February 23, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMa.r.t-Net Zero… an Ideal or Necessity?

Thane Roberts AIA for SM a.r.t. Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow Ron Goldman FAIA, Thane Roberts AIA, Bob Taylor AIA, Dan Jansenson Architect, Santa Monica Building & Safety Commissioner, Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Santa Monica Planning Commissioner, Sam Tolkin Architect, Phil Brock Santa Monica Arts Commission. SMa.r.t. is a group of Santa Monica Architects concerned about the city’s future. For previous articles, please see santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writing.

“Net Zero” is a term that has just recently entered the nomenclature, but it will be one that we will be hearing more often. It’s a “buzz word” that describes buildings that produce as much energy as they use. Until now, this ambitious target seemed out of reach, an ideal. It is now a necessity and about to become law. Most scientists agree that the production of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is heating the earth with potentially disastrous consequences. The levels of atmospheric CO2 have increased by over 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution whose success was made possible by the burning of fossil fuels.

The resultant CO2 in our atmosphere acts like a “blanket” around the earth that traps the sun’s heat, warming our continents and oceans. The result has been the melting of the polar ice caps and the disruption our planet’s normal, climatic cycles (e.g. Irma, Harvey, and their offspring). If left unchecked, it could eventually make the earth uninhabitable. In the interim, it will continue to take its toll on our health, safety and even our economy.

A conference to address this issue was recently sponsored by Southern California Edison (SCE). SCE has been a longtime supporter of energy efficiency to enable their customers save energy while lowering their utility costs. These policies have also helped to slow climate change by reducing CO2 production. In 2016, 28 percent of SCE’s energy came from sustainable sources, 40 percent if rooftop solar and hydroelectric sources are included. Their sustainable practices and conservation efforts are continuing. By 2030 they anticipate that 50 percent, of their electricity will derive solely from renewable sources.

SCE is also experimenting with new technologies such as micro-girds for a more efficient energy distribution and storage. These “grids” can reduce the need for additional power plants as well as store energy in battery banks, potentially solar powered, to serve remote areas or provide power to the grid during peak periods.

In the public realm, they are sponsoring symposiums, like the recent Net Zero Energy (NZE) Conference, to raise public awareness and hasten the realization of a Net Zero future.

In California, we have some of the nation’s leaders in the quest for sustainability. The pro-tem president of California’s Senate, keynote speaker Kevin De Leon, is one of them. At the Net Zero symposium, he talked about recent legislation that would mandate that all residential construction in California be Net Zero by 2020, Commercial development by 2030. With the 6th largest economy in the world, we have an obligation, and can play an important role, in our country’s progress towards the NZE goal. De Leon’s belief is that a better environment and a strong economy can go “hand in hand”. Based on this conviction, his goal is to make clean energy the pillar of our State’s economy.

Perhaps one of the most interesting stories to come out of the Symposium was that of another keynote speaker – Lancaster’s mayor, Rex Paris. In 2005 when Paris became Mayor of Lancaster, it had high crime, high unemployment and a faltering economy. Fast forward to 2013 when the city’s crime rate had dropped by 40 percent and Lancaster had become the first in the nation to require that solar panels be installed on all new homes. It is currently on track to become our nation’s first Net Zero city. Early in this process, it partnered with KB Homes to design and build their first net zero energy homes. Today, they have a NZE model 2.0 that not only produces more electricity than it uses but also uses 33 percent less gas and 40 percent less water. These homes are both less expensive to build and operate. Paris was also able to lure a manufacturer of electric city buses to the city who is now providing both new jobs as well as a non-polluting, public transit system.

At the end of the day, Lancaster’s mayor points out that while many of the problems we face are global, “a large percentage can be resolved at the local level”. Might Santa Monica be one of those? Lancaster is taking concrete steps to build their economy around sustainable industries while providing NZE housing options for their residents. While Santa Monica has good intentions, their regulations for a NZE future will be futile if they lack the necessary steps to get there. For example, Santa Monica’s proposed new administration building incorporates sustainable technology but is neither an economical solution nor a viable alternative. It employs technologies that are unapproved and is being built at a cost of $1,720/SF. SMa.r.t. believes that Santa Monica’s residents deserve better NZE models, strategies and leadership if we are to meet the coming State mandated NZE requirements.

Net Zero cities are more than a fancy building.

 

Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...