An Oregon response to climate change
By Stephen Aigiuer, Green Hammer
Stephen Aiguier is the founder of Green Hammer, an integrated design, build and energy firm based in Portland. You can reach him at Stephen@greenhammer.com or 503.804.1746.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I grappled with many emotions: Relief that my family and friends are safe, sorrow for the pain and damage left behind and — mostly — enormous frustration caused by yet another reminder of the devastating human, economic and environmental impacts of climate change.
Climate change, and the role and responsibility of government for addressing it, have been markedly missing from this presidential election. Even when President Barack Obama made brief mention of his efforts to fight global warming, he was mocked. While some politicians are now bringing this into the campaign discourse, it just doesn’t feel genuine. All I can think is, "duh."
So why is the CEO of a small design-build firm in Oregon blogging about global climate change? Because given the right resources, incentives and political leadership, I believe that I can be part of the solution.
Buildings are the number one source of carbon emissions in the United States, contributing 46.7 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions. This means that, as builders — and building owners — we can either be a significant part of the problem or a key driver of change. Estimates show that 75 percent of the building stock in the United States will be new or renovated by 2035. Imagine if we were able to eliminate all of the built environment’s carbon emissions during this time period?
I’m not just blowing hot air (or carbon) — this is possible. In 2012 alone our small design-build firm’s Passive House and Net Zero energy consulting expertise helped reduce energy consumption by an average of 81 percent on nearly 200,000 square feet of new building, while also retrofitting an estimated 120,000 square feet of buildings to reduce their consumption by an average 30 percent. As a result, an estimated 15 megawatt-hours per day was saved and carbon emissions were reduced by 690 metric tons per year. With a nationwide per capita of 16.7 metric tons of carbon emissions — the highest in the world — our staff’s individual carbon footprint has been neutralized for the life of these projects over the past 10 months, plus we’ve covered the entire carbon footprint for an additional 15 people over the same time period.
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