Thursday December 14, 2017

Decoded: Making housing eco-friendly

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New Delhi: Why not build houses the environmentally friendly way? That is a question an increasing number of people across the developing world – environmentalists, town planners, architects and others – have been asking of late.

For those in the business of building houses, the question is more pertinent and the one they have been asking of themselves as well as of others. Understandably so, because the ramifications of what we build and what materials we use are far-reaching and long-term, as it affects the energy consumption of a building.

“I think when designing we should not lose the context and purpose of our existence. We are all designing as if there is no tomorrow and consuming as if ours is the last generation on the planet,” Delhi-based architect Akshay Kaul rued while speaking to a media channel.

Kaul’s observation came in the context of increasing use of glass in the buildings, especially the facades, in India over the last two decades.

“Glass came in fashion in colder European countries as it allowed more sunlight and helped keep buildings warm. In warmer countries such as India, excessive use of glass increases energy demand of the building as it radiates a lot of heat,” K.T. Ravindran, dean of the School of Planning and Architecture here, told the media outlet.

“Glass affects a building’s environment as well as the environment outside by radiating heat,” said Ravindran, former chairman of the Delhi Urban Art Commission, adding: “People are doing it because they think it is in vogue.”

The observation is echoed by Kaul, who specialises in the field of ecological planning and sustainable architecture and has more than 20 years’ experience in India and the US.

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“Most buildings in India were green almost until two or three decades ago. The trend changed as we started imitating buildings from the West, which had facades essentially of glass,” said Kaul.

“It is like first creating a furnace and then cooling a building – in the process sending heat out once again and using energy in the form of electricity to cool the building.

“The electricity comes from either drowning villages or towns and dislocating people or submerging arable land or depleting natural resources,” Kaul emphasised.

The green building movement has taken off in the past 10 years. According to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED(r)), which certifies green building standards, over 3.6 billion square feet or 69,000 buildings have so far been certified in 150 countries.

By definition, the design of green buildings minimizes impact on the environment by reducing the use of energy and water. Environmental disturbance is also limited during the building process and by the choice of the building site.

Kaul is however not completely against the use of glass in making a building green.

“The problem is not glass but how much glass. Glass unfortunately means a lot of glare and heat in our climatic context,” he added.

Manish Bagga, senior architect at Gurgaon’s Arcop Associates, agreed.

“You cannot do without glass. You can’t have a totally opaque building. Instead, the amount of heat coming in can be regulated through judicious use – the right combination of glass and opaque masonry,” Bagga said.

Another option, according to him, is to use low emissivity or Low-E glass which is expensive but pays in the long run as it does not allow in heat.

“Avoid glass in south and west direction as the sunlight is intense when the sun is in the southern and western direction. Use it in the eastern direction as sunlight is mild in the morning,” Bagga explained.

Insulation on the rooftop with material such as expanded polyethylene can prevent a building from heating up.

According to Ravindran, one of the leading voices in the country on urban design, a badly planned structure not only drains its own energy resources but also affects the surrounding environment.

On the other hand, several studies have found that better indoor environmental quality translates into occupants’ better physical and mental health.

(IANS)

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Women of America Are Stepping Up As Nuclear Energy Advocates

Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources

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Nuclear Energy
Engineering manager Kristin Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear. VOA
  • The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years
  • Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources
  • Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear

San Francisco, August 26, 2017: Kristin Zaitz is confident that her nuclear power plant is safe.

Zaitz, an engineering manager, was at Diablo Canyon Power Plant during both her pregnancies and has scuba dived to inspect the plant, which hugs the California coast. Zaitz wears a pendant with a tiny bit of uranium inside, an item that tends to invite questions.

“We all have our perceptions of nuclear,” Zaitz said.

In a few years, Diablo Canyon will close, part of a trend nationwide. The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years. Add to that ongoing concerns about public safety, such as those raised by memories of disasters at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) and Three Mile Island in the United States.

Nuclear is ‘cleaner’ than fossil fuels

Supporters of nuclear energy say that when a reactor-based generating station closes, not enough wind and solar power is available to make up the difference. They lament that energy companies tend to turn instead to fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — which produce environmentally harmful emissions.

Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear, their effort to get the word out that nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources.

“I went into the plant very skeptical of nuclear and being scared of it,” said Matteson. “It took me six to seven years to really feel like this is something good for the environment. I don’t want people to take six to seven years to make that decision. We don’t have that long.”

Matteson, too, wears the uranium necklace as a conversation starter. “Nuclear is fun,” she said. Is there any radiation emitted by the pendant? “There’s slightly more than from a banana,” she conceded.

Also Read: Indian nuclear industry growing fast, says former Atomic Energy Commission chief

Women seen as powerful advocates

Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear. They can help change attitudes of other women who tend to be more skeptical than men about nuclear energy’s benefits.

At the recent U.S. Women in Nuclear conference in San Francisco, women working in the industry talked about how more should be done to make nuclear power’s case to the public, and how they may be the best suited to do it.

“As mothers, I think we also have an important role to play in letting the public know that we support nuclear for the future, for our children,” said Matteson. “And we don’t know other mothers supporting nuclear power in a vocal way. We thought there was a gap to fill.”

Young women say they look at careers in this industry because they are socially minded.

‘Do something good for the world’

“I went into this wanting to do something good for the world,” Lenka Kollar, business strategy director at NuScale, a firm in Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors. “Wanting to bring power to people. There are still more than a billion people in the world who don’t have electricity.”

Critics of nuclear energy say it doesn’t matter who is promoting it.

“Using mothers’ voices to argue for a technology that is fundamentally dangerous and that has been demonstrated by disasters like Fukushima to be not safe for the communities that surround the power plants or even cities that are hundreds of miles away is disingenuous,” said Kendra Klein, a staff scientist with Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

While the future of nuclear power in the United States may be uncertain, the women here say they have a positive story to tell. (VOA)

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Street View Car Map by Google Locates Methane Gas Leaks

Colorado State University biologist Joe Von Fisher helped enable a street view of Methane leaks in the city with the help of Google maps

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Colorado State University
Gas Leak. Wikimedia

August 04, 2017: Finding underground methane gas leaks is now as easy as finding a McDonalds, thanks to a combination of Google Street View cars, mobile methane detectors, some major computing power and a lot of ingenuity.

When a city’s underground gas lines leak, they waste fuel and release invisible plumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To find and measure leaks, Colorado State University biologist Joe von Fischer decided to create “methane maps,” to make it easier for utilities to identify the biggest leaks, and repair them.

“That’s where you get the greatest bang for the buck,” he pointed out, “the greatest pollution reductions per repair.”

Knowing that Google Maps start with Google Street View cars recording everything they drive by, along with their GPS locations, von Fischer’s team thought they would just add methane detectors to a Street View car. It turned out, it was not that simple.

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“Squirrelly objects”

The world’s best methane detectors are accurate in an area the size of a teacup, but methane leaks can be wider than a street. Also, no one had ever measured the size of a methane leak from a moving car.

“If you’ve ever seen a plume of smoke, it’s sort of a lumpy, irregular object,” von Fischer said. “Methane plumes as they come out of the ground are the same, they’re lumpy squirrelly objects.”

The team had to develop a way to capture data about those plumes, one that would be accurate in the real world. They set up a test site in an abandoned airfield near campus and brought in what looked like a large scuba tank filled with methane and some air hoses. Then they released carefully measured methane through the hose as von Fischer drove a specially equipped SUV past it, again and again.

They compared readings from the methane detectors in the SUV to readings from the tank.

“We spend a lot of time driving through the plumes to sort of calibrate the way that those cars see methane plumes that form as methane’s being emitted from the ground,” von Fischer explained.

With that understanding, the methane detectors hit the road.

Also Read: This fiber material can sense odorless fuel leaks


Turning data into maps

But the results created pages of data, “more than 30 million points,” said CSU computer scientist Johnson Kathkikiaran. He knew that all those data points alone would never help people find the biggest leaks on any map. So he and his advisor, Sanmi Peracara, turned the data into pictures using tools from Google.

