail– via analytics, technology will begin to filter the information you prefer to your inbox

Obviously these shifts will impact our lives, how we communicate, and our culture…aka every aspect of our lives. As you consider how to position your nonprofit to serve others, these advances will also impact the mission work of our world.

I encourage you to read the full story on the IBM Website

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Programmable Wifi Thermostats

The Nest

When most of us think about a HV/AC system, we usually picture an older furnace- rarely would we picture a sleek thermostat that connects to a wifI system. However, this seems to be the future of energy controls for commercial and residential buildings.

Since 2008, manufacturers have offered thermostats that can connect to a wifi system, thus allowing control and access to the system via the internet. This has been a great upgrade, but until now many of the programmable thermostats have been confusing to use. In fact, the US Dept of Energy realized that most people who purchased programmable thermostats, actually used more energy than before, because they were too complicated to use.

So in an effort to make programmable thermostats more user friendly, several companies have begun to create systems that can be controlled by a computer using a program like Microsoft Outlook set set room temperatures.  Other companies, have also begun to make intuitive thermostats that create a pattern of use based on how you adjust the temperature over a period of a few weeks.

With heating and cooling systems accounting for 16% of the electricity in the USA, and more than half of the energy consumed in a house, HV/AC systems will continue to be a focus for utility companies as they try to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States. This trend will likely also become a focus of more and more churches, facility managers, and home owners as the cost of energy continues to rise.

After all, the less money that people and organizations are forced to pay for utilities, operations, and energy, the more money they have to support the mission and programs that they value. For more information about changing HV/AC systems, please read the following articles:

Blog notes: Several of the stats given in this blog were pulled from these  two articles. The picture above comes from several sources and is provided by the company and can be found on their website- http://www.nest.com

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balance beam of resources

Balancing Resources

Every organization has two types of resources- Financial and Human Capital.

Now most of us could define that financial capital refers to money and other tangible assets (buildings, furniture, or automobiles), and that human capital refers to people. However, as simple as these two definitions are, most nonprofit organizations and churches suffer from not balancing both of these resources.

In most cases, this diagram would be tilted up or down, meaning that an organization would be overusing (or underusing) one of these two sources.

For example, and organization that lives in fear of having enough money to cover its expenses, most likely is overusing its financial capital to measure its ability to perform a task.  Forgetting that there may be multiple resources that it could draw upon from it human capital to provide that same service or task.

Similarly, an organization that focuses purely on analyzing it volunteer or stakeholder base, often will forget to really evaluate how to best leverage its financial resources to support its human capital.

In order to strike a balance, organizations need to take time to analyze the full potential of all of its resources by taking the following steps: (more…)

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Did you know a tree can add 10% of value to a property?  Or, that trees can help to lower heating and cooling costs to a facility?

trees

Ben.Millet

The answer to both of these questions is “yes, both are true.”

In 2005, Susan Wachter, from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted a study entitled, The Determinants of Neighborhood Transformations in Philadelphia.” The study was designed to analyze the economic impact of how planting trees and creating site improvements impacts the value of property values.

Some of the highlights of the study include:

  • The study finds that vacant land improvements result in surrounding housing values increasing by as much as 30%. (more…)

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As cities continue to grow and add building and parking lots,  storm water runoff is becoming a big issue.  Many urban areas have combined sewer and storm water systems, and when it rains, they easily can be overwhelmed and cause raw sewage to enter local rivers and streams.

In Indianapolis, for example, it only takes 1/4 inch of rain to cause the sewer system to over flow, and thus, more and more cities are looking for ways to reduce the amount of storm water that enters the sewage system.  Cities like Chicago are creating ‘green roofs,’ rain gardens, and they are using porous pavement to allow water to seep back into the ground.

Curious to show the benefits of these techniques, I took a tour of the new Nature Conservancy office in Indiana.  The facility was built last year, and using the USGBC LEED rating system, the architect added a ‘green roof’ and a two phase rain garden (see pictures below). These systems helped the building achieve points in the areas of Sustainable Sites and Water Efficiency (SS5.1, SS6.1, SS7.2, WE1), which were used toward achieving their overall LEED certification.

The first picture shows the roof of the facility,  and how the conservancy used local and native plants to create a green space on their roof.  My tour guide said that this roof has helped to lower the cost to cool the facility in the summer, reduce storm water runoff, provided added protection to the roof’s membrane, and created a new habitat for birds and insects.

Plants on a roof (more…)

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two kids protesting fracking

Cecily Anderson

Last year when I attended a retreat with National Council of Churches, several of the leaders stayed up one evening to discuss the issues of ‘Fracking.”

The term “Fracking” is shorthand for- Hydraulic Fracturing, and it is a new method used to extract natural gas that is embedded in stone.  Scientist and energy companies discovered, that by drilling into the earth and releasing a mixture of chemicals, acids, and water (a solution that they try to keep hidden) they are able to mine natural gas. (more…)

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In much of my energy and environmental consulting work with congregations, I am constantly being asked, “How can we make our very old church building energy efficient?”

It is a great question, because sometimes a large and historic facility can be very overwhelming when you start to think about projects, costs, and the motivation needed to accomplish such a large project.

However, just like the wise sage once said… “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.”

Retrofitting a historic structure is not rocket science.  You just need a little more patience and creativity to accomplish your goals.  For example, you can still insulate your building, it is just a little harder to insulate a building already built, than to add insulation as you do new construction.

To prove this point, I wanted to pass along the success story of Virginia Theological Seminary.  A friend recently shared this article with me and it shows how you can combine 19th century architecture with modern trends in green building and energy retrofitting.

The article was published by Builderonline.com and it is title, “An Episcopal Seminary brings LEED into the 19th Century”

Blog Notes: Special thanks to Ed Walsh for sharing the article with me.

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