Their visual summaries made it easy for utility experts to analyze the methane maps, but von Fischer wanted anyone to be able to identify the worst leaks. His teammates at the Environmental Defense Fund met that challenge by incorporating the data into their online maps. Yellow dots indicate a small methane leak. Orange is a medium-sized one. Red means a big leak – as much pollution as one car driving 14,000 kilometers in a single day.

Von Fischer says that if a city focuses on these biggest leaks, repairing just 8 percent of them can reduce methane pollution by a third.

“That becomes a win-win type scenario,” he said, “because we’re not asking polluters to fix everything, but we’re looking for a reduction in overall emissions, and I think we can achieve that in a more cost effective way.”

After analyzing a methane map for the state of New Jersey, for example, the utility PSE&G has prioritized fixing its leakiest pipes there first, to speed the reduction of their overall pollution.

“To me that was a real victory, to be able to help the utility find which parts were leakiest, and to make a cost effective reduction in their overall emissions,” von Fischer said.

Von Fischer envisions, even more, innovation ahead for mapping many kinds of pollution… to clean the air and save energy. (VOA)

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World’s First Green Metro: Delhi Metro bags Green Certificate at 2nd National Conference on Green Metro systems

Delhi Metro’s persistent efforts towards eco-friendly and sustainable practices has led to winning a green certificate

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Delhi Metro
Delhi Metro. Wikimedia
  • Delhi Metro bagged a green certificate for eco- friendly initiatives-all its major buildings and installations.
  • For following green building norm, Delhi Metro’s newly-opened Jahangirpuri-Samaypur Badli section and the Receiving Sub-Station (RSS) at Mukundpur Depot have received the highest platinum rating by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC).
  • The corporation achieved the target of generating 20 MW of solar power by the year 2017 by adding another 2.6 MW of solar power facilities across the Metro network.

Delhi, August 3, 2017: The Delhi Metro bagged a green certificate at 2nd National Conference on Green Metro systems, Metro Bhavan on 28 July for eco- friendly initiatives-all its major buildings and installations.

For following green building norm, Delhi Metro’s newly-opened Jahangirpuri-Samaypur Badli section and the Receiving Sub-Station (RSS) at Mukundpur Depot have received the highest platinum rating by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). The IGBC formulated a rating mechanism for metro stations and buildings- platinum, gold, silver, etc., to encourage them to follow green building specifications. The DMRC headquarters at Metro Bhavan received a gold rating for maintaining green building norms and Platinum ratings were also awarded to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) residential Complex metro enclave at Saket.

Delhi Metro get's a green certificate
Delhi Metro get’s a green certificate. pixabay

The corporation achieved the target of generating 20 MW of solar power by the year 2017 by adding another 2.6 MW of solar power facilities across the Metro network. At the conference, Dr. Prem C. Jain, chairman, Indian Green Building Council (IGBC), said, “Delhi Metro is the first to become a green Metro. The platinum ratings that they have got are hard-earned and a lot of toils has gone into the process.”

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) collaborates with US agencies to get green certification

The conference was attended by delegates from all other Metro systems in the country, who discussed a range of issues regarding successful adoption of green technologies for planning, constructing and operating Metro systems. According to Delhi Metro’s official site, DMRC Managing Director Mangu Singh said, “The country’s energy consumption has increased by 700 per cent in the last four decades. This will increase three times more by 2030. One of the major users of energy is the transport sector, especially urban transport. Therefore, it is very relevant to focus on Metro systems and talk of green Metro.” Our country’s transport sector plays a crucial role in the implementation and promotion of environment-friendly and sustainable practices. The role of Indian Railway is particularly important as it’s one of the most extensive railway networks in the world.

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DMRC became the first railway project in the world to be registered by the United Nations under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in 2008, which enabled it to claim carbon credits. Then, in 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) registered DMRC as the world’s first transport sector project under the Program of Activities (PoA), made it the managing entity for all other Metros of India.

AK Gupta, Director (Electrical), DMRC, and the Chairman of the conference, also highlighted the corporation’s green achievements.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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